2011 - May

Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S

As Tiger Woods demonstrated by texting his mistress "not to call his house" at the very same time as he was home fighting with his wife about infidelity, it is impossible to understand and heal from sexual addition today without understanding with the effect smart phones (iphone, android) and social networks (facebook, myspace) have on those who struggle with compulsive and impulsive patterns of sexual behavior. And here is the basic issue: as the speed of access and connection to sexual content increases, so does the problem. The faster and more readily you can access sexual content, experiences and partners, the easier it is to get into personal or professional trouble. As sexual content and casual sex becomes increasingly immediate and anonymous there also appears to be a marked increase in the numbers of psychologically distressed people (and their spouses) seeking help for days and nights lost to a secretive and often desperate search for romantic and sexual connection. While most of us find comfort, even fascination in our increasing interconnectivity, sexual addicts like all addicted persons, are capable of turning technological advancement into the kind of personal nightmare from which they have little power to escape and few places to turn for help.

While the addiction community estimates that only 3-5% of the adult population has a problem with sexual addiction, those numbers are rapidly growing related to the increasing accessibility of online sexual content and connections. When PC's and Internet came into our homes and offices in the late 1980's to mid-1990s they were the only way to get online, which made helping addicts stay out of trouble a whole lot simpler. Addictive patterns of online sexual behavior could be stopped back then by encouraging simple life changes like avoiding being online when home alone and making sure the office computer screen faced outward, thereby being visible to all who walked by. When laptops with mobile online access came along just a few years later bringing the Internet into coffee shops, hotel rooms and airports, it became harder to help sex addicts maintain behavioral change by simply avoiding online sexual content (part of what is needed for most sex addicts to heal). At that time those professionals who were trying to help sex addicts recover moved along with the technology by recommending laptop screening and tracking software. But what to do now when many practically live online, held captive by cell phones that keep them GPS located and available 24/7?

Consider how the following progression of access to sexual imagery and contact over time might affect someone vulnerable to impulsive, compulsive or addictive sexual behavior:

Sexual Content Access Timeline

1. Prehistory to approximately 1890: Cave Art, Drawings.

2. 1890 to late 1970's: Photographic Porn, Filmed Porn, Adult Theatres (XXX), Strip Clubs, and Adult Bookstores

3. 1977 -1990 – VCR & Beta (take home porn), Phone Sex, Soft-core Cable TV, Adult/Escort listings in Yellow Pages and Print.

4. 1990 – 2004 – Bulletin Board (BBS), Chat Rooms, Porn Websites, Web Cameras, Virtual World Sex Craig's List, Interactive Online Sex, Online Hook-ups and Prostitution Websites

5. 2004 to the present – Smart-phones with GPS locators, Social Networking (facebook, twitter, linkedin), Sexting and Virtual Sex.

Instant Problem

Note above how the explosion of modern world technology has fuelled an equally exponential growth of access to graphic pornography and recreational sex partners. Think about the fact that over the many millennia it has taken for the brains, relationships, morality and ethics of mankind to develop, our sexual activity was basically limited to art, intimate partnering, cheating, imagination or self-stimulation. Yet in a period of little more than 100 years we have arrived at the point of near instant entry to explicit imagery and sexual partnering (for cash or free). And while most people have the ability to limit their involvement with the above to the occasional or casual and therefore are relatively unaffected, there are those with similar emotional and psychological limitations to people with drug addictions, for whom this tricky combination has created a nightmare web of intrigue, secrecy, compulsion and broken relationships. We call these people sex addicts.

There's an 'app' for that ...

Today- sitting in the food-court of a large suburban mall (free wi-fi) with smart phone in hand, I can as easily find a man/woman within 5 blocks or 5 miles who wants to have casual sex (paid or unpaid) as I can find a reasonably priced Italian restaurant. My smart-phone doesn't differentiate between a search for nearby prostitutes, affair- partners or a local bargain on haircare. Whomever I want or need nearby, with GPS on my phone –they are available. By clicking on a phone sex application (Ashley Madison and Grinder being most popular at the moment) and choosing my gender of interest, photos and personal details immediately into view, their age, type of sex desired etc., all listed by geographic proximity. All I need do is start a live phone chat to my selected partner and we can then begin to plan our connection.

Face-hooked

Increasing numbers of sexually addicted clients and their spouses are seeking treatment not just for problems with porn, prostitution websites or chats, but concerned about how social networks like facebook, myspace, twitter and the like (where many of us go to catch up on high- school friends and follow newsworthy or personal events), are affecting their lives. As our personal selves increasingly become displayed and available online, these sites have become a new destination where increasing numbers of clients report losing hours to cruising myspace or facebook, perusing intimate photos, sexual information, hot chats hook-ups and the like. As family-life, career and relational intimacy go on without them, those addicted to the pursuit of online partners lose precious time and focus to this fantasy-based obsession.

