What Is Sex Addiction?

As the name suggests, sex addiction is determined by an individual’s inability to control or regulate compulsive sexual behaviors despite negative consequences. In general, treatment is often overlooked because of the associated shame and embarrassment; moreover, sex is part of human nature, so the distinction between what is normal and what is an addiction can get confusing. Individuals who display the following signs may have a sex addiction:

  • An inability to control behaviors related to sexual thoughts or desires.
  • Feeling shame or guilt after acting out sexual desires.
  • Being preoccupied with thoughts of sex to the point that it affects daily responsibilities at home or work.
  • Lying or hiding to cover up sexual behaviors.
  • Having persistent and excessive thoughts and fantasies related to sex. 
  • Engaging in sex with multiple partners, including strangers.

Similar to the way someone addicted to substances is always searching for and chasing the next high, a person with a sex addiction might engage in various and differing sexual activities in pursuit of a euphoric high. Sex addiction can negatively affect one’s mental health, normal daily functioning, and romantic relationships. Someone struggling with a sex addiction might engage in various sexual activities such as excessive promiscuity, pornography abuse, or utilizing paid sexual services to fulfill uncontrollable desires and urges. When a person is addicted to sex, thoughts about sex usually consume their mind, making it difficult for them to take care of their everyday responsibilities.

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Sex Addiction Treatment Options

Treatment for sex addiction usually involves a combination of medications, therapy, and support groups. To determine what level of care is appropriate to treat sex addiction, it is important to identify how severe the addiction is, if the person is a danger to others, and if there are any co-occurring disorders, such as mental illness or problems with substance abuse.

If someone is a danger to others, or possesses a severe substance use or mental health disorder, they may need to seek inpatient treatment where they receive around-the-clock care. In some cases, an individual may need to attend outpatient treatment for several months and sometimes even years to successfully address issues related to sex addiction and form new, healthy behaviors.  


Because sex addiction often develops from or creates feelings of depression, antidepressant medications may be beneficial. Mood stabilizers are often prescribed to people with bipolar disorder; however, it has been suggested that these medications may decrease obsessive sexual urges as well. Naltrexone is a medication typically used to manage alcohol and Opioid dependence, but because it blocks the pleasure center of the brain, it may help with the compulsive pleasure-seeking behaviors related to sex addiction. In cases where biological men exhibit sexual behaviors determined to be a threat to others, anti-androgens may be prescribed as they decrease the effects of a male’s testosterone which may decrease compulsive sexual urges.


Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, can help people learn how to manage the negative thoughts and behaviors related to sex addiction. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common form of talk therapy that helps people identify their negative thoughts and behaviors and teaches them to develop new, healthy, adaptive behaviors.

Psychodynamic therapy is another form of talk therapy that explores the psychological origin of emotional pain. Someone participating in this therapy may explore how their childhood experiences created their current belief systems.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an alternative therapy for processing unresolved past trauma using eye movements and guided conversation. The goal of EMDR is to help people process the emotional distress created by past experiences and to help them develop more adaptive ways of dealing with pain moving forward.

All of the forms of psychotherapy listed may be helpful in treating sex addiction. Many forms of therapy can be conducted from the comfort of an individual’s home by choosing online therapy. Online therapy can connect patients to licensed therapists via phone or video call, adding another layer of privacy.

Support Groups

There are several 12-step groups available for people suffering from sex addiction, some of which include Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA), Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA), Sexual Compulsives Anonymous (SCA), Sexaholics Anonymous (SA), and Sexual Recovery Anonymous (SRA).

Support groups or self-help groups give individuals a space to feel heard and understood and gain advice from people who have a shared experience. People feel more at ease participating and opening up in these groups because of the likeness; they are less likely to fear ostracization, shame, or judgment.

Self-help groups are available via the internet and in-person. These groups can help provide people with long-term recovery in the form of community and can aid in the prevention of relapse.

Combining these different treatment options can create a strong foundation for recovery from sex addiction. The first step is reaching out for help. Finding a therapist, a support group, or asking your primary care doctor are all good options for starting your recovery from sex addiction.

Get Help Today

If your life is somehow being affected by sex addiction, know that you are not alone and do not need to be ashamed. There are so many resources available, and there are even treatment options you can use in the privacy of your own home. Online therapy offers confidential, convenient, and affordable care for those experiencing mental health conditions or addictions. Learn more information on online therapy options for sex addiction today. 

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