A new study undermines the theory that sex addiction is a brain-based disorder similar to other addictions. But scientifically, addiction means something much more specific, if not precisely quantifiable. But these criteria failed to capture the compulsive quality of addiction, or the craving that drives relapse long after withdrawal symptoms have dissipated. At issue is the broader question of what makes behaviors addictive. Since compulsive behavior may have roots in how the brain interprets rewarding or satisfying behaviors, Nicole Prause, a research scientist at the University of California , Los Angeles, and her colleagues decided to start with brain-wave activity to better understand the nature of compulsive sexual behavior. They studied 39 men and 13 women, all of whom met criteria for hypersexuality, who responded to ads for a study involving people who had trouble controlling their use of pornography.
Sexual addiction: Symptoms, causes, and treatment
Causes The causes of sexual addiction remain unclear. Addiction takes root in the reward center of the brain. It may occur when certain parts of the brain mistake pleasure responses for survival mechanisms. The midbrain is the section of the brain that handles the body's reward system and survival instincts. As sexual activity creates a rush of dopamine, the "feel-good" chemical in the brain, this triggers the feeling of pleasure. The midbrain then mistakes this feeling of pleasure as being central to survival.
Sexual Addiction Defined
Sex Addiction Treatment: Is Sex an Addiction? In television shows and films, sex addiction is often either portrayed as a moral failure or played for laughs.
Cravings Agitation Research shows sex addicts who stop their compulsive behavior may have cravings for certain foods and cigarettes. Researchers believe this is due to an imbalance of feel-good brain chemicals. Like drug addiction, compulsive sexual behaviors may cause the brain to overproduce feel-good chemicals. Your brain can begin to depend on addictive behaviors to make these chemicals.