The Benefits Of Sex Addiction Counseling

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated March 22, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Content Warning: Please be advised that this article mentions addiction, substance use, trauma, sex, and other potentially triggering topics. Read with discretion. 

Many people living with sex addiction may experience trouble controlling their sexual behavior or urges. Sex addiction may occur when a person uses sex compulsively or dependently, regardless of the potentially harmful consequences. While this behavior might harm relationships or lead to significant adverse effects in multiple areas of your life, therapy can teach you coping skills and help you identify and work through the underlying causes. 

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Are You Living With Sex Addiction?

What Is Sex Addiction?

Sex addiction is a general term to describe a psychological dependency characterized by excessive thoughts, urges, behaviors, and desires related to sexual activity and challenges controlling them. Compulsive sexual behavior (CSB) can be referred to as sex addiction, hypersexuality, sexual compulsivity, and sexual impulsivity. 

Many medical professionals debate whether excessive sexual impulses and behavior are an addiction, compulsion, or impulse control disorder. Each classification indicates a specific treatment plan, and it can be challenging to determine when sexual behavior becomes problematic. In these cases, reaching out to a professional might be advantageous. 

What Are The Symptoms Of Sex Addiction?

Sex addiction may be wrongly portrayed as a joke in the media, trivializing its effect on those living with symptoms. As with many dependencies, knowing the signs and symptoms can make it feel safer to seek treatment early or help a loved one take steps toward recovery. Sex addiction can be challenging to manage alone, and counseling may be an effective way to learn coping skills and receive support. 

Research shows that sex addiction can function much like substance use in terms of its impact on the human brain. Having an active sex drive may not mean you are addicted to sex. However, if your sexual habits harm one or more aspects of your life, consider reaching out for professional help. 

A few signs of sex addiction can include: 

  • Cheating on romantic partners
  • Risky sexual behavior and unsafe sex practices
  • Obsessive dating
  • Excessive masturbation
  • Compulsive pornography use
  • Difficulty stopping sexual behavior despite adverse consequences
  • An urge to have sex multiple times a day or in unsafe locations 

Sex Addiction And Relationships 

According to the authors of a paper about CSB in the Journal of Psychosexual Health, sexual addiction has been ignored by clinicians despite potentially causing significant emotional and behavioral symptoms. Few reputable studies have been conducted on this type of sexual behavior. While the debate continues within the psychological community about the criteria and symptoms of CSB and its facets, those living with excessive sexual impulses may still require support.  

Sex addiction might involve excessive pornography consumption, compulsive masturbation, risky sexual behavior, or sexual activity with another person despite harmful consequences and efforts to stop or control the behavior. 


Treatment Options For Sex Addiction 

Many available sex addiction treatment programs focus on separating clients from harmful sexual behaviors. During treatment, a therapist may consider your thoughts, emotions, and goals. Therapy, either online or in person, can help you work through your feelings and address any anxiety, depression, guilt, or shame you may be feeling. 

CSB is a difficult condition, and a qualified therapist can help you determine the underlying reasons. However, treatment may take time. Treatment for sex addiction often involves psychotherapy, support from self-help groups, and medications to mitigate symptoms. The primary goal of treatment may be helping the client reduce excessive sexual behaviors while maintaining healthy levels of sexual activity. 

Below are a few options for treating sex addiction or compulsive sexual behaviors. 

Speak With A Qualified Therapist

Psychotherapy (talk therapy) may help you explore the causes, thoughts, or beliefs behind your CSB and teach you how to manage them with minimal impact on your life. Treatment for sex addiction can be effective in individual, group, family, or couple forms. 

Many therapists favor cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to identify unhealthy or unhelpful ideas related to sex and replace them with healthier perspectives and thought processes. Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is a form of CBT focused on accepting your thoughts and urges and committing to strategies that promote actions consistent with your values.  

Psychodynamic psychotherapy is another form of therapy centered on increasing awareness of your unconscious thoughts and behaviors. This evaluation offers insight into your motivation and may allow you opportunities to resolve conflicts. 

Learn To Distinguish Between Healthy And Unhealthy Sex

Sex is a natural, healthy activity between consenting adults, but it may have negative impacts if someone pursues it to the point that it interferes with everyday life or relationships. Unhealthy sex patterns may cause conflict and lead to unintended health concerns. CSB often drives a person to continue seeking sex despite these negative consequences. However, education and therapy may offer an intervention. 

