The World Health Organisation (WHO) has formally recognised sex addiction as a mental health condition.
According to global health experts at the WHO, people who suffer from sex addiction for at least six months and find that it causes them distress should be able to access medical treatment for the problem.
This means that sex addiction treatment could be available to sufferers on the NHS.
There is disagreement among experts about whether sex addiction should be characterised as a mental illness, and this new decision from the WHO comes swiftly after the international body also controversially classed addiction to video games as a mental health issue.
The World Health Organisation considers sex addiction to be a compulsive disorder where sufferers cannot control intense sexual urges and neglect their health and other parts of their in favour of sexual activity.
The counselling service Relate says that the symptoms of sex addiction include:
- Engaging in sexual behaviour that you feel is out of control.
- Fearing that there may be serious consequences to your behaviour but carrying on with it anyway.
- Regularly engaging in destructive or high-risk sexual activities.
- Wanting to stop but not feeling able to.
- Needing more sexual activity to achieve the same ‘high’.
- Experiencing feelings of shame, regret or depression after sexual experiences, or intense mood swings around repeated sexual activity.
- Spending more and more time planning, engaging in or recovering from sexual activities.
- Prioritising sex over your social life, family life or work.
Around 4% of people in the UK are believed to suffer from sex addiction and although the NHS does not currently recognise it as an illness, the WHO’s new classification may lead to care being available for compulsive sexual behaviour.
Compulsive sexual behaviour means activity that you feel like you can’t stop and can’t control, and can include but certainly isn’t limited to the use of pornography, sex with a partner, sex with sex workers in person or online, and masturbation.
According to an online Sex Addiction Help questionnaire live since 2013, 91% of those seeking help for sex addiction are male.
Steve Clarke, a Priory psychotherapist at Priory’s Lifeworks Hospital in Woking, Surrey, and its Clinical and Therapy Services Manager, said: ‘Classifying sex addiction as a mental health condition would go some way to helping destigmatise the shame and guilt experienced by individuals receiving treatment.
‘In addition, it is possible that it could lead to more private insurance providers recognising these symptoms of addiction as among those that they are prepared to support treatment for.’
If you feel that sex addiction or compulsive sexual behaviours are affecting your life, you might want to get in touch with the relationship support organisation Relate.
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3 June 2018