Compulsive Sexual Behavior

October 30, 2012

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Inability to control urges

How much sex is too much? How often is too often? What if sex occupies a majority of your thoughts? Sex is a natural part of human life, but when your need for sex becomes so great it interferes with your work and relationships — and you can’t control your urges even though you want to — you may have a problem.

What to call this problem is the focus of a debate. Some consider compulsive sexual behavior an addiction. Others argue it’s not an addiction, but rather an impulse-control or obsessive-compulsive issue stemming from some other psychological disorder. Those who believe they have it say — whatever its name — it’s a very real affliction.

What is compulsive sexual behavior?

Individuals with compulsive sexual behavior cannot be picked out in a crowd. Sexual orientation, ethnic background and age are not identifying factors, experts say. It’s true that the vast majority of sexually compulsive people are male, but both men and women — many of whom are professionals who otherwise function normally in society — may exhibit compulsive sexual behavior. Most often they are married or have a long-term partner.

Individuals with compulsive sexual behavior may engage in a wide range of conventional or unconventional sexual behavior, but the key is that they act compulsively. They may have many sexual partners or extramarital affairs. They may have sexual intercourse with strangers, masturbate excessively, watch pornography, hire prostitutes, use phone sex lines or visit X-rated Web sites. They may engage in masochistic or fantasy sex. They may have more serious sexual disorders.

What defines compulsive sexual behavior, then, is not necessarily the number of partners one has or how often one engages in sexual activity. It’s whether or not a person can control his or her sexual urges. Loosely defined, compulsive sexual behavior refers to spending inordinate amounts of time in sexual-related activity, to the point that one neglects important social, occupational or recreational activities in favor of sexual behavior.

Problematic vs. compulsive behavior

Experts caution, however, that simply because someone’s sexual behavior doesn’t fit the values of an individual, group or society doesn’t necessarily make that behavior disordered or compulsive. Nor does it mean that, if you have sexual problems, you are sexually compulsive.

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