Diagnosis of Sex Addiction

Sexual addiction can be difficult to diagnose. The condition usually is diagnosed by a mental health provider (e.g., psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists) who specializes in sexual behavior disorders. To diagnose sex addiction, health care providers evaluate the overall physical, mental, and emotional health of the patient.

Sexual addiction diagnosis often involves taking a personal history (including information about past and current medical conditions and drug and alcohol use), conducting a thorough psychological evaluation, and performing a physical examination. Information about the patient's sexual thoughts and behaviors and about the effects of these activities on his or her life (e.g., marriage, family life, job performance, friendships) also may be used to help diagnose sex addiction.

Types of questions that a health care provider might ask to determine if a patient is addicted to sex include the following:

  • Do you have difficulty controlling sexual thoughts and/or behavior?
  • Do sexual thoughts and/or behavior make it difficult for you to maintain healthy relationships or keep a job?
  • Do you experience feelings of guilt or shame as the result of sexual behavior?
  • Do you regularly seek anonymous sex partners?
  • Do you have difficulty forming emotional bonds (intimate relationships) with sexual partners?
  • Have you experienced negative medical, financial, social, or emotional consequences related to sexual behavior?
  • Do you regularly engage in high-risk sexual behavior (e.g., unprotected sex, sex with multiple partners)?
  • Have you ever been involved in illegal activities related to sex (e.g., prostitution, molestation, exhibitionism)?

In some cases, diagnostic tests are performed to detect medical conditions that can affect sexual behavior (e.g., neurological disorders) and physical or chemical changes in the brain. These tests may include blood tests and imaging tests (e.g., magnetic resonance imaging [MRI scan], positron emission tomography [PET scan]).

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 07 Jan 2009

Last Modified: 13 Oct 2011