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Posted: October 16, 2009 12:00 a.m.

Ask the Doc: FAQs about cybersex addictions

How do I know if I'm a cybersex addict? If you repeatedly spend more time on cybersex activities than you intended, continue despite significant negative consequences in your life (relationship strain, problems with work performance, your health, or behaviors that put you at risk for legal problems), and if you are obsessed or preoccupied with cybersex activities when you should be focused on other aspects of your life, you are likely a cybersex addict. Research informs that as a rule of thumb, cybersex addicts spend 11-12 hours a week on the internet, but often it is double or triple that amount.

My partner and I haven't had sex for months. I suspect he's spending nights viewing pornography online and maybe even meeting people for sex. I asked him about this and he denied it. I'm sick at heart but don't know what to do.

Whether or not your partner is in fact engaging in cybersex, your relationship is in trouble. Seek couple's counseling, preferably with a counselor who is knowledgeable about internet addictions. If your husband is unwilling to go, seek counseling for yourself to explore your options or consider joining a support group for partners of sex addicts. Today, cybersex addition is a major topic of discussion among online support groups.

After the intensity and novelty of cybersex, can sex with a longstanding partner ever be as satisfying?

While cybersex gives a hefty dose of intensity like that experienced in the early days of a new relationship, it has drawbacks. The price paid may be exorbitant (loss of family and other significant relationships, loss of job, legal difficulties and severe isolation that reduces human connection to body parts). Real world sex with a committed partner can evolve into intimacy that transcend and extends feelings of connection, love, affection, belonging, play, acceptance and safety in the world rather than the intense but limited experience of sex with one's own hand and a picture on the screen.

If alcoholics and drug addicts define "sobriety" as abstinence, does a cybersex addict have to abstain from sex altogether?

No. The cybersex addict must avoid cybersex activities and possible non-cybersex activities such as surfing the Web or spending large amount of time with computer, which can trigger relapse.

I am a married woman involved in sex and romance chats online. I think I may be addicted but I am afraid and embarrassed to ask for help. How do I stop?

Sex addiction used to be associated largely with men, but increasingly, 12 step Addiction Recovery Programs are made up of both men and women. You are not alone. There are many female sex addicts. It is essential to recovery to seek out fellowship with other women in recovery and to share your stories.

Peggy Nolen is a licensed professional counselor in Covington. Her areas of interest include anxiety, depression, recovery from traumatic experience and problems with drugs and alcohol. She can be reached at (770) 3134-5924.

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