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What is life really like if you're a sex addict?

Three people explain what it's like when sex takes over your life

“Probably the easiest way to describe it is to say it’s like I’m always hungry. So then when I wake up, I'm already quite "hungry", and if I decide not to take care of it, by noon I'm starved and by nightfall I'm ravenous. Masturbation helps, but it’s only really like a snack. It won’t replace a meal, but when you’re starving, even a snack can be as appealing as a feast.”

Tom*, a twenty-five year old sex addict, is explaining what it’s like to structure every waking hour around sex. Hypersexuality, or nymphomania as it’s more commonly known, is one of the lesser-known of the psychological disorders. It’s not as simple as just having a high sex drive, which many people have. Sex addicts obsess about having sex until they reach a point where it ruins their lives. Typically, they will become trapped in a cycle of seeking a sexual ‘high’ that is never-ending. As soon as they consummate one sexual encounter, they start thinking about the next. In some cases, they lose their homes, their families, their jobs and in some cases, their lives. Think that sounds sexy? No, me either. 

Our society is full of shame about sex – while at the same time spreading the lie that the only way to be a contented, fully functioning member of society is to be in a committed, monogamous relationship (as was expertly satirised in recent film The Lobster). While monogamy is undoubtedly right for some, for sex addicts the pressures placed on them by our social expectations of monogamy can be intolerable. To find out more, Dazed spoke to sex addicts about what’s it's really like to crave sex 24/7, 365 days a year. 


Tom*, 25 

Typically in a sexual relationship I look to have sex at least three times a day, ideally more. As you can expect, that’s quite an unrealistic bar to set, and it led to me cheating a lot throughout my late teens and early twenties. It isolated me from all my friends, many of whom I'd tried to cheat with or convince to cheat on their partners with me. It really drove my actions for a period of about five years. Even when I had two or three partners to call on in a given day, it was never enough.

I’m an anomaly, in that I’ve fallen in love with an asexual woman and had to give up the idea of ever having sex. That’s probably what really shook me into some semblance of perspective. For me, I could have this perfect relationship without sex, or continue to be disappointed by having insufficient sex with several people. With my current girlfriend, we had sex early on a couple of times, always missionary, same speed, just to get it over with (in her mind).

Weirdly, I think it’s easier to cope now knowing I’ll never have sex, than thinking there’s maybe a chance. That said, I still have the urges for sex, I still desperately need sex, but I also need her. And she’s more important.

I have to masturbate a lot more now – probably like 3-5 times a day. If my girlfriend says something vaguely sexual and I misconstrue it my brain will go bonkers. I’ll spend days hoping that I’ll finally have sex again and then have to spend a month or so readjusting myself to the knowledge that it won’t happen.

Even in this relationship, after having no sexual contact for three years, I still find myself thinking about calling up old exes or propositioning new friends for a fling. I think having something so important to fight for keeps me on the straight and narrow though. That, and a heavy dose of self-loathing.


Emma*, 22

I started having sexual feelings at eleven, but I didn’t really understand them until I was fifteen when I lost my virginity. Losing my virginity was something I felt I needed to do, rather than wanted. That’s when I realised I was different from other girls my age. 

Nymphomania affects every aspect of my life. I have insomnia, anxiety and depression. I can’t sleep due to constant urges, I worry about what people think of me and I am very self-analytical. I avoid close friendships because I want to tell people about myself and I worry that they will out me as a nymphomaniac and get it all wrong. I have lost control at stages within my life and slept with anyone who would have me. I’m not proud of it but I’ve regained control now and I feel like I understand myself more.  Working can be hard. I get urges at work and it’s not as if it’s acceptable to go relieve urges at work. I have many times but now I try to ignore them. This does result in severe frustration but I’m working on it. 

The only partner I’ve ever had who truly understands me is also hypersexual. We’re in a monogamous relationship now and I’m happy. Having a very active sex life helps, but having someone who loves you for who you are is what makes it work. Being a nymphomaniac has made my other relationships end in disaster. Ex-partners felt like they could never satisfy me – which was mostly true.

Around Valentine's Day can be hard because the sales in sex shops drive me crazy. Given the chance, I'd buy everything in Ann Summers! This year, me and my boyfriend have settled on a few sexy costumes and we are looking more into BDSM. 


Ben*, 38

I grew up in New York in the 80s and I’d stay up late watching adult shows on the local public access channel. I was really young, like 8 or 9 but I was fascinated by nudity and sexuality even back then.

Having a sex addiction has definitely been a burden to my career and personal life, although to be fair at times it was very fun too, especially when I was younger and more reckless. But on the whole, not being able to come to terms with my double life brought about a lot of shame, anxiety and guilt.

I’ve had countless anonymous sex with women, men, and transsexuals; I’ve spent thousands of dollars and wasted hours masturbating to pornography. I’m in a relationship now and would go for months leading a ‘normal’ life, being faithful to my partner, then a few weeks acting a double life. When I’m in that phase I’ll binge for weeks at adult bookstores, strip clubs, sex clubs, anonymous encounters, watching porn – then I’ll purge for weeks with total abstinence and be anxious and depressed.

One thing that has helped is meditation and exercise. Avoiding porn also helps, as does microdosing psilocybin mushrooms every 3-4 days, which really curbs a lot of my addictive behaviours.

I’m happier now more often. As I get older, I find myself more at peace about it. I’ve gone to therapy and realised I need to forgive myself and understand why I act like this. Sometimes I miss the old lust-filled life, but I know that time has passed for me. It’s time to do other things that fill me with goodness and don’t leave me feeling empty inside.