Sex in the Big Easy: Nymphomania – Not as Much Fun as You’d Think


Some call it nymphomania in females and satyriasis in males. Others call it sex addiction, and many refer to it as hypersexulaism. Whatever you call it, I learned that this condition is by no means as sexy as porn magazines would have you believe. And while I always try to write something sexy and sex-positive, it’s been a little more difficult with this one. Be forewarned, there are going to be some less than pleasant moments, but we’re here to be educated, right? 

Dr. Tracy Carlson is one of my favorite people to speak to on matters of sex. A trained professional sex therapist, certified with the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists, and the owner of Connections Psychotherapy and Wellness, she agreed to help me sort this out.  She says that whatever hypersexualism is, she does not see it as an addiction. 

Referring to the outdated terms hypersexualism, and sex addiction, Dr. Carlson says, “The treatment for compulsive sexual behavior typically involves psychotherapy, medications and self-help groups. A primary goal of treatment is to help you manage urges and reduce excessive behaviors while maintaining healthy sexual activities. … Whether inpatient or outpatient, treatment may be intense at first. Oct 5, 2017not sanctioned disorders by the American Psychiatric Association.” Adding, “They are not in the DSM 5.” which is the official recognized compilation of disorders, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. “Criteria for hypersexual disorder was proposed for the DSM-5, but it was ultimately rejected. So, the other terms, like porn addiction, you’re not going to find in the DSM-5.” However, she explains, “Rather, the World Health Organization, in May 2019, added a new disorder. It’s called Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder. So that captures this area of sexuality and behaviors that are out of control. And they categorize it under the umbrella of impulse control disorders.”

The World Health Organization defines Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder (CSBD) as, “a persistent pattern of failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses or urges resulting in repetitive sexual behavior.” Adding, “The pattern is manifested in one or more of the following: a) engaging in repetitive sexual activities has become a central focus of the person’s life to the point of neglecting health and personal care or other interests, activities and responsibilities; b) the person has made numerous unsuccessful efforts to control or significantly reduce repetitive sexual behavior; c) the person continues to engage in repetitive sexual behavior despite adverse consequences (e.g., repeated relationship disruption, occupational consequences, negative impact on health); or d) the person continues to engage in repetitive sexual behavior even when he/she derives little or no satisfaction from it.” – US Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health  

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For ease of reading, we’ll continue to refer to it as hypersexualism. 

John Tran, who is not a member of the psychiatric community, disagrees. He sees it as an addiction. Tran, a friend of mine for several years, says of his condition, “I mean, I’ve dealt with alcohol addiction, and I would say it’s as bad if not worse in some ways. I’ve involved myself in terrible and dark situations, I’ve had a massively bad porn addiction. And it’s all led to so much isolation and loneliness.”

But he would agree with what Dr. Carlson says next.  “It can have comorbid health disorders, like anxiety, depression, substance abuse, alcohol abuse problems. They can be exposed to sexually transmitted infections, or HIV, relationship problems, the distress of affairs, infidelity, unwanted pregnancy, job loss, so the consequences of this disorder can be pretty devastating and vast.”

As Tran puts it, “I would say it has – to a point – ruined some of my life. Not all of it. But like, I felt a need to masturbate constantly, no matter where I was. I still feel as much of a craving for porn as much as anything else. The ability to connect with other people feels limited. I’m not sure I can blame this all on porn. But it’s been a problem as an adult. I’d rather be looking at porn sometimes than talking to real people. It feels safer and more comfortable. But also, way more shameful.”  

It was a similar issue for Shannon Hebert who sees what she has closest to nymphomania, “I realized, as a child that I was hypersexual. Like around 8 years old I had already started experimenting with sexual activity. I started masturbating before I even knew what I was doing. And then it snowballed basically. Since around the time I was 12 and had started puberty, I had multiple sexual partners and was finding ways to orgasm all the time in public and in private. Basically, whenever or wherever I could get away with it. Whether alone or with someone else.” As far as the age of her partners, some were as much as 15 years older than she was, she says.

About her urges, Shannon reveals, “Yes, I had to suppress some of my urges. Being a nympho has a pretty bad impact on my relationships, and definitely has interfered with work. Like, in the past I would have called out of work and then go do whatever it took to get off.”

Both Shannon and Tran have been in abusive relationships. Whether addiction or compulsion, extreme need can leave room for others to take advantage, according to those I’ve spoken to. Codependent behavior is also an issue. 

But the fact of the matter is, with treatment, they’ve also had positive experiences, too. Hebert has a partner who she sees for BDSM “Play” regularly and Tran goes to therapy. He says, despite his compulsions, he has, in fact, had healthy relationships. 

And according to the Mayo Clinic, treatment is available. “Treatment for compulsive sexual behavior typically involves psychotherapy, medications and self-help groups. A primary goal of treatment is to help manage urges and reduce excessive behaviors while maintaining healthy sexual activities. … Whether inpatient or outpatient, treatment may be intense at first.”

If you think you have a problem with your sexual compulsions, one of the best diagnostic determinants is whether it has led to negative consequences in your life. But the good news is that help is out there. Consult a physician, a counselor, a sex therapist, a psychiatrist.

There are differing opinions about the causes of hypersexuality, just as there are about other compulsions. Trauma and neurological hard-wiring are only two possibilities. If the person being harmed is you–as Brene Brown says, “Be gentle with yourself in the midst of shame.” 


Michael David Raso has worked as a writer, editor, and journalist for several different publications since graduating from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. His monthly column, Sex in the Big Easy is an ongoing series – you can read more here.

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