Recently, politics has brought cybersex addiction to the forefront of our media sources and our minds. Given political agenda, however, the focus has primarily been one of voiced outrage, questions of leadership competency and judgment about spousal reactions.
Less focus has been directed at the consideration of cybersex as addiction, and the challenges to relationships and recovery.
Given the explosion of Internet use in the last decade, experts are still building on research that examines the parameters, diagnosis and treatment of on-line compulsive sexual behaviors. As yet there is still no official diagnosis for Cybersex Addiction in the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual V, despite increasing evidence that addictive cybersex is as devastating as other addictions.
A beginning look may invite prevention for some and motivation to seek help for others.
What is Cybersex?
Cybersex can include viewing sexual images or content online, talking about the material with others online, or engaging in two-way conversations about sex acts. It can also include the use of Web cameras to engage in sexual acts with another partner online.
How Common is it?
Experts like Al Cooper, editor of Cybersex: The Dark Side of the Force describe the difference in terms of a continuum model. He describes three types of people who use the Internet for sexual pursuits:
When is Cybersex an Addiction?
I lived for the time when I could be back online. I felt guilty because I avoided sex with my wife. I kept thinking I could stop.
I stayed until everyone left the office. I took a lot of risks.
Challenges to Relationships
While all addictions have the potential to destroy marriages, cybersex impairs the addicted partner and assaults and implicates the spouse.
Whereas it is difficult to hide the evidence of alcohol or drugs, compulsive sexting, masturbating to porn sites, or online sexual liaisons can be hidden for a time.
The discovery brings with it a cascade of feelings. The addicted partner often moves from denial to shame, remorse and promises. The partner of an addicted person often moves through feelings of denial, shock, anger, violation and self-blame.
Often the spouse feels betrayed–likening it to an affair.
Both men and women partners of addicted partners report feeling rejected and self-recriminating.
For many couples, after the discovery, there is a marked effort to problem solve and sexually reconnect with promises to stop.
Often it is the failed attempt and resulting crisis that becomes the turning point for help or the end of the relationship.
Challenges to Recovery
No one recovers from a cybersex addiction without help and no one recovers for someone else.
Recovery is possible and may start with sexual rehab programs or 12 step programs; but there are specific challenges that make sustained commitment, self imposed restrictions and ongoing work with a sponsor, therapist and/ or group indispensible.
Temptations of a High Tech Culture
New Definition of Abstinence
Recovery from cybersex addiction like most addictions is a commitment that takes time and motivation. For those suffering, life changes come not only from undoing the “fix” but continued help to address the issues and sources of emotional pain that put them at risk.
For couples, professional help is crucial for both partners to address issues of secrecy, shame and mistrust as well as to offer support and options for new patterns of communication and intimacy.
In a culture of ever expanding technology and online resources, we are offered a great deal and we are also put at risk. Although, we may still be learning about cybersex addiction, people are suffering now.
We can’t wait to share what we know. We can’t wait to address the problem.
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Last reviewed: 15 Aug 2013