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Effects of Sex Addiction

Sex addiction is a taboo subject and is often stigmatized more than drug addiction. This stigma often prevents sex addicts from seeking treatment until too late. It is important to understand the harmful effects of sex addiction to identify it and seek help. With the right treatment and support, sex addicts can overcome the negative effects of addiction.

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The Effects of Sex Addiction

Sex addiction, characterized by intense sexual impulses, extends beyond physical manifestations, deeply affecting the mental well-being of individuals. This multifaceted condition, while initially marked by hypersexuality, can escalate into a plethora of mental and physical consequences.

In the early stages, individuals grapple with low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression, often leading to self-isolation, trouble focusing, and porn addiction. Over time, the mental repercussions intensify, driving individuals towards severe depression, distorted thinking, and even suicidal ideation.

Concurrently, the addiction’s physical aspect presents its own challenges. Short-term effects include potential exposure to STDs, injuries, and disruptions in daily life. As the addiction progresses, the long-term implications can be dire, encompassing sexual dysfunction, legal issues, and life-threatening situations.

Let’s dive into the specific effects of sex addiction that an addict might experience.

Psychological Effects of Sex Addiction

Although extreme sexual impulses typically characterize sex addiction, the condition also impacts mental health. These mental effects can be just as destructive as the physical effects.

Short-Term Mental Health Effects of Sex Addiction

It’s not uncommon for individuals who have just begun to have issues with hypersexuality and sex addiction to experience some mental effects immediately.

Often, sex addicts struggle with low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety before forming an addiction.

As they strengthen their dependence on sexual activity, many addicts may find pre-existing symptoms only worsen during their addiction.

Common short-term mental effects of sex addiction include:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Loneliness
  • Self-isolation
  • Conflict between ethical values and behavior
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Lack of healthy relationships with partners, friends, and family
  • Trouble concentrating at work or school
  • Developing a porn addiction

Long-Term Mental Health Effects of Sex Addiction

Over time, the mental well-being of sex addicts tends to deteriorate as they isolate themselves more and more. The more time addicts spend alone obsessing over sexual acts and sexual urges, the more detached from reality they may become.

Common long-term mental health effects of sex addiction include:

  • Intense anxiety and panic attacks
  • Severe depression
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Developing substance abuse issues
  • Extreme shame and remorse
  • False beliefs
  • Self-hatred
  • Fear of abandonment
  • Distorted thinking
  • Developing paraphilia (abnormal sexual desires) like exhibitionism, voyeurism, sadomasochism, or pedophilia
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal ideation
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Physical Effects of Sex Addiction

Many sex addicts will engage in compulsive sex acts or masturbation, which may put them at risk for physical harm and infection. In some cases, sex addicts may also start participating in dangerous sexual activity that could lead to injury or even death.

Short-Term Physical Effects of Sex Addiction

At the start of sex addiction, individuals may begin to masturbate or have sex multiple times a day or use objects not intended for sex acts. The negative consequences only worsen if the addict engages in unprotected sex.

Common short-term physical effects of sex addiction include:

  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) due to unprotected sex
  • Exposure to HIV, and hepatitis B and C
  • Injury to genitalia due to excessive sex or masturbation
  • Losing employment or failing school due to preoccupation with sex

Long-Term Physical Effects of Sex Addiction

Eventually, sex addicts may experience devastating long-term physical consequences of their addiction. Whether it’s physical harm to their person or others or legal or financial trouble, sex addiction can easily result in serious or permanent long-term physical harm.

Common long-term physical effects of sex addiction include:

  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Legal trouble due to compulsive sexual behavior or sex crimes like rape or pedophilia
  • Financial trouble due to paying for sex workers or attending strip clubs
  • Injury or death through dangerous sexual acts such as sex while too intoxicated, autoerotic asphyxiation, or using inappropriate or dangerous objects during sex acts

Other Problematic Effects of Sex Addiction

Legal issues are a major concern for some sex addicts, especially those with paraphilia or abnormal sexual urges. While there is no shame in safe, sane, and consensual sexual acts, some addicts take such activities to an extreme.

Not all sex addicts will engage in paraphilia, but in some extreme cases, addicts may participate in criminal sex acts.

Extreme acts like rape, pedophilia, and voyeurism can easily lead to extensive legal troubles, lawsuits, and long prison sentences.

Social Stigma of Sex Addiction

Although there is a growing sex-positive movement in the US, much of the population still views sex as taboo. Unfortunately, by surrounding the topic with stigma and judgment, people with sex addictions or sex-related issues may go untreated.

For many, the term sex addiction is often laughed off or joked about. Sex addiction is not officially recorded in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), and some doubt the condition’s existence.

Despite these hurdles, sex addiction is still frequently diagnosed and treated by mental health professionals every day. The hope is that, by improving the social stigma surrounding sex addiction, more addicts and their loved ones will be empowered to seek treatment without shame.

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Finding Treatment for Sexual Addiction

If you or a loved one has a sex addiction or struggles with compulsive behaviors surrounding sex, you’re not alone. Although there’s still a lot of shame around the topic, healthcare providers are available and ready to help you break free from sex addiction.

