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Am I a sex addict?

Posted by Mike Delaney
on 19 Feb 2021

Sex is a very natural part of human nature, not only for procreation but also for pleasure and intimacy. However, for a minority of people sex alters the brains chemistry and takes away the control element around engagement levels.

Hypersexuality illustration and graphic

Sex becomes a problem when it develops into an addiction. Here, we look at the signs and symptoms of a sex addict, what being a sex addict actually means and the treatment options we offer to help a person suffering from sex addiction make a full and lasting recovery.

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What is sex addiction?

Sex addiction is a recognised mental health disorder, whereby the sufferer compulsively engages in sexual activity. 

Instead of using sex to build healthy intimacy, a sex addict will often use sex as a way of coping with stress. The irony of this is that sex then becomes the primary cause of stress leading to a very vicious and hard to break cycle (2)

Also known as Compulsive Sexual Behaviour Disorder (CSBD), a sex addict will take sex to such extremes that it affects other areas of their life negatively.

Sex addiction can present in numerous forms, including sex with multiple strangers, inability to stay faithful, masturbation, paying for sex, sexual paraphilias, pornography, obsessive fetishes, extreme and dangerous forms of sex, chemsex and so forth. 

Sex addiction can be divided into non paraphilia behaviours and paraphilia behaviours. Paraphilia behaviours are behaviours that are considered outside the norm or unlawful sex. 

The DSM-IV manual recognises the following eight paraphilias, although there are many more:

  • Exhibitionism
  • Voyeurism
  • Pedophilia
  • Sexual masochism
  • Sexual sadism
  • Transvestic fetishism
  • Fetishism
  • Frotteurism (1)

The overridding elements that define a sex addict is their distinct loss of control, obsession, preoccupation and compulsion when it comes to sex.  A sex addicts brain rewires itself to prioritse sex above all else, even basic human needs such as love, health, food and shelter (2)

On the 18th June 2018, Compulsive Sexual Behaviour Disorder, commonly referred to as sex addiction, was added to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases manual.
Sex addiction is now a recognised mental health disorder (3)

Although sex addiction doesn’t have to involve a substance, this behavioural disorder is progressive just like any other addiction.  Due its compulsive and progressive nature, a sex addict will take bigger risks with their wellbeing and life. Often to such an extent that it can result in death.

A sex addict is also often filled with overwhelming feelings of remorse, loss of control, guilt and shame. These feelings can become so overpowering that a sex addicts mental health deteriorates to such an extent that they see suicide as their only way out.

Here are Delamere we know that this is not true and that a sex addict, with the correct bespoke treatment, can make a full and lasting recovery.

Am I a sex addict? – Signs and symptoms of sex addiction

If you think you may be a a sex addict, or some you love is a sex addict, identifying with one or more of the following signs and symptoms of sex addiction indicates a problem with sex that requires professional help.

Obsessivly thinking about sex – Persistant and overwhelming thoughts of sex to the extent that a sex addict will have difficulty in concentreating on anything else. These obsessive thoughts are only relieved (albeit very temporary) by engaging in the sexual act they are obsessing over.

Compulsion to engage in sex – A sex addicts brain compels them to engage in sex, even when there is a high probability of negative consequences. The compulsion to engage in sex will also cause disruption to other areas of a sex addicts life 

Spending excessive time engaging in sex – A sex addicts dependence on sex will cause disruption to relationships, work or education, finances, personal health and mental wellbeing. They may miss important appointments, neglect their responsibilities and personal relationships to engage in sex.

Loss of control around sex – A sex addicts behaviour will often lead them to feel overwhelming feelings of shame, regret, powerlessness, anxiety and depression. Often a sex addict will lead a double life and have immense fear around being caught out.

Excluding other activities – A sex addicts behaviour will become all consuming to the point that they will lose interest in hobbies or activities they once used to enjoy. They are likely to withdraw from family and loved ones also due to their preioccupation with sex and the feelings they have regarding their compulsive behaviour.

