Sexual Addiction Defined

Adapted from The National Council on Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity

Sexual addiction is a persistent and escalating pattern or patterns of sexual behaviors acted out despite increasingly negative consequences to self or others.

Some out of control repetitive behaviors, which may reflect sexual addiction include:

  • Masturbation
  • Simultaneous or repeated sequential affairs
  • Pornography
  • Cyber sex, phone sex
  • Multiple anonymous partners
  • Unsafe sexual activity
  • Partner sexualization, objectification
  • Strip clubs and adult bookstores
  • Prostitution
  • Sexual aversion

Here are some consequences, which may result from sexual addiction and indicate the existence of sexual addiction:


Addicts become lost in sexual preoccupation, which results in emotional distance from loved ones. Loss of friendship and family relationships may result.


Anxiety or extreme stress are common in sex addicts who live with constant fear of discovery. Shame and guilt increase, as the addict’s lifestyle is often inconsistent with the personal values, beliefs and spirituality. Boredom, pronounced fatigue, despair are inevitable as addiction progresses. The ultimate consequence may be suicide.


Some of the diseases which may occur due to sexual addiction are genital injury, cervical cancer, HIV/AIDS, herpes, genital warts and other sexually transmitted diseases. Sex addicts may place themselves in situations of potential harm, resulting in serious physical wounding or even death.


Many types of sexual addiction result in violation of the law, such as sexual harassment, obscene phone calls, exhibitionism, voyeurism, prostitution, rape, incest and child molestation, and other illegal activities. Loss of professional status and professional licensure may result from sexual addiction.


Indebtedness may arise directly from the cost of prostitutes, cyber-sex, phone sex and multiple affairs. Indirectly indebtedness can occur from legal fees, the cost of divorce or separation, decrease productivity or job loss.


Loneliness, resentment, self-pity, self blame.

These consequences are progressive and predictable. The addict tends to minimize the consequences and tends to blame others for them. Family and friends minimize consequences by believing the addict’s promise that the behavior will change. When blaming and minimizing stops, recovery begins. The consequences can become the instruments for change if they can be truly recognized and accepted instead of denied.

How sexual addiction resembles other addictions.

  • Brain chemistry changes are similar.
  • Family background of addiction.
  • Lack of nurturing and other forms of emotional, physical or sexual trauma in childhood.
  • Multiple addictions can co-exist.

The treatment focus is the same involving counseling. Twelve Step spiritual recovery programs and medical intervention.

Is recovery possible?

Yes. Thousands of recovering addicts know that recovery is a process that works when these principles are followed.

  • Acceptance of the disease and its consequences.
  • Commitment to change.
  • Surrender of the need to control the compulsion.
  • Willingness to learn from others in recovery in sexual addiction Twelve Step support groups, and from trained therapists.

Is recovery possible for families and friends?

Yes. Certainly. [Recovery for family and friends is possible when they follow these principles:]

  • Acceptance of the disease and how they themselves have been affected.
  • Make a commitment to change.
  • Surrender of self will and no longer seek to control the addict.
  • Willingness to seek help from Twelve Step support groups for co-dependency plus therapy from trained therapists.

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