Signs and Symptoms of Sex Addiction

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on May 15, 2024
7 min read

Sex addiction -- also known as hypersexuality or compulsive sexual behavior -- causes a person to lose control over their sexual thoughts and urges. While it's normal to have sexual urges, sex addiction describes behaviors that can become overwhelming and cause problems in a person's life. 

Although sex addiction isn't listed as a diagnosable condition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), it can be defined as part of another mental health condition, like impulse control disorder (ICD). 

Sex addiction can look and feel similar to other types of addictions. People who struggle with it can crave sex in the same way people who struggle with addiction crave drugs or alcohol. They might also escalate certain behaviors over time, either by doing them more often or with more recklessness. 

The compulsive need to be sexually stimulated often interferes with a person's ability to live their daily life. They may change their day-to-day routine to be able to perform sexual acts and feel out of control when it comes to these decisions, even if they're aware of the negative consequences. 

Sexual addictions can come in many different forms, including addiction to:  

  • Sexual acts
  • Pornography
  • Masturbation  
  • Constant sexual fantasies  
  • Exhibition or voyeurism, where a person has the desire to publicly expose their genitals or watch other people engaging in sexual activity, both without consent 

These behaviors can take a serious toll. Like drug or alcohol addiction, sex addiction can impact physical health, mental health, personal relationships, work, and quality of life. 






The symptoms of sex addiction can be both physical and emotional. It takes a health care professional to make a clear diagnosis, but the following signs could point to a possible sex addiction:

Obsessive sexual thoughts

Those who struggle with sex addiction constantly think about sex. These thoughts may become obsessive or distracting. 

Spending excessive time on sex

Seeking out sexual partners isn't necessarily a sign of sexual addiction, but if you're spending large amounts of time and energy on sex, you might have a problem. This can include time spent planning sex, having sex, being sexual, or recovering from sexual experiences.

Feeling shame or depression

Since it's hard for a person with a sex addiction to control their urges, it's also common for them to feel helpless over their thoughts or actions, which can lead to feelings of shame, regret, anxiety or depression. In extreme cases, sex addiction can make a person feel suicidal.

Always preoccupied with sex

If you're addicted to sex, you might focus on it so much that it consumes your life. This could mean that you start neglecting school, work, or personal responsibilities, or that you withdraw from social activities. You might also start to spend more time on sex than things that help you relax or hobbies that you enjoy. Your relationships with friends, family, and partners might suffer because of this.

Masturbating a lot

Masturbation can be a healthy way to explore your body and release sexual tension, but excessive masturbation can be a sign of sexual addiction. This might mean you can't stop yourself from masturbating, you masturbate during inappropriate times, or you do it so often that it becomes uncomfortable or starts to hurt. 

Having risky sex or behaving inappropriately

In some cases, sexual addiction can lead to inappropriate and/or risky sexual behaviors. This means engaging in sexual acts without thinking about how it could harm you or someone else, including exhibitionism, having sex in public, or having sex without protection.

These risks can lead to serious problems, like a sexually transmitted infection, unwanted pregnancy, or doing illegal things to have sex.  

Cheating on partners

Sexual addiction might make you feel like you need to constantly find new people to have sex with, even if you're already in a relationship. This might involve seeking out phone sex, chat rooms, finding one-night stands, or paying for sex--all of which can lead to a loss of trust and intimacy with your partner.

Engaging in criminal offenses

In extreme cases, someone with a sex addiction might engage in illegal activities, like stalking, rape, or child molestation. While some sexual offenders may also have a sex addiction, there is no evidence to suggest that sexual addiction can lead someone to commit sexual offenses. 










Someone who has a high sex drive might think about or have sex a lot, but can still control their urges and live a normal day-to-day life. Someone who has a sex addiction, on the other hand, often feels out of control when it comes to sex. These differences also show up in how sex affects relationships. Having a high sex drive might enhance someone's satisfaction or pleasure, while sex addiction usually causes distress. 

Doctors don't fully understand what causes sex addiction, but research suggests that it's linked to other mental health conditions, including mood disorders (like depression and bipolar), anxiety disorders, personality disorders, and impulse-control disorders. One study found that as many as 72% of people who struggle with sex addiction also have a mood disorder, while 38% have an anxiety disorder.   

Other possible causes include:  

  • Trauma 
  • Substance abuse 
  • Conditions that affect or damage the brain, such as dementia or Parkinson's disease  
  • Side effects of some medications--particularly ones used to treat Parkinson's  

Doctors and therapists are still trying to figure out how best to define and diagnose sex addiction. Without standard guidelines, it can be tough to know when sexual behavior becomes problematic, but mental health professionals who specialize in addiction disorders will usually be able to help you find the right treatment.

Sex addiction can be managed and treated with help from a psychologist, psychiatrist, or sex therapist. The type of treatment you receive will depend on the underlying cause of the sex addiction and how it affects your personal life.


If you're dealing with sex addiction along with an anxiety or mood disorder, your treatment plan may include medications. 

There's currently no medication approved for treating sex addiction on its own, but some medicines that are used to treat other mental health issues may help you better manage your urges. These work by lessening the feel-good chemicals that are released in the brain when you act on certain behaviors.  

Which medication you're prescribed will depend on your symptoms and medical history. These may include:

  • Antidepressants 
  • Antiandrogens, which target male sex hormones 
  • Naltrexone, a drug used to treat alcohol and opioid addiction 
  • Mood stabilizers 
  • Antianxiety medications 

Sex addiction therapy

Therapy can help you learn how to manage your urges. During therapy, your therapist will ask you questions to help you identify what might be causing your sex addiction, as well as offer tools to help you change your behavior. 

Types of therapy can include: 

  • One-on-one therapy with a mental health professional
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) 
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) 
  • Psychodynamic therapy 
  • Group therapy 
  • Support groups
  • Couples counseling or marriage counseling 

Sex addiction can take a physical and emotional toll, leading to problems in relationships, work, and overall well-being. While there's no single cause, it's often linked to other mental health issues like depression or anxiety. If you're struggling with sex addiction, a mental health professional can help you find the right support and treatment.

I think about sex all the time. Is this normal? Thinking about sex a lot is completely normal for some people, especially during certain stages of life, or when you're in a new relationship. But if these thoughts start to interfere with your daily life or responsibilities, you should speak with your doctor. 

What makes someone a sex addict? Someone who is addicted to sex often feels out of control when it comes to their sexual thoughts and urges. If your sexual behaviors are interfering with your relationships or responsibilities, you might have a sex addiction.

What causes hypersexuality? More research is needed to understand what makes someone addicted to sex, but people with a history of mental health issues, trauma, or substance abuse are more likely to struggle with hypersexuality. Hypersexuality is more common in men, but it can affect people of all genders and sexualities similarly.

Why am I so sexually active all the time? Changes in hormones, emotional factors, and relationship dynamics can all make you want to have more sex. This isn't a problem if it doesn't interfere with your everyday activities. If sex becomes the main focus of your life, it could be a sign of a sex addiction. 


What do you call a man who wants sex all the time? Some men have higher sex drives than others. Having a high sex drive doesn't necessarily mean someone is addicted to sex.