I know how you feel. You have a burning, insatiable desire. Nothing can satisfy it except for the one thing you want—no, desperately need. You can’t hold it in anymore, you just have to know: is sex addiction real?
Addiction, while often thrown around colloquially, is a real medical condition. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, “Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.” That’s their short-definition—you can read their long definition here. (Also: how the word “spiritual” can appear in any medical definition is beyond me, but that’s for another post.). So what does this actually mean?
Our brains have evolved as systems of reward and discouragement. Did you enjoy that last bite of dessert? You brain now wants more. Stub your toe on the bedpost? You are now less inclined to walk there. This makes evolutionary sense—our brains have developed to enjoy things that are good for us and encourage us to seek more. But what happens if this system goes out of control? Say your brain focused too much on a particular stimulus, became “obsessed” with a gratification. Enter addiction.
Substance dependence, the most common kind of addiction, usually involves drugs. Many narcotics trigger the release of dopamine, a chemical that makes us feel good—this is often described as a high. Once the effects wear off, however, the elation subsides and dopamine levels sit at an unusual low. This can create a dangerous feedback loop where the brain’s reward system craves more of the substance. Biochemical addictions—situations in which the body becomes chemically dependent on a foreign substance—are common as well. Though there are many causes that can lead to dependence, the best indicator is genetics. Epidemiologists estimate that 40 to 60 percent of the risk factor for alcoholism is genetic.
There is much more to say about addiction, but suffice it to say dependence is a documented, medical disorder. Now for our question. At first glance, sex addiction might seem plausible. Faulty feedback loops in the brain could possibly lead to addictive behavior, right? Maybe. Last year the American Psychiatric Association left sex addiction (formerly known as hypersexual disorder) out of its influential Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and a high-profile study cast doubt on its existence. The study, led in part by Dr. Nicole Prause of UCLA, hypothesized a hypersexual individual’s brain would have a similar reaction to photos of pornography as a narcotic-dependent person’s brain would to pictures of drugs. Results found no such correlation. Professionals have been quick to point out that this does not prove people’s struggles or symptoms are false. Rather, it simply suggests the disorder does not match current understandings of dependence. So, Tiger Woods…there’s still hope.
Our question remains open. Though signs indicate sex addiction may not fit today’s definition, it may well exist as some other type of disorder. New research needs to be done in the area. Regardless, you might want to think of a better excuse next time you call in sick from work…or maybe, just maybe it might work. Hold on, I’m going to email my professor about that midterm tomorrow… Keep an eye out for some cool topics in the near future. As always, please share, comment, like, and subscribe if you’re a sex addict. Check me out on Twitter and Facebook as well. Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to subscribe for new content every Wednesday! IT’S FREE!
Comment question of the week
Is sex addiction a real disorder?
You might also like:
In the news: