Robert Weiss PhD, LCSW
In the 21st century, digital technology is omnipresent. In fact, nearly everyone in developed nations either owns or has easy access to a computer, laptop, tablet, pad, smartphone, or some other internet-enabled digital device. It’s quite possible that you or someone you love will be getting a new digital device (or several) as a gift this holiday season.
With or without brand-new devices, we have unfettered, unlimited, never-ending access to information, entertainment, and social interaction, with much of that material and interconnectivity being sexual in nature. For the vast majority of people, of course, this is not an issue. Most people can play with and enjoy sexnology without becoming addicted or experiencing negative consequences, just as most people can enjoy things like alcohol, gambling, video gaming, and recreational drugs without becoming addicted or experiencing major problems. But some people – especially those who are vulnerable to addiction and other psychological disorders thanks to genetics and unresolved trauma – will almost inevitably find themselves struggling with online sexual behaviors.
If you are among the people for whom online sexuality (porn, webcams, apps, etc.) has become compulsive, the holiday season is probably exacerbating rather than alleviating the situation. Basically, you find yourself repeatedly turning to the neurobiological intensity of sexual fantasy and behavior as an emotional escape from work, family, and other holiday stressors. Most likely, you are compulsively engaging in one or more of the following:
- Use of digital pornography, with or without masturbation.
- Casual and/or anonymous sexual hookups via websites and apps.
- Sexualized text and/or video chat, often involving mutual masturbation.
- Searching for sexualized imagery on social media sites.
- Sexting (sending and/or receiving).
- Exhibitionism and/or voyeurism via webcam, often on sites that randomly pair chat partners.
Individuals who are excessively preoccupied with these and similar online behaviors are commonly referred to as cybersex addicts, though in today’s world we should probably just call them sex addicts. In other words, the “cyber” is no longer necessary. With 21st century sex addiction, pretty much every sex addict relies on digital technology to facilitate the addiction.
Either way, sex addicts find they are unable to quit their problematic sexual behaviors and stay quit, despite the negative consequences they experience – relationship woes, issues at work or in school, depression, anxiety, diminished self-esteem, social and emotional isolation, loss of interest in previously enjoyable hobbies and interests, financial problems, etc. That is the nature of sexual addiction: We are preoccupied to the point of obsession with sex; we have tried and failed, usually multiple times, to quit; and we experience directly related negative life consequences related to our compulsive sexual behaviors.
If you or a loved one are struggling with sexual addiction, with or without the assistance of digital technology, help is available. In addition to inpatient treatment for male sex and porn addicts, Seeking Integrity offers low-cost online workgroups for male sex and porn addicts new to recovery. Our next online Sex Addiction Workgroup starts January 4, 2023; click HERE for information. Our next online Porn Addiction Workgroup starts January 24, 2023; click HERE for information.