Sex addiction

Sex Addiction Diagnosis and Treatment

Sex addiction is used to describe a person that struggles with compulsive sexual behaviors. Learn the signs and symptoms of sex addiction in this article.

Table of Contents

What is Sexual Addiction?

Sex addiction is one of the most controversial addictions. It is debated whether Addicted to sex is an actual disorder, making it more difficult to diagnose and treat. However, for people struggling with Addicted to sex, it is important to seek out help.

The DSM-5 does not list it as an addiction, but people continue to study it. People can be diagnosed with Addicted to sex still through the DSM-5 under a different category, but most doctors use the ICD-10 criteria.1

Symptoms of Sex Addiction

The severity of symptoms can vary from person to person. Some of the common sex addiction symptoms include:1

  • Compulsive relationships
  • Obsessive sexual fantasies or thoughts
  • Unable to stop compulsive sexual behaviors
  • Deceiving or lying when speaking about behaviors
  • Putting oneself in dangerous situations
  • Feelings of guilt or regret after sexual interactions
  • Preoccupation with sex
  • Sexual behaviors interfere with daily life

ICD-10 Criteria

Sex addiction is “a compulsive need to perform sexual acts in order to achieve the kind of ‘fix’ that a person with alcohol use disorder gets from a drink.”1 Addicted to sex can have an extreme effect on a person, and it can destroy their relationships and life.

Because there is not a specific definition, doctors will describe it in different ways. Some people describe it as struggling with compulsive masturbation, use of pornography, or putting oneself inside of sexually stimulating situations. Other doctors might argue that a person with Addicted to sex must seek out multiple partners. Regardless, a person with Addicted to sex might struggle with altering their daily routines to get a fix from sexual behaviors multiple times a day.1

What is Compulsive Sexual Behavior?

Compulsive sexual behavior is “an excessive preoccupation with sexual fantasies, urges or behaviors that [are] difficult to control, causes you distress, or negatively affects your health, job, relationships or other parts of your life.2


Compulsive sexual behavior can range from masturbation to soliciting prostitutes. Ultimately, the behavior must be compulsive, unable to be controlled. 

Causes of Sex Addiction

Scientists and psychologists still do not understand the roots of sex addiction very well. There are some factors that doctors have isolated that might have an impact:3

  • Neurotransmitters
  • An abnormal frontal lobe
  • Some medications
  • Family dynamics, specifically with parental relationships
  • Child abuse
  • Irregular emotions

Diagnosis of Sex Addiction

Because sex addiction is not a part of the DSM-5, it can be difficult to find a diagnosis. However, if it appears you are struggling with compulsive sexual behavior, your doctor might send you to a mental health professional. During this time, they will do a psychological evaluation.

How is Sex Addiction Diagnosed?

During this exam, the doctor will ask you questions about your mental health, physical health, your thoughts, compulsions, and behaviors regarding sex, any use of other substances, family and relationships, and the issues being caused by your compulsive sexual behaviors. If symptoms are present and severe, a doctor may diagnose you with sex addiction.

Other Signs of Sex Addiction

There are a few other signs that a person might be struggling with sex addiction. If their mind seems to be preoccupied with sex or fantasy, or their behaviors get to the point that it is damaging their job, family, friends, and relationships, then that is a sign a person might be struggling with Addicted to sex. Money disappearing, behaviors such as chronically going to massage parlors or seeking out sex through hook-ups could also be signs of Addicted to sex.

Misdiagnosis of a Sex Addiction

There is a strong debate on whether sex addiction is an addiction.4 Besides the debate, there is always a chance of a misdiagnosis. There is always a chance that compulsive sexual behaviors are coming from a different problem rather than an addiction.5

The Myths and Controversy

Many myths surround sex addiction, and it is important to clarify some of those things. Many people disagree with the prevalence of Addicted to sex because they do not agree on what Addicted to sex is. The fact of the matter is Addicted to sex is a real addiction. It can have dangerous impacts on people’s lives.

