People sometimes think that sexual addiction is a males-only disorder, that women are not susceptible. This is not in fact the case. Unfortunately, female sex addicts can be more difficult to identify and treat than male sex addicts, primarily because they tend to downplay their sexual involvement, instead discussing their issues in terms of relationships, dating, and intimacy. Because of this, clinicians must sometimes read between the lines, looking and listening for romance-oriented language and behaviors that can indicate sexual addiction, such as:
- A lengthy history of short, failed, sexually charged romantic relationships.
- Serial or multiple ongoing sexual and/or romantic affairs.
- Using seduction and manipulation to avoid feelings of abandonment and isolation.
- Equating sexual intensity with being/feeling in love.
- A history of inappropriate, dysfunctional romantic or sexual relationships—with bosses, subordinates, married men, siblings, neighbors, etc.
- A history of high-risk sexual activity—dangerous partners, public sex, anonymous sex, unprotected sex, etc.
- A history of pairing alcohol and/or drug use with relationships.
- A pattern of staying with and/or returning to abusive, neglectful, emotionally unavailable partners.
- Recurrent periods of avoiding sex, sometimes while simultaneously engaging in other self-soothing escapist behaviors like drinking, drugging, binge eating, compulsive spending, etc.
- Ending up in prostitution as a cover for addictive sexual problems, often reenacting early-life sexual abuse.
- A pattern of trading sex for companionship, money, shelter, gifts, alcohol or drugs, safety, or anything else.
- A pattern of paired struggles with food and sex.
- Presenting to the world as a sexual object more than a whole person—i.e., leading with sexuality (short skirts, no underwear, lots of cleavage, heavy makeup, etc.)
Most female sex addicts view their problem as being more about their search for partnership, love, and intimacy than their sex life—though their behavior is inconsistent with anything resembling the legitimate search for a mate. Even when they are having sex several times a day with people met on hookup apps, dating sites, social media, and elsewhere, they tend to describe their behavior in terms of their dating life and their inability to find “the one,” rather than as a problem with compulsive sexual behavior.