Sex addiction can involve a wide variety of practices. Sometimes an addict has trouble with just one unwanted behaviour, sometimes with many. A large number of sex addicts say their unhealthy use of sex has been a progressive process. It may have started with masturbation, pornography, or a relationship, but over the years progressed to increasingly dangerous behaviours.
The essence of all addiction is the addict's experience of powerlessness over compulsive sexual behaviour, resulting in their lives becoming unmanageable. The addict is out of control and experiences tremendous shame, pain and self-loathing. The addict may wish to stop acting out – making promises and many attempts to stop – yet repeatedly fails to do so. The unmanageability of addicts' lives can be seen in the consequences they suffer: Low self-esteem, loss of interest in things not sexual, difficulties with work, financial troubles, loss of relationships, imprisonment, despair, disease and death.
Sexual preoccupation takes up tremendous amounts of energy. As this increases for the sex addict, a pattern of behaviour (or rituals) follows, which usually leads to acting out (for some it is flirting, looking at pornography, or driving to the park). When the acting out happens, there is a denial of feelings usually followed by despair and shame or a feeling of hopelessness and confusion.
Text used with permission from the official website of Sex Addicts Anonymous.