Recent findings from a team of American researchers indicate that there are significant gaps in the scientific community’s knowledge about sex addiction in general, as well as the manifestation of this form of addiction in specific population groups.
Scientists in the U.S. and other countries have been researching various aspects of sex addiction for decades. In a study review published in late 2014 in Sexual Compulsivity & Addiction: The Journal of Treatment & Prevention, researchers from West Chester University assessed the current state of knowledge about sex addiction in the scientific community and looked for areas of deficiency. These researchers concluded that not enough is known about sex addiction, either generally or in the context of demographic factors such as gender and sexual orientation.
Sex Addiction Basics
Current scientific thinking identifies sex addiction as a particular form of behavioral addiction. Unlike an addiction to alcohol or a drug or medication, a behavioral addiction is based on repeated and dysfunctional involvement in a pleasurable activity that doesn’t include substance intake as an essential feature.
Despite this difference in underlying causes, behavioral addictions and substance addictions produce highly similar long-term changes in brain function that support uncontrolled behavior and the establishment of addiction-related considerations as a primary life priority. A considerable body of evidence-based research points toward the existence of multiple significant forms of behavior-based addiction. Despite this fact, as of 2015 the only form with a standard definition in the U.S. is the gambling-related condition known as gambling disorder.
Features Of Sex Addiction
While there is no standard definition available for sex addiction, common features of the condition have emerged through decades of research. Examples of these features include a prioritization of sexual thought, fantasy or behavior over important daily obligations or responsibilities; use of sexual thought, fantasy or behavior as a way to avoid dealing with unpleasant or unwanted emotions; an inability to put limits on the amount of time spent having sex or thinking or fantasizing about sex; and exposure to serious personal, professional or social harm as a consequence of sex-related actions, thoughts or fantasies.
What’s Known About Sex Addiction
Researchers and doctors have developed a sizable knowledge base with respect to the various manifestations of sex addiction. For example, it’s well-known that some affected individuals only have problems related to excessive involvement in sexual thoughts, fantasies or behaviors that most people view as permissible or acceptable in adults not dealing with sex addiction-related issues.
However, other affected individuals engage in thoughts, fantasies or behaviors linked to impermissible or expressly illegal forms of sexual conduct. (Even if they don’t qualify for a sex addiction diagnosis, people in this second category may meet the criteria for any one of a group of mental illnesses known as paraphilic disorders.)
Differences Between Women And Men
In addition, a large body of evidence-based research indicates that women with sex addiction differ from men in several important respects, including the likely underlying causes for the onset of addiction, the specific symptoms of addiction present in the individual and the most effective approaches to successful treatment.
Gaps In Sex Addiction Knowledge
In the study review published in Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, the West Chester University researchers used an analysis of dozens of previous studies on sex addiction to identify some of the gaps in knowledge in the scientific community. This analysis was part of a larger assessment of some of the key gender-specific differences in affected men and affected women. All of the studies under review were originally conducted between 1989 and 2012.
After completing their analysis, the researchers’ primary conclusion is that the scientific community currently has an incomplete understanding of sex addiction. This finding applies to the numbers of studies devoted to sex addiction, the types of studies devoted to sex addiction, the general level of awareness of the factors that can contribute to the onset of sex addiction, the general level of awareness of the potential symptoms of sex addiction and the general level of awareness regarding the most appropriate forms of sex addiction treatment for specific segments of the population.
The study review’s authors particularly critique the scientific community’s current level of knowledge regarding sex addiction in women. They also critique the lack of studies designed to address various aspects of sex addiction in lesbians, bisexuals and other groups that don’t maintain a strictly heterosexual sexual orientation.
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