Sexual Addiction in Women

Content written by Irwin Goldstein MD


Sexual addiction refers to the state in which the individual reports being unable to manage or being out of control concerning her sexual behavior. In this context, a women with sexual addiction has a problem similar to a woman who is unable to manage her alcohol, drug or other substance addiction.


A sexual addict may have grown up in a neglectful family and thereby may develop unhealthy and negative core beliefs that people do not care about them. A sexual addict may not perceive of herself as a worthwhile human being. A sexual addict may have trouble keeping a stable relationship and may cope with feelings of isolation and weakness by engaging in excessive sexual behavior.


A woman with sexual addictions may have distress about a pattern of repeated sexual relationships involving a succession of lovers who are experienced by the individual only as things to be used. A woman with sexual addiction may have distress over compulsive fixation on an unattainable partner or over compulsive masturbation. In sexual addiction, there are two key features. One is recurrent failure to control the sexual behavior. The other is continuation of the sexual behavior despite detrimental consequences.

Sexual addiction may be associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder, narcissistic-personality disorder and manic-depressive disorder. In sexual addiction, obsession may be progressive and pervasive, and develops along with denial. The woman usually does not see herself as preoccupied. She therefore makes excuses, justifies and blames. Constant repetition of the sexual activity may create a chemically dependent state.

Sexual addicts may be repeatedly and compulsively attempting to escape emotional or physical discomfort by using ritualized, sexualized behaviors including masturbation. Some sex addicts try to connect with others through highly impersonal intimate behaviors such as frequent visits to prostitutes. In sex addiction, there may be a neurochemical changes, similar to an adrenalin rush, that temporarily reduces an individual’s other discomforts.


Women with sexual addiction should seek help from professional therapists and counselors who offer treatment for sexual addiction. There are self-help groups based on the system of Alcoholics Anonymous.