So Tiger Woods has brought sex addiction back as a headline but do we believe it? Is it a case that some people just can't say no and are using the framework of addiction to excuse their lack of willpower?

During sex our bodies release a powerful cocktail of chemicals that make us feel good. Some people become addicted to these chemicals and become obsessed with getting their next fix, their next sexual 'high'. As with other addictions the body also gets used to the chemical surge, so the addict needs increasing amounts to achieve the same buzz.

Most of us however are able to enjoy the heady cocktail of chemicals sex provokes and whilst it is acknowledged that we spend a significant proportion of our time thinking about sex, it is fleeting and we are able to conduct our lives happily. This is not so for everybody!

When things start to get out of hand, with dangerous behaviour and rapidly crashing self esteem the vicious circle takes hold:

Gnawing discomfort inside, growing louder until appeased

I NEED a sexual 'hit'

I will create a sexual high

Anticipation starts the chemical flow and associated feel-good factor

I feel great with all those chemicals surging around my system

I act out my sexual ritual

As they leave I feel down and desperately lonely, disappointed with myself

I pledge to stop this behaviour

I am remorseful, shamed and out of control

But I feel too bad about myself to face life without the high

I repeat the cycle.

With the increase of sexual material available on the internet it might come as no surprise that a conservative estimate of the number of adults affected by sex addiction is at least 6%. With 80% being men and 20% women, although there are no groups more predisposed to sexual addiction than any other. Free and easy access to porn and chat rooms on the internet means a fix is available at anytime night or day.

Just like any other addiction sex can get out of control, taking over our thoughts, our lives and preventing us from having intimate relationships. 70% of sex addicts have suffered severe relationship problems and 40% have actually lost a partner as a result of their behaviour. This is not painting too pretty a picture.

Most addictions begin as a happy habit that get out of control - this extends to eating, shopping, exercise, work, drugs, alcohol and much more. When our behaviour has known severe consequences but we feel unable to stop, instead persistently pursuing destructive and/or high risk activities, we know we are in trouble. It is time to make serious changes to our life.

Sex addiction effects work life too. Whether it is sitting up through the early hours on chat rooms and sex sites, or being out on the town to fulfill the need. 27% of sex addicts readily admit they have lost career opportunities as a result.

If you, or somebody you know, has lost their power over an addiction and has tried unsuccessfully to take control, it is time to seek help. The Priory runs sex addiction clinics, there are sex therapists (check out the British Association of Sexual and Relationship Therapists who offer a directory of private sex therapists).

By taking back your power, owning your behaviour and understanding yourself at a deeper level sexual addiction can be overcome, giving you the opportunity to start creating a new life where you trust yourself to make decisions that make you feel good about yourself and those around you.

Michelle Zelli