Sex addiction effects brain in ‘same way as drugs’

“Is compulsive sexual behaviour comparable to drug addiction?” asked The Guardian.

This and other related headlines came from a UK study that looked at brain scans of 19 men with compulsive sexual behaviour (CSB) while they watched either sexually explicit, erotic or non-sexual videos.

CSB is a not a well-established diagnosis as it does not have a formal, universally accepted, definition. It has been described as the inability to control the sexual urges, behaviour or thoughts, often with negative consequences for the individual concerned.

Examples given in the study include spending large amounts of money on escort services and losing a job due to viewing pornography at work.

The study indicated that some areas of the brain were activated more when viewing sexually explicit content in men with CSB than in similarly aged men without the disorder.

Given the pattern of brain activity and other ratings of desire, the researchers indicated that the behaviour showed similarities with drug addiction. However, this comparison was theoretical and was not actually tested in this study.

The research did not involve many men, so the results cannot be taken as definitive. Research in larger groups will be needed to confirm these initial observations and to increase confidence that the observations are true in more general terms.

It is hoped that these initial investigations will give addiction researchers some focus for future research into the condition, which has been poorly studied.

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