All addiction is about escape from the pain and unmanageability of being alive. No one starts out to be an addict but certain substances and behaviors — like sex — do such a great job of numbing the pain and unmanageability that we begin to rely on them.
This reliance may start out being emotional but eventually becomes physical as well. It stops being about pleasure and starts being about survival. The body becomes dependent on the neuro-chemical reactions produced by the behavior just to be able to function.
Sex addiction can be seen as an illness that shares many qualities with alcoholism and drugs: over time sex addicts lose control over their behavior. More and more stimulation is needed to achieve the same results. Risks mount and so do consequences. The only way to avoid the sure knowledge of what is happening is by utilizing some form of denial: rationalizing (I just have a high sex drive); blaming (You’re the one with the problem!); minimizing (It’s just what guys do!).
Sex addiction, like all addiction, flourishes behind a mask of vagueness, secrets and lies. It distorts reality and makes everyone around it feel like they are crazy: spouses, children, family and friends.
Oftentimes the addictive nature of the behavior is not noticed until the addict tries to stop or limit the substance or behavior in some way.
Sex addiction can take many forms: compulsive masturbation, compulsive use of pornography (online or off), anonymous sex with multiple partners or prostitutes, serial affairs, exhibitionism, voyeurism, frotturism (non-consensual touching/rubbing), incest and rape.
The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) estimates that there are nearly 12 million sex addicts in the United States.