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Is Sexual Addiction a Recognized Disorder?

The American Psychiatric Association does not currently recognize sex addiction as a mental illness. Therefore, no official diagnostic criteria exist for sex addiction.

The APA does, however, have classifications that are helpful for understanding sexual behavior disorders. These disorders are called paraphilias. The most common include:

  • Pedophilia — an adult’s sexual attraction toward children
  • Exhibitionism — sexual excitement associated with exposing one’s genitals in public
  • Voyeurism — sexual excitement from watching an unsuspecting person
  • Sexual masochism — sexual excitement from being the recipient of inflicted or threatened pain
  • Sexual sadism — sexual excitement from threatening or administering pain
  • Transvestic fetishism — sexual excitement from wearing the clothing of the opposite sex
  • Frotteurism — sexual excitement from touching or fondling an unsuspecting person

All of these disorders are characterized by recurrent, intense, sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges or behaviors involving:

  • Non-human objects
  • The suffering or humiliation of oneself or one’s partner, children or other nonconsenting persons
  • Clinically significant distress in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning caused by the behavior, sexual urges or fantasies.

Sex addiction may include some obsessions and behavior caused by these disorders. Usually what is described as sex addiction, however, involves conventional, or nonparaphiliac, sexual behaviors that, when taken to an extreme, like alcohol, can interfere with daily functioning and produce guilt, shame and recurrent harm to oneself or others.

Explore More About Sexual Addiction

Mark S. Gold, M.D., and Drew W. Edwards, M.S. contributed to this article.

Is Sexual Addiction a Recognized Disorder?

Michael Herkov, Ph.D

APA Reference
Herkov, M. (2016). Is Sexual Addiction a Recognized Disorder?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2018, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 17 Jul 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 17 Jul 2016
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