IMAGINE craving sex every minute of the day. It may sound funny, ridiculous even â€“ but in truth, itâ€™s all-consuming, exhausting, and agonisingly disappointing.
According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, four per cent of the population are sex addicts â€“ and a quarter of them are women.
In July this year, sex addiction was formally recognised as a mental health condition by the World Health Organisation, who defined the disorder as an inability to control intense sexual urges.
This move could lead to treatment being made available on the NHS, similar to that available to alcoholics and drug users.
This is welcome news to sufferers like mum-of-three Rebecca Barker, whose addiction to sex led to her craving it every minute she was awake. With one partner she made love for up to seven hours a day, but her desire was never satisfied.
The 37-year-old, originally from Tadcaster, Yorkshire, lives with her partner Jean-Marc, 54, who is a farmer in the Vienne in western France. She explainsâ€¦
Iâ€™ve always had a really high sex drive. I lost my virginity at 15 and I met the father of my first two children, now aged 18 and 14, when I was 16. It was then my love of sex kicked in.
Weâ€™d make love every day, but as the years went by and I gave birth to our two kids, life took over.
I was 24 when I decided I wanted to leave the marriage and I moved to France to live with mum.
My mum, Jannine, owned a farm in Vienne, central France. Six months later I was out with mum when I met a guy at a barbecue. It was love at first sight.
We were both infatuated and I couldnâ€™t keep my hands off him. Weâ€™d have sex most days and in 2010 we had a daughter, now eight, together.
I moved in with him and we got engaged, but as we settled down with my two kids and our daughter, I began to feel insecure and unsettled.
I criticised myself constantly and when I tried to talked to my partner he just didnâ€™t understand.
Eventually I saw my doctor and was prescribed medication for anxiety. It was around then, in 2014, when my sex drive tipped over into addiction.
But every minute I was awake I had obsessive thoughts about sex. When I gave in to temptation I briefly felt better about myself, less stressed and anxious, but there was no longer-term satisfaction â€” as soon as it was over, all I could think about was doing it again.
Obviously my fiancĂ© couldnâ€™t stay at home with me all day in bed, but as he was walking out of the room to go to work I would cry and beg him to stay.
By now my mental health had descended to such a state I was suffering from a severe bout of depression.
Looking back I can see why – Iâ€™d moved to France. I had a toddler under two with my new partner, as well as the older kids.
However, we didnâ€™t have a place of our own and we were living with his parents.
Feeling insecure and in the grip of despair – sex was all I could think about. It would drive me crazy.
Iâ€™d struggle to hold a conversation with someone. Iâ€™d stare at their lips. Everything reminded me of wanting to have sex.
I saw myself as a failure. I needed my partnerâ€™s approval and craved sex around the clock to get that.
We both worked from home running a farm together and Iâ€™d pester him for sex several times a day.
Even though it was exhausting, he was thrilled â€“ at first.
It drove him mad. We were having sex five times a day to satisfy my needs, yet it wasnâ€™t enough.
I was like a drug addict needing an instant high. As soon as I got it Iâ€™d want another one.
Sex was a means to an end and something I needed to relieve the obsessive thoughts in my mind.
It became draining for my partner. Months went by and yet every day Iâ€™d beg him for sex.
I was so obsessed with sex. No wonder my partner was convinced I was having an affair too.
In the end I couldnâ€™t risk going out and became a recluse.
A year later I started seeing a psychiatrist for my depression. When I mentioned my sex addiction to her, she did change the combination of my medication.
It was then I discovered why my body craved sex – it’s one of the easiest ways to get a quick fix of “happy hormones”.
But the new meds didnâ€™t stop me wanting to have sex â€“ instead they just dimmed the sensations I felt.
I finally opened up to my mum and took the kids to stay with her. I needed to escape my fixation with sex and concentrate on feeling better about myself.I did a lot of online research about my thirst for sex and concluded that I was a nymphomaniac â€“ a woman with an uncontrollable sexual desire.
I finally left my partner in 2014. Away from him, my sex drive calmed down.
But then I had a rebound relationship shortly after which was very intense. He laughed when I explained I was a nymphomaniac.
I told him it wasnâ€™t funny wanting sex all of the time â€“ and that I was never ever fulfilled.
But he had a high sex drive too. Sometimes we could make love for seven hours a day.
But we werenâ€™t compatible outside of the bedroom and so we split.
Months later I met another adventurous man. Again it wasnâ€™t serious – the relationship was based around sex.
In both relationships I even tried couple swapping â€“ but it didnâ€™t do anything for me.
Anyone who is worried that they may be suffering with sex addiction â€“ or if they feel someone they know has a sex addiction â€“ should reach out to their GP for further help and advice.
I was choosing emotionally unavailable partners to protect myself from going down another dark path into obsessive sex.
In the summer of 2015, something clicked and I started to wean myself off the anti-depressants. At the same time, my desire for sex simmered down too.
I met with two psychotherapists who both said my fixation on sex was an obsessive compulsive disorder.
While Iâ€™ll always feel uncomfortable being labelled a sex addict, it was a relief to have a diagnosis. Finally I could understand how lost and scared I felt.
I realised I didnâ€™t need sex to validate myself as a person. I could be loved and desired without needing constant sex.
In May 2015 I moved out of my mumâ€™s and rented a house nearby. My landlord was Jean-Marc – straight away there was a spark between us. Within a month of moving in he asked me out on a date.
For the first six months we were having sex three times a day. It’s calmed down now to once a day.
I’m finally in a stable relationship, my moods are tempered, and I don’t constantly crave sex. If I ever have anxiety issues, I talk them through with Jean-Marc â€“ weâ€™re getting married this summer.
When I look back at that period of my life, I felt so lost. Sex addiction is a massively misunderstood medical condition and people can get help for it.
Relationship counselling service Relate describes sex addiction as â€śas any sexual activity that feels out of controlâ€ť. If youâ€™re concerned about you or your partner, call them on 0300 100 1234.
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Several celebrities have confessed to having suffered with sex addiction in the past, including comedian Russell Brand.
In a 2007 excerpt from his book, My Booky Wook, he said that sex provided him with â€śa breathing space, when you’re outside of yourself and your own headâ€ť.
Here a woman reveals how her sex addiction fuelled hook ups nearly drove her to suicide.