28 April 2005

What is cybersex?

If you occasionally visit a porn site, can you be classified as a cybersex addict? Health24 investigates.

Cybersex can be defined as those sexual acts that are derived from surfing electronic media sites that would titillate the sexual mind and that satisfies the erotic needs of an individual, who constantly watches explicit sexual sites.

These sites might be on Websites, Chat-rooms with Web cams, streaming video material, live sex shows and/or SMS messages. Reuters reported that in a period of two years the sexual sites on the Internet, grew with more than 27% (from 22 million – 28 million in 2001).

Reuters stated further that 6.5% of male Internet users are compulsive Cybersex fans. This condition can be defined after a person has developed compulsive sexual thoughts and/or behaviour that would lead to increasingly serious consequences, in both the addict’s internal and external worlds.

The consequences on the psychological (internal) side may include the development of severe depression, suicidal thoughts, low self-esteem, shame, self-hatred, hopelessness, despair, helplessness, intense anxiety, loneliness, moral conflict, contradictions between ethical values and behaviours, fear of abandonment, spiritual decline, distorted thinking, remorse and self-deceit. In the external world this person might put his family and work on the line.

The problem starts when the online fantasy lives are so intense that off-line relationships may suffer. These sufferers engaged in Cybersex on average 5.7 hours/week by visiting porn sites and sex chat rooms. The reported reasons for visiting these sites frequently are given as stress relieving and not for entertainment reasons. Usually the addict will engage in Cybersex actions that he/she would not attempt in real life. It is further reported that they have reduced real time sexual activity with an offline partner; this would therefore further alienate these people from real life experiences and enhance their behaviour through sexual fantasy.

The profile of the cybersex addict
70 – 75 % of these addicts have thought of suicide at some time, due to depression and the feeling that life is empty. They tend to suffer from dysfunctional/broken relationships (40 % experience severe marital relationship problems and are frequently absent from interacting with the family, resulting in loss of time as a spouse or parental role model).

As a result of the marital problems, their partners might develop their own addictions and compulsions, psychosomatic problems, depression or other emotional difficulties.

72 % of the addicts report that they were physically abused as children, 81 % sexually abused and 97 % report to have been emotionally abused in their lives.

Healthy adults use sexuality as an integrated life experience. This includes sex with partners, masturbation or the use of sex as part of exploring new relationships. It is a pleasurable act of choice.

For the cybersex addict the sexual behaviour is driven, compulsive and hidden. They use sex to cope, to handle boredom, anxiety, to feel important, wanted or powerful. Secrecy of their actions would be a hallmark – wrapped in a web of lies and manipulations, hiding the actions from those close to them.

These people tend to find themselves in a vicious circle from which they cannot escape. Treatment is necessary and can fortunately be very successful. For the best results, a person should have cognitive behaviour therapy as well as medication. - Dr Eugene Viljoen, sexologist


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