Before you snigger into your latte, sex addiction is a very real, although not clearly definable, disorder.
While not a clinical entry into medical classification, the phrase 'sex addiction' refers to patterns of sexual behaviour that qualify as necessitating medical treatment.
According to everyone's first resource, Wikipedia, sexual addiction is characterised by compulsive engagement in a behaviour, despite negative consequences.
This means that the term 'sex addict' cannot be used synonymously with 'high sex drive'.
Moreover, a high number of sexual partners or frequent sexual intercourse does not bear any relation to sexual addiction.
Rather, sexual addiction implies a lack of control with destructive implications, which is more comparable to drug or alcohol addictions.
In fact, research from the University of Cambridge showed people with compulsive sexual behaviour showed similar signs of brain engagement (relating to reward and motivation) as people with drug addiction.
However, it remains unclear whether sexual addiction is one manifestation of issues such as depression, anxiety etc, or whether sexual addiction is in itself a root problem.
Nevertheless, according to psychologist Dr. Ellen Hendriksen, there six signs that can help you identify the difference between a high libido, and a problem with sex addiction.
Dr. Hendriksen compares 'congruence' (i.e., if your sexual behaviour adds to your life and is in line with who you are as a person), vs. 'incongruence' (i.e., if your behaviour takes you away from / gets in the way of your life, such as work or family, and leads you to neglect your goals and passions).
2. Lack of control
Dr. Hendriksen points to unrelenting urges which require immediate gratification, that sufferers act upon on without considering consequences to health, safety, or life. Many have also reported feeling numb / trance-link.
The idea of compulsion is intrinsic to many addictions: i.e., rather than engaging in the behaviour to feel good, sufferers engage in behaviour to feel less bad, or to reduce / avoid other problems. Many feel like they can't not, or feel powerless when sex is unavailable.
Similarly to drug / alcohol addiction, there may be tolerance and withdrawal. Over time, sufferers might need to engage in increasingly dramatic / high-risk sexual behaviour in order to achieve the same 'high' as before.
Dr. Hendriksen describes a situation in which sex is 'conflated' with things it shouldn't be, e.g. happiness, self-worth, loneliness, fear or sadness. There can also be a tendency to experience increased sexual interest when depressed or anxious, which would be unusual in healthy sexual behaviour.
Sexual addiction is unique in that it requires another person (unlike drugs or alcohol) to indulge dependency. Therefore, it has dramatic consequences for relationships.
Using a person to satisfy an addiction, or making sex the main goal in interacting with others, denotes an unhealthy attitude to sex as well as resulting in empty or dysfunctional relationships.