Sexual addiction, also known as sexual compulsivity, hypersexuality and hypersexual disorder, is a preoccupation with sexual fantasy and activity that lasts six months or longer and leads to problems for the addict. Sex addiction is not an official diagnosis in the American Psychiatric Association (APA)’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), but other professional organizations, including the American Society for Addiction Medicine, do acknowledge and accept behavioral addictions, of which sex addiction is one. Generally speaking, three main factors are taken into account when diagnosing sexual addiction:
- Preoccupation to the point of obsession with sexual fantasies and behavior. Sex addicts spend hours, sometimes even days, fantasizing about sex, planning for sex, pursuing sex and engaging in sex. Their decision-making revolves around sex, including their choices in clothing, where they exercise, the car they drive and maybe even the career path they choose.
- Loss of control over sexual fantasies and behaviors. Sex addicts often try to quit or cut back on their behavior or fantasies, without success. They promise themselves and others that they will change, but without outside intervention (typically some form of therapy and/or 12-step support), they nearly always fail in these efforts — usually repeatedly.
- Negative consequences directly related to sexual behavior. Sex addicts eventually experience many of the same adverse consequences that alcoholics, drug addicts, compulsive gamblers, compulsive spenders and other addicts deal with.
In short, sexual addiction is an ongoing, out-of-control pattern of compulsive sexual fantasies and behaviors that causes serious problems in the addict’s life.
If you’re concerned that you or someone you love may have a problem with sexual addiction, it may be time to talk to a certified sex addiction treatment specialist who can evaluate symptoms and make a diagnosis and/or to check out 12-step sexual addiction recovery groups. Whether you’ve just noticed a problem or you’ve seen it get worse over a long period of time, it’s important to know that there are a variety of treatment options and resources available that can help.