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What is Sex Addiction?

Diane Goettel
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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There is some debate in the medical community as to whether sex addiction exists as a medical disorder. According to recent studies, millions of Americans - between 3 and 8 percent - deal with sex addiction. Still, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) does not have a diagnosis for sex addiction, although it does have diagnoses for other addictions such as alcohol dependence, drug dependence, and eating disorders.

Sex addiction, or sex compulsion, can begin in a number of different ways and lead to a myriad of practices. Some sex addicts have one specific unwanted behavior. Others have dozens. What separates sex addicts from healthy sexual adults is the presence of a compulsive behavior. People who deal with sex addiction often feel out of control and unable to manage their sexual impulses. Frequently, once an impulse has been satisfied, a person with sex addiction will experience a great wave of shame, pain, and self-loathing.

Sex addiction is dangerous because it can lead individuals to put themselves or others in potentially harmful circumstances in order to satisfy a sexual impulse. Many people with this affliction feel that their sex addiction began with an affinity for one act or experience. That affinity can grow stronger and lead to sex addiction. Others feel that sex addition can form as a result of traumatizing childhood experiences.

Some professionals have created lists of sex addiction indicators. Some of these indicators are based on where, when, and with whom the sexual activity takes place, whether the impulses disrupt routine aspects of life, and whether shame, guilt, remorse, or secrecy is felt in relation to the impulses and activity.

As with any addiction, it is often helpful if not critical to obtain some kind of support and professional advice. Help groups can offer a great deal of free information and support through regular group meetings for addicted individuals. Those dealing with sex addiction may also find it helpful to contact a physician, counselor, or therapist.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Diane Goettel
By Diane Goettel
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount Vernon, New York with her husband, Noah. They are the proud parents of a Doberman Pinscher named Spoon. Specialties: book editing, book marketing, book publishing, freelance writing, magazine publishing, magazine writing, copywriting,"
Discussion Comments
By anon81337 — On May 01, 2010

Sex addiction is not defined here. Can it be clearly defined here?

By anon55932 — On Dec 10, 2009

fetish, what was your way of acting out?

By anon54886 — On Dec 03, 2009

This article does not make much sense. How can one say that he or she is a sex addict?

By anon14783 — On Jun 24, 2008

hey this article is really good one i like it. thanks for sharing it. jasmine celion

By fetish — On Jul 07, 2007

I would like to make it a protected status. How can I help sex addition become a protected status? I suffered for years till I got help now I do not need to act out when stressed out. I am now harassed on the job and there is nothing that can be done. We did not chose the addictions we have they were inflected upon us when younger.

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount...
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