Not all people that struggle with Addicted to sex have multiple sexual partners at one time. It also does not mean a person has more sex. Men and women can struggle with Addicted to sex, but it is more prevalent in men. It is not, and should not, be used as an excuse for compulsive sexual behaviors. Ultimately, people that struggle with Addicted to sex do so because they are struggling with underlying issues.5

Other Symptoms That Mimic Sex Addiction

Some of these roots could be stress, depression, shame, or anxiety. People that struggle with compulsive sexual behavior might have another mental health disorder. Because of this fact, they might act out sexually to cope with it, but that does not necessarily mean they have a sex addiction.5

Can Misdiagnosis Be Counterproductive to Treatment?

Misdiagnosis can be counterproductive to treatment because it is not treating the actual cause of the issue. For example, if a person is struggling with compulsive sexual behaviors, but the root cause is depression, it is best to treat the depression. However, if it is misdiagnosed as sex addiction, doctors and the patient will focus on treating a symptom rather than the cause, making the treatment plan counterproductive.

Treatments for Sexual Addiction

Sex addiction
There are several different ways to seek treatment for sex addiction. The path a person chooses to go will vary depending on the behaviors they are struggling with and the severity of them.

Inpatient Treatment Programs

One popular choice is an inpatient treatment program. Here, a person struggling with sex addiction can disconnect from daily life for a month to gain control of their sexual impulses. During these programs, a person will go to group sessions.

12-Step Programs

12-Step programs are also very popular. Unlike AA, there are multiple 12-Step groups such as SAA, SA, and SLAA. They follow the same twelve steps as Alcohol Anonymous. They can be very effective when it comes to seeking long-term treatment and sobriety for sex addiction. One of the best parts about the meetings is building a good support system.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is used to help a person notice what is triggering their sexual behaviors and impulses. Eventually, CBT will teach the patient how to change those behaviors and react differently to the triggers.

Prescription Medications

In some cases, a person might take things such as antidepressants to help with urges. It is not common for doctors to prescribe medication specifically for sex addiction, and doctors would probably reserve this method for co-occurring conditions.

Psychosocial Therapy

Psychosocial , which is also known as talk therapy, is when a patient works with a mental health professional to talk through the things they are struggling with. Psychosocial therapy can help one work through triggers and trauma that might be related to or caused by sex addiction.

Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy is when a person tries to become aware of their unconscious thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It helps them to see what the underlying motivations are behind their acting out.

Couples Therapy

Many times, with sex addiction, a significant other might be involved. Because of this, couples therapy can be very beneficial to work through feelings of betrayal or possible consequences of the acting out behaviors. Couples therapy can be a great way to work on those issues with a mediator.

Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR is a newer treatment that is used to help with specific memories or trauma. A doctor might suggest EMDR in cases of childhood trauma or abuse as triggers for sexually compulsive behavior. During EMDR, a patient is asked to focus on a specific memory while performing eye movement tasks. It can be very effective for patients, but it is normally not a go-to method right away.6

JFHI Bespoke Approach to Diagnosis and Treatment

J. Flowers Health Institute offers a bespoke detoxification program. Bespoke health care means that a person has access to their doctor 24/7. This process allows them to have a personalized experience with a trusted individual that can create a unique treatment plan just for them.

Sex Addiction Assessment

To find a proper diagnosis, JFHI will conduct a sex addiction assessment. During this time, they will ask several questions and run some tests to specify the behaviors and to rule out any other conditions or discover co-occurring conditions.

Bespoke Medical Services for Treatment

Bespoke medical services are very beneficial during the treatment process. When a person is struggling with an addiction, especially early on, it is important to have around-the-clock care to help them through withdrawal side effects. Bespoke medical services are very beneficial for people struggling with sex addiction.

Benefits of Bespoke Medical Services

Many doctors suggest early on that a person struggling with sex addiction seek out a more intense treatment plan. Bespoke medical services allow a doctor to create a personalized plan that is molded to your struggles, trauma, and behaviors. When you use JFHI bespoke medical services, you will be fully supported 24/7 as you begin the healing process of recovery and process treatment.

Why You Need Bespoke Care

Bespoke care is essential to overcoming sex addiction because it provides the intense support that is needed to conquer it. If you or a loved one are struggling with Addicted to sex, please reach out to J. Flowers Health Institute. They can set you up with an appointment to begin to sift through the thoughts, behaviors, and compulsions that you are struggling with. The step after diagnosis would be a bespoke care program to ensure that you are successful on your recovery journey. For further questions, reach out to us.