Is Sex Addiction Real?

Men's Health |

Q: Sex addiction is a joke right? Aren’t we all addicted?

A: Right… and also to bacon double cheeseburgers, PS3 and the Internet. But there is a difference between how we, erm, toss the word “addiction” around and what it actually means.

Technically, an addiction is a recurrent failure to control a specific behaviour despite harmful consequences, such as job loss, relationship destruction or even arrest, says Dr John Bancroft, a senior research fellow at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction. This can apply to sexual behaviour, but another crucial characteristic of addiction is the altered function of your brain’s reward system. For instance, a drug addict builds tolerance, pursues more-extreme actions and experiences withdrawal after abrupt cessation. There isn’t conclusive evidence of this type of pattern regarding sex, according to Bancroft. However, the white coats do take it seriously and have proposed that hypersexual disorder be included in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, due out in 2013.

And in case you’re wondering, Bancroft says the typical sex addict is not a celebrity who has a woman in every area code, but someone who can’t control the impulse to masturbate using Internet porn.