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.
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.
Sex addiction is not about the pervert, the exhibitionist or the pornographer, although it can be. It is about neighbours who are hopeless womanizers, sales associates with flirty smiles who cannot behave themselves on the road, power hungry executives for whom success is also hard drinking and sex.
Compulsive sexual behaviours are types of anxiety-based disorders, not addiction. There is no substance involved. You can use it as a metaphor, but that is oversimplifying a complex phenomenon and may blur good assessment of the root cause of the problem and appropriate treatment. What looks like sex addiction is more likely behaviour symptomatic of something else, such as an anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder or manic depression. Calling it 'sex addition' amounts to pop psychology.