Understanding Sex Addiction: Treatment, Signs, Intervention

Sex addiction can be hard to discuss. Not everyone feels comfortable discussing intimacy with their family or friends, and there are many social and cultural influences that can complicate things. At Feinberg, we can help by providing a safe space to discuss sex addiction, as well as helping you access the best treatment.

What Is Sex Addiction?

While sex is a healthy human activity, it is possible to become addicted. Sex addiction is classified as a lack of control over sexual thoughts, impulses, and urges, leading to the compulsive need to carry out sexual acts. The disorder is also referred to as hypersexuality, hypersexuality disorder, compulsive sexual behavior, sexual impulsivity, and problematic sexual behavior.

People with this addiction will engage in sexual behavior – such as having multiple sexual partners, watching pornography, masturbation, and having sexual intercourse – despite its negative consequences on their life. Although these activities can be a part of a healthy sex life, a person with a sex addiction will do them in excess to inappropriate, damaging levels.

What Are the Symptoms of Sex Addiction?

Sexual addiction can manifest in each person differently, though there are some general signs that we look out for:

  • Intense cravings for sex
  • Engaging in sexual behavior that goes against your personal values and beliefs
  • The inability to stop participating in sex despite its negative consequences for your relationships, health, career, legal standing, and finances
  • Obsessive sexual thoughts and sexual urges
  • Spending lots of time planning sexual activity
  • Excessive and compulsive masturbation
  • Excessive watching of pornography and participating in virtual sexual acts e.g., videos, porn websites, adult magazines, phone sex, cyber sex
  • Frequent use of sexual services e.g., sex workers, strip clubs, internet chat rooms
  • Frequent one-night stands
  • Regularly having multiple sex partners
  • Starting to perform sexual acts that are dangerous and harmful, e.g., autoerotic asphyxiation
  • Inappropriate sexual fantasies, sex drive, and behavior
  • Feelings of shame, guilt, hopelessness, and fear
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts

What Are the Consequences of Sexual Addiction?

Sexual addictions can have a number of physical, mental, legal, and social consequences in a person’s daily life. Some of these include:

  • Strained personal relationships with loved ones and sexual partners
  • Reduced performance at school or work
  • Risks to physical and sexual health, e.g., increased risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases
  • Increased risk of developing a mental disorder, e.g., social anxiety, depression
  • Increased risk of legal repercussions for sexual offenses or debt

What Causes Sexual Addiction or Hypersexuality?

Medical professionals are not entirely certain of what causes compulsive sexual behavior, though there are numerous factors that can contribute to the disorder.

As with many mental disorders, the route of any addiction is commonly trauma. Some people may turn to drug abuse, alcohol abuse, shopping, stealing, or sexual acts to soothe this inner pain and escape their uncomfortable emotions. Sex addiction is most common in people who are survivors of sexual trauma in childhood.

Having a co-occurring mental health disorder also hugely increases the risk of developing a sex addiction. Studies show that around 88% of sex addicts also have a history of mental illness. Certain disorders that damage the frontal lobe, amygdala, or prefrontal cortex may also contribute to compulsive sexual behavior. These include bipolar disorder, epilepsy, and dementia.

Other reasons can include:

  • Adverse effects of medication e.g., levodopa
  • An imbalance of neurotransmitters
  • Altered brain function
  • Substance abuse

How Is Sex Addiction Diagnosed?

It is common for all kinds of addiction to be misunderstood and misdiagnosed for long periods of time until the consequences of the disorder become so extreme it is impossible to hide. Many people go to great lengths to hide their compulsive sexual behaviors from their loved ones, with sex addiction and lying commonly going hand-in-hand.

To be diagnosed with compulsive sexual behavior, a healthcare professional will carry out a sexual addiction screening test. The professional will assess the client’s current health and lifestyle, medical history, and family history and ask a series of questions about their sexual addiction symptoms. Although no standardized diagnostic criteria exist in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, our team of addiction experts can offer appropriate guidance.

Sex Addiction Intervention: How Can Feinberg Help You?

If you or your loved one’s sexual behaviors negatively affect their life, it is time to reach out for professional help. Feinberg Consulting is an intervention and case management company that will put together the best treatment plan to help the addicted individual as well as their family members. Feinberg will help in taking the pressure off the family by guiding and coordinating all aspects of the treatment process.

What Are the Treatments for Sex Addiction?

Once a person has agreed to seek treatment for their sexual addiction, they can start healing from their past trauma and explore coping with their disorder. There are many tried and tested techniques that have helped countless people in managing compulsive sexual behaviors.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy commonly used to treat sexual addiction. A mental health professional will use CBT to help identify negative thoughts and behaviors linked to the addiction and build coping mechanisms to control sexual behavior.

Psychodynamic Therapy

A therapist will use psychodynamic therapy to identify the psychological roots that are driving sexual impulses. This technique uses self-reflection and self-examination to identify problematic patterns in a person’s life.


There are a number of medications that can be prescribed to treat hypersexuality that have an impact on the brain’s neurotransmitters responsible for impulsive behavior. These can include antidepressants, anti-androgens, naltrexone, mood stabilizers, and more.

Treatment Programs

It may be difficult for a sex addict to overcome their disorder surrounded by their triggers and stressors. Treatment centers allow individuals to heal their addiction in a safe and healing environment.

Support Groups

Modeled after the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program, there are numerous support groups for people dealing with sex addiction. These include Sex Addicts Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous, Sexual Compulsives Anonymous, and Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous.

Get Help at Feinberg

We know it can be difficult to get help with sex addiction, and that’s why Feinberg Consulting is here to help. Our expert team of mental health professionals treats every person that walks through our doors with compassion and respect.

We are an intervention, case management, and coaching company that has provided countless people with the tools they need to overcome all kinds of health and behavioral issues. Feinberg’s multidisciplinary staff only uses evidence-based approaches to ensure the best possible care, rehabilitation, and recovery outcomes.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today to start your journey toward overcoming the impact compulsive sexual behavior has on an individual and their family.

Sex Addiction FAQ

Is Sex Addiction Similar to Other Addictions?

People develop all kinds of addictions as a way of coping with trauma, with neurotransmitters in the brain driving this behavior. For this reason, sex addiction is similar to other addictions and manifests in very similar ways, such as intense cravings, compulsive behavior, and the inability to maintain healthy relationships.

How Common Is Sexual Addiction, and Who Is Most Affected?

According to a 2018 study, compulsive sexual behaviors impact around 8.6% of the US population. The disorder can impact both women and men, though it is more common in the latter. The same study found that around 7% of women were affected by sex addiction compared to 10.3% of men.

Is Sex Addiction or Hypersexuality Considered a Mental Health Disorder?

Although definitely a complex disease, there is some debate surrounding if hypersexuality can be considered a mental health disorder. The American Psychiatric Association decided not to include it as a condition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, due to a lack of evidence. However, as more studies are released and researchers better understand the condition, this could change.

What Is the Difference Between Sex Addiction and Hypersexuality?

Hypersexuality is commonly used as an interchangeable term for sex addiction.

Can Hypersexuality Be Prevented?

The cause of hypersexuality stems from a different place in each individual. Depending on this cause, sex addiction may be able to be prevented. To prevent a full-blown addiction from developing, it is important that you educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of addiction and can reach out for professional help if needed.

What Is the Relationship Between Sex Addiction and Substance Abuse? There is a link between sexual addiction and substance abuse, with the two disorders frequently co-occurring. Both are driven by the need to stimulate the reward system in the brain, resulting in compulsive disruptive behavior.