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Page last updated at 07:17 GMT, Tuesday, 9 December 2008
Inside a US sex addiction clinic

By Sima Kotecha
Newsbeat US reporter in Santa Fe

Prostitute
Sex addicts do everything from watch porn to visit prostitutes

Like alcohol, drugs, and gambling, sex can become addictive too.

Celebrities Russell Brand and David Duchovny threw a spotlight on sex addiction by checking into rehabilitation centres in the States to get treatment for it.

Last year, Newsbeat discovered that sex addiction was a growing problem among men in the UK.

80% of the sex therapists we contacted said an increasing number of males were asking for help with sex addiction.

Today there are more than eight clinics in America offering specialist treatment to those who suffer from the disorder.

Newsbeat was given exclusive access to one of them.

The Life Healing Centre (LHC) is in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and it offers two sex addiction programmes: one for men and the other for women.

The centre is based at the top of a mountain range.

It's 7,500ft (2,286m) above sea level. The high altitude can make people feel light headed for a while.

From the balcony on campus, you can see nothing but mountains and desert.

Lose control

Rob Weiss is an addiction specialist. He created the sex addiction programme at LHC.

He said: "Sex addicts are people who lose control over healthy sexual choices.

I was compulsive self-pleasuring, using pornography, going to prostitutes and having people sexually abuse and torture me for my pleasure
Andy, 31, claims to have been a sex addict for years
"They say things to themselves like, 'I'm not going to go to that place for sex' or 'I'm not going to see that person for sex' but they continue to do it anyway.

"They show behaviours that are common to all addicts and they show consequences and thinking that is common to all addicts."

According to Mr. Weiss, 80% of sex addicts in the US are men.

It is impossible to say how many sex addicts there are though, as many don't admit to having the problem.

Psychologist and author Doctor Patrick Carnes, who has done substantial research in the area, estimates three to 5% of Americans suffer from the disorder.

Their behaviour can vary from compulsively watching porn online to visiting prostitutes at every opportunity.

Andy is 31 and is enrolled in the programme. He claims to have been a sex addict for years.

Life Healing Centre in Santa Fe
The Life Healing Centre in Santa Fe treats a wide variety of patients
He said: "I was compulsive self-pleasuring, using pornography, going to prostitutes and having people sexually abuse and torture me for my pleasure."

His addiction got so out of control that he was unable to walk for a month after a dominatrix severely sexually abused him at his request.

"I was the masochist. Once I was so physically harmed because I'd taken it to an extreme level," he added.

Talking

So what goes on at this clinic which claims to cure sex addicts like Andy?

At LHC they focus on communication. Through hours of self-evaluation, the therapists and councillors attempt to get to the bottom of the cause of the addiction.

They believe in trauma exploration because many of the addicts have difficult pasts ranging from child abuse to problematic up-bringings.

The group sessions focus on reducing the shame in patients which goes along with the disorder.

The male addicts at LHC explained their addiction as being a force that was too great to control.

Room at the Life Healing Centre (LHC) in Santa Fe
No TVs, phones or mobile phones are allowed in the clinic
But Phillip Hodson, fellow of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, disagrees and says sex is about choices.

He said: "We think that sex addiction is not a proper definition.

"I mean it's up to you whether you go out and have sex with somebody.

"You have a choice or you stay in and watch EastEnders."

He thinks the condition would be better described as compulsive, obsessive or greedy.

Rob Weiss understands the scrutiny that comes with the term "sex addiction" but argues that it is a genuine problem and not just a glamorous term for someone who has a high sex drive.

He said: "I never think of sex addiction as being glamorous.

"The people I work with are often engaging in acts that they themselves aren't comfortable with.

"They hate themselves often for the types of places they go to and the behaviours they engage in.

"No sex addict would describe their behaviour as glamorous."

A 35-day programme at the centre doesn't come cheap.

It costs around 20,000. Doug is a sex addict and has been in rehab for several weeks.

He said: "As far as the number of women I've been with, it runs in the hundreds. I don't count.

"But now I hope to live a normal life, and have a normally functioning sex life."

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