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Sex addiction is not actually an addiction.

Stashed in: Addiction, Sexy!, Psychology!, Thank God, Cognitive Bias

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Robert T. Gonzalez explains:

Can you be addicted to sex? Nope. Newly published research out of UCLA suggests that "sex addiction" does not fit the definition of other medically-recognized forms of dependence.

Whether or not sexual addiction can be classified as a disease in the first place has never really been clear. The American Psychiatric Association, for example, does not recognize it in its official list of psychiatric disorders. A few years ago, psychologist Michael Bader characterized sex addiction as "ambiguous, hard to define, blurry around the edges, and an excuse for not thinking." The term itself is a mischaracterization, used by lay audiences to encapsulate the addiction model of a range of symptoms referred to in more academic circles as "hypersexuality" (other interpretations of which include the "compulsivity model" and the "impulsivity model"), which is a pretty nebulous concept in and of itself.

By its simplest definition, hypersexuality is about a failure to keep strong sexual desires in check. Tiger Woods and Anthony Weiner both seem to struggle with regulating their sexual desires. The former calls himself a sex addict, while the latter has distanced himself from the label. Is either of them telling the truth?

Questions like these would be easier to answer if we knew, for example, whether the brain of a self-described sex addict responds to pornography the way the brain of an alcoholic does to booze. Until last week, however, we had no idea how to answer a question like this, because no such study had ever been done. Now it has. The upshot: brain scans of self-identified hypersexuals exposed to sexual imagery fail to provide support for models of sexual addiction.


"One of the frequent critiques of sexual addictions is that it pathologizes normative, socially unaccepted, sexual behaviors," write Prause and her colleagues. "These data appear consistent with that perspective."The researchers' findings are published free of charge in Socioaffective Neuroscience and Psychology.

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