Compulsive sexual behavior
Compulsive sexual behavior
Compulsive sexual behavior — sometimes called hypersexuality, hypersexual disorder, nymphomania or sexual addiction — is an obsession with sexual thoughts, feelings or behaviors that affects your health, job, relationships or other parts of your life.
Compulsive sexual behavior may involve a normally enjoyable sexual experience that becomes an obsession. Or compulsive sexual behavior may involve fantasies or activities outside the bounds of culturally, legally or morally accepted sexual behavior.
No matter what it's called or the exact nature of the behavior, untreated compulsive sexual behavior can damage your self-esteem, relationships, career and other people. But with treatment and self-help, you can manage compulsive sexual behavior and keep your urges in check.
Compulsive sexual behavior may consist of generally acceptable sexual acts taken to an extreme. These behaviors become problems when they become an obsession that's disruptive or harmful to you or others.
Other compulsive sexual behaviors are outside the bounds of commonly accepted conduct. Called paraphilias, these behaviors range from compulsive cross-dressing to having sexual desires toward children (pedophilia).
Compulsive sexual behavior symptoms vary in type and severity. Some signs that you may be struggling with compulsive sexual behavior include:
When to see a doctor
Here are some questions to ask yourself as you decide whether to seek professional help:
Seek treatment right away
It's unclear what causes compulsive sexual behavior. Causes may include:
Compulsive sexual behavior can occur in both men and women, though it's more common in men. It can also affect anyone regardless of sexual preference — whether heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual.
Compulsive sexual behavior often occurs in people who have:
There's a broad range of sexual activities that can be warning signs of compulsive sexual behavior. Examples include:
Compulsive sexual behavior can have numerous negative consequences that affect both you and others. You may:
Preparing for your appointment
You can seek help for compulsive sexual behavior in a number of ways. To begin, you may:
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor or mental health provider.
What you can do
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions ahead of time will help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out.
Some questions you might want to ask your doctor include:
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Your doctor, psychiatrist or other mental health provider will do a psychological evaluation, which may involve answering a number of questions about:
Your mental health provider may also request input from family and friends.
How compulsive sexual behavior is diagnosed
Because compulsive sexual behavior doesn't have its own diagnostic category in the DSM, it's often diagnosed as a subcategory of another mental health condition. In many cases, compulsive sexual behaviors are generally accepted sexual activities taken to an extreme. These may be diagnosed as a subcategory of another mental health condition, such as an impulse control disorder or an obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Diagnosis of sexual behavior as a paraphilia
Whatever the nature of your compulsive sexual behavior, push past your fear, shame or embarrassment and seek a professional evaluation. Getting the right diagnosis can be a relief and can guide treatment that will get your life back on track and save you and the people you care about a lot of anguish.
Treatments and drugs
Treatment for compulsive sexual behavior typically involves psychotherapy, medications and self-help groups. A primary goal of treatment is to help you manage urges and reduce excessive behaviors while maintaining healthy sexual activities.
People with other addictions, severe mental health problems or who pose a danger to others may benefit from inpatient treatment initially. Whether inpatient or outpatient, treatment may be intense at first. And you may find periodic, ongoing treatment through the years helpful to prevent relapses.
Finding the right kind of help
Seeking help for a sexual behavior can be difficult because it's such a deeply personal matter. Try to set aside any shame or embarrassment and focus on the benefits of getting treatment. Remember that you're not alone — many people struggle with sexual urges that are extremely powerful and difficult to manage. Mental health providers understand this and are trained to be understanding, discreet and helpful. Keep in mind, what you say to a doctor or mental health counselor is kept confidential except in cases where you admit to planning or committing a crime or harming yourself or someone else.
You may have to try several medications, or a combination of medications, to find what works best for you with the fewest side effects. Medications used to treat compulsive sexual behavior are often used primarily for other conditions. They include:
Coping and support
Although it may be difficult to overcome compulsive sexual behavior on your own, you can take steps to care for yourself with healthy coping skills while getting professional treatment.
Because the cause of compulsive sexual behavior isn't known, it's not clear how it might be prevented, but a few things may help keep this type of behavior in check:
Last Updated: 2011-09-15
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