Sexual Addiction

Sexual addiction is a serious problem in which one engages in persistent and escalating patterns of sexual behavior despite increasing negative consequences to one's self or others. Like other addictions, these behaviors continue despite sincere and persistent efforts to stop. Some might not think sex can be addictive because there are no chemicals involved. However, the body produces many hormones and neurotransmitters during sex that produce the same chemical "high" as drugs or alcohol. Sex addicts, like other addicts, often have a background of abuse (sexual, physical, emotional) and/or neglect, and family histories sprinkled with numerous addictions.

How Do I Know There's a Problem?

  • Compulsive masturbation
  • Simultaneous or repeated sequential affairs
  • Pornography
  • Cybersex, phone sex
  • Multiple anonymous partners
  • Unsafe sexual activity
  • Partner objectification/demand for sex
  • Strip clubs and adult bookstores
  • Use of prostitution/escorts
  • Sexual aversion/anorexia
  • Frequenting massage parlors
  • Sexual paraphilias (a need for unusual sexual stimulation) and/or any sexually offensive behavior

What To Do

As with all addictions, the addict is the one who must change. The most you can personally do is let your friend know how you feel, list your concerns, be clear about your limits, and describe how the behavior affects you. This may involve setting boundaries, such as “If you continue to flirt with other women, I will leave the relationship,” and then, of course, the hard part of sticking to your consequences if the behavior continues. If there are severe enough behaviors occurring that you fear for your friend, you may decide to involve professional help or even the authorities. Your friend may not want to hear what you have to say, and you still have the right to say it.


American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy--Sexual Addiction