Hypersexuality describes a person’s inability to control their sexual behavior, arousal, impulses, or urges to the point of causing distress in their personal, work, or school life.

Healthcare professionals may also refer to hypersexuality as:

  • compulsive sexual behavior disorder
  • excessive sexual behavior
  • sexual addiction
  • hypersexuality disorder

The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th Edition (DSM-5) does not recognize hypersexuality as an official disorder or diagnosis.

The DSM-5 omitted hypersexuality as a direct diagnosis due to a lack of clinical evidence and studies on people living with the condition. Another reason was the possible misuse of the diagnosis in forensic settings.

However, other organizations recognize it as an official diagnosable condition, such as the World Health Organization (WHO)’s International Classification of Diseases, 11th edition (ICD-11).

This article describes what hypersexuality is. It also looks at its characteristics, causes, treatments options, and more.

Green hearts to represent hypersexuality.Share on Pinterest
oxygen/Getty Images

Hypersexuality is a condition in which a person experiences sexual impulses and urges that are persistent and uncontrollable.

This can lead to sexual behaviors that are repetitive and become the central focus of a person’s life. As a result, people may neglect other areas, such as their personal, family, work, or school life.

Several theoretical models exist to explain the behavior, including:

  • Impulsivity model: This equates hypersexuality to an inability to delay sexual satisfaction. However, experts largely dispute this model.
  • Compulsivity model: This model classifies hypersexuality as a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), where sexual thoughts act as obsessions, and the acts or behaviors are the compulsions.
  • Addiction model: This is often considered the most accurate parallel. It indicates that a person living with hypersexuality exhibits symptoms of addiction related to sexual behaviors and can experience symptoms of withdrawal when deprived of the sexual behavior.

How common is it?

The estimated prevalence of hypersexuality is between 2–6%, most commonly affecting males. However, estimates are difficult due to a lack of studies.

According to a 2017 article, hypersexuality can begin as excessive masturbation while watching pornography or generally wanting or needing sex.

However, this can develop into a constant need.

A person with hypersexuality may notice that sexual activities take precedence over everything else in their life. They may exhibit symptoms and behaviors such as:

  • an inability to control or reduce sexual behaviors
  • engaging in sexual behaviors despite adverse consequences, such as failed relationships and issues at work or school
  • engaging in sexual behaviors despite experiencing little to no satisfaction from doing so
  • experiencing increased tension or extreme arousal leading up to the sexual activity, followed by relief or a loss of tension afterward

According to the ICD-11, a person with hypersexuality may take part in various sexual behaviors, including:

  • having sex with others
  • compulsive masturbation
  • consuming pornography
  • participating in cybersex
  • taking part in telephone sex

They may also attend strip clubs.

They may engage in these activities as a result of:

Vs. high libido

Everyone has different levels of libido, and many factors can cause it to fluctuate.

Having a high sex drive is not a concern unless it interferes with a person’s relationships and daily life or mental health.

A person should contact a mental health professional if they think they are experiencing hypersexuality.

Although it is not an official diagnosis according to the DSM-5, the WHO’s ICD-11 recognizes it as a compulsive sexual disorder. This means that psychologists can use the ICD-11, recognized in the United States, to diagnose hypersexuality.

A healthcare professional may diagnose hypersexuality if the person meets the following criteria:

  • They experience a persistent inability to control repetitive sexual urges or impulses that lead to repetitive sexual behavior. A person may manifest this behavior in the following ways:
    • engaging in sexual behaviors to the detriment of health, activities, responsibilities, or personal care
    • being unable to control or reduce the sexual behavior despite numerous attempts
    • engaging in sexual behavior despite negative consequences, such as marital conflict and legal or financial consequences
    • engaging in these behaviors despite gaining no pleasure from them
  • They have been unable to control these intense urges and impulses for over 6 months.
  • There is no other medical condition to account for these behaviors.
  • These behaviors cause significant distress or negatively affect a person’s educational, occupational, familial, or personal life.

The exact cause of hypersexuality is not known. It may be related to a person’s mental and physical health.

Some risk factors may include living with another mental health condition, such as:

  • bipolar disorder
  • tumors and injuries to the frontal lobe of the brain
  • substance use
  • present or past eating disorder
  • medications

A history of sexual abuse, particularly among females, may also contribute.

According to Mental Health America, there is no current standard of care for hypersexuality. However, treatments may include a combination of medications, therapy, and support groups.


A doctor may recommend one or more medications depending on how they view the condition. A doctor may prescribe:


A doctor may recommend cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) or psychodynamic psychotherapy for a person living with hypersexuality.

CBT helps a person change their way of thinking and feeling to better control their behaviors.

Similarly, psychodynamic psychotherapy focuses on helping a person connect with their unconscious thoughts in an attempt to change their behavior.

People can experience periods of heightened sexual desire and activity without it becoming an issue. However, when a person experiences hypersexuality, it can severely impact their life.

People with hypersexuality may:

  • neglect their responsibilities
  • develop unrealistic expectations of sex and relationships
  • feel shame and experience a decrease in their self-esteem

It can also affect other areas of a person’s life, including their relationships and professional or educational lives. Additionally, it can also lead to an increase in engaging in high risk sexual behavior and sexually transmitted infections.

The following may help a person navigate hypersexuality:

  • following the treatment plan
  • identifying and avoiding triggers
  • practicing stress management techniques
  • finding support groups

Support groups may help a person living with hypersexuality achieve their treatment goals. A person’s doctor may be able to provide a list of local support groups that may help a person or their family.

A person who is having difficulty finding mental healthcare may want to use the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)’s treatment locator.

This tool helps a person locate local doctors and facilities that may be able to provide treatment.

Mental Health America notes that a person should contact a mental health professional if they experience the following:

  • They have felt that their sexual urges and fantasies have caused distress or impacted their ability to function.
  • They have wanted to stop and reduce their fantasies, but with no success.
  • In times of stress, depression, boredom, or anxiety, they have turned to their sexual fantasies or urges.
  • They have continued to engage in repetitive sexual behaviors despite negative effects.

A person who suspects they may have hypersexuality should consider talking with a doctor about their symptoms. This is particularly important for people who find that they are experiencing difficulty with:

  • personal relationships
  • work or school
  • stress, self-esteem, or other mental health symptoms

A person with hypersexuality experiences persistent and repetitive sexual urges, fantasies, or behaviors. These can interfere with their health and personal and professional life.

While the DSM-5 does not have an official diagnosis for hypersexuality, doctors may diagnose the condition using diagnostic criteria from the WHO’s ICD-11.

Currently, no standard of care exists. However, a doctor may recommend medication, therapies, or support groups to treat hypersexuality.