What Is Hypersexuality?

Hypersexual characteristics

Verywell / Laura Porter

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Hypersexuality is also known as compulsive sexual behavior disorder, or more commonly, sex addiction. When a person has an obsessive fixation on sex, sexual acts, and sexual fantasies, they might be hypersexual.

This fixation is typically so severe that it might disrupt a person’s daily functioning. Some research shows that up to 3% to 6% of people are living with some form of sexual addiction disorder or related disorders and that this condition predominantly affects men.

People with hypersexuality might exhibit a host of problematic sexual behaviors like consuming pornographic content excessively, excessive masturbation, or engaging in sexual activities with a large number of partners. The lack of recognition of hypersexuality as a mental disorder has resulted in many people living with the condition without an official diagnosis.

This article covers the signs of hypersexuality, causes, and outlines potential treatment options.

Characteristics of Hypersexuality

Hypersexuality looks different in every individual who has the condition. While one person might primarily struggle with controlling their sexual fantasies, another might struggle with controlling the urge to carry out certain sexual acts like masturbation, for instance.

Some of the most common characteristics that a hypersexual person includes: 

  • Compulsive sexual behavior 
  • Recurring and uncontrollable sexual fantasies 
  • Difficulty establishing and maintaining a relationship with other people, especially a romantic partner because of their preoccupation with sex
  • Inability to get sexual urges under control 
  • Continuing to engage in sexual behaviors and activities even after they’ve caused harm 

Hypersexuality vs. High Sex Drive

A high sex drive is an increased sexual desire. On the other hand, hypersexuality involves out-of-control feelings and urges to have sex as well as high-frequency sexual behavior.

What Causes Hypersexuality?

It’s unclear as to what exactly causes hypersexuality. Research points out the following as possible causes for the condition: 

  • Developing certain conditions: Conditions such as epilepsy are thought to cause damage to some parts of the brain, which in turn could trigger the condition.
  • A chemical imbalance in the brain: The brain controls almost all of our daily functioning, including sexual behavior. A chemical imbalance could either cause a complete lack of interest in sexual urges or behaviors or hypersexuality. There’s some evidence to suggest that a dopamine imbalance could trigger the condition.
  • Medication: According to some researchers, hypersexuality could develop as a side effect of certain medications. Dopamine replacement medications, typically used to treat Parkinson’s disease, have been found sometimes to cause hypersexuality.

In addition to probable causes for the condition, certain risk factors could put some people at a higher risk of developing the condition than others. These include drug or alcohol abuse, a family history of mental health conditions, and sexual abuse. 

Hypersexuality may be linked with ADHD. One study found that people with ADHD reported engaging in a significantly higher number of hypersexual behaviors than people without ADHD.

However, more research is still needed to understand the link between ADHD and hypersexuality.

Diagnosing Hypersexuality

Identifying hypersexuality can be difficult, as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which provides for the diagnosis of several mental health conditions, fails to provide criteria for diagnosing hypersexuality or compulsive sexual behavior.

Some mental health professionals use the diagnostic criteria for conditions such as behavioral addiction to help diagnose hypersexuality. This is because hypersexuality could be considered a form of behavioral addiction or an impulse control disorder

A lot more research needs to be done on the condition to provide exact criteria for diagnosing hypersexuality. However, when a doctor or mental health professional is assessing whether you're experiencing hypersexuality, they often look for the following:

  • Disruption of daily activities: A person's symptoms must interfere with their daily life.
  • Inability to stop: A person experiencing hypersexuality is unable to control their behavior, even despite their attempts. This remains the case even when there are negative consequences to their behavior.
  • Developing a tolerance: A hypersexual person feels the need to engage in sexual behaviors in increasing amounts over time to fulfill their urges.
  • Withdrawal symptoms: A person who is hypersexual will feel nervous and restless if they don't engage in sexual behaviors.
  • Loss of pleasure: One indicator of someone who is hypersexual is that sexual acts don't necessarily bring them pleasure anymore—but they still have the uncontrollable urges to engage in them.

Complications of Hypersexuality

There are potential negative effects of hypersexuality that may impact your physical and emotional health. They include:

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Treatment for Hypersexuality

Like with many other mental health conditions, hypersexuality is most commonly treated with a combination of medications and psychotherapy. 


One of the likely causes of hypersexuality is a chemical imbalance in the brain. Medications can help with this and help alleviate symptoms of the condition. Medications often prescribed to help with hypersexuality include: 

  • Mood stabilizers: Mood stabilizers like Lithobid, Depakote, and Depakene are typically used to treat bipolar disorder. However, some research shows that they could help reduce sexual urges in people who have hypersexuality.
  • Antidepressants: In certain cases, hypersexuality might be brought on by other mental health conditions like depression. Treating the condition triggering hypersexuality could also help control sexual urges and behaviors. SSRIs, in particular, have been prescribed and proven to help people with hypersexuality.
  • Vivitrol: Vivitrol is typically used to treat alcohol and opiate dependence. It could also be used to treat conditions like hypersexuality which is considered to be a behavioral addiction


Psychotherapy provides a person living with hypersexuality with the tools they need to manage their condition. The most common form of psychotherapy used in treating this condition include: 

  • Psychodynamic psychotherapy: The focus of this form of therapy is to make you increasingly aware of your unconscious thoughts and behaviors and what triggers them. 
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): This is a common form of psychotherapy used in treating many mental health conditions. CBT focuses on helping you identify negative thoughts and behaviors and helps you replace them with positive ones.

Coping With Hypersexuality

Many people with hypersexuality report feeling a deep sense of shame or embarrassment. Like with any other mental condition, the right treatment and coping strategies can help you live a healthy life and keep your urges under control.

There’s no reason to feel shame or embarrassment about having a sex addiction. It’s important to set those emotions aside and focus on getting the help you need.

Here are some tips to keep in mind besides the treatment plan a doctor or mental health professional has given you:

  • Stick to your treatment plan strictly to see progress. Don’t suddenly stop treatment because you think you are starting to feel better. This might cause a more severe relapse. If you are on medication consult your doctor before changing or stopping your dose. If you are in therapy, continue going for therapy sessions consistently. 
  • Don’t be ashamed to reach out for help. The sooner you seek help and treatment for your condition, the sooner you get on your path to recovery. Keeping your condition under wrap from friends, family, and your doctor can be damaging and cause the condition to further interfere with your daily functioning.
  • Join a support group. Joining a support group with other people with the condition helps you to remember that you are not alone. You also get to learn better coping strategies from people who might have struggled with the condition for longer than you have. 
  • Remove yourself from triggering situations. On your path to recovery, it’s important to avoid activities and situations that could set you back. For instance, many mental health professionals heavily discourage people with hypersexuality from consuming any pornographic content. 

A Word From Verywell

If you or someone you know is dealing with compulsive sexual behavior, please know that treatment and recovery are possible. You are not alone. A trained mental health professional can help you identify underlying causes and develop a treatment plan to help you move forward.

9 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Toketemu Ohwovoriole
Toketemu has been multimedia storyteller for the last four years. Her expertise focuses primarily on mental wellness and women’s health topics.