Posts Tagged With: Hypersexuality

Sex Addiction: In Your Head or In Your Hormones?

 Listen up, gals. Quit hiding behind that fake diagnosis of sex addiction. It turns out your mother was right all along. You’re just a ho.

me whoreYes, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM for short), the revered book of official psychiatric diagnoses, has eliminated “hypersexual disorder” as a real mental illness. And a (lady) researcher at UCLA thinks she knows why.  Sex addiction is probably all in your head.

    Researchers at UCLA  probed some dirty minds to find out. Fifty-two volunteers aged 18-39 years old,  all of whom reported difficulty with sexual fantasies and behaviors, participated. EEGs measured their brain waves while they looked at a series of pictures. Some were designed to elicit the most primal cravings for sexual contact – like the super-hot one of your man doing a load of laundry without being asked. Others were not so hot – like dismembered people, skiing people, and, of course, people actually having sex.

    The EEG tracings picked up the subjects’ near-instantaneous brain reaction to each pictures. Dr. Prause wondered if the line would go off the chart in response to the blatently sexual shots. Instead, she found no positive correlation between hotness level and EEG spikes. The sex photos were no more exciting than the neutral photos.

“Brain response was only related to the measure of sexual desire,” Dr. Prause said. “In other words, hypersexuality does not appear to explain brain responses to sexual images any more than just having a high libido.”

And in OTHER words… you’re just a horn dog.

Anyway…. I’m not convinced. Studies  have linked hypersexual behavior in adulthood with sexual abuse in childhood. And just last week, this study by University of Wisconsin researchers Leslie Seltzer and Dr. Seth Pollack seemed to bolster those findings. Little girls who’ve been abused don’t crank out cortisol, the stress-response chemical. Instead, their brains and bodies flood with oxytocin – the hormone of attachment.

Maybe the most well-known oxytocin scenarios are birth and breastfeeding,  when Mom’s oxytocin flood promotes baby-bonding. But oxytocin – the “love hormone” – plays a similar role in all intimate relationships. The more involved you become with a partner, the more ocytocin you release and the more attachment you crave. New love and orgasm trigger a deluge of the stuff.

When the researchers asked a group of 8-11-year-olds to do some complicated math and make a speech, the non-abused boys and girls AND the abused boys produced cortisol. The abused girls made none at all. But their oxytocin levels went through the roof, actually tripling from baseline.

So how come? Are they adapting to stress in the most evolutionarily positive way possible?  Ms. Seltzer suggest that answer is yes. Sexual abuse seems to physiologically prime girls for pair-bonding.

And that brings us back to sexual addiction. Abused girls are at heightened risk for early sexual behavior, teen pregnancy, and hooking up with aggressive, violent men. While the DSM symptoms for hypersexual disorder don’t specifically include these, a key criteria is repetitive sexual behavior in response to life stresses. This ties in rather nicely with early sexual activity, pregnancy, and choosing a dangerous jerk for a boyfriend.

Take that one with you to the bar next time.

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