Compulsive Sexual Behavior (CSB)

What is Compulsive Sexual Behavior?

When individuals have compulsive sexual behavior (CSB) they are obsessed with thoughts and urges that are sexual in nature. This addictive behavior often controls a person’s life and causes disruption in the family.

Constant sexual thoughts and urges can interfere with a person’s work schedule and negatively affect their daily life. Relationship problems can quickly escalate when a person engages in compulsive sexual behavior. The reasons for this disorder are not completely understood but it is often believed that chemical imbalances in the brain may lead to sexual addiction. Other causes may include diseases that damage portions of the brain and alterations of nerve passages in the brain.

What are the Symptoms of Compulsive Sexual Behavior?

Common actions of individuals who have compulsive sexual behavior include various sexual partners, numerous affairs, even when married, uncontrollable self-stimulation, hiring prostitutes, frequently looking at pornography and taking chances by not having safe sex.

Many individuals who have this disorder feel guilty and ashamed when they participate in compulsive sexual behavior but they do not have the control that is needed  to stop. This type of behavior can have a huge impact on a person’s life and it often causes them to stop attending social functions. Some people will go into a fit of rage and possibly become abusive if they are not able to accomplish their sexual undertakings.

Compulsive Sexual Behavior Causes

There is no clear consensus on the cause of Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder (CSB) and there may not be a solitary cause. However, common causes of the disorder include the following:

Chemical Imbalance

Certain chemicals in the brain such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine are vital to regulating mood and sexual behavior. High or low levels may drive compulsive behavior as a method of “self-medicating” with sex. These can be naturally occurring imbalances or caused as a side effect of medications for separate disorders.

Neurological Conditions

Diseases that affect the brain or health problems that lead to neurological conditions have a correlation with instances of compulsive sexual behavior. Examples include severe conditions such as dementia, epilepsy and Huntington’s disease. In some cases, brain damage or treatment of an unrelated disease can provoke the behavioral disorder.


Compulsive sexual behavior is very closely linked with substance abuse and addictions. It can be treated as a distinct addiction, with the patient becoming chemically dependant on the pleasant reactions brought on by sexual activity while having no emotional need for it. As a result, extreme withdrawal symptoms are suffered when the behavior is ceased.

How is Compulsive Sexual Behavior Treated?

Individuals who have compulsive sexual behavior are often treated with various medications. These drugs have an impact on the chemicals in the brain, which helps to prevent obsessive thinking. These medications include mood stabilizers, anti-androgens, antidepressants, luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone and naltrexone.

Therapy sessions, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and psychodynamic psychotherapy, is often used to help individuals control their sexual urges. Joining a support group and speaking with other people can also help individuals manage their behaviors.

Compulsive Sexual Behavior Prevention

Prevention of Compulsive Sexual Behavior is difficult to quantify. Sexual behavior is natural and it is often difficult to ascertain what sexual behavior is within normal parameters when society has yet to provide an answer to that question. However, mental health treatment in the vein of behavioral and cognitive therapy has been proven to be effective, as has medication for depression and anxiety disorders as this often fuels or worsens the compulsion. Both medical and psychiatric treatments for CSB are available and can be utilized at the discretion of the diagnosing physician. The best prevention is a reduction in the risk factors including alcohol/drug abuse. Treatment of underlying mental health conditions or seeking mental health counseling if there is a history of sexual trauma can also substantially reduce the potential for CSB.

Last Reviewed:
September 19, 2016
Last Updated:
December 08, 2017
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