What is Sex Addiction?

What is Sex Addiction Really? Profiles, Treatment, and Underlying Causes

What is sex addiction, REALLY?

What is the difference between Sex Addiction and Addiction? I am going to outline some basics of addiction and the three main criteria for sex addiction and treatment options. Sex addiction is a process addiction and we are looking for a change in behavior, not abstinence. We also will profile a sex addict. Let’s dive in. 

Universal for Addiction 

  • Developing a Tolerance: Needing to do more to achieve arousal to achieve orgasm, reward release or satisfaction 
  • Withdrawal: Withdrawal from sex addiction is a bit different. It more of a state of distress after the high of orgasm or the emotion, anxiety, depressive symptoms, uneasiness, difficulty focusing. 
  • Doing More: Compulsivity. I didn’t intend to sit for 6.5 hours watching porn. I didn’t intend to engage in high risk, but looking to interact and get validation. 
  • Failed Attempts to Regulate Behavior: I said I would stop, but I couldn’t. I can’t control it. 
  • Time Spent: Preoccupied thinking about it. Obsessed with the ideas. Fantasizing. Covering our tracks. Talk ourselves out of guilt. 
  • Reduction in Other Activities 
  • Leisure activities, hobbies, interests are foregone and isolation comes with addiction. Work becomes difficult. 
  • Continuing to Engage in Behavior after negative consequences: Most people stop a behavior if it produces negative consequences. This is the irony of addiction. It is irrational. 

What is SEX Addiction? 

Patrick Carns is the godfather of sex addiction and describes it as pathological relationship with the mood-altering experience. We all engage in these. Binge tv, eating, and sleeping are all mood-altering. Having urges, being horny, having a sex drive is not bad and we crave this closeness. 

When this expression starts causing negative consequences and function of daily life is problematic. Treatment, unlike substance, is not abstinence. Sex addiction is a process addiction or behavioral addiction, and we are not trying to get the person to abstain from them. We are looking to change the relationship with the behavior into a healthier one. 

Sex addiction is also an intimacy problem. Sources of intimacy problems can be home-related, upbringing, or former relationships. 


3 Main Criteria for Sex Addiction 

  1. Compulsivity- trying to stop but can’t. 
  2. Continuing Despite Negative Consequences- I was caught and I lost my marriage, I contracted STDS, I was publicly exposed that I had affairs, you still need this. 
  3. Preoccupation- time spent, inability to engage in anything else

What is the profile 

Sex addicts: very charming, outgoing, social, highly regarded, stand up person 

Pornography Addicts: Shy, withdrawn, not very expressive 


  • Attachment: Distant parent, overinvolved parent, avoidant 
  • Trauma: they have had trauma or they recreate trauma that put them in the driver seat. 
  • Comforting: This is often found in pornography addiction. Using it to distract or cope with negative emotions. 
  • Escapism: Numbing and escape with pseudo intimacy. Addicts crave intimacy but without the consequences. Play pretend and escape. 
  • Internet: The internet has witnessed a huge increase in sex addiction and compulsive behaviors. 


Sex addicts are not people who need sex nonstop. It can be the case, but it takes many other forms. If someone you love is suffering, I am accepting new clients via Zoom and soon through my new office!

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