Forensic Applications of “Sex Addiction” in US Legal Proceedings


The term “sex addiction” has been popularized in recent years to describe a range of different problematic sexual behaviors which are assumed to be similar to being addicted to substances and lend themselves to similar treatment approaches. Other terms such as sexual compulsivity, sexual impulsivity, erotomania, hyperphilia, and hypersexuality have been proposed in the literature which assumes different mechanisms and treatment approaches. However, the term “sex addiction” remains the most widely used and recognized label, particularly in public parlance. The current paper presents several case examples to illustrate how the concept of “sex addiction” is having a significant impact in US legal proceedings. The authors offer some commentary about the relevance of these cases as they pertain to matters of criminal, civil, and administrative law.

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Compliance with Ethics Guidelines

Conflict of Interest

David J. Ley has testified as an expert witness in legal cases related to “sex addiction,” has received royalties from Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, is a paid blogger/writer for Psychology Today, and has had travel expenses covered by various media outlets for appearances on television shows.

Julie Brovko reports no relevant disclosures.

Rory Reid was the principal investigator for the DSM-5 field trial on hypersexual disorder. He receives funding from NIMH grants, consulting with universities and mental health agencies, and has been compensated for writing mental health-related articles for various websites. He has received honorariums or financial compensation for providing training or research consulting related to hypersexual behavior and gambling disorders from domestic and foreign government entities.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

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Correspondence to David Ley.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Variations in Orientation, Identity, Addiction, and Compulsion

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Ley, D., Brovko, J.M. & Reid, R.C. Forensic Applications of “Sex Addiction” in US Legal Proceedings. Curr Sex Health Rep 7, 108–116 (2015).

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  • “Sex addiction”
  • Sexual compulsivity
  • Sexual impulsivity
  • Erotomania
  • Hyperphilia and hypersexuality
  • Forensic testimony
  • Civil law
  • Family law
  • Criminal law