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Sex addiction: not just for men

Any time I met a guy who didn’t respond to me sexually, it would make me determined to have him,” confesses Valerie, 35, a human-resources manager in the City. “It became a challenge, a game, regardless of whether he was married or with someone. The lowest point came when I tried to seduce my best friend’s fiancé. I couldn’t bear the fact that, when they were together, he wouldn’t so much as look at me. It was an itch I had to scratch.”

“Sex addict” is the last phrase that would come to mind if you met the demure and sober-suited Valerie. Yet she is in 12-step fellowship for that very issue. “Everyone used to tell me how lucky I was, as I could get any man I wanted. I’m quite a competitive person and it was important for me to know that, in my circle of girlfriends, I was viewed as the hottest.”

That sex and, by extension, love are highly addictive is no longer up for debate. Comparative brain scans of the love-struck and cocaine-addicted show almost identical areas of brain activity. And, for the first time, people are starting to talk about sex addiction. Russell Brand has owned up to having treatment and David Duchovny recently outed himself as a sufferer.

Experts say the number of sex addicts is rising — and, contrary to popular opinion, they are not all men. “In America, 30% of people coming in for treatment for sex addiction are female,” says Don Serratt, director of Life Works, which offers sex-addiction treatment in the UK. In this country, few women present themselves as sex addicts, but that doesn’t mean the problem is less prevalent. “They’ll come for help with alcoholism, drug addiction or depression and, in the course of treatment, the sex addiction, the root cause of the other addictions, will be uncovered,” Serratt says.

Desire: Where Sex Meets Addiction by Susan Cheever

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