Sex is a healthy part of life, but when intense sexual fantasies and behaviors become uncontrollable, cause you distress, negatively affects your mental and physical health, or damages your relationships – it’s time to get professional help.
Hypersexuality is commonly known as sex addiction, compulsive sexual behavior, compulsive sexual behavior, or hypoactive sexual desire disorder. The descriptions agreed to by scientists for each of those terms may differ. For this article, the terms are used interchangeably, unless otherwise noted.
People who exhibit hypersexuality behavior may engage in activities such as pornography, masturbation, paid sex, cybersex and sex with multiple partners. These habits consequently affect their work and family life.
This condition can also destroy a couple’s relationship. Seeking Gottman private couples therapy with a certified therapist, especially one who specializes in sex addiction, can help both the addict and the partner regulate emotions and behaviors, recover and heal.
Is Hypersexuality a Real Thing?
Whether or not hypersexuality is a disorder has been a subject of debate among clinicians and scientists.
In 1987, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) added the concept of sexual addiction to its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It stated sexual addiction could be applied to a diagnosis of sexual disorders if the individual displayed “distress about a pattern of repeated sexual conquests or other forms of non-paraphilic sexual addiction, involving a succession of people who exist only as things to be used.”
Subsequent versions of the manual omitted the term due to “lack of expert consensus.”
However, for the next 25 years, as internet-use became more pervasive in people’s lives, hypersexuality became the drug of choice for many, especially those with pre-existing disorders.
So, in 2013, the APA added “hypersexual disorder” at a potential diagnosis.
According to Dr. Robert Weiss, founder of the Sexual Recovery Institute, hypersexual disorder is a “legitimate, serious and not uncommon clinical condition associated with the related concerns of disease transmission, family and relationship dysfunction, separation, divorce, anxiety, unplanned pregnancy, mood disorders, job loss, and even suicide.”
In 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified “compulsive sexual behavior” as a mental health condition.
The WHO defined compulsive sexual disorder as a “persistent pattern of failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses or urges resulting in repetitive sexual behaviour” and the sexual behavior becomes a “central focus of the person’s life to the point of neglecting health and personal care or other interests, activities and responsibilities.”
Symptoms of Hypersexuality Disorder
Hypersexuality becomes problematic when it causes significant distress or impairment to the individual. Other signs of hypersexuality, include the following for at least six months:
- Have intrusive, recurrent and intense thoughts regarding sex fantasies, urges and excessive behaviors.
- The time spent engaging in sexual fantasies, urges or behaviors consistently interferes with other important life activities and obligations.
- Sexual behaviors occur in response to various mood states (anxiety, depression, boredom, irritability) or stressful life events.
- Engaging in consistent but unsuccessful efforts to control or reduce sexual fantasies, urges, or behaviors.
- Repetitively engaging in sexual behaviors while disregarding the potential for physical or emotional harm to self or others.
- Unable to focus on work because of uncontrollable sexual needs.
- Unable to stop engaging in sexual activities even after facing legal issues.
- Continue to be involved in a sexual relationship with multiple partners, even after being caught by your spouse.
Causes of Hypersexuality Disorder
Although the causes of compulsive sexual behavior are unclear, they may include:
- Imbalance of neurotransmitters,
- Traumatic event,
- Sexual abuse in childhood,
- Mental illness, or
- Unstable family environment.
How to Treat Hypersexuality?
Like other mental health disorders, possible treatments include a combination of self-help, psychotherapy and medication.
- Explore Self-Help
Learn about sex addiction – its underlying causes and triggers and treatments. Discover healthier ways to cope with and manage emotions.
- Consult with a Psychotherapist
Therapists trained in Gottman therapy, addiction therapy or cognitive behavior therapy can provide treatments for you, as well as your family and your spouse.
- Medication May Help
Certain medications used to treat other conditions, such as depression, drug addiction or bipolar may help, according to the website www.patient.info.
The Bottom Line
Seek professional help if you are unable to control your hypersexuality. Trained counselors can assist you in finding relief from sexual fantasies, urges and behavior that are impairing mental health, as well as your relational, social and occupational life.