It's unclear what causes compulsive sexual behavior. Causes may include:

  • An imbalance of natural brain chemicals. High levels of certain chemicals in your brain (neurotransmitters) such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine may be related to compulsive sexual behavior. These brain chemicals also help regulate your mood.
  • Sex hormone levels. Androgens are sex hormones that occur naturally in both men and women. Although androgens also have a vital role in sexual desire, it's not clear exactly how they're related to compulsive sexual behavior.
  • Conditions that affect the brain. Certain diseases or health problems may cause damage to parts of the brain that affect sexual behavior. Multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, Huntington's disease and dementia have all been associated with compulsive sexual behavior. In addition, treatment of Parkinson's disease with some dopamine agonist medications may cause compulsive sexual behavior.
  • Changes in brain pathways. Compulsive sexual behavior is an addiction that over time might actually cause changes in the brain's neural circuits — the network of nerves that allows brain cells to communicate with one another. These changes may cause pleasant reactions by engaging in sexual behavior and unpleasant reactions when the behavior is stopped.
Sep. 15, 2011