Signs and symptoms of sex addiction

Sex addiction is a widely misunderstood problem that can have a devastating impact on your life, as well as on the lives of those who care about or depend upon you.

Also sometimes referred to as 'sex and love addiction', 'compulsive sexual behaviour' or 'hypersexual disorder', sex addiction is characterised by excessive urges to have sex and/or engage in other sex-related behaviours, even when such actions may jeopardise your physical health, emotional wellbeing and/or social standing.

Of course, sexual desires and urges are a normal and healthy part of life. But in the case of sex addiction, these urges become overwhelming and the resultant decisions and actions can be extremely destructive.

The problem for people who struggle with sex addiction is that this disorder does not yet have formal diagnostic criteria, that all mental health professionals agree upon. However, continued research has expanded experts’ understanding of this complex challenge and has led to the development of specialised programmes that have helped men and women to regain control over their urges, thoughts and actions.

Find out more about sex addiction treatment.

If your life has been affected by sex addiction, please know these essential facts:

  • You are not alone
  • Help is available
  • You can regain control over your life

Sex addiction signs

Sex addiction can reveal itself via a wide range of signs and symptoms. Whilst there is no single action or behaviour that will definitively establish that you are struggling with sex addiction, the symptoms of this disorder generally fall under the following criteria:

  • Experiencing overwhelming, persistent sexual thoughts and urges
  • Acting on these thoughts and urges, not in order to experience joy or pleasure, but because you feel compelled to do so
  • Continuing to engage in these behaviours even when you know that they are harmful to yourself or others, and even after you have experienced negative repercussions from similar actions in the past

The following are among the more common examples of specific signs and symptoms of sex addiction:

  • Having persistent and unavoidable sex-related thoughts, urges and fantasies
  • Having unsafe sex with multiple partners
  • Being incapable of refraining from having sex with others, even when you are involved in a relationship
  • Having unprotected sex, anonymous sex, sex in public places or otherwise engaging in sexual behaviours that can obviously jeopardise your health or social wellbeing
  • Typically feeling guilty, ashamed or disgusted with yourself after acting on your sexual compulsions
  • Spending significant amounts of time viewing pornography
  • Trying but being incapable of stopping or significantly reducing any of these behaviours

It is important to understand that there is a significant difference between sex addiction and having a high sex drive or enjoying frequent sex. If you have been struggling with sex addiction, your actions are not motivated by pleasure, but by ceaseless compulsion. Instead of providing you with a sense of joy or pleasure, behaviours that result from sex addiction will bring you shame, guilt and pain.

Effects of sex addiction

The specific ways that sex addiction can affect your life will vary depending upon a variety of personal factors, but the following are among the more common types of damage that this compulsive behaviour can inflict:

  • Strained or ruined friendships
  • Inability to form and maintain healthy romantic relationships
  • Separation and divorce
  • Health problems, including increased risk for HIV/AIDS
  • Legal problems as a result of exhibitionistic sexual behaviours
  • Job loss related to unacceptable behaviours
  • Substance misuse and addiction
  • Onset or worsening of co-occurring mental health disorders
  • Diminished sense of self-worth
  • Persistent sense of shame, guilt and self-loathing
  • Suicidal thoughts

While these and other effects can be devastating, they are not unavoidable. When you choose to enter a comprehensive treatment programme to get help for your sex addiction, you remove yourself from danger, avoid future harm and have the opportunity to begin healing from any past damage.

In a programme such as those at Priory hospitals and centres, you have the professional support that you need to identify, address and develop strategies to overcome the negative thought patterns that have prompted you to engage in compulsive sexual behaviours.

Sex addiction is a complex challenge, but it can be overcome. With effective help, you can regain control over your thoughts and actions and can once again live the healthy and satisfying life that you deserve.

For further details on how Priory can provide you with further assistance regarding sex addiction treatment, please call  0800 840 3219 or click here for a free addiction assessment.