According to a study by the British family counselling organisation, one in 20 people has a hypersexuality problem. The disorder occurs more in men (85 percent of cases) than in women (15 percent of cases), since the latter have less inclination towards “sex devoid of emotional ties”. But what is hypersexuality? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is an “excessive sexual impulse” – that is, an excessive increase in a person’s sexual activity leading to negative social, emotional and physical consequences. For example, some people with hypersexuality stop enjoying sex when they become obsessed with the sheer number of sexual encounters. In other words: addiction to sex.

It is difficult to present a reliable profile of the average sex addict. Dr Josep Maria Farré of the University Institute USP Dexeus in Barcelona suggests the following: “People with impulsive characteristics, with poor control and an excessive desire for novelties, or with a tendency to social failure, have a certain predisposition”.

Stress, low control of impulses and emotions, and low tolerance of frustration can also lead to the development of the ailment. The hypersexual person suffers intense feeling of guilt, makes continuous self-reproaches, and has a confused perception of what is good or bad, and what is a lot or a little. According to Farré, 21 percent of sex addicts are also depressed “They are people with serious deficiencies, and sex is their way of compensating for them,” he says. “They use their body, and that of others, as an object.”

Emotional damage aside, some side effects of compulsive sexual activity are irritability, nausea, insomnia and anxiety. And sometimes physical injury. According to the sexologist and clinical psychologist Esteban Cañamares, “the prostate and the urethra in particular, and the whole body in general, suffer a lot with this type of excess”.

Although they resent their own body and soul, sex addicts are insatiable. They live only to satisfy their fantasies. But there comes a day when, after exhausting the pleasure of orgasms, their world collapses on top of them. The sex addict may then think: “What am I doing with my life?” At that time, they may seek help. Dr Cañamares says: “It is possible to cure sex addiction by treating it like any other addiction. It takes a few months or several years of psychotherapy, depending on the case. You have to re-educate their behaviours to link sex with feelings. The degree of relapse is high, but 50 percent of patients manage to regain control of their impulses.”

Another option is to address Sexual Addicts Anonymous, a fellowship of people who, like alcoholics, use group therapy to overcome their dependency and rebuild their lives. It is a free service, which is maintained by voluntary donations from members. And then there is the clinic, which is the most expensive option, but also the most effective. Famous people – such as Russell Brand and Michael Douglas – who have entered clinics to treat their hypersexuality are the best ambassadors for these places.

In Spain, one of the most famous clinics is Capistrano. Its director, Dr José María Vázquez-Roel, believes that the biggest obstacle to curing hypersexuality is that “it is usually taken less seriously than gambling, drug addiction and other dependencies. So, from the outset, it is a positive step to take the patient out of their daily environment, so that little by little he will regain control of his body.” Only in the most serious cases are drugs used: “We use enhancers of the effect of serotonin in the brain. Also antiandrogens or similar, but only if there are dangerous behaviours,” he says.