If you feel you meet the symptoms of sex addiction, you can start by talking with your healthcare provider about treatment options.

You can also try using SAMHSA’s online treatment locator or call their helpline at 1-877-726-4727 (HELP) to see what treatment programs are available in your area. Support groups dedicated to sex addiction (such as Sex Addicts Anonymous) can also provide resources, guidance, and support to help you gain control over your life outside of sexual experiences.

Get Help to Treat the Effects of Sex Addiction

If you have become addicted to sex and are experiencing its harmful effects, help is available: Learn more about treatment and therapy options for sex addiction.

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FAQs of Sex Addiction Effects

What are the main side effects of being addicted to sex?

The main effects of sex addiction include both physical and mental harm.

The biggest negative consequences of sexual addiction include:

  • Isolation
  • Extreme depression and anxiety
  • Intense shame, guilt, and remorse
  • Worsening of co-occurring disorders like bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, impulse control disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or substance use disorders
  • Risk of STDs, HIV, and hepatitis B and C due to unprotected sex
  • Injury to genitalia due to excessive masturbation and sex
  • Risk of legal trouble due to dangerous or criminal sexual acts like rape or pedophilia
  • Injury or death due to dangerous sexual acts such as sex while too intoxicated, autoerotic asphyxiation, or using inappropriate or dangerous objects during sex acts
  • Thoughts of self-harm and suicide

Why am I so addicted to sex?

There are many reasons why some individuals may develop sex addiction.

Some of the most common causes of sex addiction include:

  • Brain chemistry
  • Family history or personal history of addiction
  • Changes in brain pathways
  • Trauma

Can a sex addict fall in love?

Of course. Sex addiction is a condition that affects how a person’s brain handles the release of feel-good chemicals like the neurotransmitters dopamine, endorphins, and oxytocin. While sex addiction can certainly have a negative effect on love, no research indicates sex addicts can’t fall in love.

Unfortunately, love alone cannot change the damage sex addiction and other addictions can have. Therefore, expecting love to serve as the sole treatment for addiction is unreasonable.

What are the effects of sex addiction on a relationship?

Sex addiction can damage relationships. For romantic relationships, partners of addicts may struggle or be unwilling to keep up with the addict’s compulsive sexual urges. Some addicts may turn to infidelity or unsafe sex to satisfy their sexual desire, leading to the breakdown of committed relationships.

The effects of sex addiction may also impact friendships and family relationships. The addict may neglect their obligations to loved ones in favor of having sex or masturbating. Addicts may also attempt to lie and hide their sex addiction, which erodes trust with loved ones.

What happens when a person is addicted to sex?

Sex addicts tend to isolate themselves as they fall further into addiction. They may withdraw from social groups, perform poorly at work or school, and fall into financial and/or legal trouble due to their sex addiction. Drug use is another common risk factor for people with sex addiction.

Worsening mental health and existing mental health disorders is a common result of sex addiction and the potential for injury due to having sex and masturbating for long amounts of time. There is also a huge risk of STDs, infections, and injury when engaging in unsafe sex.

Talk therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help sex addicts work through emotions related to their addiction and learn healthy coping strategies when cravings or impulses arise.

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. is a founder of Addiction HelpReviewed by:Kent S. Hoffman, D.O.

Chief Medical Officer & Co-Founder

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. has been an expert in addiction medicine for more than 15 years. In addition to managing a successful family medical practice, Dr. Hoffman is board certified in addiction medicine by the American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine (AOAAM). Dr. Hoffman has successfully treated hundreds of patients battling addiction. Dr. Hoffman is the Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of and ensures the website’s medical content and messaging quality.

Jessica Miller is the Content Manager of Addiction HelpWritten by:

Editorial Director

Jessica Miller is the Editorial Director of Addiction Help. Jessica graduated from the University of South Florida (USF) with an English degree and combines her writing expertise and passion for helping others to deliver reliable information to those impacted by addiction. Informed by her personal journey to recovery and support of loved ones in sobriety, Jessica's empathetic and authentic approach resonates deeply with the Addiction Help community.

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  2. Derbyshire, K. L., & Grant, J. E. (2015, June). Compulsive Sexual Behavior: A Review of the Literature. Journal of Behavioral Addictions.
  3. Fong, T. W. (2006, November). Understanding and Managing Compulsive Sexual Behaviors. Psychiatry (Edgmont (Pa. : Township)).
  4. George, M., Maheshwari, S., Chandran, S., Rao, S. S., Shivanand, M. J., & Sathyanarayana Rao, T. S. (2018, February). Psychosocial Intervention for Sexual Addiction. Indian Journal of Psychiatry.
  5. Kraus, S. W., Voon, V., & Potenza, M. N. (2016, January). Neurobiology of Compulsive Sexual Behavior: Emerging Science. Neuropsychopharmacology: Official Publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology.
  6. Sex Addiction: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Recovery. Cleveland Clinic. (2022, April 5).

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