Sex addiction, also called hypersexuality, did not make it into the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the psychiatrist's "bible."
This controversial diagnosis is now receiving new scrutiny as neuroscience studies it more closely and questions what has become the "common knowledge" of the disorder.
Is it really an addiction?
Recent research suggests that rather than being a true addiction or neurological or physiological disease, sex addiction may actually just be a heightened libido.
One of those studies involved 39 men and 13 women who'd been diagnosed with sex addiction. They were asked to peruse sexual images that trigger pleasant or unpleasant feelings. The study was modeled after similar studies involving images of drugs shown to drug addicts. Those studies found that drug addicts have near-instant, measurable brain changes when seeing images of the drug(s) to which they are addicted. For sex addicts, however, the responses were related only to their sexual desire rather than the proposed severity of their addiction.
When compared to a similar study involving non-sex addicted people, the responses were very similar, indicating that the addiction may actually be heightened libido rather than a true addiction.
Similar studies into brain chemistry changes and other aspects of addictions have found similar results for sex addicts. These findings are changing the way hypersexuality is viewed and may mean that sex addiction itself is a misnomer and that the label may be dropped or changed as research continues.
Sources: Popular Science, American Association for Family and Marriage Therapy and Socioaffective Neuroscience and Psychology