The women spend hours online looking at pornography or looking for sex.
Some fantasize about being sexual in public. Others cruise bars looking for anonymous encounters with strangers. Tolerance builds and things get boring, so the women have to engage in ever-riskier or more frequent behaviour to get the same "hit," or even just to feel normal.
Little is known about the prevalence of sexual addiction in women, but psychologists say the phenomenon is real and only now getting the attention given men.
"We're seeing women getting into pornography in a way we've never seen before," says psychologist and sex-addiction research pioneer Dr. Patrick Carnes, executive director of the Gentle Path program at Pine Grove Behavioral Center in Hattiesburg, Mississippi - the clinic where Tiger Woods reportedly sought treatment.
"Women are engaging in affairs, they're engaging in sado-masochistic behaviour," Carnes said. "This thing is just morphing right in front of us.
According to Carnes, sexual addiction is estimated to afflict as much as three to six per cent of the population and is defined as intense, sexually arousing fantasies, urges and behaviours that the person cannot control or stop, regardless of the consequences.
As a result, "women aren't inclined to come forward and say, 'I need help," ' says Lawson, creator of Canada's first residential treatment program for sexual addiction at Bellwood Health Services in Toronto.