Sex And Love Addiction: A Guide

What is sex and love addiction?

Sex and love addiction are both addictions that do not primarily involve substances such as alcohol or drugs. They are therefore classified as behavioural addictions, though for some people the use of alcohol or recreational drugs will lower their inhibitions and also play a role within the addictive behavioural pattern. As a gambler who has been drinking is more likely to gamble due to alcohol removing self control, so a sex and love addict can have their inhibitions lowered by alcohol and / or drugs and then become more likely to act out on their addiction.

love addiction depicting psychological dependence in relationships of man and woman

Sex and love addiction are not the same, although there are similarities between the two. For example, both sex and love addicts will have obsessive thoughts. Sex addiction is based more on solely sexual activity that involves a fixation with sexual urges, behaviours and in particular fantasies; love addiction is the complete preoccupation with a partner that affects your everyday life. This can be to the extent that the relationship is being damaged and that work and social life are also being adversely affected as our thoughts are totally channelled on the partner.

What are the symptoms of sex addiction?

Some of the symptoms of sex addiction may involve one or more of the following:

  • Compulsive sexual relationships with multiple partners, including strangers
  • Feeling guilty after having had sex
  • Inability to stop or control sexual urges in any situation
  • Chronic and obsessive sexual thoughts and fantasies
  • Continual use of porn sites and visiting prostitutes to pay for sex and act out sexual fantasies
  • Inability to have a normal sexual relationship with our partner
  • Taking dangerous risks such as unprotected sex with strangers
  • Continued infidelity
  • Lying to others when challenged about our changing behaviour.
  • Compulsive masturbation carried out anywhere.

What are the symptoms of love addiction?

The symptoms of love addiction  may involve one or more of the following:

  • Needing to be in love and will fall in love very quickly with each relationship
  • An overwhelming fear of being alone
  • Having difficulty in leaving unhealthy or toxic relationships
  • Feeling dependent on the partner
  • Becoming depressed and “smothering our partner with feelings” when romantic advances are not reciprocated.
  • Prioritizing the relationship over family and friends to the extreme of quitting work or cutting family ties
  • Seeking out romantic relationships regardless of the quality of the relationship and choosing to switch relationships if feeling a fixation on another person.

The symptoms are clearly quite different and can therefore be identified as two separate addictions. However the world and spectrum of sex and love addiction is complex and many people will have their own experience, understanding and interpretation of sex and love along with their preconceived notions regarding this particular realm of addiction. For some this will carry a perceived stigma which will result in many people experiencing the problem – either those with the addiction or those affected by their behaviour – to delay seeking help.


An aspect of love addiction, that we treat at The Haynes Clinic, is Co -Dependency, which is often confused with love addiction. This can happen with any relationship in a person’s life and where we mistake co de-pendency for love. When we stay together for a long time in a relationship we often start to grow dependent on each other. It becomes unhealthy when we mistake the co-dependency for romance and love in the relationship.

Symptoms of co-dependency include:

  • Low self esteem
  • People pleasing behaviours
  • Difficulty setting boundaries in the relationship
  • Finding satisfaction in trying to manage the partner’s life
  • Constantly seeking the partner’s approval
  • Taking on excessive household responsibilities
  • Ending long term friendships to maintain partner’s approval

Causes of sex and love addiction

As we are all different, there is no one obvious cause for the development of sex and love addiction, but more a variety of factors.  There are no age or gender restraints; in this ever changing world, with the increased pressure that some are finding from everyday living, even the younger population are being affected. The development of the addictive thinking and behaviour will be from a combination of personal, psychological and environmental factors.

Underlying mental health issues such as anxiety or depression can lead to or be a trigger for compulsions around sex and love as our behaviours can lead to the brain producing excess Dopamine in our bodies which creates an initial pleasurable effect – much the same as with other addictions.  For those who have suffered abuse and trauma in their life, then sex and love may be used as a way to block the feelings associated with those past feelings and even as a form of comfort as being opposite to the feelings previously experienced. An increase in the excessive use of porn can be attributed to environmental factors in that is porn is now so readily available on the internet. This means there is very easy access to sites which cater for all tastes and these can be accessed anywhere on a laptop or smartphone.  People with certain personality traits such as impulsivity or difficulty regulating emotions have been shown to have a tendency to being vulnerable to developing an addiction to love or sex.

Is there help for sex and love addiction?

Sex and love addiction are both treatable conditions. However, as with other addictions, it can be very difficult to break the habit within our home environment.  Many people resort to being admitted into a residential addictions rehab programme for a recommended period of 28 days. Many addiction rehab centres which can treat sex and love addiction – such as The Haynes Clinic – will then additionally offer ongoing support in terms of Aftercare, once a week for 12 months, either at the clinic or via Zoom meetings. This should prevent relapse. The daily structured therapy programme in most rehab clinics is 12 Step based, and the form of therapy is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which get the individual to look at what is rational and what is irrational behaviour and what needs to change in order to cross the bridge to normal living.

Support can also be gained by the attendance at specific group meetings named Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous and people can find a local meeting by entering their postcode on the Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) website. These support groups are also based around the very successful modality of the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Step fellowship.

Sex and Love Addictions will affect all life areas such as health, finances, relationships, work and social life. If you are experiencing one of these addictions, or if you know and love someone who is affected, the answer is to seek help as soon as possible.