New Study Questions the Legitimacy of Sex Addiction

New Study Questions the Legitimacy of Sex Addiction

July 22nd, 2013

Many strange and obscure addictions have been called into question by scientific inquiry, but the 16 million Americans  who struggle with sex addiction might be surprised to discover the results of a recent UCLA study: “addiction” may be a misnomer. Defining addiction in all of its complexities has never been an easy task, but by imaging the brains of self-proclaimed sex addicts, UCLA researchers concluded there is an important distinction between “hypersexuality” (or addiction) and differences in libido.

The study was the first to observe neurological activity associated with sex addiction. Fifty-two (13 female, 39 male) subjects who “self-identified as having problems regulating their viewing of sexual stimuli” were shown a variety of photographs containing both sexual and non-sexual material. Rather than exhibiting patterns typical of addiction, brain responses of self-identifying sex addicts could better be explained in terms of sexual desire.

In UCLA’s press release, this distinction is explained in detail:

“If they indeed suffer from hypersexuality, or sex addiction, their brain response to visual sexual stimuli could be expected be higher, in much the same way that the brains of cocaine addicts have been shown to react to images of the drug in other studies.

“Instead, the researchers found that the [neurological] response was not related to hypersexual measurements at all; there were no spikes or decreases tied to the severity of participants’ hypersexuality. So while there has been much speculation about the effect of sexual addiction or hypersexuality in the brain, the study provided no evidence to support any difference.”

The debate over sex addiction’s legitimacy is far from over, and researchers will continue to use monitoring methods to track the biological bases of sex addiction.

Sex Addiction may no longer be a valid “Addiction”

If results are replicated, this study may pose a challenge to contemporary approaches of sex addiction and pave the way for new ones.


Bailey Rahn, Sr. Editor


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