Category Archives: Sexual Compulsions

Trust a Scientist: Sex Addiction Is a Myth

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By Jim Pfaus

A psychologist explains why sex addiction therapy is more about faith than facts, as told to Tierney Finster

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Self-labeled sex addicts often speak about their identities very clinically, as if they’re paralyzed by a scientific condition that functions the same way as drug and alcohol addiction. But sex and porn “addiction” are NOT the same as alcoholism or a cocaine habit. In fact, hypersexuality and porn obsessions are not addictions at all. They’re not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), and by definition, they don’t constitute what most researchers understand to be addiction.

Here’s why: addicts withdraw. When you lock a dope fiend in a room without any dope, the lack of drugs will cause an immediate physiological response — some of which is visible, some of which we can only track from within the body. During withdrawal, the brains of addicts create junctions between nerve cells containing the neurotransmitter GABA. This process more or less inhibits the brain systems usually excited by drug-related cues — something we never see in the brains of so-called sex and porn addicts.

A sex addict without sex is much more like a teenager without their smartphone. Imagine a kid playing Angry Birds. He seems obsessed, but once the game is off and it’s time for dinner, he unplugs. He might wish he was still playing, but he doesn’t get the shakes at the dinner table. There’s nothing going on in his brain that creates an uncontrollable imbalance.

The same goes for a guy obsessed with watching porn. He might prefer to endlessly watch porn, but when he’s unable to, no withdrawal indicative of addiction occurs. He’ll never be physically addicted. He’ll just be horny, which for many of us, is merely a sign we’re alive.

There haven’t been any studies that speak to this directly. As such, the anti-fapper narrative is usually the only point discussed: Guys stop masturbating after they stop downloading porn, and after a few days, they say they’re able to get normal erections again. This coincides with the somewhat popular idea that watching porn leads to erectile dysfunction, a position that porn-addiction advocates such as Marnia Robinson and Gary Wilson state emphatically. (Robinson wrote a book on the subject, though her degree is in law, not science, and Wilson, a retired physiology teacher, presented a TED Talk about hyperstimulation in Glasgow.) These types of advocates are wedded to the idea that porn is an uncontrolled stimulus the brain gets addicted to because of the dopamine release it causes. According to their thinking, anything that causes dopamine release is addictive.

But there’s a difference between compulsion and addiction. Addiction can’t be stopped without major consequence, including new brain activity. Compulsive behavior can be stopped; it’s just difficult to do so. In other words, being “out of control” isn’t a universal symptom of addiction.

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Then what, exactly, does it mean when Tiger Woods and Josh Duggar go to rehab for sex addiction? Or when Dr. Drew offers it up on TV for washed-up celebrities? The answer is simple: They’re giving free marketing to the new American industry of sex addiction therapy. Reformers Unanimous, the faith-based treatment program chosen by Duggar, is likely to gain a number of new patients thanks to the media frenzy surrounding his admission to their facilities after the Ashley Madison hack exposed the affairs Duggar blamed on porn addiction.

These programs are similar to traditional 12-step models, except even more informed by faith. By misdiagnosing patients from the start, they gloss over the underlying issues that might make someone more prone to compulsive sexual behaviors, including Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and depression. Plenty of compulsive and ritualistic sexual behaviors aren’t addictions; they’re symptomatic of other issues.

Unfortunately, that’s just scratching the surface of the faulty science practiced by these recovery centers. For instance, according to proponents of the sex addiction industry, the more porn someone watches, the more they’ll experience erectile dysfunction. However, my recent study with Nicole Prause, a psychophysiologist and neuroscientist at UCLA, showed that’s absurd. While advocates of sex and porn addiction are quick to correlate the amount of porn a guy looks at to how desensitized his penis is, our study showed that watching immense amounts of porn made men more sensitive to less explicit stimuli. Simply put, men who regularly watched porn at home were more aroused while watching porn in the lab than the men in the control group. They were able to get erections quicker and had no trouble maintaining them, even when the porn being watched was “vanilla” (i.e., free of hardcore sex acts like bondage).

