The Sexual Addiction Treatment and Training Institute (SATTI)
One Patchin Place, New York, New York 10011  •  (212) 366 -1490 / (646) 306 - 6056


1.  What is the definition of sexual addiction? 
Sexual addiction is defined as engaging repetitively in compulsive sexual behavior and/or obsessive sexual fantasy despite the fact that there are serious adverse consequences in a major life area.  Professional status, reputation, physical health, financial security, relationship stability, family life, and emotional and spiritual well-being are all risked in the pursuit of a sexual high. The sex addict is someone who has lost control over his or her sexual behavior.  As the addiction progress, the addict often adds in alcohol and drugs such as cocaine, crystal meth, and crack to potentiate the effects of the sexual behavior.  More extreme behaviors may also be added. 

Despite promises to self and others, the sex addict is unable to stop the self-destructive, downward spiral. This loss of control is a deeply shaming and frightening experience, which drives the sex addict deeper into secrecy and isolation.  Living a double life means that the sex addict becomes less and less able to tolerate authentic intimate contact with the people in his or her life who matter most.  Productivity at work, social and family life, and financial prudence all become secondary as sexual behavior become the central organizing principle of the sex addict’s life. 

2.  Isn’t sexual addiction just another name for promiscuity?  
Sexual addiction is not about sex, any more than alcoholism is about thirst.  It is not defined by the nature of the sexual behaviors, the frequency of the behaviors, or the number of sexual partners. Although promiscuity may be one of the acting-out behaviors that sex addicts engage in, it is not a defining characteristic.  Sex addicts may, for example, be primarily addicted to pornography, and therefore engage mostly in solitary sexual behavior.  Sexual addiction can occur even within a monogamous relationship, when sex is used to numb painful feelings rather than to deepen a connection with a partner.  For the sex addict, sex is more about pain relief than it is about pleasure or true sexual desire.  

3.  What’s the difference between a sex addict and someone who just has a normally high sex drive?  
Healthy sexuality is grounded in desire and sexual appetite, and its goals generally include pleasure, emotional and physical satisfaction, and connection.  Sexual addiction, in contrast, is behavior that is repeated despite adverse consequences—guilt, shame, isolation, for example–and is driven by an attempt to reduce emotional and spiritual pain.  Frequency of sexual behavior is not a determining factor in diagnosing sexual addiction.  Negative consequences are.  

4.  How many sex addicts are there and how many people does their behavior affect?  
Because sexual addiction is still such an unacknowledged societal and mental health issue, estimates are hard to rely on, although some experts say that 10 to 12 % of the population struggles with this problem.  Give the enormous size of the commercial sex industry (pornography alone is a $100 billion industry worldwide), which is at least partly fueled by sexual addiction, those estimates may be low. The sex addict’s behavior is estimated to have an adverse effect on a minimum of 5 people, including family members, friends, and employers.  Marital discord, health concerns, absenteeism and loss of productivity at work, and financial difficulties are all problems that may be related to an active sexual addiction.  

5.  Isn’t sexual addiction a male problem rather than something that affects women?  
Both men and women may become sex addicts. The root causes of sexual addiction include childhood trauma and abuse, addiction in the family of origin, and inadequate coping skills, and these factors are equally likely to occur in both males and females. , However, because the female sex addict has moved so far beyond societal norms for women, her feelings of shame and guilt may be even more intense than male addicts’.  Although some female sex addicts have multiple partners, just as many male addicts do, many women confine their acting-out to engaging in sexual behaviors related to the internet.  Cybersex provides a degree of anonymity and a relative degree of safety for women that going out looking for sexual partners would not.  

6.  What are the signs and symptoms someone else should look for in a person who is a sex addict?  
Because the sex addict lives a secret life, it may be difficult to identify sexual addiction in a significant other or a co-worker.  Although none of the following signs and symptoms is a definitive diagnostic factor, a constellation of these factors may suggest the presence of an active sexual addiction:  constant use of sexual humor, sexualization of nonsexual situations, many short-term relationships, inexplicable financial problems, inappropriately or “accidentally” revealing clothing, diminished sexual interest in a partnership, repetitive health concerns, depression, absenteeism, lack of participation in previously enjoyed familial or social events, and a use of sexuality as an answer to all problems.  

7.  What about the spouses and partners of sex addicts?  Do they also have a problem? 
Before a sexual addiction surfaces for full acknowledgment, those closely involved with a sex addict may be oblivious to the presence of the  problem or may have only a vague sense that something is amiss in the relationship.  Although an important diagnostic factor in sexual addiction is difficulty in combining intimacy and sexuality in a relationship (either intimacy is present while sexuality is not or sexuality is present while intimacy is not),  partners of sex addicts may tolerate an inadequate or incomplete relationship because they too have difficulty in experiencing relationships of that depth.  Studies have show that sex addicts and their partners have very similar childhood histories.  Both members of the couple need to become involved in a recovery process if the relationship is to survive the discovery of a sexual addiction.  

8.  Is there treatment for sexual addiction?  
With qualified professional help, sex addicts are able to make full recoveries and reestablish productive and stable lives.  For many sex addicts, correct diagnosis of their problem and the knowledge that they are not the only ones who suffer from this addiction provides enormous relief.  Motivation to engage in treatment is generally strong, because the sex addict has been living an unmanageable life in which sex and sexual fantasy have long since ceased to provide pleasure. 

Intensive outpatient treatment, including psychodeducational groups, individual and group therapy, and marital therapy, along with 12-Step participation, is often sufficient to help the sex addict to establish an ongoing recovery process. Short-term treatment goals include helping the sex addict to achieve and maintain sexual sobriety, develop social skills, and reconnect with family and community; treatment goals of longer-term therapy include helping the addict to heal from childhood abuse and neglect, learn to tolerate and value intimacy, and integrate healthy sexuality into his or her relationships.  Concomitant treatment of other addictions often needs to be a part of the plan since approximately 40% of sex addicts also are addicted to alcohol and such drugs as cocaine, crystal meth, and crack.  

9.  With alcoholism, you just give up the drug.  What do you do with sex addiction–give up sex?  
Healthy sexuality, within the context of a mutually committed relationship, is a major goal of sexual addiction recovery.  Because many sex addicts have been sexually or physically abused in childhood, sexuality is sometimes problematic for the recovering addict.  Healing of childhood trauma is a necessary precursor to being able to approach sexuality with confidence and trust in sober situations.  Many sex addicts are sexually naïve or unaware, despite the fact that they may have had multiple partners during their acting-out years.  Basic sexual education as well as the development of an ability to tolerate vulnerability are also necessary for the integration of healthy sexuality into the recovering sex addict’s life.  

10.  Isn’t sexuality a private matter?  Why should we care whether or not someone is a sex addict
Sex is a private matter; sexual addiction is not.  When the head of a household secretly drains the family’s finances because he patronizes prostitutes, when a respected politician is caught in a sexual sting, when an executive sexually harasses her subordinates, when a clergyman is promiscuous among his congregation, when the president of a university loses his post because he is caught making obscene phone calls, when a parent goes cruising in the middle of the night, when a sports hero boasts in the media of having more than a thousand sexual conquests, we, our children, and our society are affected.  And these are just a few examples of the devastating impact of sexual addiction on our corporate, athletic, criminal justice. political, religious, and family institutions. 

Do you have other questions that we haven’t addressed?  Please contact us at and tell us your concerns.  We would like to include your thoughts and questions in our upcoming teleseminar.