Consequences of Sex Addiction and Compulsivity

Adapted from The National Council on Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity

Compulsive sexual thoughts and/or behavior leads to increasingly serious consequences, in both the addict’s internal and external worlds. The consequences may include severe depression, often with suicidal ideation, low self-esteem, shame, self-hatred, hopelessness, despair, helplessness, intense anxiety, loneliness, moral conflict, contradictions between ethical values and behaviors, fear of abandonment, spiritual bankruptcy, distorted thinking, remorse, and self-deceit.

For example, 70-75 percent of addicts have thought about suicide. Many sex addicts suffer from broken relationships. Forty percent experience severe marital and other relationship problems. Sexual activities outside the primary relationship result in loss of self-esteem to both partners as well as severe stress to the relationship. The sex addict is frequently absent, resulting in a loss of time in parental role modeling. Pressure is placed on the partner to provide parental support and nurturing of the children. Partners of sex addicts may develop their own addictions and compulsions, psychosomatic problems, or depression and other emotional difficulties.

These factors can result in an unstable family environment. Physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse and neglect of the children may occur. In one study, 72% had been physically abused in childhood, 81% had been sexually abused, and 97% emotionally abused. Growing up in such a home increases the risk for the next generation to have addictive disorders.

Health consequences of sex addiction may include HIV infection, genital herpes, syphilis, gonorrhea, and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Sex addicts have an increased risk of STDs. Genital injury may result from excessive sexual activity or the use of sex aids and foreign objects. Addictive sadomasochistic sex can lead to physical damage to the body. Automobile accidents can result when sexual activity causes the driver’s attention to stray.

Some sex addicts go to jail, lose their job, get sued, or have other financial and legal consequences because of their compulsive sexual behavior. Financial difficulties from the purchase of pornographic materials, use of prostitutes and telephone and computer lines, travel for the purpose of sexual contacts, and other sexual activities can tax the addict’s financial resources, sometimes to the point of bankruptcy, as can the expenses of legal representation. Sixty percent of addicts have faced financial difficulties, 58% engaged in illegal activities, and 83% of sex addicts also had concurrent addictions such as alcoholism, eating disorders, or compulsive gambling.

Legal consequences of sexual addiction result when illegal behaviors such as voyeurism, exhibitionism, or inappropriate touching, result in arrest and incarceration. Child molesting and rape in some cases are addictive behaviors. Sexual harassment in the workplace can be part of a sex addict’s repertoire, and may result in legal difficulties on the job.

Over half the cases of sexual exploitation by professionals are perpetrated by sex addicts. Churches and synagogues are being subjected to greater scrutiny as more clergy are charged with some form of sexually inappropriate behavior. Sexual misconduct by licensed professionals (including physicians, therapists, clergy, and lawyers) result in loss of license, academic standing, and reputations, and victimization of those people they are mandated to help.

Many sex addicts are also addicted to alcohol and other drugs. When multiple addictions coexist, untreated sex addiction complicates recovery from chemical dependency and makes relapse to drug use more likely.

Both men and women are objectified, and therefore placed at greater risk to be victimized, in a society which provides many services to sex addicts and which uses women as sex objects in advertising to sell automobiles, liquor, and other products. This promotes an attitude that sex is the answer to many problems.

The physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, legal, and family consequences of sex addiction demand that we pay greater attention to this widespread problem.

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