sex addicts

An estimated 12 to 30 million people in America live with sex addiction. The range is so broad because people misunderstand sex addiction, and it relies on people to self-report the habit. But, regardless of whether the true number is on the lower or higher side of the range, sex addiction affects many people.

Sex addiction is an often misunderstood topic shrouded in a stigma of shame. It doesn’t mean someone enjoys sex too much. Sex addiction usually stems from trauma, causing a person to seek sexual gratification as a coping mechanism until the behavior becomes uncontrollable. 

The more people discuss sex addiction, the better they can understand why it happens and how to recover. Why does the number of people addicted to sex continue to grow, and how many people are sex addicts?

What is Sex Addiction?

Sex addiction is also known as compulsive sexual behavior, hypersexuality, or hypersexuality disorder. It’s when a person experiences uncontrollable sexual urges and thoughts and becomes dependent on sexual reward. A person with sex addiction usually spends hours thinking about sex, planning for sex, or engaging in sexual activity, even if it repeatedly interferes with daily activities. Sex addiction can harm a person’s relationships, finances, job, and well-being. They may have tried to curb or quit on their own but have been unsuccessful. 

How Many People Are Sex Addicts? The Data Behind the Addiction 

Millions of Americans are addicted to sex, and that rate could be increasing as 8.6% of Americans encounter difficulty controlling sexual feelings, urges, and behaviors. These statistics are a significant indicator of the impact of sex addiction on public health.

Despite sex addiction gaining traction in the United States, it’s impossible to know how many people actually experience it. Data may not represent real prevalence because of a lack of research and resources. Sex addiction statistics primarily rely on self-reporting, which is almost always inaccurate. People often experience shame or guilt surrounding their addiction, causing self-reporting to be low. The social stigma surrounding the topic can affect reporting even if someone is willing to open up about it. 

Factors Contributing to the Prevalence of Sex Addiction

Sex addiction is complicated, so it can be difficult to pinpoint the catalyst that jumpstarts the addiction. You may not realize how debilitating sex addiction becomes before it overtakes your life. 

Factors that contribute to the increase in sex addiction:

  • Rise of Technology. Sex addiction escalates due to the “triple-A” impact: accessibility, affordability, and anonymity. Despite being a private or intimate activity, almost anyone anywhere can access sex whenever they want. While some porn sites charge a subscription, many operate for free or low cost. With private browsers and a quick “erase history,” records of porn use are gone, making it easy to hide from others. And hookup apps are prevalent today.
  • Social Pressure. Hookup culture and the prevalence of chat rooms and apps like Tinder increase the popularity of engaging in casual sex. The more people engaging in sexual activity around you, the more likely you are to become desensitized to the behavior. Once you start, it can be difficult to stop.
  • Co-Occurring Disorders. A co-occurring disorder refers to mental health disorders that happen simultaneously. For example, a person may use drugs or alcohol to facilitate sexual activity or to numb the pain of sex addiction, developing a second addiction in the process. 
  • Traumatic Experiences. Unresolved trauma is the most common cause of addiction. A person can use sex as a coping mechanism for dealing with traumatic experiences that happened as an adult or even as a child. During sex, your brain releases a chemical called dopamine, giving you bursts of pleasure. The pleasure temporarily numbs the pain, causing your brain to associate sex with feeling better, even temporarily.  
  • Lack of Community. Because so few people talk about sex addiction, it can be isolating. Those with sex addiction may continue the behavior simply because they don’t know how to stop. They may not even really understand what’s wrong. With no one to look to for guidance, the habits worsen, spiraling into an endless cycle.

Matt Wenger, LPC, Clinical Director at Begin Again Institute, said sex addiction most often stems from an unresolved traumatic past experience.

“Sex addiction arises from a need to regulate an unregulated nervous system. Those feelings of distress originated from traumatic experiences when they were younger,” he said.

Spotting the Signs of Sex Addiction 

One singular practice or behavior doesn’t define sex addiction. People may participate in various sexual behaviors, such as performing sexual acts, viewing pornography, or excessive masturbation. The hallmark of addiction is attempting to stop the behavior and being unable to. That’s a sign that you probably need to seek help.

Symptoms of sex addiction include: 

  • Obsessive sexual thoughts
  • Lack of sexual control
  • Inability to refuse compulsions
  • Excessively watching porn
  • Low self-esteem
  • Lack of empathy
  • Defensiveness
  • Feeling guilty after acting on impulses
  • Ignoring obligations
  • Intense aggression or anger
  • Engaging in risky acts
  • Feeling hopeless or helpless

Treating Sex Addiction

Sex addiction is challenging to overcome, but sobriety is possible. To have the best chance at recovery, you probably need to seek professional help. This need for professional help is essential if your behavior is escalating and you feel like you can’t control or stop it. Also, if you begin experiencing negative consequences as a result of your behavior. 

Mental health professionals treat sex addiction in various ways. The treatment depends specifically on your individual needs.

Two common therapies for sex addiction are:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. CBT is when you and your counselor identify unhelpful thinking patterns and learned behaviors. You then work together to recognize how distorted perceptions can create problems in your life. It gives you the tools to resolve difficult situations and develop a greater sense of confidence.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Processing. EMDR is especially helpful for people recovering from traumatic experiences. Your counselor helps you make sense of the trauma so it becomes less upsetting and its impact on your life diminishes. 

When choosing sex addiction treatment, people should look for treatment that is trauma focused, Matt said. He said they also should make sure the treatment is holistic.

“Effective addiction treatment encounters the brain, body, and emotions,” he said. “Mere education is not enough.”

You deserve support and proper treatment for sex addiction, just like you do for any other illness or injury. The sooner you seek help, the quicker you’ll be on the road to recovery.

Getting Help for Sex Addiction

The number of people with sex addiction increases consistently. This addiction negatively impacts your life and is unlikely to go away on its own. But with proper treatment, you can find relief. 

At Begin Again Institute, we recognize the complexity of sex addiction and address the root cause. We help real people every day learn skills to achieve lasting recovery. Contact us today to turn your life around and get the help you need.

  • Category: Sex Addiction
  • By Begin Again Institute
  • January 31, 2023

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