Cybersex addiction in the form of an addiction to online pornography is partly the result of a more generalized addictive relationship to media consumption, according to recent findings from a team of American researchers.
People with cybersex addiction use the Internet to carry out a dysfunctional and damaging pattern of involvement in sexual fantasy, thought or behavior. In a study published in January 2015 in the Journal of Sexual Research, researchers from the State University of New York at Buffalo examined the role that an addictive relationship to media use plays in the development of an addiction to online pornography (a subtype of cybersex addiction). These researchers concluded that addictive consumption of media in general can substantially account for and reinforce a dysfunctional pattern of online pornography use.
Cybersex addiction encompasses two forms of non-substance-based addiction known as sex addiction and Internet addiction. An affected individual uses the Internet or social media to engage in a personally and/or socially damaging pattern of sexual behavior, sex-related fantasy or sex-related thought. Potential symptoms of the condition include an inability to set and enforce self-limitations on the amount of time spent using the Internet for sex-related purposes, involvement in a level of sex-related Internet use that interferes with the ability to meet important obligations or responsibilities, purposeful shielding of sex-related Internet activity from loved ones or friends, a preoccupation with Internet-based sex while involved in other daily activities and the consumption of illegal pornographic material while online.
Like its two constituent conditions, Internet addiction and sex addiction, cybersex addiction does not have a standard or official definition among U.S. doctors and researchers. Despite this, researchers and addiction specialists have developed several screening tools designed to identify people who likely have a harmful relationship to sex-related use of the Internet. According to the results of a large-scale study review published in late 2014 in the journal Cyberpsychology, one screening tool in particular—the Internet Sex Screening Test—accurately helps uncover cases of cybersex addiction while appropriately excluding people who don’t experience harm from their online sex-related behaviors.
Media addiction is a newly proposed form of addictive behavior based on a damaging pattern of involvement in the use of modern-day forms of media, especially Facebook and other popular social media platforms accessed through computers, tablets or smartphones. As with other forms of addiction, a person addicted to media consumption may lose control over involvement in a given activity and rely on excessive involvement in an activity to avoid dealing with unpleasant or unwanted emotions or situations.
Is Cybersex Addiction Driven by Media Addiction?
In the study published in the Journal of Sex Research, the SUNY Buffalo researchers sought to determine if it’s possible to use a media addiction perspective to understand and explain the development of cybersex addiction in the form of an addiction to online pornography. Specifically, the researchers explored the impact of a concept called media attendance. Under the tenets of this concept, people get into trouble with media use when they start to rely on this use to satisfy important life needs normally fulfilled in other ways. Depending on the extent of media attendance present in a given individual, he or she may have problematic patterns of media consumption that range in seriousness from mild to severe or pathological.
During the study, the researchers looked at cases of online pornography addiction and sought to apply the concept of media attendance to the symptoms present in any given individual. After completing this process, they concluded that media attendance and online pornography addiction share one key factor: loss of the ability to set and enforce self-limitations on media consumption. The researchers believe that this factor helps provide a general motivation for using media in unregulated ways. In turn, they also believe that unregulated use of the Internet in general helps set the stage for the specific actions associated with excessively and repeatedly seeking out and using online pornography. The researchers also believe that reliance on media for social purposes is a potential underlying reason for uncontrolled media consumption among people who develop addictive patterns of online pornography intake.
Overall, the study’s authors believe that their findings may help future researchers and doctors improve their understanding of the potential contributing factors associated with the dysfunctional consumption of Internet pornography.