Page last updated at 03:05 GMT, Monday, 5 April 2010 04:05 UK

Life inside a sex addiction clinic in the UK

Recovering sex addict Danny James: 'Suicide attempts meant there was always someone in the house'

UK sex addiction clinics are reporting a rise in the number of people seeking help, a fact being linked to golfer Tiger Woods admitting his affairs. BBC Reporter Gavin Lee was given access to one of the few sex addiction clinics in the UK.

The group begins in a similar way to how I'd expect an alcoholics anonymous meeting to start.

The clients sit together in a circle, and the first to speak is 27-year-old Danny James from Liverpool. "Hi, I'm Danny. I'm a sex addict."

Danny used to live in Blackpool and speaks openly about how he destroyed his relationship with his girlfriend and daughter because of his addiction.

"You could liken it to a drug. The hit after sex, I'd start to need that feeling more and more. After a while that feeling wouldn't last as long so you'd do it again and again.

"I started losing work, because I was concentrating on going out finding people to sleep with. Every day, I'd be straight into a pub, on the job and it wasn't that hard to find in Blackpool cause it's what most people come here looking for anyway, with hen nights and so on. It was kind of put on a plate."

Childhood issues

That cycle led to Danny breaking up from his partner and losing contact with his daughter. He lost his business and says he was depressed and disgusted with himself.

"It was only from going to therapy I realised there was something wrong. With me, there was a lot of back issues from my childhood. We went into those issues and rebuilt my life.

"I know it sounds daft but I did things like going to the zoo with somebody and just learn how to be normal again."

It got to the point where one of my parents would stay at home to keep an eye on me because they knew about the suicide attempts
Danny, sex addict

Danny attends the Steven Pope Therapy Clinic in Blackpool every week, which costs him £40 an hour.

Paul is another self-confessed sex addict. He is a quiet member of the group and is reluctant to take part in discussions.

He said it started through boredom when he started to search for explicit content on his computer, which led to buying hundreds of DVDs and magazines.

He described his condition as obsessive, which also led him to become deeply depressed.

'Woods effect'

The centre has taken on 52 new clients in the past two months, compared with only a handful each month last year.

This rise appears to be reflected across the small number of sex addiction clinics in the UK. Therapists say the many new clients have cited celebrities such as Tiger Woods as the inspiration for them to seek help.

Tiger Woods
Golfer Tiger Woods' many affairs have been highly publicised

Steve Pope, who owns the therapy clinic in Blackpool, says the interest from people wanting help has been unprecedented.

"People are now coming forward to talk their issues through. Woods on one side has been to hell and back, as his family has, but he's saved lives and that's the Tiger Woods effect."

The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, a professional body set up to support research into sex addiction, has also recorded a rise in the number British clients seeking help.

Paula Hall, who is in charge of the service said many professionals were now looking for further training in this field.

"They're having more and more clients coming to them looking for services and up until now there's been little or no training for this in the UK."

'Troublesome' behaviour

The treatment in the UK is based on methods used in the US where sexual behaviour therapy is big business.

However, the term is not technically recognised as a medical illness. Professor Glen Wilson, a specialist in sexual behaviour at Gresham College, dismisses the idea that it could be an addiction.

"Whatever the celebs have we all think we ought to have as well, and of course the drug companies will want to get in on the act too. Once a behaviour has been medicalised they will come up with pills for it," he says.

I think to say that sex addiction doesn't exist is a real insult to the many intelligent men and women who suffer from the condition every day
Paula Hall, psychotherapist

"There are tremendous pressures on medicalising behaviour which is no more than troublesome. It's not the same as drug addiction because it's not a hijacking of the circuits by a chemical, it is what the circuits were set up for.

"That is rewarding you for sexual behaviour which has reproductive and survival significance."

Many medical experts hold a similar opinion towards the term sex addiction. But Paula Hall, who's a trained psychotherapist, says she vehemently disagrees with their analysis and believes the problem has not been researched properly.

"The people out there still saying this does not exist do not understand the condition.

"It is not about sex, it's about that dependency and that compulsion, and I think to say that sex addiction doesn't exist is a real insult to the many intelligent men and women who suffer from the condition every day."

Despite the lack of recognition for the term sex addict, the clients in Blackpool say for them the addiction is all too real. The feelings are put into some perspective when I ask Danny what he thinks his life would be life without therapy.

"I'd be dead," he says. "There's no two ways about it.

"It got to the point where one of my parents would stay at home to keep an eye on me because they knew about the suicide attempts. I would have gone through with it. I'd be dead."

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