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Monday 11 December 2017

Sex: The sexual addictions of the rich and famous

The sexual addictions of the rich and famous often seem like an excuse for their use and abuse of celebrity, says anna coogan, but with easy access to explicit pornography on the internet, it is likely to become a problem that cannot be dismissed for a growing number of young people

Dismiss sex addiction as an excuse for weak behaviour, and you're ignoring an "explosive sexual health issue" heading our way, warns a leading sex-addiction expert.

"Sex addiction might be used as an excuse by a man who has multiple sexual partners," says JC Durbin, CEO of the Wicklow-based addiction treatment centre Toranfield House. "It might also be seen as a titillating subject. Yet there's nothing titillating about a man who continuously has unprotected sex with prostitutes who may have sexually transmitted diseases, and then goes home and has sex with his wife," says the addiction counsellor.

"There's nothing titillating about the compulsive masturbator, who masturbates up to 15 times a day, and whose life is spiralling out of control because of his compulsive behaviour," says Durbin.

The subject of sex addiction is back in the news, thanks to the film Shame, which stars Kerry-reared actor Michael Fassbender, and tells the story of a thirtysomething sex addict whose life is run on his need for sexual encounters.

Sex addiction regularly crops up in the world of celebrities, with stars who have reportedly sought treatment for sex addiction including Michael Douglas, when he was married to his first wife Diandra, and Tiger Woods after he was caught out cheating on his ex-wife, Elin Nordegren. Comedian Russell Brand has written about his excessive sexual appetite in the autobiography My Booky Wook. While David Duchovny, star of The X-Files, was also allegedly treated for sex-addiction problems.



cheats

Rather than seeing sex addiction as an excuse for cheats, Durbin believes we should be educating ourselves on how easy access to porn is putting young people at risk of sex addiction. Pornography on the internet is putting society at risk of an "explosive increase in sexual health issues", he believes.

"Porn can be accessed on mobile phones, meaning young people are exposed to sexual imagery at a very early age," he says. "Because young people's first experience of sex is now often porn, and they are seeing sex presented in an excessive way, it may lead to problems with them modifying their sexual behaviour later and in real life," he says.

Durbin estimates between 3-5pc of people with addictive problems will present with issues around sexual compulsivity.

"I haven't seen the film Shame, but I've heard that the character derives no enjoyment from sex. That's a defining aspect of any kind of addiction," the addiction counsellor says. "Heroin might feel enjoyable at first, but in the end all an addict is doing is using the drug to try to feel in any way normal.

"Sex addiction involves compulsive and risky behaviour which has destructive consequences for the sufferer," Durbin says.

There are no statistics for sex addiction here but the American-based Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health estimates that up to 5pc of people are afflicted.

Durbin feels it's time to "destigmatise sex addiction".

"If you have a counselling group, and someone talks about being addicted to alcohol, and the next person about being addicted to drugs, the person who is addicted to masturbating will be the last to speak," he says.

Liam Lally is co-director of counselling at Accord marriage and relationship counselling service. He says: "In Accord we don't have any statistics on sex addiction. In 2011, 22pc of our clients listed use of the internet as a problem in their relationships. People use the internet for work, gambling, games and pornography. All of those who use the internet to access pornography could not be described as sex addicts.

"Sexual addiction is an intimacy disorder and the symptoms mostly consist of compulsive sexual thoughts and acts. Like all addictions, it interferes with the life, work and relationships of the individual and as the disorder progresses the individual usually has to increase the behaviour in order to achieve a measure of satisfaction.

"It is difficult to treat as, unlike alcohol, total abstinence is normally not desirable or possible," Lally says.

Signs that a person may be at risk of sex addiction can show up in careless or illicit behaviour a person might exhibit around their sex life.



compulsions

Durbin says: "A person might find themselves out of step with their peers. For example, a 14-year-old boy might masturbate compulsively, but when a man in his late 20s or 30s is doing this, addictive behaviour can be the cause.

"A young person might date a lot, but as we get older we tend to modify our behaviour. If instead, a person's behaviour becomes excessive and extreme in the search for sexual encounters, they may be at risk of sexual addiction," he says.

While sex addiction is most often seen as a male problem, women also run the risk of experiencing the symptoms. Durban says: "It's not unheard of for a woman to present with extreme sexual behaviour."

"The distress caused to someone who can't control their sexual behaviour is considerable," Durbin says. "Like any addiction, recovery is possible. But there has to be an acceptance that the problem of sex addiction exists first," he says.

For more information, log onto www.toranfieldhouse.com or www.accord.ie

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