Sex addiction and polyamorous relationships are two different things, and while this question crops up often in the world of polyamory, poly relationships are not a cover for sex addiction. Or at least, they shouldn’t be.
If you’re in a relationship and finding that you need to hide your other relationships, compulsively wanting to have sex at times when you have other obligations to attend to, or causing your primary relationship damage by wanting to have sex with multiple people, then you are not in a poly relationship. You are probably someone who needs to look at their reasons for being in that relationship and possibly within themselves as to why you need that in your life.
The phrasing of the question that people ask all the time of “Isn’t polyamory just an excuse for people to have sex with multiple partners or cheat?” suggests that polyamory and sex addiction are on the same spectrum, which they are not. Sex addicts will find it nearly impossible to get out of a situation where they’re offered the chance to do something with someone no matter how risky the situation or the harm it will do to someone else. It will likely involve risky sex, lying, cheating, unprotected sex, neglect of primary relationships,
Sex addiction is when someone has the compulsion to have sex no matter the consequences of their actions or the harm it does to them. They find themselves in situations like struggling with porn addiction (though this is a bit different from sex addiction), having multiple affairs, cheating or having risky sex. Addiction is when this interferes so much with their daily lives that it becomes something that they’re unable to help themselves with doing, and it interferes with everyday routines to function.
Polyamory, on the other hand, is when love is shared between people on multiple levels, and sometimes that may not even be on a sexual level. This is usually a relationship with consent and knowledge of all parties involved, communication, honesty, and safety are paramount, and each partner has respect for one another. Usually, this means there are no hidden affairs, secrets, or other damaging actions behind the scenes that would cause irreparable harm.
Now, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t sex addiction within the poly community. Unfortunately, it’s there, and it damages relationships and the community more than we’d like to think it does. This also doesn’t bode well for outside views on polyamory as most people misunderstand it in the first place, and misconstruing polyamory as a place to play out sex addiction or cheating isn’t what the community wants to be known for.
Addiction is a serious thing and not to be taken lightly. It’s a beast that is not tamed easily, so having outside help is always a good thing. Some therapists specialize in addictions, and more specifically, sex addiction.
For those that are interested, there is AASECT, a group dedicated to professionals that are trained in sex therapy, and then there is SASH, another group dedicated to the same cause. Both of these links will take you to pages where you can search by geographical area to find a therapist that’s close to you.