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What Is Sex Addiction?

Having a healthy sex life is one of the great pleasures of life, but not for people living with sex addiction. A sex addiction is not the same thing as having a high sex drive, and it doesn't have anything to do with whether a person looks at pornographic materials.

A sex addict is someone whose sexual behavior is out of control. A person with this type of addiction no longer has the ability to control their sexual behavior. They are also experiencing negative consequences (problems at work, exposure to sexually-transmitted diseases, unplanned pregnancy, risk of losing an important relationship) because of their sexual activities. An individual with a sex addiction spends an excessive amount of time planning their next sexual encounter, trying to find ways to act out sexually, or thinking about an encounter after the fact.

Sex addiction can take several forms. A person may be engaging in one of more of the following behaviors as part of their addiction:


  • exhibitionism
  • voyeurism
  • multiple one-night stands with strangers
  • multiple partners
  • masturbation (to the extent that it interferes with everyday life)

Sex addiction affects both men and women. Experts estimate that between three and five percent of the population are sex addicts. This number may be misleading, though, since it is based on the number of people who seek treatment. It's possible that many more people are addicted to sex and never get help for the problem.

While some pedophiles are sex addicts, it would be unfair to assume that everyone with a sex addiction is attracted to children. Similarly, some rapists are sex addicts, but this is not always the case. A person with a sex addiction may face a different kind of legal consequence if they are visiting prostitutes are part of their acting out and arrested as a result.

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