Sex addiction counseling can help you differentiate between healthy and unhealthy sexual behaviors in yourself and others. For example, seeking a new sexual partner after an adverse event might be a harmful way to cope with difficult emotions. Sexual interactions with CSB can often leave a person feeling worse and more vulnerable than before and may limit their ability to appreciate sex healthily.  

Stephen B. Levine, the author of a study about sexual addiction, states, “conventional society expects adults to manage their sexual behavior within certain limits and parameters. These expectations form largely unwritten rules that support the institution of marriage, preserve the dignity and health of the partner who expects monogamy, and shield children from the risks of family breakup and skepticism about love.” 

Discussing consent, sexual health, and sexuality can reduce expectations, ensure trust, and establish healthy relationships. 

Recognize Prompting Events Or Thoughts 

Suppose you’re using sexual activity to avoid the past, escape emotional or physical pain, or feel less alone. In that case, it may be helpful to identify what situations commonly cause you to feel this way. When you know the thoughts or behaviors that prompt you to want to partake in sex, you can talk to your therapist about challenging these and finding healthier coping mechanisms.  

Coping With Sex Addiction

CSB can be a difficult condition requiring a multifaceted treatment plan, including various therapeutic approaches like CBT, relapse-prevention therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and medication. Many people may also find that support from self-help groups can help keep them accountable and make it easier to resist urges. You can also try the following coping strategies. 


Keep a journal of your sexual urges and times when you’ve made mistakes. Track the date, time, duration, and intensity from 1-10, along with what coping skills you practiced, how well they worked, and whether you repeated them. You can also journal about your emotions. Studies show that journaling can improve mental health and allow a healthy outlet for expression. 

Avoid Prompting Stimuli 

For some people with sex addiction, avoiding certain people, places, or situations that might prompt a sexual urge could be beneficial at the beginning of recovery. While avoidance might not be an effective long-term strategy, you might utilize it until you learn new coping skills from a therapist.  

Learn From Mistakes 

Recovery from any dependency can be long-term and challenging. Treat yourself with kindness when you make mistakes and learn from the experience. Reward yourself when you meet milestones and remind yourself that you’re doing your best. 

Are You Living With Sex Addiction?

Dating Someone With Sex Addiction

Dating, living with, or being married to someone with sex addiction may cause challenges. You might feel overwhelmed by the frequency of sex requests or a lack of intimacy during sex. In addition, you might worry about infidelity or exposure to sexually transmitted infections. 

These concerns can be valid, and you might also benefit from therapy on your own or with your partner. You can also set sexual boundaries and ensure consent is present in your relationship. 

Counseling Options 

It can be challenging to seek treatment for sex addiction due to stigma or fear of vulnerability. However, therapy can be effective. You can consider individual or couples therapy and learn unique skills to target your unwanted behaviors or urges while minimizing their impact on your life. You can also consider online counseling if you’re looking for an unknowns or less stigmatized form of therapy. 

With online counseling, you can choose between phone, video, or live chat sessions. Through many platforms, like BetterHelp for individuals or ReGain for couples, you can also choose a nickname when you sign up to stay unknown during treatment. Therapists can provide personalized worksheets, resources, and advice, and you can message your provider any time throughout the week. 

CBT is one of the most popular treatments for sex addiction, and a recent study found that online sessions of CBT can be as effective as in-person treatments. The same study found that virtual therapy is often less expensive and offers greater reachability than office visits. 

Counselor Reviews

“Carmen is thoughtful and patient and asks questions that get to the heart of the matter. I’ve been to counseling before, and it seems like there was a lot of talking, but I didn’t always leave with tools I could use right away. Carmen provides insight that I can use to work on my concerns right away.”

“Alexis has been amazing. I came to this site very skeptical about what help could be offered. Alexis has helped me navigate through my emotions and struggles very well. I am infinitely grateful for all she has done and keeps doing. Alexis is very friendly and makes me feel comfortable talking about anything. My experience with her has been amazing.”


Sex addiction can have distressing symptoms and impacts. Can a sex therapist near me help, you may ask? Yes, sex therapy or CSB counseling expert may help you develop coping strategies to withstand urges and communication skills to build a stronger relationship with your partner or a healthier relationship with sex to feel in control of your behaviors and urges. If you’re interested in discussing your symptoms with a professional, consider reaching out to a therapist for compassionate guidance and support.

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