Understanding Sex Addiction Symptoms And Knowing When To Get Help

By BetterHelp Editorial Team|Updated July 13, 2022

Pretty much everyone loves sex, and it’s normal to want to seek it out because it makes your body feel good. Having an unusual experience or frequent fantasies does not necessarily make someone an addict. However, there are millions of people who struggle with this addiction, and they seek out sex in unhealthy ways. The compulsive engagement in unhealthy behavior may be a sex addiction, something that can ruin lives and have disastrous effects if people don’t get help. Online therapy is a great place to start to get this help. 

Compulsive Behavior

The World Health Organization classifies compulsive sexual behavior, more commonly referred to as sex addiction or hypersexual disorder, as a mental health disorder according to the ICD, their statistical manual of mental disorders. The diagnostic criteria of this disorder state that having repetitive sexual impulses that result in distressing sexual behavior and adverse consequences. This may include sexual activities that affect daily functioning such as work duties or personal relationships and family members. In order to receive a clinical diagnosis, the persistent pattern of compulsive sexual behavior needs to have been demonstrated over time rather than for a short period. Moral judgments about one’s own sexual activity do not fit the diagnostic criteria. 


Published by the American Psychiatric Association, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th  Edition (DSM-5) does not have its own classification for compulsive sexual behavior. Some of the sexual behaviors associated with sex addicts are often lumped under other addictive disorders, behavioral addictions, and mental disorders. In fact, it is sometimes one of the results of a manic episode in a mood disorder.    

There are various sex addiction symptoms that you should look out for if you’re worried that you or someone that you care about might have a problem. Understanding sex addiction signs & symptoms and knowing when to get help can keep your mental health from getting too bad. There are a number of ways to seek help, including through counseling, medications, or intimacy work. Seeing a sex therapist or healthcare professional that specializes in treating sexual addiction can help you manage compulsive sexual behavior and avoid negative consequences in the future.

Extreme Sexual Cravings

Is Your Mind Preoccupied By Thoughts About Sex?

One of the most common symptoms of sex addiction is having extreme sexual cravings. Someone suffering from sexual addiction might have excessive sexual fantasies and crave sexual pleasure a lot more than normal. They could think about sex all the time instead of just having a normal sex drive, and this shows that they’re having a mental health issue. This could lead them to seek out sexual encounters more often, and they might even make unsafe choices just to release their cravings. People with sex addiction want to have sex constantly, or they want to participate in other sexual acts constantly.

Behavioral Concerns

It’s important to recognize that someone can have a sex addiction without having sex all the time, too. Some people are addicted to sex in different ways, and they don’t have access to sexual partners that others do. In cases like this, a person might become addicted to other types of sexual behavior. There are varying levels of sexually compulsive behaviour; such as excessive masturbation, phone sex, or pornography viewing could be used in place of having sex. Porn addiction is also a form of sexual addiction. It may be one of a variety of sexual addictions an individual has or the only sexual activity that a person engages in excessively or unhealthily. However, all these forms of sexual behavior can be detrimental because they can take someone’s attention away from their responsibilities.

The extreme sexual cravings experienced by sex addicts will make it tough to get through the day. People going through this more than likely have mental health factors that need to be appropriately treated. Sexual impulses and obsessive sexual thoughts can cause significant impairment in everyday functioning and even affect a person's safety. Without mental health treatment, it’s going to be tough for someone to process life normally. Sex addiction will often cause people to miss work or lose important relationships due to compulsive sexual behavior and subsequently making poor choices. These sexual addiction issues can cause someone’s life to become chaotic, and this can be hard to deal with.

Unsafe Sex

Many people with sex addiction wind up engaging in unsafe sex practices, too. They desire sex and want it so bad that they don’t take the time to account for the side effects of their actions. Instead of seeking out a safe and meaningful connection for their sexual encounters with others, they will turn to have sex with strangers and may put themselves in danger. When you have a sex addiction, using protection is also not going to be something that crosses your mind often enough. One example may be having sex with multiple partners or visiting a sex club without taking precautions to prevent a sexually transmitted infection. The urge to seek out sex might be so strong that you just can’t bring yourself to worry about things like condoms or birth control. This can lead to many health issues and unwanted pregnancies.

