Sex Addiction and Women: A Nursing Issue

Publication Title

Journal of Addictions Nursing

Publication Date


Document Type





sexual addiction, sexual compulsivity, women




Addiction in women is a growing problem in the United States and is recognized as a very serious disease. Today researchers are able to document the neurochemistry of addiction in the brain. It has been found that sexual activity can create a “high” equal to that of crack cocaine. Sexual addiction includes behaviors such as extramarital affairs, compulsive use of pornography, cybersex, compulsive masturbation, exhibitionism, voyeurism, prostitution, child molestation, incest, and rape. Currently there is limited information on the prevalence rate of sexual addiction in women. This is due to the sexualization of women in our culture; sexually addictive behaviors are often masked and misconstrued as expressions of “normal” social and interpersonal conduct, not as indicators of addictive sexual behavior. The purpose of this paper is to increase nurses' awareness and knowledge about sexual addiction, how it manifests in women, how to assess a woman for sexual addiction, and provide some suggestions on how to help these women. Topics covered include: a definition of addiction, the neurochemistry of addiction, elements of sexual addiction in women including barriers to diagnosis, consequences of sexual addiction, and sexual addiction's relevance to nursing. Also included are case studies of women suffering from sex addiction.