Understanding Sexual Addiction


Although sex is considered a natural part of life, it can produce negative consequences when it is taken to an extreme. Sexual addiction, also known as a hypersexual disorder is a condition in which an individual cannot manage their sexual behavior. Persistent sexual thoughts affect their ability to work, fulfill their daily activities, and maintain relationships.

There is a debate about whether sex addiction exists in the same way as other addiction. Many people struggle to adopt a notion that a person struggling with sex addiction struggles just as much as a drug addict to control their behavior. This article will shed some ling on this addiction.

What is sex addiction?

adult-art-beauty-326585According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine sex addiction can be defined as a “primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry.”

An individual with sexual addiction has an abnormally intense sex drive. Sexual activity dominates their thoughts to the point when it interferes with other activities and interactions. If these urges become uncontrollable, the person can have difficulty functioning in social situations.

It is not yet clear to doctors whether compulsive sexual behavior should be viewed as an addiction similar to drug addiction. Many people feel that such a diagnosis would shame people who enjoy having a lot of sex with multiple partners. Many people strongly believe that hypersexuality as a disorder is real but should not use addiction language and should be described using non-moral terms.


Some attempts to define the characteristics of sexual addiction have been based on a chemical imbalance in the brain since sexual addiction may share the same rewards system and circuits as substance addiction.

However, individuals struggling hypersexuality may be addicted to different types of sexual behavior. This makes the condition harder to define. It also suggests that the disorder doesn’t come from the individual acts, but rather from an obsession to carry them out.

According to the Fifth Avenue Psychiatry, a unique, private psychiatric practice in New York, activities associated with sexual addiction may include:

  • Compulsive masturbation
  • Constant use of pornography
  • Multiple affairs
  • Multiple or anonymous sexual partners
  • Obsessive dating via personal ads
  • Computer sex (cybersex)
  • Prostitution or use of prostitutes
  • Sexual harassment
  • Unsafe sex

According to professional psychiatrists at the Fifth Avenue Psychiatry, a sex addict generally gets little satisfaction from the sexual activity and avoids an emotional bond with sex partners. Most of the time, the addiction leads to feelings of guilt and shame.

Studies have shown a strong connection between alleged sexual addiction and risk-taking. According to Psychology Today,  Sexual addiction may cause a person to persist in taking risks even if there negative health consequences, such as sexually transmitted infection (STI), physical injury, or emotional consequences.


argument-bench-breakup-984949The causes of sexual addiction remain unclear.

Addiction takes root in the reward center of the brain and may occur when it mistakes pleasure responses for survival mechanisms.

The midbrain is the section of the brain that is responsible for the body’s reward system and survival instincts. Sexual addiction creates a rush of dopamine, the “happy” chemical in the brain, which ultimately triggers the feeling of pleasure. The midbrain then mistakes this feeling of pleasure as being central to survival.

It is also possible that in people with sexual addiction, the frontal cortex, or the brain’s center of logic and morality, is impaired by the midbrain. For example, a recent study on rats has linked lesions of a section of the brain called the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) with compulsive behavior. This may shed some light on the causes of hypersexuality in humans.

Some studies have also shows that most people with addicvitve sexual behavior come from dysfunctional families. A person struggling with hypersexuality is more likely to have been abused than other people. Similarly, a significant number of people recovering from sexual addiction have reported some type of addiction among family members. It can occur alongside another addiction.

Misconceptions About Sex Addiction

Misconceptions about sex addiction are very common in our society. People often develop opinions on sex addiction based on their exposure to television and other types of media or through word-of-mouth conversations within friend groups.

It is important to understand clear facts about sex addiction in order to allow struggling individuals to get the help they need as they recognize the consequences of their out-of-control sexual behaviors.

Some of the common sex addiction misconceptions include:

1. These people just have a high sex drive. It is not a sexual addiction.

bed-bedroom-blanket-545015It is true that some people enjoy a high frequency of sexual activity. However, their sexual drives and appetites do not interfere with their daily activities or social life. Many people who have high sex drives are in monogamous relationships with positive intimacy.

Meanwhile, someone who suffers from out-of-control sexual behaviors arranges their daily life around their sexual compulsions. They often live a life of secrecy and may spend hours thinking, preparing, fantasizing and acting on their sexual impulses. As a result, their work, relationships, and families suffer.

2. People who cheat in their relationships are sex addicts

It is always damaging and painful when couples experience infidelities or affairs in their relationships. Even if a person has acted outside of the relationship on or several times, he or she may not be a sex addict. It is common for a hurt partner to grasp at the “sex addict” and project that on their partner out of resentment and anger. In this way, the betrayed partner justifies the issue to make sense of the trauma he or she is facing.

3. Sex addiction is an excuse for having sex

adults-barefoot-bed-1246960Probably the biggest misconception is that sexual addiction is the only explanation for unacceptable sexual behavior. In fact, it is not uncommon for people with sexually addictive behavior to suffer from mental health issues, such as anxiety, obsessive compulsion, bipolar disorder, depression, and various other mental health issues. It is important for therapists to evaluate thoroughly for both mental health symptoms and out-of-control sexual behaviors. By implementing a holistic and individualized treatment approach, individuals who exhibit unhealthy sexual impulses, as well as other issues, can experience a well-wounded and resilient recovery from all of their painful symptoms.


If you believe you or someone close to you could benefit from treatment, it is normal to have questions about how to find the best sex addiction treatment facility.  One of the most important factors to consider is whether the facility you consider, such as Fifth Avenue Psychiatry specializes in the treatment of sex addiction. This is critical due to the fact that sex addiction varies so significantly from other types of addiction. It is also vital to ask questions about the treatment methods offered. Also, ask about the center’s success rate. If you are concerned about your privacy while you are in the treatment, make it a point to inquire about the facility’s privacy policy and the steps the center takes to ensure the privacy of patients.

You shouldn’t feel any shame in admitting you suffer from sex addiction. Help is now far more readily available than it has been in the past. Sex addiction treatment programs can help you take back control of your life and learn how to develop healthy sexual relationships that are free from compulsive behavior.



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