This may spell trouble for celebrities like Tiger Woods and Russell Brand, who have claimed clinical addiction to sex as an explanation for their sexual misbehavior.
A study at UCLA was the first to measure brain response in people that describe themselves as hypersexual, or have problems regulating their viewing of sexual images.
“This is controversial territory because it represents a substantial shift in the way we view mental illness,” Nicole Prause, an assistant research scientist in the department of psychiatry at UCLA and one of the investigators involved with the study, said.
“Most people describe high-frequency sexual problems as an ‘addiction’—that’s how the public and even many clinicians talk about it. But this data challenges the addiction model and forces us to reconsider how we think and talk about these problems.”
Researchers showed 39 and 13 women sexual images and discovered that their brains did not respond the same way it would to addiction, as compared to the reaction from a cocaine addict responding to image of cocaine.
The participants ranged in age from 18 to 39 and had reported having problems controlling their response to sexual images. They filled out questionnaires covering sexual behaviors, desire, compulsion and the outcomes of that behavior, and their answers were comparable to individuals seeking help for being hypersexual.
"Potentially, this is an important finding," Prause said. "It is the first time scientists have studied the brain responses specifically of people who identify as having hypersexual problems.
“We expected the brain response to sexual stimuli to be consistent with other drugs of addiction, or even other behavioral addiction studies. But we just don’t see that at all. We weren’t able to find evidence for any relationship between the measures of high-frequency sexual problems and the brain response to sexual images.”