In a recent post, we discussed research just undertaken by the University of Cambridge to understand whether compulsive sexual behaviors in individuals constitute sexual addictions. The study revealed measurable differences between sexually compulsive patients and healthy patients, similar to those between healthy patients and drug addicts.
Beyond the differences indicated by brain scans, sexually compulsive patients’ reported behaviors and responses to questions shared characteristics with those of drug addicts, as well as departures from those of healthy patients. These included phenomena such as:
* First age and frequency of behavior. Compared to healthy volunteers, sexually compulsive patients had begun watching pornography at younger ages and more frequently.
* Effect on quality of life. Studies have already indicated those who have trouble controlling sexual behaviors act in similar ways to individuals addicted to drugs, resulting in negative effects on their personal and professional lives.
* Reactions to stimuli. Similar to drug addicts who no longer enjoy their chosen substance as much as they need it, patients with compulsive sexual behavior reported increased sexual desire when watching videos they didn’t necessarily enjoy.
Although researchers identified similarities between how the brains of drug addicts and sexually compulsive individuals work (and how both differ from those of normal patients), they caution against drawing the conclusion that porn is by nature addictive, or that patients’ sexual impulse issues are due to addictions.
Similar to other impulses such as overeating and gambling, excess porn watching encompasses a wide range of complex environmental, chemical, and genetic factors. Before determining that compulsive sexual behavior constitutes an addiction, scientists will need to conduct a great deal more research.
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