The key indicators of sex addiction, and how to treat it

February 22, 2023

By Tori McCarthy, Senior Therapist

When Tom* came in for treatment at South Pacific Private he said he needed help to stop drinking and using cocaine. His life had become unmanageable and he was feeling ashamed of who he became when he was under the influence. As Tom’s executive level job included frequent interstate travel and client entertainment, drinking and drugs were common. His wife had found out he had been seeing other women that he met on dating apps when on his work trips, and so feeling immense betrayal, she had told Tom to leave the family home. 

When I met Tom for the first time in treatment he told me that his use of dating apps had increased recently, and he was starting to use them even when he was sober. He was also getting bored with conventional sexual encounters. He was confused because he loved his wife, and didn’t want to cause more hurt, but he simply couldn’t stop. It became clear that in addition to his use of alcohol and cocaine, he was also struggling with sex addiction. 

Sex addiction is a complex and multifaceted issue that affects individuals from all walks of life. It is an addiction that no one wants to talk about, especially the person who is suffering from this stigmatised condition. More and more people are seeking help for their compulsive sexual behaviour, yet they are met with little support and a misunderstanding or even a denial of the individual’s addictive process.

Sex addiction, also known as hypersexual disorder, is a condition in which an individual is unable to control their sexual urges and behaviour, leading to negative consequences in their personal and professional life. People with sex addiction often engage in risky sexual behaviour, such as unprotected sex or multiple sexual partners, which can lead to sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancies, legal issues and emotional distress.

The underlying causes of sex addiction

Understanding why some people suffer from sex addiction is complex and can vary from individual to individual. For some people, sex addiction is a way to cope with past trauma or emotional pain, such as childhood abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Others may use sex addiction as a way to escape from negative emotions, such as stress, anxiety, or depression. Some people may have a biological or genetic predisposition to addictive behaviour, making them more susceptible to developing a sex addiction.

Regardless of the underlying cause, sex addiction can have a profound impact on an individual’s life, affecting their relationships, work, and mental health. It is important for individuals with sex addiction to seek professional help to address the root causes of their behaviour and develop healthy coping mechanisms. 

For Tom, addressing his underlying relational trauma was a key factor in his recovery. “When I started to talk in my group therapy sessions about what my early childhood was like, it started becoming clear that I had learned these ways of coping that weren’t healthy ones. I realised I had been seeking validation in places that lacked any emotional connection.The interactions I had with other women made me feel worthy of something for a fleeting moment, but once they were over this deep sense of shame would wash over me again. It was a cycle that I couldn’t seem to break”  

What’s healthy and what’s not

It’s important to understand that we all have diverse sexual tastes, practices and libido levels. However, sexual behaviour can become problematic when it becomes obsessive or compulsive, and we become preoccupied with these activities and find it difficult to stop. We may start to notice mounting negative consequences in our lives and, regardless of these negative impacts to ourselves and those around us, we continue these activities.

Indicators of Sex Addiction include: 

  • Feelings of shame, despair, regret, confusion and denial following sexual encounters
  • Excessive use of internet or mobile phone, pornography, or sex toys / dolls
  • Excessive use of internet chat rooms or ‘hookup’ applications
  • A strong preference for anonymous or impersonal sexual encounters, including blindfolds, glory holes etc.
  • Use of prostitution, escort services or cruising areas
  • Escalating sexual fantasies, dependence on sexual kinks or boundary-pushing desires
  • A preference for significant age differences between you and a sex partner
  • Aggressive sexual behaviour, frequent sexual advances or high levels of sexual confidence
  • Excessive time thinking about or planning sexual fantasies
  • A high frequency of sexual encounters or numerous regular or irregular sexual partners
  • Losing interest in a person after having had sex with them
  • Mixing sex with pain, control or humiliation, either inflicting or requesting pain during sex, or seeking to be dominated or to dominate during sex
  • Exhibitionism, voyeurism or sexual arousal related to the vulnerability or exploitation of another individual

How to get help for sex addiction

Tom’s story is not uncommon, which is why South Pacific Private offer an intensive Men’s Sex Addiction Program, designed to address the underlying causes of sex addiction and provide individuals with the tools they need to overcome their compulsive sexual behaviour. The program is offered over four days and includes a comprehensive assessment, group therapy, psycho-education, and relapse prevention planning.

Led by a team of experienced and compassionate mental health professionals who specialise in sex addiction treatment, the program helps clients develop a personalised treatment plan that addresses their unique needs and goals. At South Pacific Private we use evidence-based treatment modalities and a holistic approach to care, addressing the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of healing.

If you’re concerned you or someone you know may have a problem with sex addiction, you can use our self-assessment tool here to gain a better understanding of whether the key indicators of sex addiction apply to your situation. To schedule a free, confidential, professional phone assessment, you can call our team seven days a week on 1800 063 332.

*Name has been changed for privacy reasons. 

Online Self Assessments

Learn more about key indicators of addiction, trauma and mental health conditions by taking an assessment for yourself, or on behalf of a loved-one.

Recommended Reading


Newsletter Signup

Let’s Stay In Touch, Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Contact Us

If you would like more information for yourself or for a loved one, our client care team is available to take your call 7 days a week.

Call 1800 063 332

Our Address

A. 24 Beach Street

Curl Curl NSW 2096

P. 1800 063 332

F. 02 9905 9696

E. [email protected]