Approximately 5 to 6% of the population of the United States has some form of sexual compulsivity (Coleman 1992, Schaffer & Zimmerman, 1990). That means between 14,786,000 and 17,744,000 persons in the US struggle with some form of compulsive sexual behavior.
To get an idea how that stacks up against other disorders, consider the prevalence of some commonly observed disorders.
- Schizophrenia: .05 – 1.5% of the population suffers from this disorder.
- Bi-Polar Disorder: .4 – 1.6% of the population has this disorder.
- Panic Disorder: 1 – 2% of the population has this disorder.
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): 1 – 2.3% of the population has OCD.
In other words, there are probably as many sex addicts in the US as all of these disorders combined! Or to look at it another way, there are as many persons struggling with compulsive sexual behavior in the US as there are in the populations of New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Boston combined!
For every three men who are sex addicts, there is one woman who is a sex addict.
Sex addiction can affect people regardless of education, race, economic status, religion, or occupation. Factors contributing to sex addiction may include:
- History of abuse, especially of a sexual nature.
- Early sexual experience.
- Experiencing significant life stressors such as on the job or in relationships.
- Other members of immediate or extended family have addictions.
- Raised in family with “rigid” boundaries or a family that is “disengaged.”
- Presence of depression or other mood disorder.
- Presence of some other addiction(s).
In the background of sex addicts, there is frequently a history of abuse: sexual, emotional, or physical. Children who have their needs met inconsistently or not at all will generally make two decisions about what to do about their needs. One is, “I’ll take care of them myself, and I don’t need anyone but myself.” This decision leads to the solo activities like masturbation and cybersex.
The other decision is, “If I’m going to relate to other people, it’s only going to be in terms of their body parts—their genitals, their breasts, their legs, etc., but I will not relate to them as persons. I’ll relate to parts of clothing, or videos, where people aren’t real, because every time people get into the drama they mess it up, and I want this to be perfect. I want to stay in the trance exactly as I want it, and when I want it.” (Dr. Jennifer Schneider, 2005)
But childhood trauma doesn’t adequately explain the origin of sex addiction for every addict. There are some sex addicts that have not experienced any childhood abuse or abandonment. Also there is also a belief by researchers that some people who are sex addicts would never have gotten addicted if it were not for the powerful draw of the Internet.
Regardless of the cause, sex addiction can threaten relationships, occupation, and health. It can be a life-threatening condition.