What Is Sex Addiction? Signs To Look Out For And Where To Find Help

Ozzy Osbourne has said he's receiving therapy for sex addiction.

04/08/2016 12:56

Ozzy Osbourne has opened up about receiving “intense therapy” for sex addiction.

But what is sex addiction and is there a difference between an addict and someone who just likes sex?

Peter Saddington, a sex therapist from the relationships charity Relate, says “sexual addiction” is a term used to describe any sexual activity that feels “out of control” and as though you are unable to stop.

“Having a very high sex drive does not make you a sex ‘addict’,” he adds.

“Neither does engaging in specific sexual activities, having many partners, looking at porn or engaging in cyber-sex.”

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According to Saddington, the nature of your sexual preferences is irrelevant when it comes to diagnosing sex addiction.

What matters, is whether you can control your impulses to engage in those preferences and whether or not that is having a negative impact on you or your relationship.

He says the biggest sign of sex addiction is that you’re engaging in some kind of sexual activity that you want to stop but are unable to.

“Perhaps the behaviours are having a negative impact on your relationship or are resulting in debt or financial issues,” he adds.

“If it feels like something you’re ashamed of and that you need to be secretive about then this could also be a warning sign. 

“Behaviours associated with a sexual addiction include using pornography, visiting sex workers, cyber-sex including chat sites, telephone sex, sex with strangers and multiple affairs.”

He adds that men and women often present signs of sex addiction in different ways.

“Generally, with women who have a sex addiction, it’s much more likely that they’ll be having multiple affairs and sex with strangers,” he says.

“For men, pornography, visiting sex workers and telephone sex are more common behaviours. Women are generally looking for the relationship and emotional connection but for men its often about the sex itself.”

However, he adds that everyone is different and there are always exceptions to these broad trends.


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Brian Whitney, who has received therapy for his reliance on sex and attended Sex Addicts Anonymous in the US, says his “major issue” was infidelity.

“I was often involved in three or four different relationships at once,” he explains in a blog on The Huffington Post.

“I got an enormous rush from having multiple sexual partners and lying to all of them. This wasn’t about sex, although I did enjoy that; it was about control and power.

He adds: “I couldn’t stop. No matter what happened, no matter how bad things got, even when I lost marriages, homes and jobs because of my sexual behaviour. Instead of stopping I was getting further into it, going into darker and more depraved places.”

Whitney says finding the right therapist and going to rehab has helped him to manage his addiction.

According to Saddington, there’s also lots of help available for sex addicts in the UK.

“Relate provides sexual addiction services for individuals and for couples,” he says.

“I also run 14-16 week group therapy courses for men with sexual addiction at Relate Nottingham and Relate Oxfordshire runs similar courses.

“We’d also advise talking to your GP if you are worried about your sexual behaviour as they can signpost you to relevant local services. The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity (ATSAC) also has a website where you can do an online assessment and find a therapist in your.” 

Whoever you go to for support, Saddington says it’s important to check that the counsellor or therapist has sexual addiction training.

Sadly, sexual addiction is shrouded in stigma and Saddington says there’s “a lot of shame attached to it”, meaning those suffering sometimes avoid reaching out for help.

“It’s perhaps more socially acceptable to say you have an alcohol problem, for example, but when it comes to sexual addiction people are less comfortable talking about it,” he says.

“Generally partners find it very hard to get support and to talk about the issue with friends and family as they are often too embarrassed.

“The behaviour goes against some people’s values and they can’t understand why they are acting this way, so they feel ashamed.”

But there’s no need to suffer in silence. Saddington says the key is to get support as early on as possible, as it is possible to turn sex addiction around and stop it from impacting negatively on your life. 

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