Increasingly common among teens and young adults, compulsive sexual behavior — also referred to as hypersexuality, hypersexual disorder, nymphomania or sexual addiction — is an obsession with sexual thoughts, feelings or behaviors that negatively impacts one’s capacity to effectively function in their life. For teens, the effects are manifest in their school performance, relationships with parents and family, social life, recreational habits, motivation to achieve goals and their self-esteem.

Compulsive sexual behavior may involve sex becoming an obsession. It may also involve fantasies or activities outside the bounds of culturally, legally or morally accepted sexual behavior. Compulsive sexual behavior may consist of generally acceptable sexual acts taken to an extreme. These behaviors become problems when they become an obsession that’s disruptive to the teen or those around him/her. This can be particularly problematic for teens that are not yet ready to manage the emotional demands that accompany sexual activity.

Other compulsive sexual behaviors outside the bounds of commonly accepted conduct are called paraphilias and range from behaviors such as compulsive cross-dressing to having sexual desires toward children (pedophilia).

For teens and young adults, compulsive sexual behavior symptoms vary in type and severity. Some signs that your child may be struggling with compulsive sexual behavior include:

  1. sexual impulses that seem as if they’re beyond your child’s control.
  2. increasing amounts of time and energy spent seeking sexual stimulation including pornography, sexting and cyber-sexual chat on the internet.
  3. use of compulsive sexual behavior as an escape from other problems, such as school work, recreational activities, family time, loneliness, depression, anxiety or stress.
  4. continued high risk sexual behaviors despite serious consequences such as loss of privileges at home, legal and criminal problems, the loss of important relationships with family or friends, school failure, abandoning previously enjoyed activities.
  5. trouble establishing and maintaining emotional closeness with others including parents, siblings and friends. Increased time spent alone and isolated.

Compulsive sexual behavior can occur in both teen boys and girls, though it’s more common in girls. It can also affect anyone regardless of sexual preference — whether heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual.