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One of the biggest ironies about sex addiction is that it's only marginally about sex; like all addicts, what it's really about is being unable to process or deal with something difficult in your life, whether it's unhappiness, boredom or frustration."For sex addicts, the nature of their addiction gives them additional problems."If I was an alcoholic or a drug addict, people would be sympathetic and would want to help," David says.It's at least two years since he visited a sex worker, and these days he limits his "fix" to seeking out sexual thrills, and then walking away from them."I act it out by going to some dodgy place – but when I'm offered a hand job or whatever, I leave without going through with it," he says.A big breakthrough for many, says Ms Hall – who chairs the Association for the Treatment of Sex Addiction and Compulsivity – is realising they're not alone."Many people with this problem believe they're the only one with it – so finding out that there are good people out there struggling in exactly the same way really boosts their self-esteem," she says."I advise clients to block adult content on the internet, and to avoid people or places that trigger their need for sex.

The stakes are very high."So how can sex addicts be helped?"Now I'm doing 20 sessions annually, with an average of 30 therapists at each.And when you ask them why they're here they all give the same answer: more and more clients are presenting with sex addiction, and they want to know more about how to help them."No one understands what the rise in sex addiction is entirely about but internet porn, Ms Hall says, has got to be part of it. Just as with cannabis and cocaine, many people will use the gateway drug and never become addicted; but others most definitely will."Porn has been a comfort blanket for my anxieties but at the same time helped to increase them while stopping me from facing up to my problems and living my life to the full."What's also interesting about her research, Ms Hall says, is how young sex addiction starts: of the people she surveyed, 40 per cent were under 16 and nearly 10 per cent were under 10 years old when their problems started.For David Prior, though, the problem started later: he was in his mid-twenties when he started to visit prostitutes and realised his problems were deeper than just getting a sexual kick.