With the increasing popularity of the Internet and the easy availability of pornographic websites, cyber sex addiction is becoming a problem. Many people do enjoy adult chat rooms and pornographic sites without becoming addicted. Others, though, spend so much time on cyber sex that their lives and relationships suffer.
What Is Cyber Sex?
Cyber sex can have multiple meanings. For practical purposes, it includes:
- Engaging in explicit sex chat with other people online.
- Looking at amateur or professional pornography sites.
- Taking part in online pornography, for example by posting nude photos or posing for a webcam.
- Any other sexually charged activity engaged in online.
Cyber sex is usually a solo activity. Although sex chat and performances may be shared online, the participants are physically alone with their computers. Cyber sex often includes masturbation.
Recognizing Cyber Sex Addiction
Cyber sex addiction has the same characteristics as any other addiction. The "drug" in this case is online sexual activity. A person with addiction to cyber sex feels cravings for an online "fix" much like an alcoholic craves a drink. Being online becomes a priority, to the detriment of real-life relationships.
The counseling center at the University of Rochester offers a useful checklist to help people with cyber sex addiction, and their friends and families, to recognize the problem. According to the University counselors, you may be addicted to cyber sex if:
- You find yourself unable to stop thinking about online sex.
- You've tried to stop or cut back but haven't been able to.
- You get irritable or restless when you try to stop.
- You lie to conceal your online activity.
- You are using the internet for sex more and more often, or for longer periods of time.
- You turn to cyber sex when you're feeling anxious, depressed, guilty, or helpless.
- You're constantly looking for a more intense online sex experience.
- You've lost a job, an important relationship, or an important opportunity because you couldn't stay away from cyber sex.
- You've spent money you couldn't afford to pay for site memberships or online pornography.
- Your cyber sex activities have ever included something illegal, like seeking online sex with a child.
Other Signs to Watch For
Other warning signs may be part of addiction, or they may reveal that a person is at risk. Recognizing these signs can serve as a wake-up call, letting the user know that it's time to cut back. Warning signs include:
- Losing track of time while online.
- Using sex sites at work or at school.
- Missing important activities.
- Preferring online sex chat to time with real-life friends.
- Feeling frustrated when other obligations interfere with online sessions.
Overcoming Cyber Sex Addiction
The first step to overcoming cyber sex addiction is to recognize that the problem exists. A doctor or therapist can help identify any underlying problems such as depression, low self-esteem, or fear of real-life relationships. Not all cyber sex addicts have these problems, but if they are present, treatment is essential to recovery.Steps the addicted person can take include:
- Limiting or eliminating computer time. If you must be online, try to do only essential activities such as email for work.
- Using parental control software to block sex sites. If possible, have a friend or loved one set the administrative password so that you can't change the settings.
- Pursuing other activities. Choose one or more enjoyable activities, such as cooking, exercising, or reading, and plan to do them during the time you would have been online.
- Enlisting the help of friends and family. If you feel comfortable discussing your addiction, ask the people who care about you to help you quit. Ask them to plan outings with you so you'll stay busy. Find someone you can call when cravings seem unbearable.
- Seeking a support group. Many cities have sexual addiction support groups, such as Sexaholics Anonymous. Some even have special groups for people with cyber sex addiction. These groups usually follow a twelve-step program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous.