While my husband spent most evenings catching up on the horse racing he'd recorded over the weekend, I began perusing chatrooms – not in pursuit of cybersex necessarily, but initially more for harmless flirtation, a little virtual attention.
Soon, I was spending hours in the parallel universe of cyberspace, often through wonderfully wide-awake nights, uninhibited in a way I never could be in reality.
"Sex on the Net is just so seductive and it's so easy to stumble upon it," she said.
"People who are vulnerable can get hooked before they know it." To those who say a behavioral compulsion is not a true addiction, Dr.
A 44-year-old man married 26 years to a woman who became hooked on cybersex wrote: "At first we had sex more than ever as I desperately tried to prove myself. I get strong pictures of what she did and lusted after, and I get repelled and feel bad." Women who become cybersex addicts may face even greater risks than their male counterparts.
Women, who tend to pursue relationships, are inclined to visit sexually oriented chat rooms rather than the pornographic Web sites that men prefer, Dr. As women become increasingly hooked on online sex, they are more likely to progress to off-line meetings, which can prove dangerous.
"This is a hidden public health hazard exploding, in part, because very few are recognizing it as such or taking it seriously," Dr. As a result, the diagnosis of cybersex addiction is often missed, Dr. Especially vulnerable to becoming hooked on Internet sex, he wrote, are "those users whose sexuality may have been suppressed and limited all their lives [who] suddenly find an infinite supply of sexual opportunities" on the Internet. Dana Putnam, a psychologist in San Luis Obispo, Calif., said other factors that could increase a person's vulnerability to cybersex compulsion were depression and other forms of emotional distress, relationship problems and a failure to get one's sexual needs met. Schneider among 94 family members affected by cybersex addiction revealed that the problem could arise even among those in loving marriages with ample sexual opportunities.
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While most people who frequent online chatrooms are good people, there are some who are there to prey on or bully other people.
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.
And some people, including two physicians, have landed in federal prison for two years because they downloaded child pornography when authorities were watching, Dr. Still, most who pursue cybersex consider it harmless and safe to do so. In her survey, 91 women and three men in committed relationships said they had experienced serious adverse consequences, including broken relationships, from their partners' cybersex addictions.