Jada Pinkett Smith has discussed her sex addiction: Here's what you need to know about the condition

11th Jul 18 | Lifestyle

Not everyone sees it in the same vein as drug or alcohol addiction, but the World Health Organisation's now classified it as real.

Magic Mike XXL premiere - London

Sex addiction has become a particularly hot topic recently, and for good reason.

Not only has actor Jada Pinkett Smith recently opened up about having a self-diagnosed sex addiction when she was younger, but the condition has also just been recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Pinkett Smith says on her Facebook show, Red Table Talk: “My sort of addictions jump, they jump around. When I was younger, I definitely think I had a sex addiction of some kind, yes, that everything could be fixed by sex.”

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She also mentions potential past addictions to exercise and alcohol, and adds: “It’s the behaviour that’s attached to it, because if you want to have a lot of sex, that’s great. But why are you having all that sex? That’s what you’ve got to look at.”

Sex addiction is often wildly misrepresented in popular culture, and has struggled to get proper recognition. This seems to be slowly changing, as prominent figures like Pinkett Smith, 46, bring conversations to the table.

Here’s what you need to know about the condition…

Why has it taken so long for sex addiction to be recognised?

Sex addiction isn’t as cut-and-dry as that of things like alcohol or drugs, and there’s still a lot of disagreement around it. Because it doesn’t involve creating a chemical imbalance in the body in the way something like drug use does, some think it can’t be classed as an addiction. But others disagree and argue that sex can create a type of ‘high’ – the seratonin spike that occurs after sex.

However, sex addiction is finally getting proper recognition and has been added to the WHO’s 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases. This could very well pave the way in other countries, with some commentators predicting that the NHS will follow and add it to its official list of disorders too.

What exactly is it?

Paula Hall, sex therapist with relationship charity Relate, says: “Sex addiction is a term that describes any sexual behaviour that feels ‘out of control’. It’s not the behaviour itself that defines it as an addiction but rather the dependency on it to numb out negative emotions and difficult experiences.”

For addicts, sexual behaviour is used compulsively and is hard to stop. It’s often used as a means to dull pain or as a way to deal with life.

It doesn’t just involve sex, but also other types of sexual behaviours from compulsive masturbation to exhibitionism.

What are the warning signs?

Many of the warning signs are similar to those of other addictions – the sufferer can’t just go cold turkey, and sex may become the centre of their life.

According to Project Know, sex becomes an addiction when it has a wider impact on your life – whether this is the damage it does socially (“Family relations are impaired. Jobs may be affected or lost”), physically (“STDs or unintended pregnancies”), mentally (“anxiety and depression”), as well as any legal or financial implications.

Generally, it becomes a problem when the sufferer loses the ability to control impulses and urges.

What should you do if you are worried about it?

Jada Pinkett Smith
“I am a binger, and I always have to watch myself and I can just get obsessed with things,” Pinkett Smith says of her past addictions (Ian West/PA)

While it’s definitely a positive thing that Pinkett Smith is opening up conversations around sex addiction, it’s important to note that she is self-diagnosed. As with any health issue, mental or physical, it’s generally advised to see a qualified professional who can help get to the root of the problem and ensure you get the right advice and support.

If you think you or your partner are potentially suffering from the condition and are displaying some of the key characteristics, it’s worth seeking help and making an appointment to see a sex therapist.

If you’re not sure, you can complete an online self-assessment here from the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity.

You can find further support with groups like Sex Addicts Anonymous or Relate.

© Press Association 2018