People engaging in these unsafe sex acts might deal with complex emotions as well. It isn’t unusual for some with sex addiction to feel shame, anxiety, or self-loathing after coming down from a sex high. Sex addiction is a mental health issue, and it needs to be treated properly. If you find yourself engaging in unsafe sex practices often, then know that you can break the cycle. There are people out there who understand what you’re going through, and you can get help whenever you’re ready.

Missing Work To Have Sex

One common thread among people who have sex addiction issues is that they might miss work or other important events to have an orgasm. Have you ever called into work or failed to show up because you were trying to have sex with someone? Sex addiction can cause people to make poor choices, and the effect can cause them to lose their jobs if they don’t get help. A sex addict might not have the best mental health, and this could make them not consider the ramifications of missing work to pursue some type of sex act. It’s best to speak to a mental health professional to get proper advice on how to address this addiction before it gets out of hand.

Escalating Sexual Behaviors

Another symptom to look out for is the need to escalate your sexual behaviors. Sex addiction is just like other forms of addiction in many ways. It causes those who are addicted to sex to want to seek out more sex, and sometimes they want to escalate the level of those behaviors to get more enjoyment. Someone might start getting interested in kinkier sex acts than usual due to having sexual addiction issues. This sex addiction could cause them to seek out more unsafe sex acts, and this could put them at even greater risk of having health complications. There are both mental health and physical health complications to consider when you’re engaging in unusual sex acts. You don’t have to have an addiction to have a novel sexual experience such as public sex. However, if you find your sexually compulsive tendencies are causing you to seek out increasingly risky sexual behavior, you may need proper information, support, and treatment.  

Your sexual behavior can change when you have a sex addiction. You might find yourself doing things that you’re not proud of because you can’t help the way that you feel. Many people get themselves in situations that they regret due to sex addiction issues.


Sexual acts performed without the appropriate consent are considered sexual abuse. Not all people with a sex addiction are sex offenders. However, if you find yourself engaging in sexual behavior of this nature, it is important that you seek help and do not continue to harm others. Mental health professionals can work with you to ensure that you get the treatment that you need. If your sexual behavior has become problematic as of late, then know that it’s not too late to seek help for what is going on in your life.


It shouldn’t come as a surprise to find out that one of the most common symptoms of sex addiction is constant cheating. You might have someone in your life that you love very much. Despite this, you could be so compelled to seek out sex that you will constantly cheat on your spouse or partner. This could ruin your relationship with someone that you respect and cherish, but you can’t consider the consequences because you’re blinded by your sex addiction. Sexual addiction issues like this can be problematic, and mental health professionals will need to work with you so that you can get things under control.

Sex addiction makes you feel like you have no impulse control when it comes to sexual urges. A sex addict might succumb to these intense sexual impulses and engage in sexual acts such as extramarital affairs and multiple partners without the knowledge of a primary partner. Your mental health can suffer due to your actions and could potentially cause a relationship disorder as well. If you can’t seem to stop making poor choices and you’ve had multiple affairs, then you need to consider getting help. Getting through sex addiction by yourself is not easy, and you shouldn’t have to feel like you’re alone. Finding a mental health specialist will make it possible to move forward once again. You can stop feeling ashamed about sexual addiction and start feeling like you can take control with the help of mental health professionals.


It’s also common for individuals with sexual addiction to develop other mental health issues or have decreased quality of mental health. For example, someone who has sex addiction might feel bad about themselves due to the things that they’re doing. They might know in their heart that this isn’t who they are, and this could cause them to feel shame in addition to performing compulsive sexual acts. Sex addiction can cause people to become depressed and develop self-esteem issues. This can create emotional scars that will be tough to heal, and getting the assistance of a mental health expert is recommended.

