"When people say `sex addict' they shrug their shoulders and say `it's out of my control''. It is within their control," Stuff quoted Sex Therapy NZ co-director Robyn Salisbury saying.
For an addict, the behaviour is not about sex but more an urge for sexualised relief, she said.
"Out-of-control sexual behaviour is not about the sexual drive, just like alcohol isn't about being thirsty, Salisbury said.
"If people are uptight or lonely they will eat, drink or have a drive to have sex. The compulsion doesn't meet their needs; it's just looking for a temporary soother.
Addicts end up getting a "mindless buzz", which can be heartbreaking for intimate partners, she added.
More than 880 people participated in an anonymous online questionnaire about their sex life and personal relationships for a Massey University honours project.
Clinical psychology student Karen Faisandier said she wanted to delve into the reasons behind out-of-control sexual behaviours (OOCSB).
The online survey questions included whether they engaged in online sex, prostitution, or sex that made them feel degraded.
Many factors played a role in such behaviour, including how childhood relationships with parents mould the way people feel and behave in romantic relationships.
The findings also confirmed previous research that found people with sex addictions were more likely to feel anxious about relationships and avoid intimacy.