Sex can be as addictive to some as drugs are to others. This is when there is loss of control and willingness to risk any kind of consequence for a pleasure on which you are so hooked you cannot stop. As with other addictions, having sex can then be a way to escape from something and to avoid facing facts. As such it is a form of alienation from that problem. It may constitute an effort to forget. Such an urge for oblivion marks a clear boundary where addiction begins and appetite ends. For some couples seeking sex therapy it has been found that "getting enough sex" translates into avoiding tensions and feelings within the relationship. They may use sex (and each other) to keep from having to deal with themselves. In some cases the partners believe that sex is something they "deserve" and that their partner "owes" it them. Being deprived (not getting a "fix") can raise underlying feelings of lack of self-worth, neediness and, even, abandonment.
One side-product of the revolution in morals and behaviour since the 1960s is the common belief that an active sex life is an essential part of good physical and psychological health.
The essence of all addiction is the addicts' experience of powerlessness over a compulsive behavior, resulting in their lives becoming unmanageable. The addict is out of control and experiences tremendous shame, pain and self-loathing. The addict may wish to stop yet repeatedly fails to do so. The unmanageability of addicts' lives can be seen in the consequences they suffer: losing relationships, difficulties with work, arrests, financial troubles, a loss of interest in things not sexual, low self-esteem and despair.
Some sexually addictive behavior patterns may include: excessive flirting, dancing, or personal grooming to be seductive; wearing provocative clothing whenever possible (a form of exhibitionism); changing one's appearance via excessive dieting, excessive exercise, and/or reconstructive surgery to be seductive; exposing oneself in a window or car; making sexual advances to younger siblings, clients, or others in subordinate power positions; seeking sexual partners in high-risk locations; multiple extramarital affairs; disregard of appropriate sexual boundaries, e.g. considering a married man, one's boss, or one's personal physician as appropriate objects of romantic involvement; trading sex for drugs, help, affection, money, social access, or power; having sex with someone they just met at a party, bar or on the internet forms of anonymous sex; compulsive masturbation; and exchanging sex for pain or pain for sex.
More and more people seems to be using sex not as a means of relating but as a way of getting a fix. In 1993 it was estimated that some 300,000 people in the USA were in therapy in an effort to rid themselves of sexual addiction. Like alcohol and drug dependency, the problem tends to run in families. 87 percent of sex addicts in one US survey claimed that other members of their families were also compulsive about sex or had some other form of addiction.
Most sexually addicted women have not had parental role modeling for how to have emotional intimacy in nonsexual ways. Research has shown that there often is a combination of rigidity and lack of emotional support in the sex addict's family of origin. The majority of women sex addicts were sexually abused in childhood - 78% in one study.
In 1999, various estimates were that 4-6% of the US population were sexually compulsive.