People addicted to sex engage in sexual thoughts, fantasies and behaviors that make it difficult for them to retain a sense of well-being and function well in important aspects of daily life. Unlike many mental health issues, sex addiction does not have an official definition used by all doctors when making a diagnosis. Despite this fact, significant numbers of people are affected.
Establishing a Definition
Mental health professionals may use the term sex addiction when describing people whose sex-related thoughts, fantasies and actions cause problems for them and/or others. They may also use other terms, including hypersexual disorder, hypersexuality or compulsive sexual behavior.
Regardless of which label is used, core symptoms of the condition include:
- Compulsive sexual urges
- An inability to control or limit sexual behavior
- Frequent involvement in risky sexual behavior
- Changes in mood
- Increased tolerance, potentially resulting in a need for riskier or more intense sexual experiences
- Prioritizing sexual behavior over other daily activities
- Inability to meet home, work or school responsibilities because of compulsive sexual behavior
- Withdrawal symptoms similar to some forms of substance withdrawal when trying to halt or cut back on sexual behavior
Sex Addiction Statistics
How many people are affected by sex addiction? Unfortunately, the condition has not received the type of widespread scientific interest given to substance addiction and some other forms of behavioral addiction. Still, numerous studies have been conducted in recent years. A 2014 review in the journal Current Pharmaceutical Design explores these studies in detail. At the low end, this review indicates that about three out of every 100 adults have serious sex-related issues. At the high end, the level of impact rises to 16 out of every 100 adults. The most accurate estimates likely fall in the 3 to 6% range.
Some studies indicate that men develop sex addiction roughly twice as often as women. Affected people sometimes start their sex lives at an unusually early age, and many suffered early life trauma. In addition, they frequently have an unusually large number of sexual contacts during adulthood.
Psychiatry: Understanding and Managing Compulsive Sexual Behaviors https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2945841/
Current Pharmaceutical Design: Sexual Addiction or Hypersexual Disorder – Different Terms for the Same Problem? A Review of the Literature http://www.uclep.be/wp-content/uploads/pdf/Pub/Karila_CPD_2014.pdf