Monday, July 25, 2011

The 5 Stages of Cybersexual Addiction

According to Dr. Kimberly Young (from her groundbreaking book Tangled in the Web) cybersexual addiction proceeds in five stages:

1) Discovery: during this stage a user (teen or adult) begins to explore the world of online sexual activity -- porn, sex chat rooms, web cams, etc. At first there is a typical curiosity -- "Wow, what is this? This is fun! What else can see? What else can I do."

2) Experimentation: due the anonymous nature of cyberspace the user begins to try on new and different sexual experiences. Eventually the user begins to develop a clear preference for a new style/genre of sexual expression that provides optimal sexual stimulation (such as a particular chat room). In this stage the user believes he/she can control cybersex and is excited by the opportunities.

3)Habituation: with repeated exposure the user begins to develop a need for greater and greater levels of sexual stimulation. Just as a drug addict eventually craves more and more of their favored chemical, the cybersex user craves more and more of the drug of sexual stimulation (which has it's own powerful chemical reactions in the brain). The cybersex user begins to engage in high risk behaviors -- behaviors that cause interference at home, work and potentially lead to contact with law enforcement (such as child porn).

4) Compulsivity: the cybersex user cannot stop -- they pursue images and sexual experiences with greater and greater risk and negative consequences. The user may spend full nights on the net while his/her spouse sleeps in the next room -- or stays at work in order to use the computer to download thousands of images of porn.

5) Hopelessness: the user -- now the full blown addict -- hits bottom. They feel hopeless and helpless because they have tried to curtail their use without success. At this point the addict may cancel their internet connection or make a deal with themselves to stop for a period of time. However, inevitably, the addict comes back for more cybersex -- and the compulsive behavior returns with a vengeance.

Is there hope for the cybersex addict? YES. In my next blog I will outline a course of action. If you feel out of control and fear negative consequences such as marital problems, being fired, or an arrest you can get help immediately through many different sources. Del Amo Hospital has an excellent inpatient program and Sex Addicts Anonymous is available 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Or, please feel free to call me at 310/287-1640.

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