To be fair on Rachel’s friends, there is some debate about whether the term sex addiction is scientifically accurate, but the field of addiction is changing fast and emphasis is shifting from the substance to the psychological symptoms of addiction.
The NHS has a website page dedicated to sex addiction.
“Ideally, partners get their own therapy,” says Hall.
“The problem is that all the assumptions made by well-meaning friends about sex addiction are also shared by many therapists who are untrained in this area.
I felt that meant the risk of relapse was too great, so I left.
“He’d always go to bed later than me and often made excuses when I brought it up,” explains the 41-year-old.“So when he sat me down one day to tell me he was a sex addict, I actually laughed – although I soon stopped when he disclosed night upon night of watching pornography for hours on end and numerous short-lived affairs.My life fell apart.” Sex addiction hurts partners in a way that no other addiction can, says Paula Hall, who has written a book on the subject.The reality for most partners I see is that they experience phenomenal shock.” The damage to self-esteem, she continues, isn’t just about the sexualised behaviour, such as visits to prostitutes that partners never knew about.It’s the fact that they’ve lived with someone so long and had no idea.Joy Rosendale, a sex-addiction therapist specialising in partner work, instigated the first one in the UK back in 2005, following her own experiences.“Although there is usually huge reluctance for partners to seek help, let alone come into a group, because of the privacy and shame, something happens in these groups that liberates these women – and I say women because in my experience, it is usually women who access them,” says Rosendale, who still runs the group at the Marylebone Centre, London.“It could involve sex with a partner, but it may also mean activities such as viewing pornography, masturbation, visiting prostitutes or using sex chat lines,” it explains, claiming that while for most people such habits don’t cause problems, sex addicts are unable to control these urges and actions.Causes can of course be more complex, while for some – a fast-growing number, according to Hall – it’s simply opportunity-induced.Traditionally, most partners of sex addicts have been treated as co-dependents, says Hall.“The presumption is that the partner knew at some level what was going on and was ‘enabling’ it, which is frankly an insult.