The four criteria
“The condition is characterised by four criteria,” says Dr Thaddeus Birchard, a psychosexual and psychotherapy consultant. “The sexual behaviour is out of control or preoccupying; though the victim has tried to, they cannot stop; they continue with their actions despite the [often terrible] consequences; and the sex has an anaesthetising function – it takes away the pain in the same way a gin and tonic might for an alcoholic.”
How can you fight it yourself?
The condition is far from easy to treat. “Anything that gets tied up in an orgasm is quite difficult to manage – because it’s so powerful,” explains Dr Birchard, who claims a 60 to 70 per cent success rate at his consultancy. One thing you can do is learn what the triggers for your behaviour are and manufacture ways to avoid or manage them, explains Paula Hall, sexual and relationship psychotherapist and sex addiction specialist. “It’s the same coping mechanism as for someone addicted to cigarettes: you learn your trigger and when it occurs you go to the gym, or go jogging or phone a friend”. Someone to talk to about your addiction is vital. “You need to find at least one person you can open up to, and who will hold you accountable,” says Hall.
What help is available?
There are Sex Addicts Anonymous website pages that may help uncover whether you are addicted to sex or not. “You need to discover where it started and find out what you’re anaesthetising,” says Hall. Usually, explains Birchard, the condition stems from some kind of trauma in the family of the sufferer.