The 8 signs you could be a sex addict, as the World Health Organisation recognises it as a mental illness

But, health experts have taken steps this week to warn when an obsession with sex becomes all-consuming, it can be dangerous.

Sex addiction, known by the medical term compulsive sexual behaviour, is now classified as a mental illness, according to the World Health Organisation.

And the landmark move means the two to four per cent of Brits suffering the condition could get help on the NHS.

It's inclusion on the WHO's list of diseases comes a few weeks after gaming addiction was added.

Dr Valerie Voon, from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said compulsive sexual behaviour "tends to be hidden as it's shameful", meaning sex addicts often don't seek help.

"Adding this to the WHO list is an excellent step for patients, as it allows them to recognise that they are suffering with a problem," she told The Sun.

"It takes it out of the shadows and means they are able to seek help for it."

But, how can you tell when your sexual fantasies and behaviours is bordering on a problem?

Signs you could be a sex addict

Sex addiction can involve a number of different experiences, from masturbation to cybersex, multiple partners, porn and paying for sex.

But, while in many cases these can form part of a healthy sex life, when the balance tips and they become all-consuming fantasies, or difficult to control, it's a sign of addiction.

It's important to know the signs, as early intervention and treatment can stop the condition ruining relationships, your self-esteem, career and health.

The eight warning signs of compulsive sexual behaviour, also known as hypersexuality and sex addiction, include:

  • recurrent and intense sexual fantasies, urges and behaviours – they will take up a lot of your time and feel like they're out of your control, according to the Mayo Clinic
  • you feel driven to do certain sexual behaviours and feel a release of tension afterwards – but also guilt and remorse
  • compulsive masturbation – there's no definitive answer for what is too much, but when it starts to interfere with your daily life, alarm bells should ring
  • you've tried, but failed, to reduce your sexual fantasies, urges and behaviours
  • you use sex to escape other problems, like loneliness, depression, anxiety or stress
  • you put yourself in dangerous situations – extramarital affairs, unprotected sex, or spend huge amounts on porn
  • you might engage in illegal sexual activity – indecent exposure, upskirting and serious sexual crimes like sex with minors
  • you have trouble establishing or maintaining healthy relationships

When to see your doctor

Compulsive sexual behaviour can get worse and worse over time, so it's important to seek help when you first think there's a problem.

The Mayo Clinic advises asking yourself these key questions:

  1. Can I manage my sexual impulses?
  2. Is my sexual behaviour distressing?
  3. Is it hurting my relationships, affecting my work or resulting in negative consequences – like getting arrested?
  4. Do I try to hide my sexual behaviour?

The first thing to do is put aside any embarrassment or fear.
Mental health professionals are trained to deal with all sorts of problems, and won't judge you.

Plus, what you say to a doctor is confidential – as long as you're not going to hurt yourself, or haven't reported sexually abusing a child or another vulnerable person – so it will stay strictly between you and them.

To speak to someone anonymously about any type of addiction, call the Samaritans free on 116 123.

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