Sex addiction and love addiction

Many different things can become addictive, and that includes sex and love.

What is sex addiction?

Sex addiction is described by the relationship counselling service Relate as any sexual activity that feels out of control.

It could involve sex with a partner, but it may also mean activities such as viewing pornography, masturbation, visiting prostitutes, or using sex chat lines.

For many people, these habits don't cause them a problem. But sex addicts are unable to control these urges and actions, despite the problems they may cause in their relationships, finances and professional lives.

This addiction is similar to substance abuse because it is caused by the powerful chemical substances released during sex.

What is love addiction?

Love addicts become dependent on the emotional stability provided by romantic partners. They often have low self-esteem and lack self-identity, and their addiction can result in obsessive, controlling behaviour.

The cause of love addictions and sex addictions is often rooted in childhood or adolescence. Early trauma, neglect or depression may be factors.

The consequences of sex addiction and love addiction are varied. Sex addicts and love addicts will typically have long-term relationship and intimacy problems, but the addiction can also affect them financially, professionally, physically and socially.

The recovery process for sex addicts and love addicts is similar to that of substance addictions. It involves identifying and changing behaviour that's painful and damaging.

Could you or someone you know have a problem?

Relate offers advice, relationship counselling, sex therapy, workshops, mediation and consultations. It provides support face-to-face, by phone and through its website.

Read Relate's advice on recognising the signs of sexual addiction.

Real story

Read about how Clare Catford's problems with love addiction began in her teens and how she got help to treat the problem.

Get help

If you are concerned that you or someone you know has a sex or love addiction, see your GP for further help and advice.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is often used to treat addiction. Find out what it involves and watch a video of an expert explaining how it can help.

Association for the Treatment of Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity represents therapists who are specifically trained to support those affected by sex addiction.

Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous follows a 12-step model similar to that of Alcoholics Anonymous. Visit the website for more information and to find a meeting in your area.

Sex Addicts Anonymous in the UK runs local support groups where people can help each other recover from sex addiction. 

Sex and love addiction

An expert explains the difference between sex and love addiction and where to get help, while Clare describes how she dealt with love addiction, the causes and the psychological and physical symptoms she experienced.

Media last reviewed: 03/05/2016

Next review due: 03/05/2018

Page last reviewed: 23/04/2015

Next review due: 23/04/2017


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