How to Recognize a Sex Addiction

If you have a strong urge to engage in sexual thoughts, activities or behaviors that cause problems for your relationships, job and finances, it could be a sign of sex addiction. These compulsive behaviors are not based on substances like drugs or alcohol, but rather are driven by an inability to control one’s behavior despite negative consequences.

A sex addiction often involves a person focusing on fantasy and sexually stimulating activities such as masturbation, watching pornography, or using chat lines. These activities can take up a large portion of the person’s time and leave other areas of their life unattended. The behavior often leads to feelings of shame, guilt and loneliness, and it can also conflict with their religious or moral beliefs.

Some factors that can contribute to sex addiction include genetics, certain hormones and early-life environmental influences, such as abuse or neglect. Sexual addiction can also be triggered by an overwhelming amount of media images or advertising that encourages sexual fantasies and impulsive behavior.

Treatment for sex addiction is similar to other types of substance use disorder treatment. A therapist can help people recognize triggers, change their thought patterns and learn new coping skills. They may recommend individual or group therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy, which focuses on changing the relationship with self-destructive thoughts and actions. For some, medication may also be an option to help control impulses and alleviate underlying anxiety or depression. Residential or inpatient programs offer a therapeutic environment away from daily stressors and can be ideal for those with an addiction to sex.

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