Is sex addiction rooted in the unregulated production of oxytocin?
Hypersexual disorder, sometimes referred to as sex addiction, affects around 3 to 6 percent of the global population.
The World Health Organization lists hypersexual disorder as an impulse disorder characterized by obsessive thoughts revolving around sex, feeling out of control, and engaging in risky sexual behavior disregarding personal health and safety.
There is some controversy as to whether hypersexual disorder can be classified as such, or if it’s simply an extension or manifestation of another mental health issue. Without a clear understanding of hypersexual disorder, it can result in stigma, misleading information, and prevent people from seeking treatment or help.
Very little research has been done on the neurobiology behind hypersexual disorder.
The researchers focused on epigenetic or heritable changes that influence gene expression without altering DNA sequences.
“We set out to investigate the epigenetic regulatory mechanisms behind hypersexual disorder so we could determine whether it has any hallmarks that make it distinct from other health issues,” said Adrian Boström, the lead author of the study.
The researchers analyzed blood samples from 60 patients with hypersexual disorder and 30 patients who weren’t diagnosed with the disorder.
In the blood samples, the researchers measured DNA methylation patterns or modifications that affect gene expression.
Two regions of DNA were altered in the blood of the patients with hypersexual disorder, and the changes may result in unregulated and elevated production of oxytocin (the love hormone), but the researchers say that more work is needed to confirm this connection.
“Further research will be needed to investigate the role of microRNA-4456 and oxytocin in hypersexual disorder, but our results suggest it could be worthwhile to examine the benefits of drug and psychotherapy to reduce the activity of oxytocin,” said Professor Jussi Jokinen, an author of the study.
The researchers published their findings in the journal Epigenetics.
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