I have been having a lot of sex lately. I go out often, and when I do, I have sex with different partners. My friends and roommates are concerned with my behavior, and one of them called me a nymphomaniac, which really hurt my feelings. I do not feel like I need to have sex, I just really enjoy it. Am I a sex addict?
—Girl Just Wants to Have Fun
Many individual factors, personal feelings and choices go into deciding how much sex is “enough” or “too much.” You need to consider your own values, priorities and what you consider “too much” sex. Unless your sexual behavior is interfering with your daily life or harming yourself or others (Do you always use condoms, dental dams, or other forms of barrier protection? Are you regularly tested for STIs? Do you communicate honestly with all of your partners?), you may be comfortable with your life as it is.
That said, some people do experience compulsive sexual behavior, sometimes referred to as hypersexuality or hypersexual disorder. This disorder is defined as an obsession with sexual thoughts, behaviors or feelings that can have a detrimental effect on multiple aspects of one’s life, such as health, occupation, and relationships. Symptoms of compulsive sexual behavior are varied and often case-specific. Many researchers argue that hypersexuality is not really about sex itself. In these cases, frequent and potentially risky sexual behavior is not simply driven by a craving for sex, but often by an underlying issue. Stress, anxiety, depression and shame are all internal psychological issues that can be externalized through sexual behaviors. Such behaviors become an issue when they result in an obsession that is disruptive or harmful not only to the addict but also to those who surround them. Compulsive sex behavior may also be caused by physical health issues including an imbalance of natural mood-regulating brain chemicals, unusually high levels of androgens (sex hormones that play an important role in generating feelings of sexual desire), or other diseases and health conditions that affect the brain.
If you feel as though you have lost control of your sexual behavior or if you feel like you want to clarify your values around sex, you can speak with a counselor at UHS’s Counseing and Psychological Services office in McCosh. Even if you simply want to discuss your relationships with your friends and roommates, I recommend visiting a counselor. You should seek immediate treatment if you have a history of bipolar disorder or of problems with impulse control, or if you feel as though you are losing control of your sexual behavior.
While your friends clearly care about you, you need to decide for yourself how much sex you want to have and with whom. There are many resources available to you on campus and many people willing to listen confidentially, starting with University Health Services, so you don’t have to make these decisions alone.
Information regarding Compulsive Sexual Behavior provided by The Mayo Clinic.
Interested in Sexual Health? The Sexpert is always looking for members of the community to join the team of sexual health educators who, along with fact-checking from University health professionals, help write these columns. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and questions about sexual health. Don’t be shy!