Consequences of Sex Addiction and Compulsivity

Posted on March 11th, 2011

Sexual addiction and compulsive sexual thoughts and behavior lead to increasingly serious consequences, both in the mind of the addict and in his or her life. These consequences can include profound depression (sometimes with suicidal thoughts), chronic low self-esteem, shame, self-hatred, hopelessness, despair, helplessness, intense anxiety, loneliness, moral conflict, contradictions between ethical values and behaviors, fear of abandonment, spiritual bankruptcy, distorted thinking, remorse, and self-deceit. Sometimes sex addicts will engage in multiple behaviors with the risk of addiction; for example, combining drinking and drug use or gambling with their sexual behaviors to help ease the pain of their emotional struggles.

Research shows that 70 to 75 percent of sexual addicts report having had suicidal thoughts related to their sexual behavior patterns. Often, sex addicts suffer from broken and distant relationships. Forty percent of sex addicts report severe marital and other relationship problems, and sexual activities outside their primary relationship resulted in severe stress to the relationship and loss of self-esteem for both partners. The sex addict is frequently absent (physically and/or emotionally), resulting in a lack of parental role modeling. Pressure is placed on the spouse to do “double duty” as partner and primary parent. Spouses of sex addicts can develop their own addictions and compulsions to drugs, food, and spending (for example), in addition to psychosomatic problems, depression, and other emotional difficulties.

Health consequences of sex addiction may include HIV infection, genital herpes, HPV, syphilis, gonorrhea, and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Sex addicts have a highly increased risk of contracting an STD and of passing it along to unknowing spouses or loved ones. Genital injury can result from sexual acting out, addictive sadomasochistic sex can cause physical damage to the body, and automobile accidents can result when the driver’s attention strays from the road due to sexual texting, downloading porn, or sexually cruising other drivers.

Some sex addicts go to jail, lose their jobs, get sued, or have other financial and legal consequences because of their compulsive sexual behavior. Financial difficulties from the purchase of porn, use of prostitutes, and travel for the purpose of sexual hook-ups and related activities can tax the addict’s financial resources and those of his or her family, as do the expenses of legal representation in divorce cases. Sixty percent of sex addicts report that they have faced financial difficulties, 58% report having engaged in some form of illegal activity, and 83% of sex addicts also had concurrent addictions such as alcoholism, marijuana or other drug abuses, eating disorders, and compulsive gambling. Many sex addicts are also addicted to alcohol and other drugs. When multiple addictions coexist, untreated sex addiction complicates recovery from chemical dependency and makes relapse to drug use more likely.

Serious legal consequences of sexual addiction can result if the sex addict’s behavior escalates into sexual offenses such as voyeurism, exhibitionism, or inappropriate touching and/or the use of child porn. Sexual harassment in the workplace can be part of a sex addict’s repertoire, and may result in legal difficulties.

Adapted from The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health

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