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Does Sexual Addiction Really Exist?

Can you really be addicted to sex? There's a question about whether sexual addiction is truly an addiction.

What is Sexual Addiction?

"Sexual addiction" is a term that is used to describe disordered behavior in which someone has an unusually intense sex drive or seems to be obsessed with sexual functioning. It involves habitual, repetitive, and compulsively driven sexual behavior that causes either in impairment in day-to-day function or distress -- either directly -- or indirectly in terms of affecting relationships and job functioning. All addictive behaviors involve such things as: chronic compulsive repetitive behaviors, continued repetition of the behavior despite negative consequences, as well as covering up and denial of the behaviors.

Compulsive Sexual Behavior vs. Sexual Addiction

As many of you know, DSM-V, the next version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association is in development at the present time. It is due for release as early as 2012. In preparation of DSM-V, there is a lot of ongoing discussion as to whether certain compulsive ritualistic behaviors such as sex, gambling, Internet usage, shopping, and others are the same as addiction that is due to alcohol or drugs. Although this controversy is ongoing, few would deny the fact that compulsive sexual behavior can greatly impair one's day-to-day functioning, and even destroy one's life.

Symptoms of Sexual Addiction

People who suffer from what is now known as "sexual addiction" may engage in sex with multiple partners, may consistently and compulsively use pornography (pornography addiction test), may have multiple extramarital affairs, can involve themselves in prostitution, exhibitionism, watching others have sex, or engaging in compulsive self-stimulation. It is the chronic, compulsive, habitual performance of these behaviors, along with continued behavior despite actual or possible negative consequences of that behavior that characterize sexual addiction. Most people who suffer from the habitual behaviors also have a great deal of anxiety, guilt and shame associated with them. (take Sexual Addiction Self-Test)

Treatment for Sex Addicts

Treatment of sexual addiction and other compulsive behaviors involves the use of psychotherapy, group therapy, and sometimes medication. There are rehab centers that specialize in the treatment of those suffering from this disorder, and there are now available 12-step support groups for sexual addiction (specifically for those suffering from addiction to sex).

Extensive information on sex addiction.

Watch HealthyPlace TV Show on Sexual Addiction

On Tuesday's (July 21, 2009) HealthyPlace TV show on sexual addiction, we will talk to someone who suffered from the disorder and will look into the symptoms, causes, and treatment of sexual addiction. You can watch it live (7:30p CT, 8:30 ET) and on-demand on our website.

Dr. Harry Croft is a Board-Certified Psychiatrist and Medical Director of HealthyPlace.com. Dr. Croft is also the co-host of the HealthyPlace TV Show.

next: Parents Surviving the Suicide of Their Child
~ other mental health articles by Dr. Croft

APA Reference
(2009, July 21). Does Sexual Addiction Really Exist?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, December 2 from https://www.healthyplace.com/about-hptv/croft-blog/does-sexual-addiction-really-exist

Last Updated: January 14, 2014
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Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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