Compulsive sexual behavior, also known as hypersexuality or sexual addiction, refers to an intense focus on sexual fantasies, urges, or behaviors that cannot be controlled. This condition can cause distress and problems in various aspects of life, including health, work, relationships, and other areas.
Compulsive sexual behavior may involve various types of sexual experiences, such as masturbation, using computers for sexual communication, engaging in multiple sexual partners, using pornography, or paying for sex. When these behaviors become a constant and overwhelming focus, are difficult to control, and lead to problems in life or harm to oneself or others, it is likely compulsive sexual behavior.
If left untreated, compulsive sexual behavior can significantly impact self-esteem, relationships, career, health, and the well-being of others. However, with proper treatment and self-help, individuals can learn to manage and cope with compulsive sexual behavior.
Signs that you may have compulsive sexual behavior include:
If you feel that you’ve lost control of your sexual behavior, especially if it causes problems for you or others, it’s important to seek help. Compulsive sexual behavior tends to worsen over time without treatment, so it’s best to seek help as soon as you notice a problem.
If you’re contemplating seeking professional help, ask yourself:
Remember that seeking help for compulsive sexual behavior can be difficult due to its deeply personal and private nature. However, many people struggle with this condition, and mental health professionals are trained to be understanding and non-judgmental. Look for a provider with experience in diagnosing and treating compulsive sexual behavior.
Keep in mind that information shared with health care or mental health providers is confidential, except when there are concerns of harm to oneself or others or reports of abuse or neglect involving vulnerable individuals.
From Project Semicolon to your inbox
Sign up for free and stay up to date on advancements, health tips, current health topics, and expertise on managing health.
If you suspect you may have compulsive sexual behavior, you can seek help by asking your health care provider for a referral to a mental health professional with experience in diagnosing and treating this condition. Alternatively, you may directly contact a mental health provider. The mental health exam will likely include discussions about your physical and mental health, overall emotional well-being, sexual thoughts, behaviors, and urges that are hard to control, use of recreational drugs and alcohol, family, relationships, and social life, as well as any concerns and problems caused by your sexual behavior. With your permission, your mental health provider may also request information from family and friends to gain a comprehensive understanding.
There’s an ongoing debate among mental health professionals regarding the exact definition of compulsive sexual behavior. It’s not always easy to determine when sexual behavior becomes problematic. While the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5-TR) does not list compulsive sexual behavior as a separate diagnosis, some mental health professionals diagnose it as part of another condition, such as an impulse control disorder or a behavioral addiction. In the eleventh revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), compulsive sexual behavior disorder is defined as an impulse control disorder.
For now, the diagnosis and treatment of compulsive sexual behavior by a mental health professional experienced in addictions and compulsive sexual behaviors are likely to yield the best results. However, more research is needed to establish standardized guidelines for diagnosis.
Treatment for compulsive sexual behavior often involves talk therapy (psychotherapy), medicines, and self-help groups. The primary goal of treatment is to help you manage urges and reduce problematic behaviors while still maintaining healthy sexual activities and relationships. Additionally, if you have compulsive sexual behavior, you may also require treatment for other mental health conditions, such as alcohol or drug use problems, anxiety, or depression.
Talk therapy can help you learn how to manage compulsive sexual behavior. Different types of talk therapy include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Mindfulness-based therapies, and Psychodynamic psychotherapy. Medicines may also be prescribed, such as certain antidepressants, naltrexone, mood stabilizers, or anti-androgens. Self-help groups can offer support, understanding, and additional coping strategies to prevent relapse.
While receiving professional treatment, there are steps you can take to care for yourself:
You can seek help for compulsive sexual behavior in several ways. Before your appointment, gather relevant information such as notes about your behavior, health, legal, work, or relationship problems caused by your sexual behavior, any other mental health conditions you have, and details about your alcohol and recreational drug use. Be prepared to answer questions from your provider about the onset of problematic sexual behavior, its impact on your life, distress levels, and any other relevant information.