The nature of sexual addiction

Sex addiction, also known as sexual compulsion and sexual dependency describes any sexual activity that feels “out of control”.

A sex addict feels compelled to seek out and engage in sexual behaviour, in spite of the problems it may cause to their personal, social and work lives. It may encompass any single or multiple types of sexual behaviour.

For example:

  • Compulsive masturbation
  • Compulsive use of pornography
  • Having multiple, ongoing affairs
  • Exhibitionism
  • Fetishes
  • Dangerous sexual practices
  • Prostitution
  • Anonymous sex
  • Voyeurism
  • Telephone sex
  • Chat room/online sex
  • Partner sex
  • Illegal sexual practices

The type of behaviour does not define addiction. The essential difference between the addict and the non-addict is that these behaviours feel out of control. An addict may spend an inordinate amount of time planning, engaging in and recovering from their chosen sexual activity. And in spite of the physical, emotional, relational, financial and even judicial cost of these activities, they feel unable to stop their behaviour. Or at least, unable to stay stopped.

Another key factor is that the chosen sexual behaviours are used to anaesthetise psychological pain. In the same way an alcoholic may get lost in a bottle or a compulsive gambler fixates on the next win to avoid the pain of life, the sex addict chooses sex as their way to cope with the world.

If you’re unsure if the above description fits you or someone you know, who you think may be a sex addict, click here to complete ATSAC’s diagnostic tool.

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