Sexual expression is a natural part of a well-rounded life. But if you’re obsessed with sexual thoughts, feelings or behaviors that affect your health, job, relationships or other parts of your life, you may have compulsive sexual behavior.
Compulsive sexual behavior — sometimes called hypersexuality or sexual addiction — may involve a normally enjoyable sexual experience that becomes an obsession. Or compulsive sexual behavior may involve fantasies or activities outside the bounds of culturally, legally or morally accepted sexual behavior.
No matter what it’s called or the exact nature of the behavior, untreated compulsive sexual behavior can damage your self-esteem, relationships, career and other people. But with treatment and self-help, you can manage compulsive sexual behavior and keep your urges in check.
Compulsive sexual behavior symptoms vary in type and severity. Some signs 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 engage in certain sexual behavior, 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 risky sexual behavior despite serious consequences, such as the potential for getting or giving someone else a sexually transmitted disease, 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
There’s a broad range of sexual activities that can be warning signs of compulsive sexual behavior. Examples include:
- Avoiding emotional involvement in sexual relationships
- Engaging in excessive masturbation
- Frequently using pornographic materials
- Using commercial sexually explicit phone and Internet services
- Having multiple sexual partners or extramarital affairs
- Having sex with anonymous partners or prostitutes
- Having a fixation on an unattainable sex partner
Here are some questions to ask yourself as you decide whether to seek professional help:
- Can I control my sexual impulses?
- Is my sexual behavior hurting my relationships, affecting my work or resulting in negative consequences, such as getting arrested?
- Is sex constantly on my mind, even when I don’t want to think about it?
- Do I try to hide my sexual behavior?