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Sex addicts have similar brain activity as drug addicts

Harold Mandel's picture
Sex Addiction Problems

Sex is a topic which gains the interest of just about everyone, but sex addiction is a big problem. The human fascination with sex has been the topic of numerous scientific articles and dramatic stories meant for entertainment. When sex is consensual and careful in nature it can be a source of great personal satisfaction. However, when sex is irregular it can be a cause of deep distress in women and men alike. Scientists have recently determined that the brain activity in sex addicts mirrors that of drug addicts.

Compulsive sexual behavior has traditionally been viewed as a behavioral addiction

Compulsive sexual behavior (CSB) has traditionally been conceptualized as a behavioral addiction
reported PLOS ONE. Although it is believed common or overlapping neural circuits may govern the processing of natural and drug rewards there has not been much known regarding the responses to sexually explicit materials in people with and without CSB.

Brain activity in sex addicts mirrors that of drug addicts

Researchers have found that brain activity in sex addicts mirrors that of drug addicts reports the University of Cambridge. According to a University of Cambridge study which has been published in the journal PLOS ONE brain activity is triggered by pornography in people with compulsive sexual behavior, which is also known as sex addiction, which is similar to the brain activity which is triggered by drugs in the brains of drug addicts.

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The researchers have cautioned that this does not necessarily mean that pornography by itself is actually addictive. However, compulsive sexual behavior is a problem for many people with as many as one in 25 adults affected by this problem. People with this problem experience an obsession with sexual thoughts, feelings or behavior which they can not control.

Sex addiction can have a negative impact on a person’s personal life and work

This all can have a negative impact on a person’s personal life and work, leading to high degrees of distress and feelings of shame. Although excessive use of pornography is seen as one the main features which is identified in many people with compulsive sexual behavior there is currently no formally accepted definition of for making a diagnosis of the condition.

Dr Valerie Voon has said there are clear differences in brain activity seen between patients who have compulsive sexual behavior and healthy volunteers. Voon goes on to say although these findings are very interesting they still could not be used to diagnose the condition. Voon also says this research does not necessarily offer evidence that these people are addicted to porn or even that porn is inherently addictive.

Dr John Williams points out that compulsive behaviors, which includes watching porn to excess, over-eating and gambling, are becoming more common. This study helps us better understand why we carry on repeating behaviors which we know can potentially damage us. Whether we are dealing with sex addiction, substance abuse or eating disorders, better understandings of how to best intervene and when to intervene in order to break the dangerous cycle is a primary goal of this research.

Insights into how sex addiction may in fact share many similarities with drug addiction and other addictions may help us understand why this may be a very serious problem. This recognition should help generate more research into how to best deal with sex addiction.