Signs Your Partner Might Have A Sex Addiction

Sexual intimacy is often considered a strong indicator of a deep and healthy relationship. However, if you notice your partner beginning to exhibit compulsive behaviors or thoughts about sex that they cannot seem to control, it might be an indicator that they are struggling with a sex addiction.

What Is A Sex Addiction?

While it is not recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), a sex addiction is defined by uncontrollable compulsions to engage in various sexual behaviors/activities. Like other addictions, a sex addiction can be recognized by obsessive, incessant thoughts that negatively interfere with other areas of life, no matter the consequences. If untreated, it can lead to additional problems like drug or alcohol abuse, relationship and communication issues, and an overall lower quality of life. A bit broader than its cousin, porn addiction, a sex addiction can manifest in different ways. It may involve physical sexual acts, prostitution, excessive pornography use or masturbation, or even a great deal of time spent fantasizing about sex and sexual encounters.

Sex addiction has not yet been given an official diagnosis …due to competing beliefs around what to call the disorder, how to describe its criteria, and a need for additional empirical research to support its prevalence in society. It has to do with the way someone relates to these things, why they engage in them, and how it then impacts their lives.

- Michael Damioli, LCSW, CSAT, clinical director, Colorado Medication Assisted Recovery, 2022

What Are The Signs Of Sex Addiction?

A sex addiction can present in different ways, but usually involves the following:

Obsessive Sexual Thoughts

Is your partner constantly talking about sex? This can range from discussing their fantasies, to planning your next sexual encounter. Are they constantly sexualizing you or insisting on dirty talk, even outside of the bedroom? Do all of your conversations seem to revolve around their libido? There are many ways your partner’s obsessive, consuming sexual thoughts may manifest.

Spending Excessive Time on Sex

Just like drugs and alcohol, people with a sex addiction are constantly searching for how and when they’ll get their next high. If you notice your partner is spending a lot of time masturbating, researching fun new things to try in the bedroom, or constantly seeking new or different ways of sexual pleasure, you might want to sit down and speak with them about your concerns.

Excluding Other Non-Sexual Activities

Does it seem like sex is all your significant other cares about? Have you noticed that other things (household duties, activities and personal interests, socialization with others—including yourself) have dissipated to make room for this sexual obsession? Are they falling behind in work, school, or parental responsibilities? If the answer is “yes” to any of these, it might be a sign that your partner is struggling with an addiction.

Masturbating Excessively

If you find that your partner is spending more time alone and is acting extra defensive about their internet search history, they might be hiding excessive time spent masturbating. While there is nothing inherently wrong with self-pleasure, when it interferes with daily functioning and/or causes a change in a person’s normal disposition, it becomes problematic.

Frequently Utilizing Sexual Services

Be it a strip club, phone sex or online chatrooms, or paying for a variety of sexually-charged services, engaging with others—be it digitally or in person—can lead to its own host of potential dangers. No matter the terms and conditions of your established relationship, if your partner has a sex addiction, they could be jeopardizing more than just your partnership; they might be risking both of your physical and sexual health.

Engaging In Sexual Behaviors That Are Against Personal Values And Beliefs

Is your partner sneaking around or acting different? Are they being secretive, closed off, and constantly angry when you know them to be open, even-tempered and friendly? Addiction can cause a person to do things and act in ways that are completely against who they are and what they stand for; it changes someone from the inside out.

Feeling Shame Or Depression Associated With Thoughts Of Sex

Have you noticed your partner acting down or depressed before, during, or after sex? Do they exhibit signs of guilt that seem to be associated with sexual activities and their participation in them? It is quite possible that they are struggling with their incessant urges and the challenges that come with attempting to curb those desires.

Committing Sexual Crimes

In instances of extreme sex addiction, a person might resort to truly horrific behaviors like stalking, assault, animal abuse, or even pedophilia. If you learn that your partner has engaged in such behavior, you should seek help immediately. Someone who carelessly commits acts of sexual violence is in desperate need of assistance and treatment.

Because sex addiction is not diagnosable by condition, if you feel that your partner is exhibiting one or several of these signs, reach out to a therapist today. They can help you determine your next move.

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Sex Addiction And Relationships

The nature of sex certainly complicates both the way in which a couple communicates as well as their entire relationship as a whole. Considering sex is a largely private part of life and sex drives vary amongst all individuals, it can often make for an uncomfortable conversation, even with the person with whom you’re sexually involved. Dr. La Keita D. Carter, PsyD, CEO of a private mental health practice in Maryland says, “It can be very difficult to determine the boundary between having a high sex drive and having a legitimate problem with compulsive sexual behavior.”

If you’re dating or married to someone with a sex addiction, it might feel challenging to keep up with the requests for intimacy and could lead to a feeling of resentment toward your partner. A partner’s sex addiction can also cause insecurities about yourself and your relationship. “Thinking that you can’t sexually satisfy your partner can engender anxiety, low self-esteem, guilt, embarrassment, and many other feelings,” adds Dr. Carter.

How Can I Help My Partner With Their Sex Addiction?

Have Open And Honest Communication

Bring forth your worries to your partner. It might be a difficult conversation, but ultimately will ensure you are both on the same page regarding the same concern. When you are brave and real and raw, you inspire your partner to let their guard down as well. Relationships can be tough, but they’re never meant to be one-sided.

Reach Out To Mutual Friends

After you have spoken with your significant other privately, you might want to enlist the help/advice of mutual friends. Like an intervention for someone struggling with substance abuse, gathering a group of close friends might help your partner gain a bit of perspective; it’s hard to see our own behavior and patterns sometimes, especially if we’re blinded by obsessive thoughts.

Establish Boundaries

In times of healing, it is vital that both you and your partner sit down and establish boundaries. Maybe you take a break from sexual intimacy while they are working through their addiction. Perhaps you need to spend some time away from each other to ensure that you both receive adequate time and space to process.

Regardless, it’s important to note that should your partner be struggling with a sex addiction, it is not your fault. You can be there for them as an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on, but know that you have done nothing wrong and all there is now is to support them in getting the help they need. Be understanding and kind, yet firm in your boundaries; while their addiction is not yours, it does affect you and you need to make time for your own wellbeing, too.

Treatment For Sex Addiction

Because a sex addiction is so closely related to other behavioral addictions, the most common form of treatment is varying types of therapy. In cases where the sex addiction might be co-occurring with other conditions such as any mental health disorder, the medical provider might recommend medication to treat both concerns simultaneously. The first step to getting assistance is reaching out for help. If you worry that your partner has a sex addiction and would like additional information on online therapy options, click here.