Sex addiction will always be a controversial subject. Addiction itself is controversial, with some people still believing it to be a moral failing and a matter of choice. Addictions that involve a behavior rather than a chemical substance will always be more difficult to define, diagnose and explain, and sex addiction is no exception. Recent research is adding more fuel to the debate with the finding that some people are hardwired to desire more sex than others. It raises the question: Is this the basis for sex addiction?
What Is Sex Addiction?
Many would say it is an excuse for some people, largely men, to cheat on their spouses and claim an illness as defense. However, there is evidence for psychological and addictive disorders with respect to sexual behaviors.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Psychiatric Disorders is the definitive guide to all mental illnesses, including addictive disorders. The most recent edition, the DSM-V, does not include hypersexual behavior disorder, the name formerly given for sex addiction in the fourth edition of the manual.
The authors of the manual don’t believe there is enough evidence to classify sexual addiction as a true disorder. Many experts disagree. Studies have shown that people can develop unhealthy, obsessive and compulsive sexual behaviors. Like “true” addictions, these behaviors can interfere with a person’s life, ruin relationships, cause financial problems and otherwise disrupt a normal lifestyle. Also similarly to other addictions, people with a sex addiction try to stop their behaviors, but find they can’t.
Are Some People Wired To Be Sex Addicts?
The most recent research on the subject of sex and addiction adds evidence to the debate. A study conducted at UCLA made use of scans of participants’ brain activities to discover that some people react more strongly to sexual cues than others. A psychiatric researcher at the school enlisted students for the study. They were asked to view 225 pictures while having their brain activity read. The pictures included sexual imagery ranging from G-rated kissing to more explicit scenes, as well as non-sexual images. The participants were also surveyed about their sexual partners.
Those students who had more sexual partners reacted more strongly to the images of sex and intimacy. The scan of brain activity is an accurate way to measure motivation. In other words, the people who reacted more to the images were more motivated to have sex. The researchers found no differences by gender, only the correlation between reactivity and sex partners.
The leaders of this study believe that they have made an important finding in that some people are more sensitive to sexual images and urges and that these people are more motivated to have sex. They would not go so far as to say that these people are hardwired for sex addiction, a conclusion some might draw from the results. What the results do tell us is that we all have different levels of sexual desire and motivation and that there are biological explanations for the differences.
The subject of sex addiction will likely always be controversial. As scientists continue to study everything related to addiction, we should get a better understanding of what it means. Regardless of whether sex addiction is labeled as a disorder, some people clearly are more motivated to seek out sex partners and sexual activities. Only an expert in treating people with addictive behaviors can truly diagnose and guide treatment for addictive-like sexual behaviors.
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