Feeling guilt is normal when you have a sex addiction, and you might not cope with that guilt in positive ways. The negative feelings associated with being a sex addict, such as low self esteem, could lead to self-coping mechanisms, such as using drugs or drinking heavily to manage the pain of sexual addiction.

Mental Health

Your mental health could continue to suffer if you don’t seek out treatment options. Untreated compulsive sexual behavior could lead to substance addiction or other drug abuse problems. Don’t let yourself suffer and know that sex addiction is just like any other illness- and can contribute to other illnesses. It’s something that can be understood, and you can overcome sexual addiction with the help of a mental health expert and medically reviewed treatment methods. Your mental health can improve, and you can get through the depression that you’re experiencing.

Professional Help

Knowing when to get professional help is important when you suspect that you have a sex addiction. If your mental health is suffering due to your sex addiction, then it’s probably best to look into some of the treatment options mentioned in this article. As a general rule, you should consider mental health treatment when your sex addiction or sexual behaviour starts to negatively impact your life. If your performance at work is slipping or if your relationships are suffering due to your sex addiction, then you should see a mental health specialist. Getting an appointment with a therapist who can answer your questions with proper research won’t take long, and it’s best to recognize when you have a problem sooner rather than later.

Some people have a hard time recognizing that they’re having mental health issues, though. You might need a family member or your spouse to step in and let you know that you have a problem. If someone has noticed your life spiraling out of control due to sex addiction, then try to take their concern to heart. Your friends and family want to see you get better, and they want your mental health to improve. This might take time, but you can get help for your mental health with your support system by your side.

Treatment For Sex Addiction

Is Your Mind Preoccupied By Thoughts About Sex?

Getting treatment for sex addiction is going to help you to feel better about your life and experience benefits in all states of your health. Imagine getting support through medically reviewed treatments to overcome your compulsive sexual behavior. It might seem outside your control and your mental health might not be in a good place right now, but there are things that you can do to get help.

If you don’t know where to begin, reach out to a family doctor, a therapist, or other qualified wellness professionals to express your concerns about your sexual behavior. Since Australian and U.S. doctors use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association, which lacks content on sex addiction, they may not be able to diagnose you with a sex addiction. However, they can help you manage sexual behavior that contributes to other mental disorders you may have. They can also point you in the right direction to find the specific support you need for compulsive sexual behavior.  

Peer Reviewed Studies

Peer reviewed studies and empirical evidence have shown that support groups can help sex users lessen the frequency of their unhealthy sexual behavior or find sexual sobriety. In these groups, there is a community of people dealing with the same problem, whether that be sex addicts or people living with a drug addiction that affects their brain in the same way. There are different types of groups including sex addicts anonymous and love addicts anonymous. If you are also concurrently living with a substance abuse disorder, alcoholics anonymous can be helpful. 


Cognitive behavioral therapy is a medically reviewed treatment method that has helped many people to overcome sex addiction and their cravings for physical touch. This has been used to treat various mental health conditions for a long time, and it can work to help you get through sex addiction. Your mental health matters and you can improve things by working with a skilled therapist who understands sex addiction. Behavioral therapy is great at helping patients get through mental health issues, and you can start to take steps toward curbing your sex addiction. It isn’t always going to be easy, but having the support of a therapist will make a world of difference when it comes to your mental health.

The most common treatment for sex addiction is to speak to a therapist. Therapists will be able to help you work through your mental health issues at a steady pace. They will try to figure out what is causing your sex addiction and will work to understand your mental health issues completely. It can take time to get better, but you can make use of cognitive behavioral therapy to make huge changes in your life. If your husband or wife is a sex addict, it can create an added layer of challenges to the marriage. If your compulsive sexual behavior has affected your marriage, marital therapy can help you work through issues with your spouse.

Treatment Facilities

If therapy or support groups do not seem sufficient, there are also treatment facilities. While most people associate these facilities with drug addiction, there are also places specifically designed to help people cope with compulsive sexual behavior. Sex addicts can find ways to mend their relationships and change their sexual behavior in a supportive and healing environment. 


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