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Hypersexuality: what happens in the brain of a sex addict?

Hypersexuality: what happens in the brain of a sex addict?

May 27, 2024

Most mental health professionals agree in their explanation of sex addiction: it would not be a chemical or physiological addiction As with most drugs (cocaine, alcohol, tobacco), the cause is found in some type of behavioral disorder.

What exactly happens in the brain of a sex addict?

To shed more data on the nature of the hypersexuality , the Cambridge University has contributed a novel study. Brain scans were performed on nineteen men while watching scenes from pornographic films.

Amazing data

The research showed that the brain regions that were activated were the same reward centers that are activated in the brain of drug addicts when they visualize the substance to which they are hooked.


Some of the subjects studied were close to the profile of sex addict. In fact, two of them had recently lost their jobs because they consumed pornography in the office, and four of the other subjects claimed that using porn was their way of avoiding resorting to prostitutes.

In short, the sample was selected expressly so that the experimental subjects were, to some degree, obsessed with sex. More than a typical addiction, the researchers thought it necessary to suggest that this type of sex addiction is closer to an obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Scanning the brain

The group of researchers who conducted the study observed certain changes in brain activity thanks to the images obtained from the brain scan. Thus, they were able to confirm that a series of changes occurred in the brain when the experimental subjects saw pornography.


Later they compared the results shown in the scanner with the results obtained in a sample group, with sexual behavior within normality. The results and conclusions, published in PLoS One, reported higher activation levels among "addicts" in up to three specific regions of the brain : the cortex of the anterior cingulate, the amygdala and the ventral layer. These areas are exactly the same that register an activation boom when addicted to prohibited substances see the drug.

Is hypersexuality an addiction?

One of the coordinators of the study, Valerie Moon, commented: "more studies will still be necessary to be able to sustain that we are facing an addiction". "We do not know if some of these effects in the brain are caused by predispositions that help to develop sex addiction behaviors, or it is simply an effect of pornography ... it is difficult to say and we will have to continue investigating."


For his part, Dr. John Williams, director of the department of neuroscience and mental health of the foundation Welcome Trust, adds that "compulsive behaviors, such as watching porno in excess, sports betting or eating a lot, are becoming more common in our society. The study at the University of Cambridge leads us to a somewhat better position to understand why some people are prone to repeat some sexual behaviors that they know are harmful to them.

"Whether it's a sexual addiction, a drug abuse or eating disorders, it is key for professionals to know the moment and the way in which to intervene ", Concludes Williams.

Bibliographic references:

  • Ellis, A., & Sagarin, E. (1965). Nymphomania: A Study of oversexed women. London: Ortolan.
  • Kafka, M. P. (2001). The paraphilia-related disorders: A proposal for a unified classification of nonparaphilic hypersexuality disorders. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity.
  • Krafft-Ebing, R. von (1886/1965). Psychopathia sexualis: A medical-forensic study (H. E. Wedeck, Trans.). New York: Putnam.
  • Uitti, R.J., Tanner, C.M., & Rajput, A.H. (1989). Hypersexuality with antiparkinsonian therapy. Clinical Neuropharmacology.
  • Original study: //www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/brain-activity -...

Hypersexual Disorder (May 2024).


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