PICKING up her mobile, Frankie Considine began scrolling through the dozens of men listed in her contacts.
She had already had sex with four of them in the last 24 hours – and was desperate to arrange another hook-up.
“I could only function and carry on with my day if I knew when I was going to get my next hit of sex,” says Frankie, who has slept with over 130 men.
“It was such a priority to me, I'd plan that over work, self-care or going out.”
But while Frankie enjoyed the thrill, it took a huge toll on her mental and physical health.
She spiralled into depression, contracted multiple STIs, and even fell pregnant – with no idea who the father was – before being diagnosed with sex addiction, a recognised mental health condition.
“I’d call in sick to work or cancel meeting friends if I could have sex," Frankie, now 28, tells Fabulous. “I’d make sure it happened every day.”
‘I clung to sexual attention’
With high-profile sex addicts including Tiger Woods, Russell Brand and Katie Price’s ex, Kieran Hayler, most people associate the condition with men – but there are an estimated 660,000 female sufferers in the UK.
According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, four per cent of the British population are sex addicts – and a quarter of these are women. The causes, however, remain unclear.
In Frankie’s case, she believes her insatiable craving for sex stemmed from the trauma of her parents’ divorce and her difficult relationship with her body.
Her parents split when she was 13, and her mum moved out. Her father worked as a cab driver so she was often home alone, feeling lonely and isolated.
"I’d go online and talk to people for attention," she says.
"It was 100% about the closeness with another person. It was almost like I'd befriended these guys.
“I've always been a curvy girl, bigger than my friends, and growing up that was definitely hard. So I guess when I did get that sexual attention, I clung onto it.”
Spiralling out of control
Frankie lost her virginity aged 14, then went on to have a four-year relationship from 16 to 20. But a year into the relationship, she began cheating on her boyfriend.
"Even though I loved him, I was having sex with someone else at least every fortnight," she says.
She eventually ended the relationship after her mum died following a year-long cancer battle.
It was this loss that made her sex addiction spiral out of control, as she slept with endless men to cope with her grief.
"After I dumped my boyfriend, I dropped out of uni and my attitude was 'let’s go crazy!' I lost a lot of weight. I looked good and I got lots of blokes. I started enjoying being single," she says.
Over the next three years, Frankie estimates she slept with 80 men – some were
one-night stands, others she had sex with multiple times – using a secret second phone to organise the hook-ups.
They were mostly friends of friends, exes, or men she’d met on Plenty of Fish.
"Losing Mum was life-shattering,” she says. “I wasn’t interested in drinking or taking drugs. Sex was my coping mechanism. It was very much about the thrill of the sex but also the intimacy, being with someone close to you, which replaced the loss of my mum.
"It was like that little quick fix - but I got so hooked on it."
‘It didn’t matter if they were single or not’
At her most extreme, Frankie says she slept with four men in 24 hours.
“One weekend in 2012 I went to Brighton for a 21st birthday,” she explains.
“I met one guy, he came to my hotel room and we had sex. The following day I had a mechanic out to look at my car. I ended up sleeping with him and his friend, and later on that night I slept with someone else.”
But even this wasn’t enough to make her stop.
“It gives you such a high and, when it starts to fade, you want more,” she explains.
“It didn’t matter to me if they were single or not. Looking back on it, I feel awful now - but at the time I just didn’t feel bad at all about their girlfriends. I was almost proud of the numbers growing because I thought 'Oh, I’m quite good at this'."
Frankie also didn't think twice about her sexual health - and never used any form of protection, including the pill.
"It’s no surprise that I got STIs, contracting the HPV warts virus and then chlamydia twice in 2013.”
The signs you could be a sex addict...
PEOPLE with a sex addiction display compulsive sexual behaviour to achieve a 'fix' - similar to what someone with an alcohol addiction would get from a drink.
Often, sex becomes the "central focus" of the person's life. They put it above their own health, career, relationships with family and friends and other responsibilities.
Relationship counselling service Relate describes sex addiction as "any sexual activity that feels out of control" - with sufferers depending on it "to numb out negative emotions and difficult experiences".
Warning signs may include secrecy, isolation, moodiness, and depression and anxiety. A partner might also notice an impact on their sex life, such as erectile problems or the avoidance of sex.
