People have been questioning the scientific validity of sex addiction for a while now. That's because everyone wants to be like, "See, slut! You have no excuse! You're just a big slut!" But for those who self-identify as sex addicts or exhibit signs of hypersexuality, that assertion falls flat. People with hypersexual impulses often ruin their careers (ahem, here's to you, Weiner), their families and their finances all to get it in and get off.
Surprisingly, despite having been slated to be added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association, studies on sex addiction and hypersexuality are few and far between. Part of the reason is the difficulty is identifying this type of behavioral addiction, according to Dr. Eli Coleman of the University of Minnesota Medical School, as reported by Slate:
"One of the big problems with the term 'sex addiction' is that it immediately assumes that you can apply the same kinds of research methodologies and treatments that you would use for substance addiction. There are no sex receptors in the brain to develop tolerance and dependence, as there are with alcohol and drug addiction."
A new study published in the journal of Socioafective Neuroscience and Psychology attempted to do just that. The study measured the neural responses of people who suffer from compulsive sexual behavior after showing them sexual images. The study's authors reasoned that the subjects would mimic the response of drug addicts, but instead, the study found that the hypersexual subjects only responded differently when they had varying libidos. Otherwise, there was no correlation between the neural responses, the pornography, and degrees of compulsitivity.
So, that's it, right? Case closed. Sex addiction is not a thing, thank you for tuning in. Not quite.
As Dr. Coleman suggested, comparing neural responses for sex addicts the same way as you would for drug or alcohol addicts might miss the point. Sex addiction is usually the result of several underlying issues, whether that be impulse control, attention defect disorder, depression, or a history of sexual abuse. Though the same can be said for drug and alcohol addicts, according to this study, the brain responses appear to be different between the two.
This study, though the first of its kind, suggests that neural addiction might not be a thing for sex addicts, it does nothing to dispel the notion that sex addiction is a disorder. Science just hasn't figured exactly how yet.
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