• 'No Sex' The explosive documentary about abstinence: "We've already had sex with some couples and we don't really like it"
  • Mindfulsex or sexual mindfulness: does mindfulness in sex increase pleasure?

Just because you really like to have sex doesn't mean you have an addiction. Moreover, I would say that it is something natural, pleasure is a positive reinforcement that invites us to repeat behaviors, both in sex, as in food or in any other area that can generate satisfaction.

Ignorance invites us to associate it with vice or perversion, but sex addiction presents a quite different and complex pattern, which goes beyond mere pleasure.


The cycle of sexual addiction is based on three main aspects: emotional discomfort, sexual behaviors as a response of avoidance to this and momentary relief, by the feeling of emerging well-being.

But the discomfort would reappear, with feelings of guilt, anger, shame, lack of control, frustration, disgust or others, starting the cycle again. Because sex doesn't solve everything, even if we sometimes believe so.

Sex is not satisfying in the long run if it is used as a band-aid, which covers wounds but does not heal them. And like any other addiction, this one will stay with you for life. However, it differs from other substance addictions, for example, because it has to live with an issue as natural and healthy in the human being as it is to generate bonds and maintain sexual relationships. An added difficulty that could trigger relapses, but which has not been renounced; as it is done when addiction is a substance.

"4% of patients who enter have sex addiction," they say from the RECAL Clinic. A not inconsiderable percentage considering the large number of existing addictions.

This center for the treatment of addictions founded by Maximilian of Habsburg, among other patrons of the RECAL Foundation, is dedicated to the reintegration into society of those affected by addiction to any type of substance or behavior.


The problem is its popularity, which grows in Spain, especially in men between 30 and 40 years old.

Undoubtedly, it is surprising to know that half of those admitted for sex addiction in 2022, mostly men, were sexdoping, a term coined by the RAE to name chemsex, as it is popularly known to have sex under the influence of drugs. Substances are used to increase the duration and feeling of pleasure, overcome prejudices and hide emotional problems. These figures are more striking in communities such as Catalonia or Madrid, due to their larger population. "The intoxication of these substances helps them to disinhibit themselves and cover problems such as low self-esteem, emotional discomfort, non-acceptance of sexual orientation or a difficult situation in childhood," says María Quevedo de la Peña, Director of the RECAL Clinic.

In terms of mental health, 51% had dual pathology, i.e. addiction and personality disorder or mental illness. 40% had to do with mood and 34% with anxiety.


To determine if you have any addiction to sex, as it is popularly known, you would have to meet certain diagnostic criteria, much more elaborate than the assessment of your level of passion or sexual desire. Like any other disorder, you would need proper treatment, because your life will be dramatically affected, even if you were not aware of it.

Depending on the classification of diagnostic criteria we use, we could find this disorder with different terminology: Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder, Hypersexuality, Hypersexual Disorder or sex addiction, which would be the popular term.

The main evaluation and detection criteria would be:

  • Frequency: Time consumed by sexual fantasies, urges, or behaviors repetitively interferes with other important (non-sexual) goals, activities, and obligations.
  • Escape responses: These participate repetitively in response to dysphoric moods, such as anxiety, depression, boredom or irritability; or in response to stressful life events.
  • Lack of control: Repetitive but fruitless efforts are made to control or significantly reduce these sexual fantasies, urges, or behaviors.
  • Risk exposure: Repetitive sexual behaviors without regard to the risk of physical or emotional harm to oneself or others.
  • Discomfort and vital affectation: There is clinically significant personal distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning, associated with the frequency and intensity of these sexual fantasies, urges, or behaviors.
  • Origin: Which are not due to the direct physiological effect of an exogenous substance; a drug of abuse or a medication.

Therefore, we are facing a disorder associated with the inability to control impulses, where it is about 'resolving', or escaping frustrations, through the instant gratification offered by sexual pleasure, either using fantasy, masturbation or any other sexual practice, genital or not, such as any erotic preference, paraphilia or fetish.

This can be a generalized disorder, associated with any sexual behavior, or specific, related to a specific practice, which is usually the most common; such as masturbation, porn, paid sex or prostitution, with prostituted people. But also associated with the context and the level of morbidity generated; such as exhibitionism or having sex in public, voyeurism, which is known as being a peeping tom; or other behaviors in which prohibition or risk play an important role in the activation of desire, as is the case with pathological infidelity, for example. We can find infinite combinations between these and other practices, sometimes unimaginable for the general population.

Of course, to obtain a good diagnosis you should always go to a professional in psychiatry or clinical psychology. If you identify with some of the above criteria, do not hesitate to ask for help, if possible before it takes its toll on your health and your world.


The ease that applications allow to organize sexual encounters is such that they have become one of the main means of contact. According to RECAL, they have not only facilitated sex addiction, but the practice of this together with drug use, increasing the number among addicts of sexually transmitted infections such as HIV, HCV (Hepatitis C), syphilis, chlamydia, candidiasis, Hepatitis B, genital herpes, gonorrhea or HPV (human papillomavirus) ... According to the Study of 'Imagine More' and 'Positive Support', most infections occur when sharing injection material (7.9%) or roller (84%) intravenously or snorted (slamsex).

"These data indicate the importance of raising awareness about chemsex as a public health problem, especially in men who have sex with men, where there is greater indifference. This type of behavioral addiction should be treated, as well as substance addictions, with the aim of reducing the incidence of the most undesirable consequences of chemsex," concludes María Quevedo, director of Clínica RECAL.

Ana Sierra is a psychologist and sexologist.

  • Sex
  • Psychology
  • HBPR

According to the criteria of The Trust Project

Learn more