Sex Addiction Or High Libido: What Is The Difference?

When does your high sex drive cross over into addictive behavior?

Sex Addiction or High Libido: What is the Difference? getty

I am going to get a little personal here.

I like sex. I may be under some illusion but after being married for almost 33 years, my sexual response is about the same as when I was far younger.

I like that I like sex and I could say that my wife likes that I like sex as well. One of my main areas of clinical expertise is helping people with low sexual desire, and I have had both men and women express deep pain over their partner not being "into them".


So, high libido can be a good thing. Just because one partner has a significantly higher libido than the other does not make that person an addict.

So when does high libido cross over into sexual addiction?

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The word ‘addiction’ is easily thrown about and if we use it too carelessly, we may miss the true seriousness of being sex addicted. Here is the way I want to define sex addiction: We all have values and things that are important to us.


If one’s sexual behavior is excessive to the point where it gets in the way of something that a person values, it could be an addiction.

For example, if a person values his health (using the male gender for simplification), yet he masturbates multiple days a week to the point of losing significant sleep- that behavior could be called an addiction.

Another example — the person masturbates to porn and has little or no sexual desire left for his partner. If he values his relationship, he is behaving as a sex addict. (Now, there could be other things going on here such as fear of intimacy, relationship trauma, performance anxiety, etc., so it is important to do a complete assessment here.)

The bottom line with sex addiction is that the person is using the sexual aspect of himself in ways that are harming things and people that are important to him. Another aspect of sex addiction is secrecy; some sex-addicted partners have totally hidden second lives of sexual acting out that the partner has no idea about.


People with sex addiction are acting out for a reason. Shame fuels sex addiction and I emphasize that if you or someone you know is challenged with a sexual addiction, letting go of shame is important.

RELATED: The Crucial Difference Between A Sex Addict & A Sexual Harasser

Instead, one must focus on the core issues and what drives that person to do that sexually addicted behavior whether it is excessive looking at porn, sexual chat rooms, finding prostitutes, or extramarital promiscuity.

Sex addiction gets in the way of genuine life happiness. It can interfere of course with healthy intimate relating, physical wellbeing as mentioned above and even one’s career and finances. It triggers "reward brain neurochemistry" as does drugs and alcohol.


Yes, it comes with a price and that is why we need to replace shame with instead a deeper understanding and creative solutions to this mostly treatable problem.

A person may have a high libido but channels his or her sexual drive in appropriate ways:

He or she is open and does not act out sexual behavior hidden from their intimate partner or at least the partner knows that he or she engages in that behavior. For example, many couples may have one or both partners that they know occasionally masturbate and at the same time, this behavior does not negatively affect their interpersonal sex life.


They may not invite each other into every masturbatory encounter but it is not a big secret either. (This is NOT an example of sex addiction.)

A person who is sex addicted does not channel his or her sex drive in ways that serve the people and things that are important to him or her.

These people need to learn what drives them and find new ways of handling these sexual impulses that will allow them to have a full-bodied life with healthy relationships.


If you or someone you know is struggling with sexual addiction, do not let shame keep you or the other person from reaching out.

This problem is best not done alone and one of the problems of many sex-addicted people is that they keep their emotional lives too private, to begin with. Add this problem and shame keeps people hiding.

RELATED: 3 Crucial Ways To Overcome Sex Addiction

Todd Creager is an expert in relationships. For over 30 years, he has worked as a relationship therapist, specializing in marriage, sex and couples counseling.