Women can be addicted to sex with or without a relationship. Some female sex addicts may see that they’ve had casual sexual experiences that were detached and compulsive - often with people they barely knew.

Some were addicted to sex alone - resulting in compulsive intercourse or masturbation. But others were addicted to sexually-motivated and charged relationships, both real and fantasised. If these relationships become painful leading to obsession, dependency and lack of self care or other painful consequences then the cause may be sex addiction.

Sex addiction may also take the form of intense fantasy and obsession, having unhealthy sexual boundaries and flirting and using sexual manipulation to get needs or wants met.

Some addicts have had periods of healthy sexuality in their relationships. Others report a need to avoid sex altogether for fear of being hurt – this is known as 'sexual anorexia' and can be triggered by abusive or painful relationships, both past and present.

Sex addiction can take many forms for women – we have found it unhelpful to stereotype.
But some signs of sexual addiction may be affairs, serial sexual partners, anonymous sex, one night stands, mental obsessing and fantasizing, sexual intrigue, erotica and pornography by film or literature, fetishism, inappropriate dress, predatory or stalking type behaviour and dramatic relationships involving intoxicating highs and lows. Compulsive use of Internet pornography, often with masturbation, can be as much of a problem for women as it can be for men.

As the addiction takes over the life of the addict, this can lead to the loss of significant relationships, finances, housing and work. Children may be affected and the addict can become increasingly isolated from friends and family. High anxiety may affect concentration, memory, sleep and appetite. At any stage, the shame that surrounds sexuality for a woman may stop deeper exploration and prevent her from seeking a solution.

As problems, pain and obsession escalate, life can become unmanageable and this may keep the addict going back to the behaviours which gave her temporary relief. Every time the addicted woman stops ‘acting out’ her addiction, she may experience emotional pain and anxiety – this we have come to call ‘withdrawal’. Eventually she reaches a ‘rock bottom’ experience where she realises she can't keep going back, that behaving in this way has to end - this is often when recovery is sought.

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