WebMD Logo Icon
WebMD Connect to Care helps you find services to manage your health. When you purchase any of these services, WebMD may receive a fee. WebMD does not endorse any product, service or treatment referred to on this page. X

Here's What Happens If Your Sex Addiction Goes Untreated

By WebMD Connect to Care Staff
If you or a loved one is struggling with sex addiction, WebMD Connect to Care Advisors are standing by to help get you started on the road to recovery.

If left untreated, sex addiction can have some pretty serious consequences.

Dr. Patrick Carnes is often credited with popularizing the term "sex addiction" in his 1983 book, Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction. Based on his research, sex addictions usually arise due to a combination of psychodynamic and cognitive-behavioral factors.

What is sex addiction?

Broadly, there is no single accepted definition of sex addiction. It has been referred to as "hypersexuality" or "compulsive sexual behavior," but the American Psychiatric Association has yet to add it to its respected Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The controversy around sex addiction as a diagnosis has gone on for quite some time.

In 1998, Dr. Aviel Goodman, MD defined sexual addiction as sexual behavior that is characterized by two key features: recurrent failure to control the sexual behavior and continuation of the sexual behavior despite significant harmful consequences. Importantly, no particular form of sexual behavior in itself constitutes sexual addiction. Rather, the relationship between a given behavior pattern and an individual's life determines whether a pattern of sexual behavior qualifies as sexual addiction.

Untreated sex addiction can have a number of harmful consequences:

1. Sex addiction may result in social and self-alienation as well as relationship deterioration. In 2000, Schwartz and Southern reported that compulsive engagement in cybersex resulted in relationship problems, low self-esteem, and lost time.

2. Untreated sex addiction can lead to financial problems. A 2011 review of several empirical studies by Mark D. Griffiths, MD found that sex addiction resulted in the deterioration of professional performance and productivity as well as loss of financial stability.

3. Untreated sex addiction has the potential to cause secondary health problems, such as depressed mood. A 2001 case study involving a married 42-year-old man reported that the patient's preoccupation with pornography resulted in symptoms of depression, including irritability, anhedonia (an inability to experience pleasure), inability to concentrate, and changes in sleep and appetite.

Addressing the sometimes cavalier attitudes towards sexual addiction, Dr. Carnes says, "You know, the joke is, 'Well, if sex is an addiction, it's the way I wanna go.' If you sat in my office and you listened to the tales of woe, I mean, sometimes in an evening, I'll come home and, you know, it's hard to even talk. Because of just how hurting people are about the problems that they have. And I think for people who are out there who dismiss it as something that's funny, they don't sit in our shoes."

Don't wait. Get help now.

If you or a loved one is struggling with sex addiction, WebMD Connect to Care Advisors are standing by to help get you started on the road to recovery.

Treatment & Resources for Sex Addiction