Compulsive Sexual Behavior (or Sex Addiction)

I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.

– Jimmy Dean

What is Compulsive Sexual Behavior (CSB)? Sex is a biological part of human nature and a healthy way in which adults can express themselves intimately with their partners. However, some people may use sex as a way of coping with stress or escaping emotional pain, much like other common addictions. Sexual compulsive behavior, commonly referred to as sex addiction, is a term used to define intense and repetitive obsessions with sexual urges, thoughts, fantasies, and behaviors which causes the individual or their loved ones significant distress.

Common Sexual Compulsive Behaviors include

  • Excessive pornography use       
  • Seeking out and engaging in risky sexual acts such as prostitution or anonymous sex
  • Compulsive Masturbation or fantasy
  • Engaging in aggressive or masochistic sexual acts
  • Exhibition/Voyeurism      
  • Having multiple affairs or brief relationships       
  • Committing unlawful sexual offenses
  • Consistently visiting sex focused environments such as strip clubs, or adult stores    
  • Repeatedly engaging in unprotected casual or anonymous sex

Negative Consequences of Sexual Compulsive Behaviors.  Those who suffer from CSB usually have an awareness that their actions are excessive, but do not feel they are able to control it. CSB triggers the same types of responses of pleasure sensors of dopamine to the brain as those abusing drugs or alcohol. This can produce lasting chemical changes to the brain where the individual may feel more of the behavior is needed to experience the same type of intensity.

This can cause significant negative consequences for the individual such as

  • Feeling a loss of control or unable to cut back or stop 
  • Relationship problems with family or loved ones
  • Loss of interest in nonsexual activities
  • financial problems
  • Feelings of shame, guilt, depression, or anxiety
  • Difficulties with maintaining work, school, social, or family obligations
  • Declining physical and/or emotional health
  • Lack of interest in previously enjoyable activities
  • Loss of income due to CSB 
  • Legal concerns, including arrest

Does Therapy work?  An estimated 6% of adults in the United States suffer from symptoms of CSB. Fortunately, there are several effective psychosocial treatment approaches that can assist individuals with managing symptoms and overcoming CSB. Treatments mainly consist of using cognitive behavioral and psychodynamic approaches to help individuals control their compulsion and understand underlying issues attributing to the behaviors. Many treatment methods include working to identify triggers, develop healthy coping skills, and creating and achieving goals to provide recovery and relief from ongoing CSB issues.

Why Shorepointe? At Shorepointe Counseling, we have nearly 40 years of combined experience in the mental health and addictions profession working with families and individuals struggling with sexual issues such as sexual compulsive behaviors and addictions. We provide individualized treatments based on our clients’ own personal goals of achieving their goals and ideas of recovery. We understand the impact that sexual issues such as compulsion can have on individuals and families, and will work with you regain control of your emotional and physical health. We provide a non-judgmental, nurturing environment and offer flexibility in meeting your needs and your schedule. We look forward to helping you on your journey! 


Megan Holscher, LMSW, CAADC

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