Continuation despite negative consequences – A sex addict will suffer negative consequences as a result of their sexual behaviour. Examples of common negative consequences that a sex addict may suffer include being found out as being unfaithful, contracting and STI or STD, unintentionally falling preganant, losing a job or a relationship. Despite suffering negative consequences as a result of their sexual behaviour, they will not beable to stop, even if they want to.

Progression of sexual behaviour – Overtime a sex addict will find that they need more sex to satisfy their needs, or forms of more risky sex. What used to satisfy them will no longer suffice. They may find themselves excessively watching or engaging in more extreme forms of pornography, having sex more often, committing criminal sexual offences, paying for sex, prositution or engaging in forms of high risk sex such as suffocation or strangulation.

Enaging in sex to the point of feeling pain – A sex addict may masturbate so frequently that it becomes painful or have so much sex or types of rough or sadistic sex that they suffer physical pain as a result. Yet this will not stop them engaging excessively in sexual activity (2)

As sex addiction progresses, the recommitment and healthy action steps become less and less.

Does being a sex addict mean I have to abstain from sex? 

This is a question that will enter every sex addict’s mind. Naturally, giving up sex can be a terrifying prospect. 

However, if a sex addict undergoes a full, bespoke rehabilitation programme they will not need to give up sex completely, just certain types of sex that relate to their addiction.

Sex addicts often avoid intimacy, so part of their rehabilitation must include learning how to form healthy and intimate relationships with others.

Unlike drug or alcohol addiction where drugs and alcohol need to be abstained from completely, it is our belief that a sex addict can learn how to have a healthy relationship with themselves first and then with others. 

A period of abstinence from sex to break the addictive cycle will be needed and is a must during rehabilitation. Once full rehabilitation has been undertaken, a sex addict can learn to engoy sex as it is intended – guilt free, harm free and without consequences.

Treatment for sex addiction

At Delamere we take a compassionate approach to all forms of addiction. We understand that addiction in any form is an illness and not the persons fault. We also work closely with family and partners to support them whilst their loved one undergoes treatment.

Residential treatment for sex addiction Find out more

Delamere is the UKs only purpose built addiction treatment and behavioural wellness centre. We have first class facilities and a dedicated multidisciplinary team of highly qualified medical staff , therapists and counsellors. Each of our treatments are carefully tailored to each individual guest. Here is just a sample of some of the evidence based therapies that we have to offer:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy CBT
  • Integrated therapy
  • Dialectical behavioural therapy DBT
  • Psychotherapy
  • Motivational therapy
  • Trauma release therapy TRT
  • Mindfulness and meditation
  • Equine assisted therapy 
  • Individual counselling
  • Group therapy
  • Process therapy
  • Somatic healing and holistic treatments
  • Fitness programme – Delamere’s has its own onsite private gym
  • Relapse prevention
  • Educational and interactive workshops on healthy relationships, managing emotions, building intimacy, self esteem and self worth, establishing healthy boundaries etc
  • Full treatment plan for any co occurring illnesses and additional addictions
  • Yoga, art, drama and music therapy
  • 12 step therapy
  • Family programme 
  • Detailed aftercare plan with weekly aftercare sessions and ongoing support delivered by our counsellors and staff

Treatment for sex addiction at Delamere will be entirely bespoke to ensure the best outcome possible. We know that one size does not fit all when it comes to treating addiction. 

We offer a non judgemental and very empathetic, healing environment that separates us from other inpatient rehabilitation services. All of our guests are treated with dignity and respect at all times.

If you or a loved one need treatment for a sex addiction, please call and speak with one of our experienced and friendly colleagues who will be able to advise you of exactly how we can help


  1. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Fourth Edition. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association; 1994. 
  2. Compulsive sexual behavior characteristics. Kafka MP, Prentky RA Am J Psychiatry. 1997 Nov; 154(11):1632.[PubMed] [Ref list]

World Health Organisation – Public release on reclassification of Compulsive Sexual Behaviour Disorder

About the author: Mike Delaney

Mike crafted our innovative and person centred approach to addiction treatment. Mike’s experience in the addiction treatment sector encompasses his work as a nurse, psychotherapist and Chief Executive.

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