Sexuality is complex and includes many different types of behaviours. Some people experience sexual urges, thoughts, or behaviours that feel out-of-control, or “addictive”. This may result in significant physical, emotional, and sexual health consequences. It is important to remember that sexual behaviours are only a problem if they are difficult to control, illegal, disruptive or harmful to you or others.
Compulsive sexual behaviour has also been called “out-of-control sexual behaviour” or “sex addiction,” Professionals are unsure if it should be considered an addiction or mental disorder.
In general, compulsive sexual behaviour is constantly focusing on sexual fantasies, urges, or behaviours that feel out-of-control, cause distress, and have negative effects on your health, relationships, work, school, or other areas of life.
Regardless of what it’s called, if compulsive sexual behaviour is not addressed, it can negatively affect your mental health, relationships, and well-being. With help, you can learn to manage compulsive sexual behaviour and develop a healthy understanding of your sexuality.
Compulsive sexual behaviours vary depending on your experiences.
Common signs that you may need help are:
• You have recurring, intense sexual fantasies, urges, and behaviours that are unwanted, time consuming, and out of your control.
• You feel driven to do certain sexual behaviours and experience a release of tension and then feel guilty or ashamed.
• You have not been able to stop or control the fantasies, urges, or behaviours on your own.
• You use compulsive sexual behavior to escape from problems in your life such as loneliness, depression, or anxiety.
• You engage in risky sexual behaviours even though you know they can have serious consequences such as sexually transmitted infections, break-ups, pregnancy, problems at work or school, money problems, or legal problems.
• You have difficulty keeping healthy and stable relationships.
Identifying and treating compulsive sexual behaviour can prevent the problem from getting worse.
Some things you can do to help are:
• Talk to a health care or mental health professional that you trust about your concerns.
• Get treatment for other mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety, or substance use, as they may make compulsive sexual behaviour worse.
• Avoid alcohol or other substances. This can impair your judgement and put you in risky situations that may push you towards unhealthy sexual behaviours.
• Find enjoyable activities to distract you when you experience strong urges or when you feel lonely or bored.
• Talk openly to your partner, a friend, or another trusted person about your experiences. Reach out to loved ones when you need support.