Compulsive sexual behavior, commonly referred to as sex addiction, is a highly debated topic. While it isn't classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in 2013, it was added to the World Health Organization's International Classification of Diseases in 2018.
The ICD is a foundational document scientists and clinicians around the globe cite to identify and study health issues, injuries and causes of death. According to the document, updated June 2018, compulsive sexual behavior disorder "is characterized by a persistent pattern of failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses or urges resulting in repetitive sexual behavior."
It's important to understand the signs associated with having a potential problem. Here are four signs you may be addicted to sex.
Chronic sexual thoughts, fantasies and behaviors
There is only one thing on your mind and you will do whatever you can to fulfill those thoughts and fantasies. These urges aren't just limited at home, but when you're out in public, at work or under any circumstances. Think of it like an alcoholic needing to drink or be drunk in order to go about their daily lives. It's all you think about.
Recurring thoughts/behaviors interfere with obligations and interests
Because these sexual thoughts and fantasies are your main focus, other aspects of your life will be neglected and suffer, including but not limited to: health and personal care, relationships, occupation/career, and hobbies and other interests. You may feel a sense of guilt, so you begin lying about your thoughts and behaviors to loved ones, which would fracture those relationships. Work or school performance suffer because your priorities lie elsewhere.
Thoughts and behaviors continue despite risk of consequences
You will do whatever you can to fulfill your recurring sexual thoughts and fantasies, so much so that any potential consequences are ignored. These can include anything related to you or others, your education or occupation, any potential financial fallout or even indifference regarding criminal consequences. For example, spending endless amounts on porn subscriptions, at strip clubs or on prostitutes. Having unprotected sex with multiple partners, including strangers, puts you and others at risk for sexually transmitted disease (STD).
Inability to control thoughts and behaviors
This addiction has a hold on you and you may try to break free, but after one or countless attempts to curb these thoughts, fantasies and behaviors, you are unable to and remain under their control. Despite the potential consequences, you repeatedly return to risky behaviors including sex with strangers or sex workers, internet porn, chronic masturbation, flashing in public and other behaviors that fulfill your thoughts and fantasies. Even suffering from consequences — being caught by a significant other, arrested for soliciting prostitution or public indecency, or fired from a job — doesn't deter you from continuing these habits.