Compulsive sexual behavior symptoms vary in type and severity. Some indications that you may be struggling with compulsive sexual behavior include:
- Your sexual impulses are intense and feel as if they're beyond your control
- Even though you feel driven to do certain sexual behaviors, you may or may not find the activity a source of pleasure or satisfaction
- You use compulsive sexual behavior as an escape from other problems, such as loneliness, depression, anxiety or stress
- You continue to engage in sexual behaviors that have serious consequences, such as the potential for getting or giving someone else a sexually transmitted infection, the loss of important relationships, trouble at work, or legal problems
- You have trouble establishing and maintaining emotional closeness, even if you're married or in a committed relationship
When to see a doctor
Seek help if you feel like you've lost control of your sexual behavior, especially if your behavior causes problems for you or other people. Compulsive sexual behavior may escalate over time, so get help when you first recognize there may be a problem.
As you decide whether to seek professional help, ask yourself:
- Can I manage my sexual impulses?
- Am I distressed by my sexual behaviors?
- Is my sexual behavior hurting my relationships, affecting my work or resulting in negative consequences, such as getting arrested?
- Do I try to hide my sexual behavior?
Seeking help for a sexual behavior can be difficult because it's such a deeply personal matter. Try to:
- Set aside any shame or embarrassment and focus on the benefits of getting treatment.
- Remember that you're not alone — many people struggle with compulsive sexual behavior. Mental health providers are trained to be understanding and discreet. But not all mental health providers are experienced in treating compulsive sexual behavior, so make sure you find a therapist who is competent in this area.
- Keep in mind what you say to a doctor or mental health counselor is kept confidential, except in cases where you report that you're going to hurt yourself or someone else, you report sexual abuse of a child, or you report abuse or neglect of someone in a vulnerable population.
Seek treatment right away
Seek immediate treatment if:
Sept. 13, 2014
- You think you may cause harm with uncontrolled sexual behavior
- You have bipolar disorder or other problems with impulse control, and you feel like your sexual behavior is slipping out of control
- You are suicidal — if you're thinking of attempting suicide, call 911 or your local emergency number, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (in the United States) at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
- Reid RC, et al. Re: Report of findings in a DSM-5 field trial for hypersexual disorder. European Urology. 2013;64:685.
- Leeman RF, et al. A targeted review of the neurobiology and genetics of behavioral addictions: An emerging area of research. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. 2013;58:260.
- Reid RC, et al. Report of findings in the DSM-5 field trial for hypersexual disorder. Journal of Sexual Medicine. 2012;9:2868.
- Dawson GN, et al. Evaluating and treating sexual addiction. American Family Physician. 2012;86:73.
- Karim R, et al. Behavioral addictions: An overview. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. 2012;44:5.
- Estellon V, et al. Sexual addiction: Insights from psychoanalysis and functional neuroimaging. Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology. 2012;2:1.
- Garcia FD, et al. Sexual addictions. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse. 2013;36:254.
- Kaplan MS, et al. Diagnosis, assessment, and treatment of hypersexuality. Journal of Sex Research. 2010;47:181.
- Paraphilic disorders. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5. 5th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2013. http://www.psychiatryonline.org. Accessed July 26, 2014.
- Rosenberg KP, et al. Evaluation and treatment of sex addiction. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy. 2014;7:77.
- Reininghaus E, et al. Sexual behavior, body image, and partnership in chronic illness: A comparison of Huntington's disease and multiple sclerosis. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. 2012;200:716.
- Bianchi-Demicheli F, et al. "Sleeping Beauty paraphilia": Deviant desire in the context of bodily self-image disturbance in a patient with fronto-parietal traumatic brain injury. Medical Science Monitor. 2010;16:15.
- Rullo J (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Aug. 12, 2014.
- Hall-Flavin DK (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Aug. 14, 2014.