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ABC's "20/20" interview with Dorothy Hayden, Sex Addiction Specialist

ABC's "20/20" interview with Dorothy Hayden, Sex Addiction Specialist

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Published by: Dorothy Hayden on Jan 20, 2012
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06/28/2012

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Question: Can you explain the phenomenon of the growth of cybersex in the last ten years?
Answer: The cybersex phenomenon is the sexual revolution of the 60's re-emerged to the 1000th degree becausenow the hottest sex in town can be found on a laptop computer. In only the last five years, the birth of a newelectronic sexual revolution has been silently taking place and we are witnessing the birth of a new disorder that affects people who have no history of sexual compulsion. Cybersex offers new dimensions in sexualsatisfaction as we now have instantaneous access to almost any type of sexual content imaginable. It'sbecome the biggest porn shop in the world. Recent studies suggest that there are nationally over 300,000people addicted to cybersex. Millions of people spend significant amounts of time each day lost in the worldof pornography, fantasy role-play chat rooms where online partners hook up to discuss sexual fantasies andfetishes almost instantaneously, live sex in front of webcams, steaming adult videos, newsgroups, andunfortunately, child pornography.Unlike any medium before it, we now have a tool that unleashes sexuality in a way that has beentraditionally kept abated through censorship. The computer offers us an unlimited smorgasbord of sexualfeasts. Anything else goes. No topics are off limits-beastiality, radical S&M, transvestitism, live sex showsand kiddie porn, to name a few, proliferate the net.The power of the Net is accounted for by a number of parameters. The first is that it provides anonymity:Your coworkers and friends won't see you at the strip club or purchasing pornography at the localnewsstand. On the Net, people are known only through screen names or made-up handles. This is a worldof fake identities and personas where one can engage in bold sexual fantasies without anyone knowing.The second is accessibility. Websites are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It's always under your nose.No trips to the bookstores or newsstands that close at a particular time. Distance to get your "porn hit" is nolonger a problem.Third is diversity. With hundreds of new adult sites added each day to the millions that already exist, your deepest, most bold, most "perverse" desires are waiting to be sated on the internet. These kinds of satisfactions are rarely available in real life. A person can get a particular, customized sexual rush from hisdeepest, diverse fantasies without risk.Affordability is another factor that fuels use. For anyone on a budget, cybersex provides a low-cost means toa sexual high. Prostitutes, phone sex, and pornography are expensive.Finally, the ultimate factor that feeds cybersex addiction: Fantasy. It's a perfect opportunity for people todevelop sexual fantasies and objectify others without fear of rejection. You can choose the ideal partner inan ideal situation. The user is free to become part of the fantasy without responsibility, consequence or rejection. This is a faceless and nameless community fueled by fantasy. The user is free to imagine or project the qualities of the "perfect" person on the other side of the computer. These are people who feeldissatisfied with life and people as they are, and are always in search of perfection. If one chat buddy isn'tright, click the mouse and you have access to a new holder of your fantasy projections. You can also usethe computer to conjure up a fantasized image of who you are. One's imperfections magically disappear without having to do the hard work of change.Question:What is the difference between printed pornography and cyberporn?Answer:Regular pornography leaves you vulnerable to being found out, and is not anonymous in that you have to goto public places to buy it. The fantasy potential is limited to what the publisher presents to you. In addition,regular porn is not interactive whereas cybersex gives the illusion that you are not alone and are sharingyour sexual fantasies with others.Question:What is the difference between regular sex addiction and cybersex addiction?
 