There is, of course, other evidence that porn isn’t a slippery slope to physical or mental dysfunction. A paper just came out in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy from German researchers that looked at both the amount of porn consumed by German and Polish men and women and their sexual attitudes and behaviors. It found that more porn watched meant more variety of sexual activity — for both sexes.

Despite these results, there’s still an entire publication, Sex Addiction & Compulsivity, committed to demonstrating that porn creates erectile dysfunction. Its very existence suggests sex addiction and its treatments are real, yet the journal doesn’t take a stance on any particular treatments. And while its resolutions come from peer-reviewed articles, these articles only get reviewed by people who already believe in the notion of sex addiction.

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Which is why the journal has zero impact. The number of times a scientific journal gets used in other scholarly work is measured by something called the Journal Citation Reports (JCR). That number determines a journal’s official impact factor. So far, Sex Addiction & Compulsivity has a JCR impact factor of 0.00. Nobody cites anything from it, except maybe their own cult of followers who publish on blogs and personal websites.

The journal benefits from a very 21st century way of creating a veneer of objectivity. As long as there are papers in it, people can cite them as “scientific.” Even if the work — and the people who oversee it — are anything but. An influential associate editor there is David Delmonico, a professor who runs an “internet behavior consulting company” that offers “intervention for problematic Internet behaviors.” He believes sex addiction is real because he’s wary of the supposedly horrible effects the internet (and all the porn there) can have on human behavior.

Such porn-shaming isn’t all that different from the guilt conservatives attach to sex, even though conditioning men to feel bad about their sexual behaviors only leads to the kind of secretive, damaging behaviors evidenced in the Duggar story. What’s worse: when sexuality is labeled a “disease” like addiction, guys no longer have to own their sexuality — or their actions. It’s unnecessary to explain why they cheated because it’s beyond their control. And so, the “addict” stigma is preferable because it’s one they can check into rehab and recover from. Being considered an “adulterer,” on the other hand, is harder to shake.

Complete Article HERE!

Homophobia linked with psychoticism and dysfunctional personality traits

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Gay pride london

People taking part in the annual Pride in London Parade on 27 June

Homophobic attitudes have been linked with psychoticism, a psychological trait present in several severe conditions that can also contribute to heightened states of hostility and anger. Researchers say this is the first time psychological and psychopathological characteristics and the prediction of homophobia have been assessed.

Led by researchers at the University of L’Aquila in Italy, the team asked 551 university students, aged between 15 and 30, to complete several psychometric tests to examine the psychological factors that could correlate with homophobia. Using questionnaires, they assessed homophobia levels, psychopathological symptoms, defence mechanisms and attachment styles.

“Homophobic behaviour and a negative attitude toward homosexuals are prevalent among the population,” they wrote in The Journal of Sexual Medicine. “Despite this, few researchers have investigated the psychologic aspects associated with homophobia, as psychopathologic symptoms, the defensive system, and attachment styles.”

Researchers found that people who scored highly on the psychoticism tests were more likely to have homophobic attitudes. This was also true of those who have immature defence mechanisms – which are the coping techniques helping people reduce anxiety produced by threatening people or uncomfortable situations. People who have immature defence mechanisms tend to be difficult to deal with. Finally people who have a fearful style of attachment, in that they find it difficult to form attachments, were also more predisposed to homophobic attitudes.

In contrast, the findings showed people with depression, neurotic defence mechanisms and a secure style of attachment had a lower risk of being homophobic. “If we suppose that subjects with a high level of psychoticism perceive external reality as a threat and project their anger, for example, against homosexual people, people with depressive traits could direct the anger mainly at themselves,” they suggest.

Concluding, the team say homophobia is a huge social problem involving specific personality features in subjects. They said the findings highlight a “remarkable association between dysfunctional aspects of personality and homophobic attitudes” and that this association could lead to victims of homophobia. “Moreover, our study follows a controversial issue regarding homophobia as a possible mental disorder, and it also discusses the possible clinical implications that cross inevitably into the area of psychiatric epistemology.”

