“My oldest son died and a few days later I found myself in a porn cinema. That was my big horror point. I hated myself and didn’t want to be like that anymore,” says Jacob*.


He would spend countless hours having sexual fantasies, on porn sites and masturbating; constantly chasing the next kick. “I didn’t realise it took over my life. I felt out of control. I realised I didn’t want to be ashamed of who I am and what I do.” And so Jacob sought help in SAA.


Some doctors describe sex addiction as a pattern of sexual behaviour that feels out of control and is used to numb psychological pain such as shame, low self-esteem, trauma, stress and anxiety.


“I was raped,” says Jacob, “and I started medicating my feelings sexually when I was eight or nine years old. It’s quite common with addiction: you do things that make you feel better to escape the difficult situation you find yourself in.”


Sex addicts can have various obsessions: compulsive masturbation, pornography, web sex, prostitution, dangerous sexual practices and so on. However, it is still a “young” addiction – people only started talking about it a decade ago – and is in its early stages of achieving the same credibility given for example to alcoholism.


Unlike alcoholism, sex addiction is not recognised by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and it is often criticised for being used simply to excuse one’s sexual actions.


Dr Thaddeus Birchard established the first professional recovery programme for sex addiction in the UK, and is the director of the Marylebone Centre for Psychological Therapies in London.


He says the traffic in people seeking help is greater than ever before. “When I started in the field 25 years ago I was the only one talking about it. However, slowly, since 2000, sex addiction has become a buzzword,” says Birchard. Hollywood has latched on by highlighting the addiction in the movies Shame in 2011 and 2013 Thanks For Sharing.


Jacob says: “The wider we [SAA] are, the more accessible, the better. In that sense the internet has been a blessing.”


Charles* joined SAA 14 years ago: “I knew I had a problem, but I wasn’t aware of the solution. Today, the internet helps carry the message to places where there are no face-to-face meetings.”


Jacob says: “What is important [for SAA] is to be there for people who need it. Some people are suicidal because they think they are the only perverts in the world. And so we need to be there for people to find us.”


But the web has proven to be a double-edged weapon for sex addicts: porn consumption has skyrocketed since the internet started carrying videos 12 years ago. Birchard says: “It has made a big difference because you can access sex images in the privacy of your home. When your wife has gone to bed you can spend all night looking at images. For people who have a tendency to addiction it could trigger an addictive process for them.”


This means people who today are sex addicts would arguably not have been so without new technologies.


Hall says: “The internet is both a huge benefit but also a curse. The easy accessibility [to porn] is the reason the problem has escalated so fast. It’s like having crack cocaine lying around.”


Jacob argues the digital world has made porn free, easily accessible and anonymous. “For most people, porn isn’t a problem. But for a minority of us it’s something that becomes highly compulsive and destructive. It takes over huge chunks of our lives,” says Jacob.


Pornography can be accessed not only on computers, but also smartphones and tablets. Statistics show one in five Google mobile searches are for pornography, and almost a quarter of UK’s public have erotic material on their smartphone. “Sex” is the most-searched word online and 35 per cent of all internet downloads are of pornography.


Despite increased awareness, sex addiction is still in its adolescent years. And although the internet can help it on its way of becoming more well-known and accepted, it also poses serious issues by opening up a world of widespread pornography and temptation. Controlling and regulating porn is close to impossible, and so it is up to doctors, professionals and sex addicts themselves to use the internet to their benefit: to inform, educate and pave the way to awareness. But there is still a long way to go.


* Name has been changed to protect anonymity


Oda-Karoline Rosland-Eilertsen is a third-year BA Journalism student at City University. She has worked and freelanced for a number of Norwegian newspapers. In her journalistic endeavours, Oda-Karoline likes to explore the minds of society’s underdogs.  When she’s not hiking in the Norwegian mountains, her nose is usually stuck in a book.


Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) has just about quadrupled its number of members since it was established 25 years ago. The trend appears to be the same for other treatment programmes in the country.


Psychotherapist Paula Hall has specialised in sex and porn addiction for 12 years. Although there is no clear figure on how many sex addicts there are in the United Kingdom, Hall claims: “I can confidently say numbers are doubling every year.” She blames the internet. Online resources have made it easier to find information about the addiction and how to get help. SAA, for example, has its own website and offers meetings via Skype.


A man’s journey to recover from sex addiction started when he lost his child.

"the web has proven to be a double-edged weapon for sex addicts" (icofuma on Flickr)



by O. Eilertsen