UCLA studies question sex addiction’s validity as a psychological disorder

Addiction comes in all forms: drugs, alcohol, shopping, food and notoriously sex.

Sex addiction, or in medical terms, “hypersexual disorder,” is defined as the incessant need to have sex with other people. Recently, the subject has become fairly controversial with skeptics arguing that it is nothing more than an excuse and has very little validity in proving itself as a true medical condition.

However, the addiction is currently being considered to be included in one of the most significant resources for psychologists and psychiatrists, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).

CBS News reported that a recent UCLA study suggested sex addiction may not be a true psychological disorder. “Researchers measured brain waves in self-reported sex addicts,” the CBS News article said. “The scans revealed that their brain’s responses when viewing sexual pictures were not indicative of an addiction.”

Retired boxer Mike Tyson famously claims to suffer from the addiction. In an article posted by the New York Post, Tyson recalled his infidelity to wife and model Naomi Campbell and how the addiction controlled him.

“I was out of control—drinking, gorging on food, f**king women,” Tyson said.

His friends were tasked with rounding up girls for orgies. Tyson’s promiscuity caught up with him in July 1991, when a beauty pageant contestant named Desiree Washington accused him of raping her in a hotel room in Indianapolis. Tyson was found guilty, and he served three years in prison.

Other studies show sex addiction is a lot more serious than people think and the implications can be life-changing.

In a study reviewed by Time magazine, “It suggests that sex addiction may threaten health and social relationships: 28 percent of those diagnosed contracted an STD at least once, 39 percent had lost relationships and 17 percent had lost jobs because of their condition.”

Expanding on the study performed at UCLA, study author, Nicole Prause conducted a follow-up experiment. Her team examined the brains of 52 people, 39 men and 13 women, between the ages of 18 to 39.

These people self-identified as having complications when trying to regulate their view of sexual stimuli. As defined in her study, these stimuli included “pleasant sexual, pleasant-non-sexual, neutral, and unpleasant photographs while electroencephalography was collected.”

Results showed that “amplitude differences to pleasant sexual stimuli, relative to neutral stimuli, was negatively related to measures of sexual desire, but not related to measures of hypersexuality.” These findings indicated the subjects suffered from nothing more than an inflated libido, which Prause elaborates is relatively normal in most people.

However, clinician and author Robert Weiss disputes Prause’s findings. He contends that although her findings only prove a high libido and did not find evidence of addiction, that does not mean sex addiction is not a real problem.

“You can’t define an addiction by what a person eats, what kind of alcohol they drink or whether they play blackjack or craps,” Weiss told U.S. News. “We look at their life and determine if a substance or behavior is negatively affecting the quality of their life to the point where they need help.”

Further findings also show sex addiction may be a heavily male-dominated condition.

 “95 percent of those seeking help for sexual compulsion at one of the study treatment centers were male but 40 percent of those diagnosed at psychiatric and addiction centers were women, suggesting that although the disorder may genuinely be more common in men, women may be less likely to seek help for it,” according to Time.

Linda Hatch, a psychologist and certified sex addiction therapist, said “sex addicts’ problems stem from their desire to run away from other issues or mask pain. Just like some addicts turn to drugs to ignore their problems, sex addicts use sexual activity.”

With no clear consensus in sight, the debate over sex addiction continues among mental health circles.

About Sarah Gerhard