Sex addiction is a behavioral problem Sex addicts cannot seem to control their craving for sexual intimacy and this leads to progressively more damage in their lives. Over time, the negative impacts increase and the sex-seeking behavior escalates.
Sexologists (scientists who study human sexuality) disagree on whether or not the term ‘addiction’ is correct because the disorder is largely psychological in nature and has no physical withdrawal component. In this light, sex addiction is treated as a compulsive disorder or a failure of impulse control.
Potential Harm of Sex Addiction
Damaging behaviors may be an excess of otherwise accepted activities – such as compulsive masturbation, pornography, phone sex or ‘cybering’ (computer sex). Others cross boundaries and their compulsion leads to illegal activity – flashing (exhibitionism), peeping/hidden cameras (voyeurism), obscene and unwanted phone calls or chat, stalking and harassment. Even child molestation or rape may be seen.
According to Dr. Michael Herkov1 of the University of Florida:
- Roughly 55 percent of convicted sex offenders can be considered sex addicts.
- About 71 percent of child molesters are sex addicts. For many, their problems are so severe that imprisonment is the only way to ensure society’s safety against them.
- For most sex addicts, however, it is the social harm and not the criminal consequences that lead them to seek treatment for sex addiction. Adultery, a series of failed relationships, or the inability to form relationships at all might be enough for someone to seek treatment.
Medical classification of sex addiction
Because sex addiction isn’t listed as a standalone diagnosis, patients may be classified according to the particular sexual practice they prefer.
- Properly called hypersexuality, nymphomania refers to the female form, while satyriasis used for the male. This is characterized by a lack of inhibition for increased sexual desires. The colloquial expression would be, “Anywhere, at any time, with anyone.”
- Sexual Mania
- This is classified under bipolar disorders and arises during the manic phase. It is characterized as hypersexuality that manifests cyclically.
- The fixation on an unattainable partner, with or without surrogate sex. Stalking behavior is the result. Not necessarily a sex addiction because there may not be a sexual component, although masturbation and fantasy are possible.
- Impulse control disorder
- This might be diagnosed based on behavior where the sex addict seeks multiple partners in known, risky situations. They ignore the dangers of disease and social consequences.
- Sexual Disorders Not Otherwise Specified
- This is the catch-all for other behaviors that would fall under sex addiction. An example would be chronic and compulsive masturbation.
Anaglyph painting by Dimitri Parant
- "What Is Sexual Addiction?," Michael Herkov, Ph.D, Psych Central