Rare truth about "sex addiction" + Birth control as a teen linked to depression?

The rare truth about sexual compulsivity

EXCERPT: Sexual compulsivity, also known as out-of-control sexual behavior, has been documented. So has being sexually turned on by bees—melissaphilia. Like melissaphilia, true sexual compulsivity is rare. It hardly ever appeared in the psychology literature until the 1980s after the coining of the term “sex addiction.” Since then, sex addiction has entered the lexicon. Many consider it prevalent and disastrous.

Today we have a tiny number of true sexual compulsives [...] We also have a large number who fear or believe or have been told they’re sex addicts. But oddly, when surveyed about what purported addicts actually do sexually, they don’t have any more sex or any wilder, less controlled sex than boatloads of people who feel certain they’re psychologically fine.

So-called sex addicts are overwhelmingly men. Most men feel lustier than most women, and have most of their sex with themselves. They masturbate largely for stress relief. Why do men feel stressed? In part because of testosterone. The hormone causes tension and irritability. [...] Meanwhile, many women also masturbate, some frequently. More than half of adult American women own vibrators, and most use them only solo. But when stressed, women are more likely than men to cope non-sexually, for example, by talking with friends.

Some men also de-stress by conversing, exercising, playing video games, or watching sports. But many masturbate to pornography [...] They ejaculate, which calms them. Then they return to their sane, functional, loving, in-control lives. Many women cannot fathom why so many men feel such a deep need to polish pipe. Many also believe that only evil men watch porn. Actually, almost every man has and does. Canadian researchers wanted to compare sexual attitudes among men who had and had never watched porn. They couldn’t find a single adult man who hadn’t—not one.

[...] The number one symptom of “sex addiction” is masturbation to porn. But how much is too much? There’s no consensus. [...] What distinguishes men who think self-sexing is fine from those who fear it’s pathological? Almost always religiosity. ... Like all men, those who believe they’re sex addicts want sexual satisfaction, and have it solo. But they also believe this proves they’re deranged and on their way to Hell...

Several studies have explored effective treatment for those convinced they’re sex addicts. The best approach is cognitive (a.k.a. cognitive behavioral) therapy. [...] Cognitive therapy recognizes that severe distress can result from mistaken thoughts ... When mates, clergy, or others call men sex addicts, the men rarely calm down. ... Consequently, the term “sex addiction” does more harm than good ... the large majority of mental health professionals rejected the whole idea of “sex addiction” and deleted all previous diagnostic terms ... “We find insufficient evidence to support ‘sex addiction’ as a mental health disorder.” (MORE - details)

Is taking birth control as a teen linked to depression? It’s complicated

EXCERPT: “Does the pill cause depression?” the news headline asked. Prompted by a recent study that described a link between taking birth control pills as a teenager and depression in adulthood, the news got some doctors hopping mad. Early research hints that there are reasons to look more closely at hormonal birth control’s side effects. But so far, the link is less than certain. “This is a premature connection,” says pediatrician Cora Breuner of Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Putting too much stock in preliminary evidence may lead to fewer teenagers getting birth control and, in turn, more unwanted pregnancies among teens — a situation that can upend young lives, Breuner says. Headlines that frighten teens, their families and doctors are “yet another barrier in place for accessing a completely effective way to prevent unplanned pregnancies.”

[...] “I don’t think the evidence is there right now to say that this is a threat,” adds epidemiologist and public health researcher Sarah McKetta of Columbia University, who has studied birth control use in teens. Still, she sees value in more research on the issue. “Women deserve good medication … that’s not giving them problems.” If there are risks that come with the pill, then scientists ought to get a handle on them. Easier said than done. Existing studies can’t quite answer the question at hand, so their results can be interpreted in different ways.

[...] every so often, a study crops up that raises a potential red flag. That happened this summer with a report that women who had taken the pill as teenagers were more likely to develop depression as adults. The study, published online August 28 in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, asked 1,236 U.S. women, ages 20 to 39, to remember when they began taking hormonal birth control pills. Researchers also asked about the participants’ current depressive symptoms. A potentially worrisome trend emerged: Use of the pill in the teenage years was linked to higher rates of depression later. [...] Those differences among the groups were “really quite substantial,” says study coauthor Christine Anderl, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. “There might be a long-lasting relationship between birth control use and depression later on,” she says.

[...] Two other studies have linked oral contraceptives with depression during the teen years, as opposed to later in life. A study published online October 2 in JAMA Psychiatry found a link between the pill and depressive symptoms in 16-year-olds in the Netherlands. Girls on the pill reported crying more, sleeping more and having more eating problems than girls not taking oral contraceptives.

The second study, of over 1 million Danish teenagers and women, found that teenagers ages 15 to 19 taking birth control pills were more likely to also have prescriptions for antidepressants at the same time. The effect was strongest for teens taking progestin-only pills. That study’s size gave it a “powerful enough lens to spot even a small effect,” Nuzzo says. It was published in 2016 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Now consider a dissenting report. McKetta and Columbia epidemiologist Katherine Keyes studied 4,765 U.S. adolescents and found no evidence that birth control pills influence depression, neither at the time of taking the pill or afterward.

[...] As a whole, these studies — all imperfect, all beset by their own limitations — offer little clarity on whether and how these birth control hormones are changing the brains of teenagers. Yet, the idea is plausible. The teen years are important for brain development. Hormones such as testosterone, estrogen and progesterone during adolescence can change the brain’s development. “It is a fact,” says Cheryl Sisk, a neuroscientist at Michigan State University in East Lansing. Her certainty comes from a large collection of research on lab animals, and a slimmer set of human brain studies.

[...] Set against this backdrop of research mainly in lab animals, the idea that hormones during adolescence could change the brain, particularly in a way that could influence depression, makes sense. But just because something makes sense doesn’t mean it’s true. To really answer the question well, what’s needed are large head-to-head comparisons of teenage girls randomly assigned to take either hormonal birth control or a placebo, and then monitored for depression years later. But that study will never happen. Research ethics would prevent teenagers who need birth control pills from being given a sugar pill substitute. Clues might come from other places...

[...] “Access to birth control is a universal human right,” says Anderl, who doesn’t want her results to be used to limit access to birth control by politicians, doctors, parents or even young women themselves. The data are too preliminary to be used to make the case against the pill’s use by teenagers, she says... (MORE - details, data)

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