Lead author Emmanuele A Jannini, president of the Italian Society of Andrology and Sexual Medicine, said: “After discussing for centuries if homosexuality is to be considered a disease, for the first time we demonstrated that the real disease to be cured is homophobia, associated with potentially severe psychopathologies.”

 Complete Article HERE!

“Porn” problems unlike any known addiction in largest neuroscience study

Like I’ve said all along…

When studying addictions, there are known relationships between certain stimuli and reactions in the brain. These reactions have, in some instances, become the benchmark for what constitutes an addiction and addiction-based behaviors.  There has been heated debate over the very existence of porn “addiction” and what that addiction would look like when studied.

porn addiction, no such thing

In the largest neuroscience study of porn addiction to date, research conducted at UCLA found a clear reversal of the brain’s typical addiction response in study participants when they were shown sexual images. With the use of brain wave monitoring, participants who reported major problems controlling their viewing of sex films showed decreased brain reactions when shown the sexual images, rather than heightened activity as having a “porn addiction” would suggest.

The study shows that the brain does not react the way an addict’s brain would react to cues for their drug of choice. In fact, the study shows that the hypothetical “sex addict” brain reacts in the opposite way that a drug addict’s brain reacts, questioning whether sex addiction actually exists.

“This finding is important, because it shows a reversal of a part of the brain response that has been consistently documented in other substance addictions and gambling disorder,” Prause said. She also noted that this was consistent with their previous study, in which participants served as their own control and no relationship existed between the severity of their sex film problems and their brain response.

Many self-identified “hypersexual” people say they have an uncontrollable urge for sexual stimuli, and that it has resulted in negative life consequences such as loss of jobs or loss of relationships. For this reason, many clinicians have suggested that “sex addiction” be diagnosed much like drug addiction.

“While we do not doubt that some people struggle with their sexual behaviors, these data show that the nature of the problem is unlikely to be addictive,” said Prause.

The study involved 122 volunteers, both men and women. Some had problems controlling their viewing of sex films and met suggested criteria for problem use of pornography by three different questionnaire measures. Others denied any problems with their viewing of sex films. The 122 participants viewed images and were monitored using electroencephalography (EEG) that measures brain waves. The images were of sexual and non-sexual scenes. They included photos of people skydiving and of a man and woman engaging in intercourse, among others.

The study measured the late positive potential (LPP). Co-author Greg Hajcak described, “The LPP reflects electrical activity of the brain that is recorded at the scalp and time-locked to the presentation of pictures.” The LPP is a very common measure in studies of emotion. “The size of the LPP reflects the intensity of an emotional response, and reflects brain activity occurring in the visual system and ancient subcortical structures,” explained co-author Dean Sabatinelli.sex-addiction

“Hundreds of studies have found that the LPP is larger for emotional compared to neutral pictures,” described Hajcak, “and previous work from myself and my colleagues have shown that cocaine addicts have an increased LPP to cocaine-related pictures.” To test for correlation with hypersexuality, one would expect the brain to show high rates of activity when shown sexual images. In this study, a reverse effect was shown.

“The extent that individuals struggle with attempts to control urges or other internal states such as thoughts or emotions may change how problematic pornography viewing becomes,” co-author and psychologist Cameron Staley added. “Labeling a person’s attempt to control urges a ‘sexual addiction’ may interfere with therapy approaches such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) that can reduce distressing sexual behaviors.”

The study appears in the current online edition of the scientific journal Biological Psychology (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301051…).

Authors on the study are Dr. Nicole Prause, Liberos LLC (http://www.liberoscenter.com); Dr. Vaughn R. Steele, The Mind Research Network, UNM-Albuquerque; Dr. Cameron Staley, Idaho State University, Pocatello, ID; Dr. Dean Sabatinelli, University of Georgia, Athens, GA; Dr. Greg Hajcak, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY.

