Is Sex Addiction Real?
July 19, 2013

Is Sex Addiction Real? New Study Says It’s Just An Active Libido

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

UCLA researchers recently wrote a report of their research in the journal Socioaffective Neuroscience and Psychology stating that they have determined that sexual addiction is nothing more than having a highly active libido.

Many mental health experts have refused to acknowledge sexual addiction, or "hypersexuality," as a clinical mental disorder. The latest study that measured brain behavior reaffirmed the opinion that most experts have held so far. "Potentially, this is an important finding," said senior author Nicole Prause, a researcher in psychiatry and the biobehavioral sciences with the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA. "It is the first time scientists have studied the brain responses specifically of people who identify as having hypersexual problems."

The study found that the brain response of these individuals to sexual images was not related in any way to the severity of their hypersexuality but was instead tied only to their level of sexual desire. The team said the results show that hypersexuality did not appear to explain brain differences in sexual response any more than having a high libido.

Sexual addiction is generally associated with people who have strong sexual urges and engage frequently in sexual behavior. However, the researchers say that symptoms of hypersexuality are not necessarily representative of an addiction.

The team studied 52 volunteers, including 39 men and 13 women over the age of 18 who reported having problems controlling their viewing of sexual images. Participants filled out four questionnaires covering a variety of topics, including sexual behaviors, sexual desire, sexual compulsions, and the negative cognitive and behavioral outcomes of sexual behavior.

The researchers then showed the volunteers images while they were hooked up to an electroencephalography (EEG), which measures brain waves.

"The volunteers were shown a set of photographs that were carefully chosen to evoke pleasant or unpleasant feelings," Prause said. "The pictures included images of dismembered bodies, people preparing food, people skiing - and, of course, sex. Some of the sexual images were romantic images, while others showed explicit intercourse between one man and one woman."

The scientists were most interested in the response of the brain about 300 milliseconds after each picture appeared, which is a baseline measurement that has been used in hundreds of neuroscience studies internationally. The so-called 'P300 response' is higher when a person notices something new or especially interesting to them.

Prause and colleagues predicted that P300 responses to the sexual images would correspond to a person's sexual desire and would relate to measures of hypersexuality. However, they found that P300 response was not related to hypersexual measurements at all, showing no spikes or decreases tied to the severity of the participants' hypersexuality.

"The brain's response to sexual pictures was not predicted by any of the three questionnaire measures of hypersexuality," she said. "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."

She said that if the team's study could be replicated, then it "would represent a major challenge to existing theories of a sex 'addiction.' "