What is Sexual Compulsion?

By Caralee Frederic, LCSW | Certified Gottman Therapist | Couples Workshop Presenter

Can People Be Addicted to Sex?

Because sex is intended to be a good, healthy, bonding experience within a marriage, it is sometimes difficult to conceive how it could be twisted into something negative and addictive.

I often hear doubts expressed such as “Can there really be such a thing as being addicted to sex?” or “If I’m addicted to sex, I’m OK with that. It’s like being addicted to breathing.”

Less than 100 years ago, the general population had similar doubts as to whether or not a person could really be addicted to alcohol.

Yet, here we are today with a very clear understanding of the dangers of alcoholism, the familial or genetic propensity for some but not all, the broken homes and devastated lives from its use.

We have a better understanding today than ever before of what happens in the brain of an addict that’s different from those who are not addicted.

All of this knowledge can be applied equally in understanding sexual addictions. Just as not everyone who drinks is an alcoholic, so, too, not everyone who has sex is an addict.

According to sexual addiction therapist and author Dr. Doug Weiss, sex addiction is:

A behavioral method of “medicating” feelings and/or coping with stress to the degree that one’s sexual behavior becomes the major coping mechanism in a person’s life.

The individual often cannot stop the sexual behavior for any great length of time through sheer will alone.

The sex addict spends a great deal of time in the pursuit of his or her sexual behaviors and fantasies, or may have a binge of sexual behaviors intermittently.

Addiction implies a built up tolerance for a substance or behavior, increased frequency, and the inability to stop a behavior that is causing problems, even when very painful or distressing consequences occur as a result.