Women and Sex Addiction: Identifying Risky Behavior Patterns

Woman on mountain thinking about her Process Addictions

If you are anything like me, there have been many times in life that you have chosen a path, a course of action and proceeded on your way.

After a time you learn something new or find yourself slowing to a crawling pace, and you start to wonder if you “got it right” back at the beginning? Hindsight is a wonderful course corrector—now if only we had a time machine!

Sexual addiction is a path that started appealing, and then hindsight says, “maybe not.” This article is giving you hindsight now!

Confusion about “Sexual Addiction”

This topic has been widely debated in the psychological community. Confusion is rampant when attempting to figure out what sexual addiction might be.

Different terminology including “compulsion,” “impulsivity” and “addiction” are all used to describe different facets of a very painful behavioral, emotional, cognitive struggle that many people face (1).

One thing that experts agree on is the destructive and harmful cycles that sexual behavioral problems can create.

Women engage in sexual addiction differently than men, yet, there are common themes. It is important for us to understand both the common and diverging harmful patterns that are found.

Addiction Recovery Basics

Those in recovery often seek to stop a number of common behaviors. The important tasks that are encountered include cutting off rituals that lead towards addictive actions, altering self-statements such as “I deserve this, and nothing better.”

Refraining from acting out behaviors, learning new coping skills for emotional distress, building community and accountability, and finding a set of values and goals to guide a fulfilling life are also essential responsibilities.

W-SAST as a Guide

There have been a number of questionnaires and self-tests developed specifically for women that help ascertain whether an addiction is present and if sex addiction treatment may be necessary.

So what are the questions used to decide if women might need treatment? Here are a few from the W-SAST test. I would urge you to find the test for yourself.

  • Where you sexually abused as a child?
  • Do you regularly purchase romance novels or sexually explicit magazines (3)
  • Do you often find yourself preoccupied with sexual thoughts or romantic daydreams?
  • Do you have times when you act out sexually followed by periods of celibacy (no sex at all)? (3)
  • Have you ever felt degraded by your sexual behavior? (4)

These questions are cleverly designed to move beyond a surface level response and help women consider the multi-faceted experience that underlies sexual addiction.

Girl by the ocean

While some of these apply to men, they have been selected based on research surrounding women.

Now we shall look more closely at some key common harmful patterns of behavior that are indicative of women and sexual addiction.


Times of isolation can come in bouts in response to sexual activity—a shame response.  Or it can be a sustain dis-engagement with the world due to low self-esteem and feelings of anxiety or depression. If you find yourself isolated from peers, friends or family, recovery may be needed.

Unhealthy Sexual Partners

Women are more prone than men to stay with unhealthy, abusive and neglectful partners. The sexual contact is prized and frequent, but the emotional connection and care of a genuinely loving relationship are missing.

This dysfunctional relationship could occur with multiple partners or one consistent partner. Either way, it is the hyper-sexualized nature of the relationship that dominates.

Injurious Secret Self-stimulation

When an addiction takes hold, it can be very hard to stop behaviors that bring relief, so much so that genital damage can occur in the context of women and sexual addiction.

The pursuit of relief (and pleasure) can escalate to requiring increased physical actions and can lead to behaviors you might not otherwise choose to pursue.

Mood Swings (often related to sexual activity)

Is your sense of energy and mood dependent of being enjoyed or sexually engaged? Are you boosted by sex, and fall flat if it doesn’t occur?

Sexual activity can be a mood regulator in response to stress, anxiety, finances and more. The vital connection between sexual addiction and its regulating effect can be seen if you simply start to track your daily experiences.

Provocative Dress and Action

While deemed cliché and reductionist, provocative dress and flirtatious actions can indeed be related to and used to entice sexual attention to feed an addiction.

If you think you may struggle with any of these behaviors, don’t let denial interrupt your need for support. Rather, consider this: “Addictive sexual behavior is consistently devoid of emotional closeness and is characterized by obsessive self-gratification” (2).

Woman with hatTherefore any of the actions mentioned about could be indicators that sex addiction treatment is needed. Often, an addict (or suspected addict) is not the best judge of what the core concerns may be due to denial, minimizing and shame.

Furthermore, an addiction may have helped you cope, so it becomes a real challenge to give it up and escape its harmful effects.

If this discussion has led you to question your behaviors or grow concerned that you may be struggling sexually, it is wise to seek support and consultation from a trained professional. They will be able to help you decipher what is happening and how you can best move forward.

Paul LoosemoreAbout the author: Paul Loosemore, MA PLPC, author of “21 Movements Towards Life” – The step-by-step guide to recovering from sexual addiction or pornography. Paul works as a mental health counselor, and consults with those who wish to recover from Sexual Addiction—both individuals and couples. He is the founder of www.stopsexualaddiction.com where you can find his guide, or contact him.


(1) Gold, S. N., & Heffner, C. L. (1998). Sexual addiction: Many conceptions, minimal data. Clinical Psychology Review, 18(3), 367-381. doi:10.1016/s0272-7358(97)00051-2
(2) Coleman-Kennedy, C., & Pendley, A. (2002). Assessment and diagnosis of sexual addiction. Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, 8(5).
(3) http://www.rocklandingtherapy.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Sexual_Addiction_Test.pdf
(4) http://www.loveandaddiction.com/quiz_4.htm

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on October 1, 2017
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on October 1, 2017.
Published on AddictionHope.com

About Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC

Jacquelyn Ekern founded Addiction Hope in January, 2013, after experiencing years of inquiries for addiction help by visitors to our well regarded sister site, Eating Disorder Hope. Many of the eating disorder sufferers that contact Eating Disorder Hope also had a co-occurring issue of addiction to alcohol, drugs, and process addictions.