This research was conducted in the UCLA Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences (http://www.psychiatry.ucla.edu/), which is the within the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA for faculty who are experts in the origins and treatment of disorders of complex human behavior. The lead author is the founder at Liberos LLC, a company in the UCLA startup program devoted to neuroscience research and the treatment of human sexual problems.
Complete Article HERE!

Get a grip!

We continue our National Masturbation Month theme today.

Name: Pablo
Gender: Male
Age: 34
Location: Madrid
Can you help me I have an addiction towards masturbation. I can’t control the urge that I have. I’m single and have never been with a woman. I’m very nervous about this. How can I control these sexual urges? Please write back as soon as you can.

Pablo, darling, what’s the big problem with jerkin’ off…even jerkin’ off a lot? Perhaps you’re creating a predicament where there doesn’t need to be one. Maybe you just need to relax and enjoy your self-pleasuring.

First off, I want to restate my belief that there’s no such thing as a masturbation addict. Compulsive hand jobs? Sure! Out of control wackin’ off? Ya betcha! Self-denigrating pud-pulling? Absolutely! Masturbation addiction? No way!

Masturbation is normal, particularly for someone like you who is not involved with someone else. Of course masturbation is also a big part of the sex life of people in relationships too.

Say, where are you getting the information that self-love is a bad thing? Is this message coming from the Church perhaps? I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if it were. Masturbation can sure enough be a problem, if you’ve been indoctrinated to think it is bad or sinful. But then again, the problem is the sex-negative propaganda, not the masturbation itself.

I’d be willing to guess a guy of your age, without a wife or lover has all kinds of repressive feelings about sex in general, not just masturbation in particular. Maybe it’s your religious up bringing that is coloring your judgment about your private sexuality. Perhaps if you took the opportunity to rethink your training, you wouldn’t be so hard on yourself.

Since you don’t go into any detail about the extent of your behavior, I guess I’ll just have to make some general comments. Like I said masturbation, or any behavior for that matter, can become compulsive. If the urge to choke the chicken gets in the way of you having a full rich life, you may have a problem. Say you’re jerkin’ off so much that you don’t having a social life. Or you’re pullin’ your pud so much that you can’t hold down a job. Then that’s a problem. But I hasten to add the problem is not masturbation, per se, it’s the being out of control that’s the problem. Just like if someone told me they were jogging so much they had no time for a social life or for a job, then that person has a problem. But it’s not the jogging, per se. Ya get it?

There are lots of reasons why people feel uncomfortable about their sexual desires and behaviors. Most all of us grow up in a very sex- negative environment. Parents still punish their kids if they catch them playing with themselves. The Church still insists that any sexual expression outside of marriage is sinful. So many people are so judgmental about the sexual behaviors of others, particularly if the expression is one they themselves don’t practice. Others can be so cruel, using terms like slut, whore, and promiscuous when talking about someone who is getting more sex than they. In other words, it’s our culture’s unhealthy preoccupation with sex that is often the cause of one’s fear and mistrust of his own sexual desires and practices.

You don’t have to settle for this, Pablo. You can learn to free yourself from the repressive messages that may surround you. You may find the help you need on the internet, don’t cha know. There are many online communities that celebrate self-loving. Do a search using the words: healthy masturbation.

One thing for sure, if you feel bad about jerkin’ off, you’re probably also fearful of partnered sex. I mean it wasn’t lost on me that you’re 34 and still a virgin. Holy Cow! Maybe if you liberated yourself from your repressive attitudes toward masturbation, partnered sex would take its rightful place in your life. It’s never too late for this to happen, Pablo.

Some people use masturbation as a means of self-abuse. I guess it’s no accident that self-abuse is a term some sex-negative people use when talking about masturbation. If you don’t like yourself very much, Pablo, for whatever reason, you could be using your private sex to punish and denigrate yourself. This is the ultimate perversion — turning something good and healthy into something hurtful and hateful.

