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"You can't miss those pieces." Sex addiction won't be in the upcoming edition of the DSM-5, which is used to diagnose mental disorders.

That doesn't mean that it's not a very real problem.

"They're preoccupied; their brain just keeps going back to it. There's such intense shame and pain." Frequently, a crisis convinces them to seek treatment, Reid says.

They're caught in the act by a spouse, fired from their job, or arrested for soliciting sex from prostitutes.

"If they are suffering, we want to help them." Reid and many other experts prefer the term "hypersexual disorder," rather than "sex addiction." By either name, it's about people who keep engaging in sexual behaviors that are damaging them and/or their families. That problem puts so much at risk: their personal lives, their social lives, their jobs, and, with the threat of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, their health.

"You want to make connections with other people who are also struggling, and you have to know who you are going to call, what you are going to do, and how you are going to attend to your feelings," O'Neill says.

"If they're willing to really follow through, work with their families and their support networks, in my experience, people can get significantly better and stay in recovery." In some cases, medications used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder or impulse control disorders may be used to curb the compulsive nature of the sex addiction.

Or, problems related to attention, impulse control, or emotional regulation could also be involved.

"There are so many models or theories that we can look at to help us understand HD," Reid says.

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