Loss of Relationships

The life of a sex addict gradually becomes very small, in terms of the number of surrounding loved ones. The freedom of self is impaired. Precious life energies are consumed. The rapacious need for a particular type of experience in the “erotic haze” (See Chapter II) drives the addict to spend untold hours in the world of his addiction. With time, the compulsion begins to strip away all that the person holds dear: close relationships, enjoyable activities and hobbies, trust between himself and his partner, quality time with children, having a spiritual/moral center, commitment to productive, meaningful employment and financial security.


These consequences can include profound depression (sometimes with suicidal thoughts), chronic low self-esteem, shame, self-hatred, hopelessness, despair, helplessness, intense anxiety, loneliness, moral conflict, contradictions between ethical values and behaviors, fear of abandonment, spiritual bankruptcy, distorted thinking, remorse, and self-deceit.

Research shows that 70 to 75% of sexual addicts report having had suicidal thoughts related to their sexual behavior patterns. Often, sex addicts suffer from broken and distant relationships. The American Bar Association reported a whopping 50% of the divorces it handled in 2009 had cybersex implicated in them. Forty percent of sex addicts report severe marital and other relationship problems, and sexual activities outside their primary relationship resulted in severe stress to the relationship and loss of self-esteem for both partners.

Breakdown of the Family

The sex addict is frequently absent (physically and/or emotionally), resulting in a lack of parental role modeling. Pressure is placed on the spouse to do “double duty” as partner and primary parent. Partners of sex addicts can develop their own addictions and compulsions to drugs, food, and spending (for example), in addition to psychosomatic problems, depression, and other emotional difficulties.

Physical Health Issues

Health consequences of sex addiction may include HIV infection, genital herpes, HPV, syphilis, gonorrhea, and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Sex addicts have a highly increased risk of contracting an STD and of passing it along to unknowing spouses or loved ones. Genital injury can result from sexual acting out, addictive sadomasochistic sex can cause physical damage to the body, and automobile accidents can result when the driver’s attention strays from the road due to sexual texting, downloading porn, or sexually cruising other drivers.

Legal Problems

Some sex addicts go to jail, lose their jobs, get sued, or have other financial and legal consequences because of their compulsive sexual behavior. Financial difficulties from the purchase of porn, use of prostitutes, and travel for the purpose of sexual hook-ups and related activities can tax the addict’s financial resources and those of his or her family, as do the expenses of legal representation in divorce cases. Sixty percent of sex addicts report that they have faced financial difficulties, 58% report having engaged in some form of illegal activity, and 83% of sex addicts also had concurrent addictions such as alcoholism, marijuana or other drug abuses, eating disorders, and compulsive gambling. Many sex addicts also abuse alcohol and other drugs. When multiple addictions coexist, untreated sex addiction complicates recovery from chemical dependency and makes relapse to drug use more likely.

Serious legal consequences of sexual addiction can result if the sex addict’s behavior escalates into sexual offenses such as voyeurism, exhibitionism, or inappropriate touching and/or the use of child porn. Sexual harassment in the workplace can be part of a sex addict’s repertoire, and may result in legal difficulties.

Many addicts report that they live in a perpetual fear of exposure. For addicts involved in illegal sexual activities (exhibitionism, voyeurism, etc.) as well as involvement in kiddie porn, arrest, incarceration and public humiliation or prosecution are very real possibilities.

Sexual addicts risk everything for the call of the erotic which promises euphoria and yet never seems to deliver in a real, consistent way and is usually followed by remorse and shame. Is the pleasure worth the consequences? It is when the negative consequences, which are different for everyone, begin to outweigh these brief periods of erotic arousal that the person seeks addiction treatment.

Adapted from The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health


Author's Bio: 

Dorothy Hayden, LCSW, has been treating sex addiction for 15 years. With 30 articles and one e-book, "Total Sex Addiction Recovery -- A Guide to Therapy", she is considered a "thought leader" in the field. She has been interviewed by HBO, CNN and "20/20" about cybersex and sex addiction.