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Researchers writing in the current issue of the journal Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity report that many of the men and women who now spend dozens of hours each week seeking sexual stimulation from their computers deny that they have a problem and refuse to seek help until their marriages and/or their jobs are in serious jeopardy. The survey found that as many as a third of Internet users visited some type of sexual site. Young of the Center for Online Addiction in Bradford, Pa., wrote that "partially as a result of the general population and health care professionals not being attuned to the risks, seemingly harmless cyberromps can result in serious difficulties way beyond what was expected or intended." According to Dr.For some people, the route to compulsive use of the Internet for sexual satisfaction is fast and short, said Dr. 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, Dr. And, 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. Jennifer Schneider, a physician in Tucson, Ariz., who is associate editor of the journal, 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. Cooper, who works at the San Jose Marital and Sexuality Center in Santa Clara, Calif., 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.A similar trend can be seen in Britain, where increasing numbers of people are seeking help to save their marriages from the lure of the Internet.Beatriz Mileham, from the University of Gainesville in Florida, who carried out the new study, said: "The Internet will soon become the most common form of infidelity, if it isn't already."With 649 million Internet users worldwide, chat rooms were a fatal attraction for many married people seeking sexual thrills and romantic adventure.The sexual stimulation and release obtained through cybersex also contribute importantly to the continued pursuit of the activity, Dr. He wrote: "Intense orgasms from the minimal investment of a few keystrokes are powerfully reinforcing." He added, "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." Some cybersex addicts develop a conditioned response to the computer and become sexually aroused even before turning it on, Dr. This can exacerbate the problem for people whose jobs involve work on a computer.Some went on-line for a quick "sex fix", while others established more meaningful connections, and talked about personal problems and marital issues.
Ms Mileham conducted in-depth interviews with 76 men and 10 women, aged 25 to 66, who used Yahoo's "Married and Flirting" or Microsoft's "Married But Flirting" Internet chat rooms. The study participants included stay-at-home mothers, construction workers, engineers, nurses and presidents of large corporations.
Among them was a 34-year-old woman married 14 years to a minister who she discovered was compulsively seeking sexual satisfaction by visiting pornographic sites on the Internet.
"How can I compete with hundreds of anonymous others who are now in our bed, in his head? "Our bed is crowded with countless faceless strangers, where once we were intimate." A 38-year-old woman married 18 years to a man who compulsively masturbates to images on the computer wrote that her husband had once had an extramarital affair and that "the online 'safe' cheating has just as dirty, filthy a feel to it as does the 'real-life' cheating." Although Dr.
Cybersex compulsives can become so involved with their online activities that they ignore their partners and children and risk their jobs. 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. Schneider, who has written extensively on sexual addiction, responds that the damage to a cybersex addict's life and family can be as devastating as that caused by compulsive gambling or addiction to alcohol or drugs.