Are you concentrating so much time and energy on your cock to avoid other problems in your life? Maybe if you confronted these other problems, whatever they might be, head on, you’d feel better about yourself. And your solitary sexual practices wouldn’t loom so large. The problem is, because you feel bad about what you’re doing, you’re actually adding more stress in your life, making it harder for you to get a hold of this, no pun intended.

Good luck!

Hey dr dick! What’s that toll-free podcast voicemail telephone number? Why, it’s: (866) 422-5680. DON’T BE SHY, LET IT FLY!

Between a rock and a hard place

Name: Adam
Gender:
Age: 34
Location: UK
I have been attracted to male children for years. Having been arrested for viewing child porn I realize that I need to pursue a celibate lifestyle. I realize that celibacy is a demanding lifestyle. What advice would you offer me?

You present a particularly touchy issue for our culture, Adam. But before I respond, I’d like to help you with some of your vocabulary. You say you need to pursue a celibate lifestyle. I think you mean to say you need to pursue a sexually abstinent lifestyle. The two concepts — celibacy and sexual abstinence — mean different things. Unfortunately, way too many people use these terms interchangeably. This is not a good thing and only serves to muddy the waters further.

Celibacy has a very specific meaning. Let me whip out my trusty, handy dandy Funk & Wagnalls dictionary. Celibacy: the state of being unmarried. Some people infer, especially those of a strict religious bent, that celibacy also connotes sexual abstinence. Ya see, religious people are of the mind that there is no legitimate sexual expression outside the confines of heterosexual marriage. Legitimate or not, unmarried people have always been and always will be sexual, so making that unfortunate connection between celibacy and abstinence ill advised.

The only thing we ought to be able to say for sure when someone identifies him/herself as celibate is that he/she is not married. To assume a celibate person, even one who has taken a vow of celibacy, is sexually abstinent is quite a dangerous stretch indeed. Need I point out the very unfortunate sex abuse scandals that continues to plague the Roman Catholic Church?

In the same way, if someone identifies him/herself as sexually abstinent, the only thing we ought to be able to say for sure is that he/she is not engaging in any type of sexual expression. It would be false to assume that a sexually abstinent person is not married, because there are a lot of married people who are indeed sexually abstinent.

In your case, Adam, I believe you are telling me that you are both not married (celibate), and because of your particular sexual predilection — young boys — you must also be sexually abstinent. If I’ve got this right…and it is very important that I not misinterpret your words…then I think there are options you may not have considered.

I firmly believe that we learn all our sexual expression. I hasten to add that sexual orientation and sexual expression are not one in the same thing, just like celibacy and abstinence are one and the same thing.

Everything we eroticize, in your case boys, is learned behavior. You learned to eroticize boys at some point in your life; you can now learn to eroticize a more appropriate group of people. This isn’t a particularly easy thing to accomplish, but it’s not impossible either. Again, I am not saying that you can reprogram your orientation, but I am saying that you can learn to redirect your erotic attentions elsewhere.

Anytime any one of us discovers that the object of our desires is someone inappropriate, we need to adjust our eroticism immediately. This is the better part of being a sexually responsible person. In our culture, pedophilia is just one such inappropriate eroticism, but there are many other taboos. A father for his daughter, a mother for her son, a boss for a subordinate, a man for his neighbor’s wife, a teacher for her student, a counselor for his/her client, a congressman for his page…are you getting the picture? I hope so. And the list goes on and on.

I believe learning to readjust your eroticism to a more appropriate outlet is a much better option than trying to live a sexually abstinent lifestyle. The reason I believe this is that having a more appropriate outlet will at least help you channel your pent up sexuality. If you have no outlet, or limit yourself to masturbation, you will most likely intensify your longings and further fixate on the inappropriate object of your current desires.

Like anyone trying to wean him/herself off a bad habit, the task ahead of you Adam, will be challenging. But it will also be enriching and life-affirming. I hasten to add that you ought not try to do this on your own. Work with a sex-positive therapist.

You’re a relatively young man with many years ahead of you. These years can be filled with happy, healthy and appropriate sexual expression. Make it happen.

Good luck

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