Change can be Good

Fortunately for those who have recognized their vulnerability to addiction and choose to actively work on it, the new technologies also offer support. Today there are electronic alternatives to a losing yourself to porn-obsession, compulsive masturbation or anonymous sex. All of the 12-step sexual recovery support groups (SA -Sexaholics Anonymous, SAA -Sex Addicts Anonymous, SCA -Sexual Compulsives Anonymous, SLAA -Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous etc.) now offer not only websites that explain the nature of the problem, along with meeting and phone support lists – but also entrée to chat room based 12-step meetings, sponsors and social support for recovery. As readily as you can employ the Internet to search for porn and prostitution, you can also find therapy organizations and individuals skilled in sex addiction treatment, those clinicians dedicated and trained to help guide sexual behavior change and healing. The Internet also offers concrete, specific information about sexual addiction and recovery/healing that would have rarely been found in the past by looking in libraries, phonebooks or at the doctor, pastor or psychotherapists' office, even if one had been brave enough to talk about these potentially shameful problems.

'Apps' for that too!

As rapidly as the social networks have risen to prominence, so support has evolved for all types of healing through recovery apps (like ipromises or ann-e), programs that offer one-click connection to local 12-step support, meetings and daily inspirational messages, along with the ability to monitor addiction triggers or track sober time. For recovering sex addicts, sexting can be replaced with photos and video of loved ones, those meaningful reminders of why sobriety is important, while Smartphones and GPS offer to connection to higher levels of accountability to concerned spouses, therapists and sponsors. Current technology also offers the facility to set up multiple party phone calls or video support chats whenever wanted or needed. As our world becomes smaller and more immediate, so fortunately does access to help, guidance and change for those willing to put their time and focus into self- stability, integrity and healing.

Further information regarding sexual addiction and recovery, support groups and advanced professional training can be found in the resources section of our website at www.sexualrecovery.com

About the Author

Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S is Founding Director of The Sexual Recovery Institute (SRI), Los Angeles and Director of Sexual Disorders Services for Elements Behavioral Health – The Ranch, Promises & SRI. A UCLA MSW graduate and trainee of Dr. Patrick Carnes, Mr. Weiss is author of Cruise Control, co-author of both Untangling the Web and Cybersex Exposed, with Dr. Jennifer Schneider, along with numerous peer reviewed articles and chapters. A media expert to CNN, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Dr. Drew and the Today Show, Mr. Weiss also provides professional training and program development for the US military and multi-addiction treatment centers around the United States, Europe and Asia.


( 1 Vote )
Comments (4)
4 Monday, 28 July 2014 16:53
Wife of a Sex Addict
Mr. Weiss, I wish I could believe in recovery for sex addicts. I'm one of many women who got a lot of promises (lies) and not much else.

I discovered 10 years of his sexual addiction at 24 years of marriage, with five kids. Hubby was a high-ranking military officer. I went to military doctors for help/intervention. No help at all.

Thankfully I have pursued my own recovery, without him.

Now about 3 years into attempts at divorce settlement. His narcissistic ego makes him impossible to negotiate with.

He writes, "I am grateful for my sexaholism because it has made me aware of the evil forces that dominated my life. Knowing that demons fire darts at me helps me cling to my savior and trust in his goodness." That statement written even as his internet movements on porn chat rooms are documented daily.
3 Sunday, 18 December 2011 18:19
EbonyWolfe23
All people deserve wealthy life time and personal loans or just sba loan can make it better. Because freedom bases on money.
2 Friday, 03 June 2011 08:26
Quay Houchen
Very informative. Thanks for the insight, although I think your percent of adults with sexual addiction problems may be on the low side. Since my break-up about 9 years ago, I have sought firendships, romannce, relationships online and can't tell you how many hundreds of married men are on many of these sites. I've heard all kinds of reasons (and excuses) for these extra-curricular sexual activities, but most of these men are not in open relationships where their spouses know and approve of this. I think it is indicative of the cultural dilemma we face as a nation. Greed, self-centered gratification, and secrecy are valued over compassion, sharing, and honesty. We can make a difference in our lives and the lives of those around us in a positive meaningful way.
1 Thursday, 12 May 2011 14:25
Ari Hahn
Great article. It is important to note that the problem (electronic media) can also house solutions.
I also wonder how the new media is influencing the perception of the problem of sex addiction. When my i-phone was stolen my college students asked me if I had pictures on it. I answered yes and they giggled. Apparently the idea of "pictures" meant more than I had pictured in my pictures. And it was a question that they would ask even of a religious professor almost old enough to be their grandpappy!

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