Sex addiction is a real thing

New research compares the brain activity of drug addicts to those with sexually compulsive behaviour.

When celebrities like David Duchovny, Tiger Woods and Russell Brand claim they’re ‘addicted to sex’, many scoff at their so-called excuses. Turns out, they may not be so full of it.

The University of Cambridge undertook a study to see whether an addiction to sex could really exist, considering as many as one in 25 adults suffer from compulsive sexual behaviour – an obsession with sexual thoughts or feelings, sometimes shown as uncontrollable behaviour.

For the study, 19 men who suffered from compulsive sexual behaviour were compared to 19 ‘healthy’ men (i.e. who didn’t report the same symptoms). The research showed those who were ‘addicted to sex’ had started watching pornography at a younger age, and more frequently over time.

Those who were affected by compulsive behaviour also found it more difficult to maintain normal lives and relationships, and suffered feelings of distress and shame.

“In many ways, they show similarities in their behaviour to patients with drug addictions. We wanted to see if these similarities were reflected in brain activity, too,” said Dr. Valerie Voon, Wellcome Trust Intermediate Clinical Fellow from the University.

To test the brain activity of the subjects, each was shown clips of either sexually explicit content, or sports. Specialised equipment measured the men’s brain activity. It found that the regions which showed more activity were the same as those which were stimulated when drug addicts were shown drug-related images.

The team also found that the younger the man, the lower his ability to control his compulsions (because the area of the brain that does so continues to develop into your mid-20s).

“There are clear differences in brain activity between patients who have compulsive sexual behaviour and healthy volunteers,” Voon added.

“These differences mirror those of drug addicts.”

Well, we’ll be damned.