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Sex addiction may not be real mental disorder — UCLA study

July 21, 2013 6:20pm
Too much of anything isn’t a good thing, and that includes – believe it or not – sex. Overindulgence in the more carnal pleasures can lead to financial ruin, not to mention the souring of one’s reputation. Some of those afflicted with this obsession say they aren’t at fault for their actions, pointing to one specific mental disorder as the root of all their problems: sex addiction.
 
Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, however, have come forward with the suggestion that sex addiction may not, in fact, be a real disorder, based on their research, published in the online edition of the Socioaffective Neuroscience and Psychology journal.
 
According to reports by NBC and CBS, the study involved 52 volunteers – 39 men and 13 women – who all admitted to being hypersexual. While these participants were exposed to a series of erotic images, their brain activity was monitored by scientist and senior author Nicole Prause and her team of researchers.
 
“If they indeed suffer from hypersexuality, or sexual addiction, their brain response to visual sexual stimuli could be expected to be higher, in much the same way that the brains of cocaine addicts have been shown to react to images of the drug in other studies,” stated a UCLA press release.
 
This, however, was not what the researchers observed.
 
“If you think sexual problems are an addiction, we would have expected to see an enhanced response maybe to those sexual images. If you think it’s a problem with impulsivity, we would have expected to see decreased responses to those sexual images. The fact that we didn’t see any of those relationships suggests that there’s not great support for looking at these sexual behaviors as an addiction,” explained Prause.
 
According to Prause, the symptoms of hypersexuality, such as irresistible sexual urges and copious amounts of sexual activity, may be caused by a high libido, and not an actual disorder.
 
“Potentially, this is an important finding,” Prause said in the press release. “It is the first time scientists have studied the brain responses specifically of people who identify as having hypersexual problems.”
 
Prause clarified that she was not discouraging afflicted individuals from seeking professional help. She did, however, state the importance of considering treatment options other than sex rehab.
 
“We want to urge caution and thoughtfulness in thinking about how to treat these types of sexual problems, and I don’t think we have a good grasp yet of what exactly is going on,” said Prause.
 
In the USA, 16 million people are reportedly suffering from this affliction. Despite these numbers, the American Psychiatric Association excluded sex addition as a disorder in DSM-5,  the newly updated edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and considered to be psychiatry’s bible of mental health.
 
“There was not sufficient evidence at this time to include sex addiction, not only in the DSM itself, but even in the index for further study, so there’s high skepticism, I would say, around that idea,” Prause explained.
 
She admitted that their findings are controversial, and that the study needs to be replicated before the notion of sex addiction as a mental disorder can be completely dismissed. — BM, GMA News
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