Scrolling down you will find five different sets of criteria used by professionals and others to diagnose sexual addiction and to categorize and understand the various types of sex addicts.  These are listed under: Criteria for Sex Addiction, Collateral Indicators of Sexual Addictions, Sexually Addictive Behaviors According to Levels of Severity, Cybersex, and Ten Types of Sex Addiction.

Although they may be useful in helping you understand the nature of sexual addiction and how it has been described and defined, these definitions are not the last word on whether anyone is or is not a sex addict.  Please refer to the Self Screening Tests section to further assist you in evaluating your own or someone else’s sexual behavior.  Also feel free to post a question on the Forum, or send me a confidential email by going to the Email Dr. Hatch tab.

Please also note that this section does not relate to many facets of sex addiction including problems with relationships, the presence of other addictions, or brain chemistry that are typically talked about in connection with sexual addiction.  For a fuller elaboration of the ways in which sex addiction has been looked at and analyzed please refer to the blog article titled Nine Aspects of Sex Addiction.

For information about getting help with sex addiction refer to the Options for Getting Help section.

Criteria for Sex Addiction

  • Recurrent failure to resist sexual impulses in order to engage in specific sexual behaviors
  • Frequently engaging in those behaviors to a greater extent or over a longer period of time than intended
  • Persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to stop, reduce, or control those behaviors
  • Inordinate amounts of time spent in obtaining sex, being sexual, or recovering from sexual experiences
  • Preoccupation with sexual behavior or preparatory activities
  • Frequent engaging in the behavior when expected to fulfill occupational, academic, domestic, or social obligations
  • Continuation of the behavior despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent social, financial, psychological, or physical problem that is caused or exacerbated by the behavior
  • The need to increase the intensity, frequency, number, or risk level of behaviors in order to achieve the desired effect; or diminished effect with continued behaviors at the same level of intensity, frequency, number, or risk
  • Giving up or limiting social, occupational, or recreational activities because of the behavior
  • Distress, anxiety, restlessness, or irritability if unable to engage in the behavior


Collateral Indicators of Sexual Addictions

In addition, there are 20 collateral indicators which assist in the assessment of sexual addiction. A minimum of 6 criteria must be met.

  1. Has severe consequences because of sexual behavior
  2. Meets the criteria for depression and it appears related to sexually acting out
  3. Meets the criteria for depression and it appears related to sexual aversion
  4. Reports history of sexual abuse
  5. Reports history of physical abuse
  6. Reports history of emotional abuse
  7. Describes sexual life in self-medicating terms (intoxicating, tension relief, pain reliever, sleep aid)
  8. Reports persistent pursuit of high-risk or self-destructive behavior
  9. Reports sexual arousal to high-risk or self-destructive behavior is extremely high compared to safe sexual behavior
  10. Meets diagnostic criteria for other addictive disorders
  11. Simultaneously uses sexual behavior in concert with other addictions (gambling, eating disorders, substance abuse, alcoholism, compulsive spending) to the extent that the desired effect is not achieved without sexual activity and/or other addiction(s) present
  12. Has history of deception around sexual behavior
  13. Reports other members of the family are addicts
  14. Expresses extreme self-loathing because of sexual behavior
  15. Has intimate relationships that are not sexual
  16. Is in crisis because of sexual matters
  17. Has history of crisis around sexual behavior
  18. Experiences diminished pleasure for same sexual experiences
  19. Comes form a “rigid” family
  20. Comes from a “disengaged” family


Sexually Addictive Behaviors According to Levels of Severity*

Level One:

  • Masturbation
  • Affairs, chronic infidelity, romance addiction
  • Sexual relationships with multiple partners
  • Pornography use and collection (with or without masturbation)
  • Phone sex, cybersex
  • Anonymous sex
  • Prostitution – strip clubs

Level Two:

  • Illegal prostitution
  • Public sex (bathrooms, parks, etc.)
  • Voyeurism – online or live
  • Exhibitionism
  • Obscene phone calls
  • Frotteurism
  • Stalking behaviors
  • Sexual harassment

Level Three:

  • Rape
  • Child molestation
  • Obtaining and viewing child pornography
  • Obtaining and viewing rape, snuff pornography
  • Sexual abuse of older or dependent persons
  • Incest
  • Professional boundary violations (clergy, police officers, teachers, physicians, attorneys,
  • etc.)

*Severity relates to cultural and legal standards regarding violation of rights of another.




Sexuality that is expressed through the use of technology that is Internet – based

The Lure of the Net

  • Accessibility
  • Affordability
  • Anonymity
  • Interactivity
  • Secrecy
  • Perceived Safety


  • Viewing
  • Downloading
  • Printing
  • Exchanging
  • Organizing pornography images/video
  • Free clips and pay sites
  • Self-made porn and picture exchange
  • Live viewing of sexual behaviors

Interpersonal Cybersex

  • Chatting- chat rooms
  • Webcam – exchange of live sexual video, pictures, group sex
  • Voyeurism – exhibitionism
  • E-mail – text and picture exchange
  • Cell phones – picture, videos, text messaging
  • Websites – hooking up, anonymous sex
  • Dating sites
  • Longer term cyber-affairs


  • Cybersex may lead to development of sexual compulsivity
  • May escalate to other sexual acting out behaviors
  • May increase risk for boundary violations


Ten Types of Sex Addiction: (Don’t Call it Love, 1992, Patrick Carnes)

  1. Voyeurism – Usually means objectifying the other person, so it is not a personal relationship.
  2. Exhibitionism – From a relationship perspective, it is introducing oneself in an inappropriate way or seeking attention from others with no intent of going further, which is to tease.
  3. Seductive Role Sex – Often there is a fear of abandonment so having more than one relationship is away to prevent the hurt they are sure they will receive. They are crippled in their ability to form lasting bonds and enduring relationships.
  4. Trading Sex – If a prostitute is a sex addict, meaning that they found sex more pleasurable with clients than in personal relationships and are “hooked on the life”, it represents a significant distortion of normal courtship. The goal is to simulate flirtation, demonstration, and romance. What actually happens in most cases is about replication of childhood sexual abuse in which the child gained power in a risky game of being sexual with the caregiver.
  5. Intrusive Sex – People who engage in intrusive sex, such as touching people in crowds or making obscene phone calls, are really perverting the touching and foreplay dimensions of courtship. Their behaviours represent both intimacy failure and individuation difficulties.
  6. Fantasy Sex – Many sex addicts find refuge in fantasy sex because other forms of acting out are simply too complicated, too risky, or too much effort. It is about fear of rejection, fear of reality, and reduction of anxiety.
  7. Paying for Sex – Here, sex addicts are willing participants in simulated intimacy. They are focused, however, on the touching, foreplay, and intercourse without the hassle of a relationship. Often, the failure is about the sex addict’s inability to communicate feelings to his/her partner or to be willing to work on his/her own attractiveness behaviours.
  8. Anonymous Sex – Having to experience fear in order for arousal or sexual initiation. You do not have to attract, seduce, trick, or even pay for sex. It is just sex. Frequently for sex addicts, part of the high is the risk of unknown persons and situations.
  9. Pain Exchange Sex – For a sex addict to only be aroused if someone is hurting them is a distortion of what goes into sexual and relationship health. Specifically, touching, foreplay, and intercourse become subordinated to some dramatic story line that is usually a re-enactment of a childhood abuse experience.
  10. Exploitive Sex – Addicts in this category will use “grooming” behaviour, which is to carefully build the trust of the unsuspecting victim. Attraction, flirtation, demonstration, romance, and intimacy are all used. Arousal is dependent on the vulnerability of another

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