Dr. Patrick Carnes is the Godfather of the sex addiction field. His seminal book on the subject, Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction (1983) gave this malady shape and form. He followed it up with Don’t Call It Love (1992) and Contrary to Love: Helping the Sexual Addict (1994). His early research suggested that between 6 and 8% of the general population were sex addicts and that was all before the internet. It’s much higher now.
He stated that a fundamental momentum for the addiction is provided by “certain core beliefs” in the addict’s thinking that are wrong or incorrect:
“Generally, addicts do not perceive themselves as worthwhile persons. Nor do they believe that other people would care for them or meet their needs if everything was known about them, including the addiction. Finally, they believe that sex is their most important need. Sex is what makes isolation bearable. If you do not trust people, one thing that is true about sex–and alcohol, food, gambling, video games, and risk–is that it always does what it promises–for the moment. Thus, as in our definition of addiction, the relationship is with sex–and not people“.
The late researcher Dr. Al Cooper, who died in 2004, author of Sex and the Internet: A Guide Book for Clinicians, called cybersex the “crack cocaine of sexual compulsivity,” and found the web could lure and trap people, even to the degree where they needed intensive therapy to free themselves of their addiction to internet sex. The temptation of interacting with people online, combined with the lure of feeling desired, the appeal of expressing an alter ego and the wish to escape from one’s problems in the “real” world, create an intoxicating addict environment.
It’s called the triple threat: AAA: Accessibility, Affordability and Anonymity. The internet has been compared to the most powerful of drugs, because of its immediate gratification. It becomes hard to pull away and withdrawal is intense. This is the nature of addiction and if someone feels they can’t control their behavior on the net, there is clearly a problem, which, left untreated, will almost certainly get worse, sometimes with disastrous consequences. Dr. Cooper wrote “This is a hidden public health hazard exploding, in part, because very few are recognizing it as such or taking it seriously.”
According to Dr. Cooper, cybersex compulsives are just like drug addicts; they “use the Internet as an important part of their sexual acting out, much like a drug addict who has a ‘drug of choice,’ ” and often with serious harm to their home lives and livelihood. Especially vulnerable to becoming hooked on Internet sex, he wrote, are “those users whose sexuality may have been suppressed and limited all their lives [who] suddenly find an infinite supply of sexual opportunities” on the Internet.
Dr. Cooper’s largest and most detailed survey of online sex.
The survey, conducted online among 9,265 men and women who admitted surfing the Net for sexually oriented sites, indicated that at least 1 percent were already seriously hooked on online sex. The survey found that as many as a third of Internet users visited some type of sexual site. Projected to the country as a whole, this would mean that a minimum of 200,000 men and women have become cybersex addicts in the last few years. He added, because the respondents were self-selected and because denial of the symptoms of sexual compulsivity is commonplace, there are likely to be many more cybersex addicts than the survey indicated.
Another author, Dr. Jennifer Schneider, a physician in Tucson, Ariz. who wrote Back From Betrayal: Recovering From his Affairs (1988) said in an interview that even when cybersex addicts and their partners sought treatment, they often concealed their real problem, and therapists often failed to ask questions that would disclose it. As a result, the diagnosis of cybersex addiction is often missed.
A survey conducted by Dr. Schneider among 94 family members affected by cybersex addiction revealed that the problem could arise even among those in loving marriages with ample sexual opportunities. “Sex on the Net is just so seductive and it’s so easy to stumble upon it,” she said. “People who are vulnerable can get hooked before they know it.”
To those who say a behavioral compulsion is not a true addiction, Dr. Schneider responded with a definition of addiction that would clearly apply to cybersex abusers: “Loss of control, continuation of the behavior despite significant adverse consequences and preoccupation or obsession with obtaining the drug or pursuing the behavior.” Although behavioral addictions involve no external drugs, preliminary research has suggested that they cause changes in brain chemicals, like the release of endorphins, that help to perpetuate the behavior.
The sexual stimulation and release obtained through cybersex also contribute importantly to the continued pursuit of the activity. Intense orgasms from the minimal investment of a few keystrokes are powerfully reinforcing. Cybersex affords easy, inexpensive access to a myriad of ritualized encounters with idealized partners. Many cybersex abusers are re-enacting aspects of past losses, conflicts or traumas in order to foster illusions of power and love. Cybersex compulsives can become so involved with their online activities that they ignore their partners and children and risk their jobs. In Dr. Cooper’s survey, 20 percent of the men and 12 percent of the women reported they had used computers at work for some sexual pursuits. Many companies now monitor employees’ online activities, and repeated visits to sexually oriented sites have cost people their jobs.
Dr. Kimberly Young is a psychologist and expert on Internet addiction disorder and online behavior. She founded the Center for Internet Addiction in 1995 and wrote Caught in the Net: How to Recognize Internet addiction and A Winning Strategy for Recovery (1998). Dr. Young wrote that “partially as a result of the general population and health care professionals not being attuned to the risks, seemingly harmless cyber romps can result in serious difficulties way beyond what was expected or
Regardless of all the experts, the facts remain the same…
This disorder is real whether it’s in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) or not. Millions of people’s lives are disrupted and destroyed by sex and love addiction each year and what the new evidence is clearly saying now is that the face of the addict is getting profoundly younger. In the past three years I have been inundated with 18-25 year olds at an alarming rate. The demographic is definably getting younger and if you step back it makes perfectly good scary sense. These young adults have grown up on Game Boy, Nintendo and the Internet. The average age for first time viewing of porn is now 10! And their porn is industrialized strength porn, not your father’s Miss October. Many of these young males also are gamers, who give their life away to Warcraft, Second City, Grand Theft Auto and other sexist power games.
A great DVD No Time to Think tells the compelling story of what’s really going on with young males.
“Is a documentary film that explores our obsessions and addictions to new emerging technologies and devices. The film highlights our fascination with social media, gaming, texting, cell phone, and Internet use. Where do we draw the line on how much usage is healthy? Technology has helped us in numerous ways, but how are these new technologies shaping our culture and the next generation?”
In the end whether you’re 18 or 87 there is a solution and we here at NMS have that solution.
A life is a terrible thing to waste.
If you think you might have a problem then you probably do.
Contact us, don’t wait, you are not alone, there is a way out.