Internet Sex Addiction and The Age of Cybersex

internet sex addiction cybersex

The concept of a ‘technological addiction’ is somewhat difficult for the inexperienced layman to wrap his mind around. How could someone possibly be addicted to the Internet? I mean sure, some people use the world wide web a bit excessively, Googling everything and constantly posting real-time updates to their social media accounts. Some people take it a little too far, surely. But Internet addiction? Come on.

Similarly, those who lack firsthand experience in the realm of sex addiction will likely scoff at the idea that something so vastly accepted as pleasurable could cause anyone serious harm. How could someone be psychologically dependent on something as seemingly innocuous as sex? Surely those who claim they are afflicted with this condition are not addicted, but are merely attempting to excuse their irresponsible and taboo behavior. Sex addiction? Please.

Internet Sex Addiction – Causes and Symptoms

As it so turns out, as these disorders are studied further and more comprehensively, evidence supporting the validity of both continues to accumulate. Internet addiction and sex addiction are both impulse control disorders, characterized by an inability to cease damaging behavior despite desperate attempts and steadily worsening consequences. The two disorders have quite a bit in common, from root causes (childhood trauma, abuse, and an underlying inability to cope with emotions and situations) to treatment options (psychotherapy, inpatient treatment, and continued dedication to a 12-step program). As of recently, a combination of the two disorders – medically referred to as Internet sex addiction – has begun to be studied more in depth. Addiction specialists and medical professionals across the country have noticed that more and more men and women are coming into treatment for psychological issues characterized predominantly by a compulsive need to watch Internet pornography, or engage in other sex-related online functions. What may seem to some like an outlandish excuse to watch a lot of porn is, in fact, a very valid and potentially ruinous psychological disorder.

What is Internet Sex Addiction?

In recent times, a distinct relationship between sex addiction and compulsive internet use has been recognized and documented. This newly recorded disorder (predominantly categorized as a sexual addiction) is characterized by uncontrollable, virtual sexual activity that results in consequences pertaining to interpersonal relationships, physical and mental health, and financial and legal standing. Also referred to as cybersex addiction, this disorder manifests in a variety of differing ways – just as sex addiction and Internet addiction tend to. Some cybersex addicts will spend an excessive amount of time reading erotic fiction online, or watching and trading pornography, while others will spend a disproportionate amount of time in cybersex chatrooms, or engaging in cybersex relationships. Because Internet sex addiction is considered an impulse control disorder, it can be adequately identified by three major criteria.

  1. The failure to make a decision regarding engagement in the behavior.
  2. An obsession or preoccupation with the behavior.
  3. Failure to cease engaging in the behavior despite negative consequences.

Who Is Prone to Cybersex Addiction?

The reasoning behind why some individuals experiment with such sexual outlets and other do not varies significantly. The fact of the matter is, the majority of individuals who engage in cybersex as a form of sexual expression can do so with impunity, and regular sex-related Internet use never progresses into an issue of any kind. For some, however, regular use will eventually progress into an addictive disorder – a complete loss of control over engagement in the behavior. The development of such addictions is often largely attributed to preexisting psychological disorders. Men and women who suffer from issues such as untreated sexual dysfunction, severe body-image issues, depression, or especially low self-esteem are at increased risk of developing such behavioral patterns. Factors such as perceived anonymity and compromised inhibitions have been shown to exacerbate the issue and increase participation. Because interacting online is far less risky than interacting in person (on an emotional level), many individuals with intimacy issues or struggles pertaining to self-identity or self-worth will opt to express themselves sexually in a cyber setting.

A Solution to a Devastating Disorder

The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does not yet classify cybersex addiction as an individual addictive disorder, but it is included as part of the listed “unspecified” sexual disorders. Cybersex has been known to destroy the functioning of many a family, seeing as many wives and husbands find that having a spouse engage in regular cybersex is just about as emotionally harmful as physical infidelity. The instant availability of cybersex and the ability to maintain a secretiveness surrounding engagement exacerbate the disorder in many sufferers, and the shame surrounding such a taboo compulsion prevent many afflicted individuals from seeking the help they so desperately need. A combination of intensive psychotherapy and long-term treatment has proven effective in treating disorders like cybersex addiction. If you believe that you or a loved one may be suffering from such a condition, please contact us at Next Chapter today for more information.