Women and Sex Addiction
June 29, 2022
Are men or women more likely to be sex addicts? Most would probably say men. While men do make up a larger percentage of those struggling with life-disrupting sexual behaviors, women actually make up 40% of those dealing with these issues, according to NBCNews.com. In fact, a 2018 JAMA Network survey of more than 2,000 American adults revealed that 7% of women and 10% of men reported distress and difficulty controlling sexual feelings, urges, and behaviors.
Greater expression and frequency of sexual behaviors tends to be less socially acceptable for women than men, which may easily hinder women from seeking treatment for compulsive sexual behaviors. As a result, we have less research on sex addiction in women; the female population is underrepresented in studies pertaining to compulsive sexual disorders and related conditions. As more studies are conducted, treatment professionals hope to better understand and treat women addicted to sex.
The good news is that treatment approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) can help both women and men who are struggling with life-disrupting sexual behaviors. Additionally, treating any trauma, co-occurring addictions, and other mental health conditions may reduce symptoms and help individuals readjust to healthy patterns of sexual behavior.
What Is Sex Addiction?
“Sex addiction” is not a condition you’ll find in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the DSM-5). However, this term and others (like hypersexuality or compulsive sexual behaviors) may be used by treatment professionals to help identify when a person’s sexual thoughts and habits become obsessive, intrusive, and an impairment to daily functioning. And in 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) began classifying compulsive sexual behavior as a mental health condition in its International Classification of Diseases list known as the ICD-11.
Problematic sexual feelings, urges, and behaviors are the kind that harm oneself or others, causing severe distress or life disruption. Addiction is characterized as a lack of control over certain behaviors, regardless of the consequences.
Sex addiction is a label that may be applied to a set of compulsive sexual behaviors that feel difficult or impossible to control. Some people may be relieved to learn there is a classification for their obsessive tendencies; others may be horrified to have this kind of label applied to them.
Arrogance, shame, apathy, depression, and even anxiety are not uncommon among those who find themselves addicted to sex and sexual behaviors. Disruptive sexual issues can be a symptom of other issues related to self-image, intimacy, love, and control that come from someone’s history and experiences.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the following are symptoms of sex addiction or compulsive sexual behavior:
- Recurrent, intense sexual fantasies and behaviors that are time-consuming and feel out of control
- A compulsive desire to act on certain sexual urges, even if you feel guilt and remorse afterward
- An inability to control your symptoms in spite of negative consequences
- A habit of using sexual behavior to cope with or escape from other problems, such as loneliness, depression, or stress
- Difficulty establishing healthy or stable relationships
If you find that your sexual tendencies are disrupting your life, damaging your relationships, and causing severe distress, it’s time to speak to a professional about treatment options so that you can regain a healthy balance in your life.
Sex Addiction in Women
Women are not immune from sex addiction, hypersexuality, and compulsive sexual behaviors. In fact, more women struggle with these issues than previously thought. Though they may make a greater effort to hide their disruptive sexual urges, Live Science says hypersexual women often display the same behaviors as hypersexual men.
Some instances of sex addiction in women may be connected to childhood sexual abuse or trauma, as is frequently the case with men. A 2020 National Library of Medicine (NLM) review of studies on the relationship between child sexual abuse and compulsive sexual behaviors found that most studies supported a connection, both for women and men. One study on college women prompted the reviewers to suggest that “prevention efforts should be aimed toward students with [child sexual abuse] histories reporting risky sexual behaviors or [compulsive sexual behaviors], including problematic pornography use.”
While not all manifestations of compulsive sexual behavior are related to abuse, those who have experienced trauma may have more success curbing their sexual coping behaviors after healing from their trauma. Treatment for other conditions like depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders can certainly aid a person’s recovery from sex addiction.
Help for Sex Addiction
If you are struggling with compulsive sexual behaviors, you can find a safe haven for healing at Willow House at The Meadows. We treat the whole person — mind, body, and spirit — using a comprehensive treatment approach that is research-backed and evidence-based. We have experience treating love, sex, and intimacy issues as well as mental health conditions and substance use disorders. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you find the path to healing.