Is sex addiction real? Maybe not, research concludes

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Celebrities like Tiger Woods and David Duchovny have made headlines over the years for behavior that they – or their publicists – have chalked up to sex addiction.

But is being addicted to sex really possible?

New research from the University of California, Los Angeles, suggests that people who claim to be sex addicts might just have higher libidos – and the idea that the behavior can't be helped is just an excuse for deviant behavior.

The study

For the study, researchers analyzed the brain responses of 39 men and 13 women, aged 18 to 39, after the participants had viewed a range of different images meant to provoke specific feelings.

"The pictures included images of dismembered bodies, people preparing food, people skiing – and, of course, sex," said senior author Nicole Prause, a researcher in the department of psychiatry at UCLA. "Some of the sexual images were romantic images, while others showed explicit intercourse between one man and one woman."

The participants in the study were chosen because they scored high on questionnaires about sexual behaviors or habits that might classify them as being sex addicts or as having hypersexual tendencies.

Researchers expected that a person who is truly addicted to sex would show heightened brain activity when viewing images that are sexual in nature – much like a drug addict's brain responses are altered when shown images of his or her drug of choice.

Results

Prause noted that the results didn't turn out as anticipated:

The brain's response to sexual pictures was not predicted by any of the three questionnaire measures of hypersexuality. Brain response was only related to the measure of sexual desire. In other words, hypersexuality does not appear to explain brain responses to sexual images any more than just having a high libido.

If the results of Prause's study can be replicated, she said, the findings would pose a "major challenge" to current theories about sex addiction – which was a "condition" not included in the recently updated version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

The study was published online in the journal Socioaffective Neuroscience and Psychology.

Source: Web MD

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