Defining Sexual Addiction: Common Signs and How They Manifest

Sexual addiction is a behavioral addiction that is focused on sex or sexual fantasy. It can manifest in many ways: infidelity in relationships, cheating or affairs, pornography addiction, the pursuit of casual or anonymous sex or prostitution. To be considered an addiction, this behavior must continue long-term, usually more than six months, and results in negative consequences in some way on the addict’s life.

Common signs of sexual addiction:

In most forms of addiction, the signs and symptoms look very similar, even if the way they are carried out varies. Nearly all sexual addicts report having some form of the following behaviors:

Obsessive sexual fantasies or preoccupations

Those who are addicted to sex or pornography may find themselves obsessively thinking about romance and sex. The preoccupation may including thinking about it, planning for it or even pursuing it, beyond engaging in sexual acts or infidelity. Their decisions, be it career, personal or relationships, revolve around it.

Loss of control

Much like someone with a substance abuse problem who cannot control the ability to NOT drink or use drug, a sexual addict may lose control over their ability to not engage in sexual fantasies and behaviors.

Tolerance and escalation

Similar to an alcoholic’s ability to drink more over time, someone with a sexual addiction may build up a tolerance to certain behaviors over time. Instead, they escalate their behavior to continually chase the “high” of addiction. For example, where previously, viewing pornography was enough, now they seek out sexual encounters using hook up apps.


With any kind of addiction, when the substance the person is addicted to is removed, they will enter a withdrawal. With sexual addiction, this may not be a physical symptom, so much as an emotional or psychological one, such as becoming depressed, irritable or discontented.


Denial keeps someone out of touch with the consequences of their actions, whatever the addiction. Often with sexual addiction, the addict externalizes blame onto other people or situations, and are unwilling to see the results of their behavior.

If you or someone you know is struggling with sexual addiction, the first and most important step is to seek professional help through a licensed therapist. Individual and group therapy sessions are available to help recover from addiction.