Last year, the World Health Organization declared for the first time that sexual addiction is a mental disorder. Here is the researchers’ take on the matter…
It may seem superfluous, like Charlie Sheen or Tiger Woods having to go to therapy to treat a problem that other ‘normal’ people don’t have, but it’s not as strange as it may seem at first. Sexual addiction is a serious problem. It is a set of behaviours of a repeated and compulsive nature aimed at having sex, usually with different partners, to satisfy a frequent and intense sexual desire. It is estimated that 6% of the population suffer from this disorder. Others claim that one in 12 women and one in 10 men are addicted, but many people refuse to believe that it is a real addiction.
Is sex addiction just another addiction?
Some sex addicts explain that for them sex and pornography are like cocaine for the addict, that they cannot control their impulses, and that it can even have a serious impact on the well-being of their family. No mocking smiles and comments like “I wish I was with a partner who had this problem. This is a serious disorder in which the constant search for relationships inevitably leads to feelings of absolute regret, anxiety and depression.
Compulsive behaviour linked to an excess in oxytocin
But why some people suffer and others don’t Scientists may be closer than ever to understanding this: they seem to have found differences in the genetic make-up of addicts. It’s oxytocin, the hormone we commonly call ‘love hormone’, because it’s responsible for our romantic feelings and also for women’s ability to give birth and make breast milk. Apparently, according to them, people with excess oxytocin may be attracted to more than one person at the same time, leading them to compulsively seek sex.
The typical profile of a sex addict
An excess of oxytocin doesn’t make sex more rewarding. Many patients can’t control their behaviour, and it can have negative effects on their lives, from relationship breakdown to depression and anxiety. From our findings, there is evidence that sexual addiction is a medical diagnosis with a neurobiological cause. The profile is usually that of a young man with low self-esteem, who is unable to control his impulses. He frequently resorts to masturbation, dating strangers, pornography or prostitution. These are usually people with low self-esteem who experience discomfort similar to abstinence syndrome when they do not have sex.
Last year, the World Health Organization declared for the first time that sexual addiction is a mental disorder. The findings could explain why cognitive behavioural therapy, which lowers oxytocin, helps sex addicts. It is expected that these findings will help produce a drug that could block the hormone and alleviate the disorder.