Sexual addiction is still thought by many not to be an actual addiction; and when we say many, we mean the ones who rejected it from being included in the latest version of the DSM-5 (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders). Now a new study may have uncovered some important new data that is hopefully going to get professionals and patients to treat this disease as a real addiction.
The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE and it provides MRI imaging of the brains of potential sexual addicts and it compares then to the one taken of the brains of drug addicts. The results have been quite staggering: they found that in people with compulsive sexual behavior or sex addiction, pornographic images trigger brain activity that is very much similar to the one triggered by drugs in people who are addicted to drugs.
The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Cambridge. They studied 19 male patients who were sex addicts and also 19 control patients who did not have a sexual addiction. For the patients who were sex addicts, they had to both show signs of hypersexuality and also compulsive behavior in order for them to be considered for the study.
Dr. Valerie Voon, who was a lead author of the study had this to say about the selection process:
The key features are that a person has to be using their addiction excessively, more so in an uncontrolled manner. They feel they want to stop it, but they are unable to do so. The second component is it has a functional impact on their lives and causes significant distress.
Both groups were shown sexually explicit images or videos or content related to sports, while their brain activity was monitored with an MRI. They found that the patients with a sex addiction had more brain activity in three brain regions than the control group. These three areas (the amygdala, the dorsal anterior cingulate and the ventral striatum – involved in processing rewards, assigning importance to events and motivations) were also the brain areas that are stimulated when drug addicts are shown images or videos of drugs.
What are your thoughts on the fact that sex addicts’ brain activity is similar to that of drug addicts? Do you consider sexual addiction a real addiction? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.