Sex Addiction: A Psychological Disorder or an Excuse for Infidelity in a Relationship?

Updated on July 22, 2017

There has been a lot of speculation in recent years as to whether sex can be considered an addiction, especially when there is Infidelity in a relationship. There have been many examples in the news of celebrities suddenly “going to rehab” after such an incidence in their relationship. There are now more treatment centers that focus exclusively on this diagnosis than ever before. This is surprising considering it is currently not recognized as a diagnosis at all in the psychology field. Has it become just an escape route to be able to cover a person’s actions? Or is sex addiction a real psychological disorder that cannot be helped because of a true chemical imbalance?

While addictions to substances have real and tangible evidences of what the chemicals do to the brain, it is difficult to decipher what is beyond the person’s control, and what just comes down to personal choice when talking about sex addiction. Is this term one that was just made up by the psychological community to be able to have more diagnoses to treat? When it comes down to it, treatments cost money. If you need treatment for an “addiction”, someone will financially benefit from your condition. If you just Google “sex addiction”, the first thing you will see in the feed are a number of treatment centers that specialize in sex addiction therapy. So have we taken one more personality defect and given it an official label to be able to treat individuals, and at the same time give them excuses for their behaviors? Let us look at just a few aspects as to why this “addiction” has become one of the most contemporary diagnoses as of lately. Let us also explore the aftermath of this diagnosis for the victim in the relationship, and what it looks like to deal with not only being deceived, but also told that their partner had no control over their actions.

What is Sex Addiction?

Defining exactly what sex addiction is has been a controversy not only in the psychological community but also within society as a whole. We state that we are “addicted” to a number of things, some just in random conversation, and others as a way of explaining abnormal behaviors. When we say that we are addicted to something, as in “I am addicted to tacos”, it indicates that there is a weakness that cannot be helped by that individual, and that their behavior should not be held as accountable when in situations where that person may be exposed to their weakness. The fact that it can be said that we are exposed to sex every day and this weakness leaves a lot open to the idea that sex is so prevalent everywhere we go and look that it is logical that it can become an addiction. The psychological community, however, has not up to this point validated that sex addition is a true diagnosis, per its refusal to include the disorder in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual for Psychiatric Disorders. The main focus of whether or not to include the term went back to our original definition of addiction in which a person needs to ingest a substance that reacts chemically in their body in order to become “addicted” to it, and since sex is obviously not a chemical that is ingested, the confusion lies still to the root definition of what addiction really means.

With sex addiction, the lines between addiction and free will of choice become very blurred. The sex addict is one thought of to have absolutely no control over their impulses, and cannot decipher right from wrong, even if they are damaging and risking their relationship. It almost comes down to an animalistic quality, as though all primary urges must be acted upon regardless of the consequences. The sex addict is made to be looked at with empathy for their sickness and encouraged to seek help to control their behaviors.

What does this mean for the wronged partner?

With all of these theories and labels being tossed around in psychological circles, what is the partner of the offending party supposed to do when they are told, presumably by a professional, that their mate is incapable of making healthy and positive choices in regards to their sexual actions? The offended partner is left feeling angry, bitter and possibly shamed, but at the same time supposed to show the empathy and care to their partner that they need in such a difficult time for them, as they are suffering from an addiction that is beyond their control. The main focus of the treatment is to take care of the perpetrator of the infidelity. The partner may not feel as though they have a right to feel angry and hurt because this could regress their partner’s progress in the therapy process. They may be told to focus on the present and that the indiscretions of the addicted person were that acts of a sick individual in need of help, and to continue to be resentful over these things can hinder progress.

They are left not only feeling betrayed, but also, in a way, told that they do not have the same rights to be as mad as they want to be, because their partner was addicted to sex. There is not a lot being said about how this label affects the partner that is told her loved one is a sex addict. This person is left scrambling to make some sort of sense of what a sex addict is, but also how this label affects them as well. If they choose to stay, will they forever be in a relationship with a sex addict? Is there a chance to re-build trust with a sex addict? It seems that there has been much put into the treatment methods of the sex addict with less emphasis on the impact on the relationship and the betrayed partner. I believe it should also be noted that there are not many individuals that claim to be a sex addict, and then seek and receive treatment before an infidelity happens. It is only after the partner finds out about an infidelity, or many, that the addict gets intervention for their "condition".

What does this mean for treatment strategies?

Considering these ideas, is it plausible to say that sex can be an addiction? That question is, of course, still very highly up for debate. What is most important in a relationship where infidelity occurs is that both partners are being heard, and working on communication and strategies to prevent further indiscretions. For the partner of a “sex addict” however, the label also comes with many more questions than answers. We may still need to define what sex addiction is firstly before we can conclude how to best treat the trust violated partner. If this results in a separate treatment strategy, we will just have to wait and see.

What do you think?

Do you believe in sex addiction?

See results

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Nancy Ryan profile imageAUTHOR

      Nancy Ryan 

      20 months ago from California USA

      I agree. The term "addiction" is thrown around a lot for many different behaviors.

    • dashingscorpio profile image


      20 months ago

      People can become addicted to anything!

      Most addictions are considered valid if the individual lacks impulse control, risks employment, relationships with loved ones, can't stop thinking about the activity when they're not engaged in it, or becomes financially unstable because it.

      Unfortunately however there are people who will claim to be addicted to gambling, sex, porn, weed, or whatever to garner potential empathy. Some people say: "Once a cheater always a cheater." As if one can become addicted to cheating!

      There have been books written about "food addicts" and even "love addicts". Whatever gives one pleasure has the potential of becoming a habit. Whenever a habit controls your thinking and actions you take it's clear you are addicted.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)