"Sex addiction," also known as "compulsive sexual behavior disorder," was added to the WHO's 11th edition of its International Classification of Diseases, which was released June 18.
According to the WHO, a person is addicted to sex when they exhibit a "persistent pattern of failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses or urges resulting in repetitive sexual behavior." For a sex addict, sex becomes the "central focus" of the person's life at the expense of health and other personal responsibilities, even when they are no longer deriving pleasure from the activity, the Telegraph reported Monday. Before someone is diagnosed with the disorder, they must experience substantial distress as a result of the addiction for at least six months.
It is yet unclear whether the British National Health Service (NHS) will follow suit and add sex addiction to its list of disorders as well. Sex addiction is not considered a disorder by the American Psychological Association and is not listed as one in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
According to Dr Valerie Voon, a member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the main professional organization of psychiatrists in the UK, between 2 and 4 percent of people in the UK likely suffer from sex addiction. Three to 6 percent of the US population is also expected to have the condition, the Sun reported Friday.
"It is a behavior that tends to be hidden as it's shameful and often sex addicts don't come forward," Voon told The Sun.
"Adding this to the WHO list is an excellent step for patients as it allows them to recognize that they are suffering with a problem. It takes it out of the shadows and they are able to seek help for it," she added.
Several public figures have revealed that they have suffered from sex addiction.
In a 2017 interview with US Weekly, popular comedian Russell Brand told the magazine, "When I became sexually aware as a teenager, I got very obsessive about sex and women and pornography."
In an exclusive report published by the Guardian in 2007, Brand also admitted that sex provided him "a breathing space, when you're outside of yourself and your own head." In that report, he also revealed that he went to rehab to battle his sex addiction.
In her latest Facebook Watch series Red Table Talk, actress Jada Pinkett Smith also opened up about her sex addiction.
"My sort of addictions jump. They jump around," she explained on her talk show. "When I was younger, I definitely think I had a sex addiction of some kind, yes, that everything could be fixed by sex. You know what I'm saying?"
Video gaming addiction also received its own entry in the WHO's latest Classification of Diseases as a mental health disorder.
According to Joan Harvey, a spokesperson for the British Psychological Society, playing video games for hours on end does not, by itself, constitute a gaming addiction. The hobby turns into an addiction when it interferes with the "expected functions" of a person's life, including impartment in personal, family, social, educational or occupational functioning.
"People need to understand this doesn't mean every child who spends hours in their room playing games is an addict; otherwise medics are going to be flooded with requests for help," Harvey said, AP reported in June.