Is Your Man a Sex Addict? A high sex drive is usually considered a sign of virility, but if your man can’t go a day without some kind of sexual stimulation, it may be a sign that desire has crossed into obsession. According to a 2014 review in Current Pharmaceutical Design, somewhere between 3 to 6 percent of people are “addicted” to sex. An unhealthy obsession with sex is not caused by too much sexual activity—it is usually the result of deep-rooted psychological problems, and it is best dealt with by consulting a qualified therapist.
How You Know if He’s a Sex Addict
Is it an Addiction or Obsession?
The traditional criteria for addiction include experiencing withdrawal symptoms when the object of the addiction is taken away—and despite any exaggerated complaints to the contrary, a man will not get the shakes or start vomiting if he has to go without sex. Being deprived of sex does not feel good, but that does not constitute addiction any more than suffering over a lack of food makes you a food addict or feeling restless because you have not worked out makes you an exercise junkie. Some people can become compulsive about or obsessed with sex, and if this problem gets bad enough, it can negatively impact other aspects of daily life. Therefore, it is more accurate to use terms like sexual obsession or sexual compulsion.
So why is sex addiction the usual term you hear?
One reason is that most of us aren’t doctors, but we are familiar with other kinds of addiction—speaking of sexual obsession in terms of addiction made it easier for many to understand the condition. The biggest reason is that widespread recognition and treatment of sexual compulsion began in the 1970s with former members of Alcoholics Anonymous who experienced a similar lack of control and compulsivity with sex as with alcohol. The term sexual addiction was then further popularized among the general public by Dr. Patrick Barnes, whose 1983 book Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction was the first work designed to help people deal with sexual compulsion.
What’s Normal and What’s a Problem?
Before you panic and start calling therapists, it’s important to make sure the discrepancy between your sex drive and his isn’t due to normal biological differences between the sexes. On average, men have higher sex drives than women. The best approach is for you and your man to talk openly and candidly about the difference in your libidos. If two people care enough about satisfying each other’s needs, they can usually overcome the complications caused by a difference in desire levels. If you can’t reach a satisfying compromise, it may be time to see a counselor. About one-third of the couples seeking relationship help do so because of a marked difference in the partners’ sex drives.
Even if your man’s more active libido is enough to require the help of a third party, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s obsessed with sex. Signs of an unhealthy obsession with sex include excessive masturbation, porn use, visits to strip clubs, and engagement in phone sex or cybersex. Men who cannot go one day without servicing themselves or who are preoccupied with porn may require intervention. Ultimately, when your man’s sexual compulsions cause problems in everyday life but he can’t stop himself, there’s a problem.
Where Can You Get Help?
If your man’s need for sex is extreme enough that it’s negatively impacted daily life for both of you, your best bet is to seek counseling. Despite the fact that sexual compulsion is not a true addiction, you’re more likely to find help dealing with these uncontrollable behaviors through addiction specialists than through psychosexual therapists, who tend to focus more on relationship therapy or treating officially defined sexual disorders. Check out the organizations listed below to find a counselor or support group in your area.
Dr. Carnes attributes the root of sexual obsession to patients’ negative beliefs about themselves. In his extensive clinical experience, those who suffer from sexual compulsivity “do not perceive themselves as worthwhile persons.” This is why the support of loved ones is such an important factor in recovery—your man will need your help to regain a healthy relationship with sex.
Organizations of qualified sex counselors
- American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists—AASECT is the official body for sex and relationship therapy in the United States (www.aasect.org)
- International Institute for Trauma & Addiction Professionals—IITAP offers a directory of Certified Sex Addiction Therapists (www.iitap.com)
Support groups for sexual compulsivity
- NoFap (www.nofap.com)
- Sexual Compulsives Anonymous (www.sca-recovery.org)
- Sex Addicts Anonymous (www.saa-recovery.org)
- Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (www.slaafws.org)
- Sexaholics Anonymous (www.sa.org)
- SMART Recovery (www.smartrecovery.org)
Dudley Seth Danoff, MD, FACS, is president and founder of the Cedars-Sinai Tower Urology Group in Los Angeles, a Diplomate of the American Board of Urology, a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, and the author of The Ultimate Guide to Male Sexual Health.