The Internet for many years has been the most dynamically developing medium in the 21st century. Currently, almost 3.5 billion people use the network, which is half the population of the entire globe. Our daily activities are increasingly being carried out using a global network. We are talking here about financial operations, purchases, performing professional duties or dealing with official matters, as well as communication with other people and creating new relationships. Our sexual behavior and fulfillment of sexual needs are also transferred to the virtual reality. Unfortunately, the universality and ease of access to the Internet include easy access to pornography and that can carry serious risks. Like anything used in excess and without control, it can lead to addiction.
Internet Sex Addiction in numbers
According to current data, addiction to cybersex is not a serious problem, even though many users are at risk. Estimates indicate that about 6-8% of Internet users may be affected by this problem. This number may, however, be underestimated due to the lack of development of universally recognized criteria for the diagnosis of this addiction and lack of specialists conducting therapy in this respect.
What is Internet Sex Addiction?
It is now assumed that Internet Sex Addiction (known also as Cybersex Addiction) lies on the border between sex addiction and Internet addiction. Some researchers, like Robert Kamieński, consider it a special form of sex addiction, implemented in a new environment, which is virtual space. The most common symptoms of this addiction are manifested in compulsive viewing of pornographic content in the form of photos, videos, erotic games and making erotic contacts on the web.
Keep in mind that sex can be a substitute for addictive chemicals, because just like them it affects the secretion of happiness hormones. An addicted person can use sex as a means to deal with their own problems, such as sadness, anxiety, loneliness or anger. Carnes treats as sex addiction (including virtual sex) any compulsive sexual behavior that disrupts normal functioning and may persist. At first, sexual activity appears to give pleasure and satisfaction. However, what initially gave pleasure slowly begins to dominate over other forms of activity. What was once life’s activity and interests, begins to be displaced by addiction, the fulfillment of which engages the whole personality. Cyber sex addiction develops in the same way as other behavioral addictions. Sexual behavior takes the form of a ritual without which it becomes increasingly difficult to get excited. In the next stage, sexual behavior begins to be obsessive and the ability to control it is reduced. The person affected by addiction feels more and more obsessed by the developed rituals and is not able to act spontaneously, free from coercion.
Diagnostic criteria for Internet Sex Addiction
Griffiths distinguishes the following sex addiction criteria:
- Dominance of behavior – Internet sex becomes the most important activity in the life of an individual
- Mood modification – cybersex gives you a feeling of excitement, cleansing
- Tolerance – to achieve the same level of satisfaction you need more and more time spent on sexual activity on the web
- Withdrawal symptoms – an unpleasant feeling that occurs when you can’t use cybersex
- Conflict – a conflict between an addict and other people from his environment. Addiction has a real impact on the personal and internal life of the individual
- Recurrence – reappearance of addiction symptoms quickly after a period of abstinence, regardless of its duration
Consequences of Internet Sex Addiction
Addiction to cybersex has serious consequences. Like any addiction, it is the reason for the growing difficulties in relationships, significantly hinders making new contacts, reduces the sexual experience in the real world. In addition, it gradually reduces physical contact, disturbs emotions and feelings, and strengthens the egocentric attitude. Addiction to cyber sex can also lead to the development of identity disorders and reduced ability to think logically.
How to fight Internet Sex Addiction?
The fight against addiction is never and should not be a fight alone. Loneliness in this fight always means defeat in more or less distant time and a return to destructive behavior with doubled strength. If you feel that you are losing control of your life and need help – contact a specialist who will help you in this unequal fight against addiction.
Author: Marcin Drzewiecki
 Kamieński R., Kamieńska A.: Profilaktyka internetowego uzależnienia od seksu. Wiad. Lek, 2004, 57, 1, 123-125.
 Carnes P.J.: The anatomy of arousal: three Internet portals. Sex. Rel. Ther. 2003, 18, 3, 309-328.
 Griffiths M.: Sex Addiction on the Internet. Janus Head, 2004, 7(1), 188-2017