While many people have claimed sex addiction isn't a real disorder, the condition was officially classified as a mental illness by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in July 2018.
Several celebs have previously confessed to having suffered from sex addiction - including Russell Brand, Tiger Woods, X Files star David Duchovny, and Katie Price's ex Kieran Hayler.
Some people who suffer from sex addiction fall into the category of "sexual anorexia".
Guidelines provided by Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous state: "As an eating disorder, anorexia is defined as the compulsive avoidance of food.
"In the area of sex and love, anorexia has a similar definition: Anorexia is the compulsive avoidance of giving or receiving social, sexual or emotional nourishment."
So you don't actually need to be having sex to have a sex and love addiction: you just need to have an unhealthy relationship with sex as a whole.
‘I just wanted someone to love me’
Meanwhile, her mental health took a serious hit, as she began battling depression, anxiety and panic attacks.
“About a year into the addiction, I realised I actually wanted a relationship," she adds.
“I wanted someone to love me... but a lot of the guys I was sleeping with obviously just wanted a quick s**g. I got very depressed, but I still couldn’t escape the addiction.”
Frankie struggled to sleep and sometimes was too anxious to leave her house.
Then working at a leisure centre, she would regularly call in sick, pretending to be physically unwell.
"I had a lot of catastrophic thinking - I always thought, if I go out, is something going to happen? It was awful," she recalls.
Yet even as she received counselling for her depression, she was still gripped by cravings – with men regularly coming to her home for sex.
Then in 2013, when she was 22, Frankie discovered she was pregnant.
Still in the depths of mental illness and struggling to identify the father from five or six possible partners, she made the tough decision to have an abortion.
“Until then I was in a bubble and didn’t care," she says. "This was a wake-up call – I had no idea who the dad was. It was a total Jeremy Kyle situation and I had to have an abortion."
Frankie only revealed her secret to her best pal – who, while supportive, assumed the pregnancy was the result of her being sexually active rather than an addict.
“After that, I didn’t stop, but I did calm down,” she says. “I wasn’t having sex anywhere near as much.”
Smashing the stigma
In early 2014, Frankie finally overcame her anxiety thanks to regular counselling, allowing her to go back out and meet people.
Later that year, she began an on-off relationship with a man she met on Tinder.
She never told him about her past, and in April 2017, she discovered she was pregnant. Her daughter was born on January 17, 2018.
“She was very much planned,” Frankie says.
When her daughter was six months old, Frankie and her partner broke up, and she started seeing a new therapist for support.
Eventually, aged 26, she was diagnosed with sex addiction.
"The relief was incredible," she says. “Talking about it with my therapist, I realised none of it was my fault... I reckon there are loads of other people like me out there but they are too nervous to come forward.
"There is so much stigma around being a sex addict. People think it’s an excuse, but we aren’t sluts. It’s a genuine illness.”
‘I won’t let my past hold me back’
Today, Frankie - whose friends have been “nothing but supportive” since she told them about her diagnosis - says her relationship with sex has flipped on its head as she relearns what it's really about.
“It’s almost done a 360,” she says. “I just saw sex as an act and nothing more, but now I’m trying to learn the intimacy between two people.
“I’m very reserved now. If I’m seeing someone, I don’t want to have sex straight away. If they initiate it or want to talk about it, they almost get blocked from my phone - I’m that fearful.
"I’m scared if I sleep with them too soon, will I go back down the spiral?"
And while she sometimes thinks of her abortion years ago, she now adores being Mum, working part-time as a receptionist while her daughter attends nursery.
“I don’t regret making that decision. It was 100 per cent right at the time,” Frankie reflects.
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To control her sex addiction today, Frankie uses EMDR - NHS-backed Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing, which helps people overcome the effects of psychological trauma.
“It is so easy on dating apps to find someone to have sex with within minutes," she says.
"Today I recognise such urges for what they are: loneliness and needing company.
“My dad isn’t well and it can trigger those feelings too. Nowadays if I am feeling down, I have other coping mechanisms in place. But I haven’t had a one-night stand for years. Having a really good cry does wonders. I also exercise, meditate or go for a really long walk to clear my mind.”
Frankie, who is single but dating, hopes that one day she'll settle down - and she's determined her past won't hold her back.
"I’m not going to let it stop me from finding love," she says.