Chemical dependence is pretty obviously an addiction, whether it be illicit substances like cocaine or heroin, or licit ones like tobacco or alcohol. Shopping and gambling addictions get the certified stamp of approval as well by the psychological establishment. But when it comes to sex or food addiction, experts say the designation is not clear. Can you really be addicted to biological imperatives? We are all naturally driven toward these things. Certainly people can and do have disorders associated with food and sex. But out and out addiction is where many experts draw the line. Of course an orgasm does produce dopamine in the brain just as drugs or alcohol do. Though the scaffolding for addiction appears to be there, hypersexual disorder has yet to get an entry into the Bible of modern psychology, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). A recent Swedish study has reignited this controversy. 106 male participants took part. 67 had previously been diagnosed with hypersexual disorder. The other 39 had not. The latter were healthy men who served as the control group. Researchers gave all of these men a certain drug to suppress their immune systems as better to test their cortisol levels the following day. Cortisol is the stress hormone.
It turned out those with hypersexual disorder had higher levels of stress than those who didn’t. These researchers concluded that this proves the existence of sex addiction. Other experts were not convinced. They said that these researchers failed to screen participants for things like childhood trauma, substance abuse, and depression. Since sex is a very emotional process, those with these problems saw them surface around the subject of sex or sexual behavior, which the researchers misconstrued as sex addiction. Another question is whether sex addiction is changed due to childhood trauma, as those with addiction usually do. The rising field of epigenetics or how the environment changes our genes may shed some light. You see, those with an out and out addiction have a certain genetic predisposition. There is an alcoholic gene for instance. But is there a sex addiction gene? Could childhood trauma cause one to become a sex addict which could then be passed down in their genes? This will take much more research to determine. Though the controversy continues and regardless of specifics, if it walks like addiction and talks like addiction it probably is. Therefore, anyone suffering from sex addiction should reach out to a reputable recovery program and get the help that they need.