There is a significant connection between cybersex addiction and an impaired ability to form intimate relationships with others, according to recent findings from the members of a multinational research team. A person with cybersex addiction uses the Internet to facilitate dysfunctional involvement in real-world sexual behavior or sexual thought or fantasy. In a study published in April 2015 in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry, researchers from Israel and France explored the connection between cybersex addiction and the odds of experiencing unusual difficulty when trying to form or maintain intimate relationships with other people. These researchers concluded that the presence of cybersex addiction has a considerable impact on the ability to form intimate associations. Conversely, they also concluded that an impaired ability to form such associations can signal the presence of cybersex addiction.
Whether expressed through Internet use or other means, sex addiction is characterized by a pattern of sexual fantasy, thinking or behavior that substantially reduces the ability to maintain a functional daily routine or feel a sense of daily well-being. In the U.S., there is no official definition for this form of addiction, and doctors have no standardized method of identifying affected individuals. Still, a large body of study-based evidence points to the existence of sex addiction, and in 2013 the American Psychiatric Association came close to establishing criteria for the condition under the heading of hypersexual disorder. Cybersex addiction typically manifests through symptoms such as an inability to control the amount of time spent using the Internet for sex-related purposes, a preoccupation with sex-related Internet use while engaged in other activities, reliance on sex-related Internet use to avoid dealing with serious personal issues, the onset of withdrawal-like symptoms when sex-related Internet use is not possible, involvement in illegal forms of sex-related Internet use, concealment of sex-related Internet use from others and exposure to seriously damaging consequences of sex-related Internet use. Screening tools used to identify people affected by sex addiction include the Sex Addiction Screening Test and the Pornography Craving Questionnaire. Another tool called the Cybersex Addiction Test is also intended to identify cases of cybersex addiction.
Broadly speaking, people with intimacy problems have difficulty expressing the feelings or engaging in the behaviors required to form and maintain close bonds with their sexual partners or potential partners. A range of conscious or unconscious motivations may help explain the presence of such problems. Possible motivations include such things as fear of being abandoned by a partner, fear of exposing emotions in front of a partner and fear of losing a sense of personal identity as a result of involvement in an intimate relationship. Psychologists and other professionals can use a number of tools to identify potential intimacy issues in any given individual.
Influence of Problematic Cybersex Use
In the study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry, researchers from Israel’s University of Ariel and France’s Paris 7 University and Hopital Bichat Claude Bernard used a project involving 297 adult men and women to help determine if cybersex addiction influences the odds that a person will experience or develop significant intimacy issues. All of these participating adults used the Internet to access pornography or engage in other forms of sexual expression. Each participant took two sex addiction-related screening tools: the Pornography Craving Questionnaire and the Cybersex Addiction Test. In addition, each participant took a 12-item questionnaire designed to identify an impaired ability to form or maintain intimate relationships. The researchers concluded that pornography use in general, cybersex-related behavior in particular and an individual’s gender are statistically linked to the chances of experiencing significant intimacy issues. Among the study participants, these three factors explained fully 66% of the odds of being affected by intimacy problems. Conversely, involvement in cybersex use predicted intimacy problems, pornography use and gender in over 83% of the participants. The researchers concluded that men typically have stronger pornography-related urges than women and also engage in cybersex more often. However, despite these facts, men who consume pornography and take part in cybersex apparently don’t develop more severe intimacy issues than women who consume pornography and take part in cybersex. The study’s authors believe their findings illustrate the differences between men and women when it comes to pornography consumption and cybersex use. However, their findings also illustrate the damaging, relationship-related impact of pornography and cybersex use on both genders.