Women affected by sex addiction do not consistently show evidence of unusually high levels of the male hormone testosterone in their bloodstreams, according to recent findings from a team of Iranian researchers. Testosterone is the quintessential male sex hormone; however, girls and women also need a certain amount of this hormone to maintain normal function. In a study presented in 2015 to the 2nd International Conference on Behavioral Addictions, researchers from Iran’s Islamic Azad University explored high testosterone levels as a potential factor in the onset of sex addiction in women. These researchers concluded that some women affected by sex addiction have unusually high testosterone levels, while others do not.
Women and Testosterone
Testosterone is present in small amounts in the bodies of both boys and girls. In some cases, children of both genders may have roughly equal amounts of the hormone in circulation. However, boys experience a dramatic spike in their testosterone levels when they reach puberty during adolescence, and the gender-based difference in production of the hormone usually remains constant from that point forward. In pubescent girls and women, testosterone is generated primarily in the ovaries, where it acts as an essential catalyst for the production of estrogen, the main female sex hormone. Girls and women also rely on testosterone to form their internal proteins, grow muscle tissue, create the blood sugar-controlling hormone insulin and control some underlying aspects of their day-to-day behavior. The most likely causes of low testosterone levels in a woman include ovarian failure and the ovary removal surgery known as an oophorectomy; potential consequences for women include mood alteration and a drop in sex drive. Conditions associated with high testosterone levels in girls and women include the group of genetic ailments known collectively as congenital adrenal hyperplasia, abnormal tissue growths on the ovaries or the adrenal glands, early (“precocious”) puberty and the hormone-related condition known as polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS. Doctors sometimes use a treatment approach called antiandrogen therapy to lower women’s high and possibly damaging testosterone levels.
Women and Sex Addiction
Much of the research on sex addiction has focused on men. However, the condition also affects a significant number of women. In a study review published in 2014 in Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity: The Journal of Treatment & Prevention, researchers from West Chester University conducted an extensive analysis of a range of previous studies in order to identify gender-specific characteristics of sex addiction in women. These researchers concluded that, compared to men, women have a notable tendency to combine symptoms of sex-focused addiction with the symptoms of a more general love addiction. The researchers also concluded that, compared to sex-addicted men, sex-addicted women have a much higher chance of being in an unhealthy, co-dependent relationship. All told, the researchers identified a cluster of eight symptoms that partially differentiate women with sex addiction from men with the condition.
Women, Sex Addiction and Testosterone Levels
In the study presented to the 2nd International Conference on Behavioral Addictions, the Islamic Azad University researchers used a small-scale project involving 60 women to help determine if testosterone levels have an impact on any given woman’s chances of developing symptoms of sex addiction. All of the women enrolled in the project were between the ages of 18 and 45. Each participant took two screening tests designed to detect indications of addiction: the Visual Analogue Scale and the Female Sexual Function Index. In addition, each participant underwent blood testing of her circulating testosterone levels. The researchers concluded that the women whose scores on the Visual Analogue Scale indicated the possible presence of sex addiction did not have reliably higher circulating testosterone levels than their counterparts whose scores on the screening tool did not indicate the presence of sex addiction. The researchers reached the same conclusion when they analyzed the results of the Female Sexual Function Index. Some of the women with indicators for female sex addiction on either or both of the screening tools did have elevated testosterone levels. However, the study’s authors could find no consistent correlation between measured testosterone levels in the bloodstream and women’s chances of developing an addictive relationship to sexual behavior, thought or fantasy. They believe that testosterone levels in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) may have a bigger impact on women’s sex addiction risks.