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Sex addicts used to be mostly male, and they often came from a background that included some form of sexual abuse.

Cybersex addicts are equally male and female, the numbers are rising, and anyone seems vulnerable to the easy access and temptation of online explicit content.

Men tend to spend more time viewing pornography, and women tend to prefer more interactive and relationship oriented cyber sex, but beyond that, there is little understanding of who is most at risk for a cybersex addiction. We do know that the numbers affected are rising - sexual addiction therapists are reporting a dramatic increase in the numbers of people seeking treatment.

What is Cybersex Addiction?

Internet sex addicts will spend increasing time online engaged in sexual activity. They will take increasingly greater risks as they progress in their addiction, and they will continue to engage in online sex, even when this pastime causes them real world harms.

The easy access, affordability and anonymity of the internet sexual experience has greatly increased the numbers of people experiencing a sexual addiction. Most people start off through normal curiosity, enjoy the excitement that engaging in sexual activity online brings, and gradually increase the time they spend engaging in cybersex. A Stanford University study on internet sex addiction led researchers to speculate that there were 9 million internet sex addicts in America.

The variation and unending size of the internet pornographic landscape feeds the addiction, like nothing before. There is no end to the experience, and a user can spend hours viewing constantly changing images. Over time, internet sex addicts will progress to more extreme forms of pornography, or online sexual activity. Sometimes men will cross an unexpected line, and view illegal images, in the never ending quest for the more extreme images needed to induce an excitement reaction.

Some common traits of cyber sex addicts include:

  • Internet users addicted to online sex spend hours a day, trance like, looking at sexually explicit material - or if they are women, likely participating in explicit online chats.
  • They experience a tolerance, and find themselves viewing increasingly extreme content - as what was once exciting becomes mundane.
  • They continue to spend hours on the internet engaged in sexual activity, even when it harms their real life relationships.
  • They become less able to have intimate and satisfying sexual relationships in real life.
  • They feel guilty and ashamed after viewing explicit content on the internet
  • They are preoccupied about spending time online to engage in sexual activities, and will feel anxious if unable to do so.

The Risks of Cybersex Addiction

Although cybersex addicts do not face the same risks of disease, arrest or violence as more traditional sex addicts do, an addiction to internet sex can cause a great deal of pain.

Marriage therapists report that problems with internet pornography are now a regular cause for divorce between clients. Sex addiction therapists explain that a cybersex addiction can derail normal and necessary intimacy between partners. Cybersex addicts are unable to achieve the same sort of sexual fulfillment through physical interactions as they can online, and most will avoid sexual content with their partners.

Although many cybersex addicts dismiss claims of infidelity, partners feeling competition from online parties often feel differently, and this too can destroy relationships.

Internet sex addiction is progressive, and sex addicts will take ever greater risks to engage in sexual activity online as their addiction progresses. Many will get caught looking at pornography at work or by family, and many will face negative consequences for their inability to control themselves.

Cybersex can lead to increased rates of depression, shame and guilt.

Treatment for Internet Sex Addiction

Sexual compulsions are not easily broken, and most cybersex addicts will require professional or structured support to mend their sexual lives.

Sex addicts need to learn why they feel compelled to engage in inappropriate sexual activities, need to learn how they can control their temptations, and work on fixing the problems in their life that cause them to seek escape or release through inappropriate sexual gratification.

Sexual support groups modeled on the 12 steps of AA are found in all major centers, and sexual addiction therapists are equally common. In most cases it is recommended that the partners of sex addicts get some co-dependency counseling, to learn what role they may be playing in the propagation of the addiction.

Residential treatment stays are increasingly common for the treatment of sexual compulsions, and as the effects of cybersex addiction ripple down, inpatient programs are more readily found.

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Page last updated Apr 28, 2011

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