Sex Addiction: What Is It?

Sex addiction is the active using of a sexual behavior, whether it is masturbation, an internet porn addiction, fetishes and/or behavior with self or others in a compulsive life-destroying pattern.

This is a real issue impacting millions of individuals, marriages, and families around the globe.The impact is felt in the life of the addict and his or her surrounding family members and friends. You and the one you love can recover from the damaging effects the addiction can have on your relationship. Whether you are an addict or the partner of an addict: you are not alone and there is hope!

About the Expert

As the President of the American Association for Sex Addiction Therapy (AASAT), Dr. Douglas Weiss has developed the Sex Addiction Training program to train therapists and coaches how to treat sex addiction. This program uses his own methodology and modality, as well as his clinical application for treating sex addiction, providing proven treatment for sex addiction recovery.

6 Types of Sex Addiction

While there are many that understand that a sexual addiction might be at play, few recognize that all sex addictions are not the same.  The reality is that there are six different types of sex addiction and they all have an impact on the addict in different ways.  An addict can be one of the six types or any combination of the six types of sex addiction.

Defining the 6 Types

Someone with a biological sex addiction is someone whose excessive masturbation and pornography viewing has high-jacked the sexual response to attaching to images and fantasy. This person may have challenges with relational sex. Although most people have the biological type as one component of their addiction, only about 15 percent (in Dr. Weiss’s experience) are solely biologically based.


Research shows that most sex addicts have suffered some form of past abuse or neglect. This person finds the combination of the messages in the fantasy world and the sexual chemical cocktail to the brain to be a salve for their hurting soul. Simply put, they medicate the past pain in their souls with sexual acting out, which is their form of medicine.

In our clinical experience, 80 percent or more of those who struggle with sex addiction have abandonment, abuse or neglect issues of some type in their past. These painful events will ultimately need to be addressed for the sex addict to fully heal.

The person with this type is looking for a spiritual connection in all the wrong places. In recovery, we talk about our spiritual hole. This person tries sex for this spiritual void and finds it doesn’t scratch the itch over time.


The person with the trauma based sex addiction has experienced sexual trauma(s) as a child or adolescent. This trauma becomes the major repetitive behavior in their addiction.

For the trauma based, the trauma determines the flavor of the sexual addiction. Here trauma work will need to be addressed for the addict to heal.

In a journal article Dr. Weiss wrote called The Prevalence of Depression in Male Sex Addicts Residing in the United States, Weiss discovered that 28% of male sex addicts suffered from depression. People with this type have chemical imbalances in adolescence or young adulthood.  This young person finds the sexual release as a way to medicate or alter their present chemical imbalance. They then use this sexual response regularly and over time unexpectedly create an addiction.


In earlier research we determined 29%  fit into the category of intimacy anorexia as well. This subject is covered in great detail in the Intimacy Anorexia DVD and book.

To be brief, I will list the characteristics of intimacy anorexia. Answer these the way your spouse or partner would answer them about you. If you believe that five or more criteria apply to you, then you are probably an intimacy anorexic.

  1. Withhold love
  2. Withhold praise or appreciation
  3. Control by silence/anger
  4. Criticism causing isolation
  5. Withholding sex
  6. Blaming partner for everything
  7. Staying very busy to avoid partner time
  8. Control/Shame with money issues
  9. Unable to share feelings
  10. Withholding spiritual connection

Many addicts who have been trying to get sober but keep having what I call “flat tire” recovery (relapsing regularly) often are identified as intimacy anorexics. If you have been sober from acting out behaviors for a year but your wife wants to leave you now because “nothing’s changed” you might also be a sexual/emotional anorexic.

Want to Know Which of the 6 Types Apply to You?


Not sure if you’re an addict at all?  Think there might be a problem but your behaviors aren’t severe? Take a look at the Am I A Sex Addict Page.  We’ll ask some questions that will help you think about your situation more in-depth.


We have resources for both the Sex Addict and their Partners.

The Final Freedom

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Helping Her Heal

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Now That I Know

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