Also called sexual addiction, this means being obsessed with sexual fantasies, urges, or behaviors that disrupt your life or cause harm to you or others.
Compulsive sexual behavior is sometimes called hypersexuality or sexual addiction. It's an intense focus on sexual fantasies, urges or behaviors that can't be controlled. This causes distress and problems for your health, job, relationships or other parts of your life.
Compulsive sexual behavior may involve different kinds of commonly enjoyable sexual experiences. Examples include masturbation, sexual arousal by using a computer to communicate, multiple sexual partners, use of pornography or paying for sex. But when these sexual behaviors become a major, constant focus in your life, are difficult to control, cause problems in your life, or are harmful to you or others, that's likely compulsive 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, health and other people. But with treatment and self-help, you can learn to manage compulsive sexual behavior.
Some signs that you may have compulsive sexual behavior include:
Ask for help if you feel you've lost control of your sexual behavior, especially if your behavior causes problems for you or other people. Compulsive sexual behavior tends to get worse over time without treatment, so get help when you first notice a problem.
As you decide whether to seek professional help, ask yourself:
Getting help for compulsive sexual behavior can be difficult because it's such a deeply personal and private matter. Try to:
Ask a health care provider for help right away if:
Although the exact causes of compulsive sexual behavior are not clear, possible causes may include:
Compulsive sexual behavior can happen in both men and women, though it may be more common in men. It can affect anyone, regardless of sexual orientation. Factors that may increase the risk of compulsive sexual behavior include:
Also, the risk of compulsive sexual behavior may be higher in people who have:
Compulsive sexual behavior can cause many problems that affect both you and others. You may:
Because the cause of compulsive sexual behavior isn't known, it's not clear how to prevent it. But a few things may help you keep control of problem behavior:
You can ask your health care provider to refer you to a mental health provider with experience in diagnosing and treating compulsive sexual behavior. Or you may decide to contact a mental health provider directly. A mental health exam may include talking about your:
With your permission, your mental health provider also may request information from family and friends.
There's an ongoing debate among mental health professionals about exactly how to define compulsive sexual behavior. It's not always easy to figure out when sexual behavior becomes a problem.
Many mental health professionals use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5-TR), published by the American Psychiatric Association, as a guide for diagnosing mental health conditions. Compulsive sexual behavior is not listed in the DSM-5-TR as a diagnosis, but sometimes it's diagnosed as part of another mental health condition, such as an impulse control disorder or a behavioral addiction.
In the eleventh revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), the World Health Organization defines compulsive sexual behavior disorder as an impulse control disorder.
Some mental health professionals consider compulsive sexual behaviors as sexual activities taken to an extreme that cause serious and damaging problems in life. More research is needed to come up with standard guidelines for diagnosis. But, for now, diagnosis and treatment by a mental health professional who has expertise in addictions and compulsive sexual behaviors will likely give the best results.
Treatment for compulsive sexual behavior usually involves talk therapy — also called psychotherapy — medicines and self-help groups. The main goal of treatment is to help you manage urges and reduce problem behaviors while still enjoying healthy sexual activities and relationships.
If you have compulsive sexual behavior, you also may need treatment for another mental health condition. People with compulsive sexual behavior often have alcohol or drug use problems or other mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression, which need treatment.
People with other addictions or severe mental health conditions or who may be a danger to others may benefit from treatment that starts with a hospital stay. Whether inpatient or outpatient, treatment may be intense at first. Ongoing treatment across time may help prevent relapses.
Talk therapy, also called psychotherapy, can help you learn how to manage your compulsive sexual behavior. Types of talk therapy include:
These therapies can be provided as individual, group, family or couples sessions. Sessions also can be provided in person or through video calls.
Along with talk therapy, certain medicines may help. These medicines act on brain chemicals linked to obsessive thoughts and behaviors. They lessen the chemical "rewards" these behaviors give when you act on them. They also can lessen sexual urges. Which medicine or medicines are best for you depends on your situation and other mental health conditions you may have.
Medicines used to treat compulsive sexual behavior are often prescribed mainly for other conditions. Examples include:
Self-help and support groups can be helpful for people with compulsive sexual behavior and for dealing with some of the issues it can cause. Many groups are modeled after the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
These groups can help you:
These groups may be internet-based or have local in-person meetings, or both. If you're interested in a self-help group, look for one that has a good reputation and that makes you feel comfortable. Such groups don't appeal to everyone. Ask your mental health provider to suggest a group or ask about options other than support groups.
You can take steps to care for yourself while getting professional treatment:
You can look for help for compulsive sexual behavior in several ways. To begin, you may:
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.
Before your appointment, gather this information:
Some questions to ask include:
Be ready to answer questions from your provider, such as:
Prepare for questions ahead of time so you have time to discuss your main concerns.