The extraordinary expansion of computer technology into more and more lives and into all parts of our lives means that cybersex addiction will increase. Cybersex addiction is an extremely potent addiction that must be treated as such. It is usually not just a single family member affected by cybersex, but it can have far lasting effects on partners, children, siblings, and parents.
If Internet sex addiction is a viable concept, there are also implications for treatment. At present, treatment programs for sexual addiction include inpatient, outpatient, aftercare support, and self-help groups.
There are also family counseling programs, support groups, and educational workshops for addicts and their families to help them understand the facets of belief and family life that are part of the addiction.
However, at present there are very few outlets for the treatment of Internet sex addiction. Unlike human sexuality, Internet usage is not an innate human need or drive. However, like television and telephone, it has become an essential feature of modern life. Therefore, total abstinence of computer use is probably not the best approach in the long term given the prevalence of computers and Internet use in everyday life. Treatment modalities developed for treating other addictions, particularly food and sex addictions, are applicable to treating cybersex addiction.
Inpatient and outpatient therapy programs can be modified to include cybersex addiction. Inpatient and outpatient treatments vary in intensity, but both include auxiliary treatment such as step groups, peer support, family therapy, medication, and a continuous emphasis on relapse prevention.
As for medications for treatment, some cybersex-based paraphilias or hypersexuality can be managed through pharmacological treatment involving anti-psychotic, anti-depressant, and anti-androgenic medications. Depression is a core experience in all addictions; therefore, depression treatment is a central component in the treatment for cybersex addicts.
If there is a strong family history of affective disorder and the patient fits diagnosis of the affective disorder and the cybersex addiction, the person may be a good candidate for antidepressant medication. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors e. Paxil or Luvox are helpful for dealing with depression, anxiety, and compulsive symptoms. As public and professional awareness of cybersex usage is raised, it becomes increasingly important to understand, assess, and treat this phenomenon.
Therapists need to become more informed about the range of sexual activities available on the Internet, the powerful draw of such activities for many cybersex users, the significant adverse consequences that many cybersex users experience, the need to modify self-destructive or illegal behaviors a top priority in therapy, and the importance of considering cybersex addiction a family problem, and involving the spouse or significant other in the treatment process.
Many cybersex participants identify themselves as sex addicts and relate a history of compulsive sexual behaviors antedating their online sexual activities. Therefore, familiarity with current models of treatment for sexual addiction and compulsivity will play a significant role in successful treatment of cybersex compulsives.
These groups often assist clients in modifying their compulsive sexual behaviors and interpersonal relationships. In case studies, many respondents reported that what has helped them is attending step sex addiction meetings, daily contact with a step sponsor, individual and couple counseling, and initially, a day abstinence plan. Ideally, the spouse should also attend a step co-sex addict program and as well as individual and couple counseling. Clinicians should be familiar with step groups that are available as an adjunct to individual and group therapies.
Training will be needed to help therapists transfer extant knowledge and interventions from work with other sexual acting out problems to the online world, as well as identify and develop methods specifically geared to cybersex issues. In addition, there are also various online recovery resources, such as online education centers, support groups, and online tests for self-assessment. The results from clinical experience and review of the literature establish that involvement in compulsive cybersex is not a unitary phenomenon.
Previous studies find that addictive disorders tend to have their onset in adolescence or young adulthood, but some cases illustrate that cybersex addiction can arise even in later years. Some may have other compulsive behaviors in earlier years, and the powerful lure of cybersex resulted in their switching addictions from others to cybersex.
For those with a prior history of compulsive sexual behaviors, the Internet can escalate their addiction and the unmanageability of their lives. Compulsive cybersex is a complex, multifaceted experience that requires several levels of analysis prior to making recommendations for different components of treatment, including assessment, treatment, resources, relapse prevention, and comorbidities. Some studies find that most of the cybersex abuse patients are married or living with a partner in a committed relationship and primarily college-educated students and professionals, with the youngest age group having most cybersex experience while the oldest group having the least one.
Homosexual men were found more likely to have had cybersex compared with heterosexual men, while sexual orientation was found not to have any significant effects on odds ratios for women. When using the number of sex partners during the last year as an indicator of offline sexual activity, having had more than one sex partner increased the possibility of having had cybersex.
The results of some online survey showed that a similar proportion of men and women engaged in real-time online sex with another person and significantly more women stated that their online activities had led to real-life sex encounters.
As for psychiatric comorbidities, behavior individuals presenting with substance use disorders and other process addictions, such as pathological gambling or eating disorder, may reveal a concurrent problem with compulsive cybersex. Many compulsive cybersex patients present comorbid anxiety and affective disorders. In terms of addictive behavior, male cybersex abuse patients were more likely to report chemical dependence, with more males in recovery for alcoholism and more females in active addiction to various drugs such as benzodiazepines, narcotics, and cocaine.
Two-thirds of the women reported an eating disorder, including compulsive overeating and bulimia. Important future research areas may involve identifying both risk factors and protective factors among those susceptible to Internet sex addiction.
The interplay between such factors is likely to be complex, but future research needs to identify the interaction between individual sociodemographic susceptibility risk factors e.