If you’ve ever watched the hit UK limited series Fleabag, then you’d have a pretty good idea already about what being a sex addict entails and how it can affect a person’s life as it’s something the show’s protagonist suffers from. And while it’s certainly normal to have an interest in and desire for sex, an unhealthy obsession with it can easily lead us down a dark and dangerous path.
Although sex addiction isn’t a diagnosable psychological condition, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), it does however fall into the subclinical category of behavior addiction. According to psychologists Dr. Jon Grant, Dr. Brian Odlaug, and Dr. Samuel Chamberlain, behavioral addiction refers to any behaviors that are done compulsively and excessively that negatively impact one’s life and day-to-day functioning. Sex addiction, in particular, is defined as a lack of control over one’s sexual thoughts, urges, and impulses.
With that said, here are 5 psychology-backed warning signs that you may be too obsessed with sex:
1. Intense Preoccupation
According to Dr. Jennifer Litner, certified sex therapist and founder of the Embrace Sexual Wellness center for psychotherapy, the main hallmark of sexual addiction is intense preoccupation with sex. This means that sex addicts struggle with chronic and obsessive thoughts about sexual acts and fantasies, in spite of their best efforts to stop or repress such thoughts. Sex then becomes a central part of their life, monopolizing their focus throughout most of their days and making it difficult for them to sustain their focus on other tasks.
2. Feelings of Shame or Depression
Another red flag is if strong feelings of shame or depression accompany one’s sexual urges and obsessions. According to an article published by health and medical information resource Web MD, persistent and excessive feelings of anxiety, depression, guilt, or regret tend to indicate that a need for sex has crossed over into addiction. This is because sex addicts often recognize that their urges are a problem, but feel great shame over their helplessness to control it and remorse after giving into it.
3. Neglecting Responsibilities
If you are starting to neglect your responsibilities, be it to others or to yourself, because of constantly prioritising your sexual indulgences, then it may already be a sign of an unhealthy obsession, says sexologist Dr. Litner. This failure to attend to important aspects of our lives can manifest as: a declining performance at work or school; difficulty maintaining relationships; social withdrawal; and neglecting one’s physical (e.g., hygiene, sleep) and emotional (e.g., self-care) well-being.
4. Excluding Other Activities
Sex addiction, like other behavioral addictions, are often characterized by a lack of desire or interest in much else. According to Mayo Clinic, a non-profit medical research center, it’s common for sex addicts to fixate on sex so much that they have difficulty engaging in other activities or hobbies. Severe cases of sex addiction may lead a person to not having much of a life outside of their obsession, and all other things they once enjoyed doing or were passionate about become eclipsed by their sex lives, sexual fantasies, urges, and pursuits.
5. Risky, Escalating Behaviors
Another important indication of sex addiction, mentioned both by The Mayo Clinic and WebMD, is when one’s sexual behaviors worsen in both frequency and risk to one’s safety and well-being. Much like alcoholics and substance abusers, sex addicts will gradually find that they need more frequent or intense sexual experiences to achieve the same level of satisfaction. This may lead them to engage in risky and impulsive sexual behaviors such as having unprotected sex, public sex, and sex with multiple partners. Such behaviors are not only dangerous but also indicate a concerningly compulsive obsession with sex and loss of control.
Now, you may be wondering: can sex addiction be treated? Fortunately, the answer is a resounding yes. So if you suspect that you may be struggling with an unhealthy obsession with sex, seek professional help immediately and reach out to a psychologist, psychiatrist, or sex therapist today. Such mental health care professionals can provide you with the guidance and support you need to address and manage these concerns.
So, what are your thoughts on this article? Let us know in the comments down below and share your stories about how you overcame a behavioral addiction.
- Grant, J. E., Odlaug, B. L., & Chamberlain, S. R. (2016, Jun 27). What Is a Behavioral Addiction? Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/why-cant-i-stop/201606/what-is-behavioral-addiction
- Legg, T. J. (2018, Jul 26). Sex Addiction. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/addiction/sex
- Litner, J. (2021, Apr 5). What Are the Symptoms of Sex Addiction? Psych Central. https://psychcentral.com/lib/symptoms-of-sexual-addiction
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2023, Apr 19). Compulsive sexual behavior. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/compulsive-sexual-behavior/symptoms-causes/syc-20360434
- WebMD Editorial Contributors. (2022, Dec 18). Signs of a Sex Addict. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/signs-sex-addict