Dating someone with a compulsive sexual behavior disorder (CSBD) can be challenging, but identifying these traits is the first step in addressing them.

Does your partner regularly engage in casual sex or have an intense preoccupation with pornography? Are their sexual behaviors becoming the main focus of their life? Do these actions affect their daily life or yours?

Your partner may be living with compulsive sexual behavior disorder (CSBD) or hypersexuality. In many cases, people refer to this as symptoms of sex addiction, although this isn’t an accepted formal diagnosis.

CSBD is more than just physical actions. If your partner lives with CSBD, they may experience intrusive and repetitive sexual urges and thoughts, even if they don’t act on them.

Though the disorder can be disruptive to relationships and daily life, your partner’s CSBD is treatable. Talking with a health professional can be the first step to long-term management and recovery.

Language matters

In some references of this article, we use “sex addict,” a term written about, studied, and discussed in psychology and counseling groups and 12 step programs. Still, there is no evidence to suggest that sex addiction exists or that symptoms of compulsive sexual behavior may be explained as an addiction.

However, this is not to imply your symptoms and concerns aren’t valid or real. This clarification refers to formal terminology only.

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CSBD refers to a pattern of recurring sexual behaviors and the inability to control them. These urges, fantasies, or actions can often have dire social and work-related consequences.

CSBD is not in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5). But it is a diagnostic code in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). The ICD-11 defines CSBD as an impulse control disorder.

CSBD may include engaging in excessive amounts of:

  • casual sex
  • pornography viewing
  • masturbation

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While only a mental health professional can diagnose CSBD, here are some of the signs:

  • extensive use of pornography and masturbation
  • use of paid sexual services
  • risky sexual behaviors
  • intense preoccupation with sex

These signs do not mean your partner is a bad person, nor is their behavior a reflection of you. This isn’t a personal choice they’re making, but it is a mental health condition they’re living with.

Also, just because you notice these signs in a partner doesn’t mean they automatically fit the criteria for compulsive sexual disorder.

To treat CSBD, it’s helpful to know what might be causing it. This is still a growing area of study, but researchers have found links between compulsive sexual behavior and the following:

  • adverse childhood experiences
  • attachment issues
  • mental health conditions like depression

A 2019 study also found that 3.3% of males with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) exhibited symptoms of CSBD at the time of diagnosis, and 5.6% had symptoms in their lifetime.

Clinicians can treat these conditions whether alone or alongside compulsive sexual behaviors.

Treating CSBD

To treat compulsive sexual behaviors, clinicians will work with your partner to distinguish which sexual behaviors are causing distress or affecting social functioning.

Medical professionals can then suggest ways to decrease problematic sexual behaviors while reinforcing healthy behaviors.

The treatment options a therapist recommends will depend on your partner’s symptoms and what may be causing their behaviors.

Options can include:

If your partner is open to seeking help, consider looking for clinicians that work with people who exhibit compulsive sexual behavior.

The clinician may recommend a combination of therapy and medicinal treatment for your partner’s behaviors.

The following medications have also been successful in reducing compulsive sexual behaviors:

Finding out your partner has CSBD and supporting them in recovery can be difficult. Taking care of yourself is essential as you navigate this disorder with your partner.

You are not alone

You might feel scared, embarrassed, or isolated knowing that your partner lives with CSBD. You’re not alone.

A 2016 study of college students found that almost 17% of the students surveyed met the criteria for CSBD.

When to seek professional help

If you suspect your partner has CSBD, it’s important to seek professional help.

A mental health professional can assess your partner’s symptoms and recommend the best treatment. Consider looking for a professional who specializes in supporting partners of addicts or one who specializes in compulsive sexual behaviors.

Setting boundaries

American Addiction Centers recommends asking yourself questions such as “Am I setting healthy boundaries for myself?” and “Am I giving myself time for my own stress management activities?”

Boundaries will vary, as each couple is different. One boundary may look like asking a partner to seek help from a professional for their behaviors.

Another could be asking your partner to abstain from engaging in casual sex with others if you plan to maintain a sexual relationship with them.

Learning about addiction and mental health conditions

There are great resources available for people supporting loved ones through addiction.

Groups such as S-Anon and organizations like SAMHSA are great resources to consult. You can find information about addiction and mental health conditions, how they manifest, and how they’re treated.

Support groups

Whether it’s with friends or through a formal group such as S-Anon, support is vital as you navigate your partner’s behaviors.

Finding a group of friends who will listen to you without judgment is essential. If possible, include someone who has a shared or similar experience.

If you or a loved one need somewhere to turn, there are resources available to you online, over the phone, and in person.

Taking care of your health

If you think your partner is engaging in sex with others while maintaining a sexual relationship with you, consider getting tested regularly for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

If you want to continue the sexual relationship, using contraceptives and barriers to protect against STIs is essential.

Consider your relationship

In some cases, taking care of yourself may mean leaving the relationship. Your partner’s actions are not a reflection of you, and sometimes the best thing for both parties is a separation. This can be temporary or permanent.

CSBD is a condition that requires diagnosis and treatment from a trained healthcare professional. If your partner’s sexual behaviors affect your life or yours, it’s time to seek help.

While you navigate this relationship, taking care of your own physical and emotional health is critical. Regardless of whether you stay in the relationship, their behavior isn’t your fault.