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Several celebrities, including Michael Douglas, David Duchovny, and Tiger Woods have all publically claimed sex addiction, but new research suggests it may not be a real mental disorder.

Sex “addiction” is often used interchangeably with hypersexuality. These people have high sex drives, sexual urges that feel out of control, and may have suffered consequences such as relationship problems due to their behavior.

UCLA researchers say sex addiction does not appear to be a disorder, according to their study, which appears in the current online edition of the journal Socioaffective Neuroscience and Psychology.

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,” a UC press release on the study explained.

The study showed that there was no change in the brain response and that the hypersexuality might actually be caused by high libido.

“Potentially, this is an important finding,” Prause said. “It is the first time scientists have studied the brain responses specifically of people who identify as having hypersexual problems.”

“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,” Prause said.

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.

Prause concedes that these results may be controversial, and that more studies need to be done.


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