Sex Addiction Is Just a Myth, Study Suggests

Researchers study brain reactions for the first time

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 24, 2013 3:25 PM CDT

(Newser) – The term "sex addiction" might get tossed around a lot these days as a way to explain some not-so-classy behavior of the Anthony Weiner-Tiger Woods variety, but is it really an addiction on par with drugs or alcohol? The first study to explore brain responses in people who describe themselves as hypersexual suggests otherwise, reports UCLA. Researchers there showed the subjects—39 men and 13 women—sexual images, and discovered that their brains didn't respond in the same way that, say, a cocaine addict would respond to images of cocaine.

“Most people describe high-frequency sexual problems as an ‘addiction’—that’s how the public and even many clinicians talk about it," one of the researchers tells Slate. "But this data challenges the addiction model and forces us to reconsider how we think and talk about these problems.” The subjects have higher libidos, or sexual desire, but not necessarily a clinical medical problem. They still need help, but if further studies verify this first one, then the type of help they'll get will be affected. All of which might be OK, writes Jillian Keenan at Slate. "If we turn every single quirk of human sexuality into a 'disease,' after all, then we’re all screwed." The study is in the journal Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology.

Tiger Woods in a file photo.
Tiger Woods in a file photo.   (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
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