Sex addiction has often made headlines, with celebrities such as David Duchovny, Russell Brand, Tiger Woods, Jesse James and Michael Douglas all blaming their romantic foibles on the condition at some point. However, a new study questions the notion that people can truly be "addicted" to sex.
The new study from the University of California, Los Angeles, suggests that self-professed "addicts" may simply have a high sex drive.
"It is the first time scientists have studied the brain responses specifically of people who identify as having hypersexual problems," study senior author Nicole Prause, a researcher in the department of psychiatry at UCLA, said in a university news release.
Sex addiction is typically diagnosed in people who have sexual urges that feel out of control, who engage frequently in sexual behavior, who have suffered consequences such as divorce or economic ruin as a result of their sexual behaviors, and who have a poor ability to reduce those behaviors.
However, the existence of sex addiction is controversial and it was not included in the recently updated Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is considered the "bible" for diagnosing mental disorders.
In the new study, Prause's team analyzed brain responses in 39 men and 13 women, aged 18 to 39, whose scores on questionnaires about sexual behaviors and habits were similar to those of people who typically sought treatment for sex addiction, also called hypersexuality.