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Internet sex addiction: A review of empirical research

by Mark D. Griffiths
Addiction Research & Theory ()

Abstract

The advent of the Internet has added another medium in which people can engage in sexual behavior. This ranges from the passive consumption of online pornography to the interactive exchange of sexual content in cybersex chat rooms. It is believed that access, affordability, and anonymity are critical factors that make the Internet viable for the acquisition, development, and maintenance of online sexuality. For some, sexual behaviors online are used as a complement to their offline sexuality, whereas for others, they serve as a substitute, potentially resulting in Internet sex addiction, which can be conceptualized as the intersection between Internet addiction and sex addiction. The current literature suggests that there does not appear a clear dividing line between these psychopathologies. The aim of this review was therefore to provide a comprehensive overview of the empirical studies that have investigated Internet sex addiction in adults. Based on the five qualitative and nine quantitative studies conducted in Western countries that were identified, it was concluded that engaging in sexual behaviors on the Internet can go awry and result in Internet sex addiction, as it can lead to a wide variety of negative consequences for the individuals affected. Particular attention is drawn to the implications for future research in order to establish the pathological status of Internet sex addiction as a sub-form of Internet addiction, that shares characteristics of real life sex addiction, but that is not to be equated with it. Accordingly, the need for a clear diagnostic framework to clinically assess Internet sex addiction is emphasized as the first step toward understanding the potentially psychopathological qualities and repercussions of sexual behaviors on the Internet.

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