Answer:Regular sex addiction has a slightly different dynamic that cybersex. Sex addicts want human contactwithout connection. They want to be in bed with a prostitute who will satisfy their sexual and sometimesemotional needs. People addicted to phone sex usually ask for the same woman, so they have the illusionthat there's a person out there who knows their needs and doesn't judge them. Cybersex, on the other hand,offers an intense sexual high with no real human interaction. It also offers more diversity - anything ispossible - any fantasy, fetish, pseudo-interaction with a fantasy woman/man/child is within reach with thepush of a button.Question:What are the warning signs? How does a person know when he's reaching the threshold of addiction? How much is too much?Answer:I guess the question is what defines a cybersex "addict" vs. a recreational user or someone who uses thenet to explore his/her own sexuality as a way of exploration and experimentation. I had a patient who said itvery simply: "I could not bring myself to stop despite knowing all the horrid consequences of my actions." Aclassic definition of addiction is: inability to discontinue use despite adverse consequences." The signpoststo addiction are distinctive: a person becomes pre-occupied with getting on the net and walks around in atrance-like "erotic haze". If denied access for too long, he becomes irritable and panicky. He goes on the netto stay for an hour and five pass by. I had a patient who took a day off from work and spent 14 hours on thenet. As addicts spend an increasing amount of time on the computer, he begins to lose interest in other people...children, spouse, good friends. He lies about his behavior, saying she's staying in the den until3:00am paying bills. Staying up until all hours, the addict rolls into bed after his spouse is asleep and gets upa few hours later to go to work.Now he's sleep deprived which contributes to depression and lost productivity on the job. Often, despite thefact that he knows the company techs are monitoring his computer, he continues surfing while at work, oftengetting fired. Careers are ruined.He begins to use the Net to self-medicate: to escape feelings of depression, anxiety, loneliness, failure andsocial alienation. Cybersex activities begin to surpass all other interests. His judgment may be so cloudedthat he begins to traffic in illegal (child) porn which results in legal problems.Now spouse and children are emotionally neglected. When his entire sex life begins to revolve around acomputer where he can get what he wants when he wants it without having to be reciprocal, sex becomes anarcissistic endeavor rather than a shared, intimate activity with a loved one. He begins to lose interest inreal sex with a real person because it doesn't match the thrills he gets on the Net. This usually hasdevastating emotional impact on the spouse. Now, in addition to ruined careers, there are ruined marriages.The bottom of the well of cybersex addiction is helplessness, hopelessness, financial ruin, isolation from thehuman community and self-hatred.Question: How, exactly, is it that addicts are able to stay on the computer for up to 14 hours a day?Answer:The compulsion to stay on the net for hours at a time is based somewhat on a biological factor, as well, of course on psychological factors. Biologically, a sexual idea, urge or fantasy releases serotonin anddopamine into the brain resulting in a euphoric high, or "the erotic haze". The state is an extremelypleasurable one - tantamount to an alcoholic taking his third drink. That's why I always suggest that newpatients consult a doctor about possible medication for depression and/or adult attention deficit disorder.These are the conditions that addicts are usually seeking to self-medicate with the "erotic haze." In myexperience, the right medication can help to mediate a ceaseless preoccupation with sex and can also helpthe person to begin to control his impulses.Question: Why depression and ADD?Answer:Being in the "erotic haze" is the best anti-depressant around. As I mentioned before, sexual fantasiesrelease chemicals into the system that make the person feel enlivened, awake, aware, cohesive, motivated
 
and alive. The addict is the person who uses sex to achieve self-cohesion and self-identity. The non-addictive person experiences some of these feelings but during and after sex, but doesn't use sexuality toconfirm or validate the self.Adult ADD and cybersex addiction is an interesting phenomenon. About a third of my clients have beendiagnosed with adult ADD. This is almost a separate story - the connection between ADD and sex addiction.Suffice it to say, the adult ADD client suffers from restlessness, hyperactivity, and distractiveness and oftenuses hypersexuality to self-medicate these symptoms.Question: That explains the biological factors. What about the psychological reasons for cybersex addiction?Answer:Psychologically, the trance-like "erotic haze" is so enticing and so need fulfilling, it becomes a drug-likestate. This euphoric state produces a state of mind where you can maintain the illusion that "you can have itall." Perfection exists. The people who populate the cyberworld are perfect people who have none of theflaws of the people in real life. Depression, anxiety, self-doubt, boredom, loneliness, marital problems,perceived sexual/social inadequacies, stress from the office, all disappear like magic. You don't have to dothe work of developing self-esteem or enhancing relationships, compromising, dealing with frustration or disappointment. All personal growth stops as sexual pleasure provides the only meaning in life. Other valuesand morals fall to the wayside, giving sway to the euphoria of living in the "erotic haze." Not being subject tothe limitations of reality, there's no necessity to compromise. One lives in a world of exquisite sexualfulfillment of life-long fantasies with none of the vulnerability of rejection and failure. It's a regression to theinfantile self where all needs are magically met with no self-responsibility.Question: What is "regression to an infantile state"?Answer:I have found that people who use sex compulsively do so because of early-life real or perceived traumas.Compulsive sexuality, be it regular sex addiction, cybersex addiction, fetishes, cross-dressing, or what-have-you, is the result of an unconscious impulse to "undo" the early trauma. But this is the stuff of the actualtreatment.Question: Is there a sense of shame associated with having a secret life?Answer:Of course, there's shame about lying to the people you love about such an important part of your life.There's a sense of fraudulence.But shame goes deeper than that. People who keep secrets have a "secret life". We know this breading thenewspaper about accomplished, intelligent leaders who are discovered to have two different sides of their personalities. A "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" syndrome develops where the person compartmentalizes somebehaviors from others and is actually lying to himself. The result is a split in the personality and the loss of integrity about living as the person you really are. The sense of being a whole person is eroded.Furthermore, people know that cybersex is a self-devaluing, rather than a self-enhancing behavior.Gradually this lowers one's sense of self worth and diminishes the capacity for intimacy, adding to socialisolation and shame.The culture has yet to set guidelines about what's appropriate cybersex conduct. In the meantime, peoplehave to listen to their own inner voices about moral choices. Is an internet affair really an affair? Of coursepeople, at least unconsciously, acknowledge that they're breaking their own moral codes. I hear the shamein my patients every day. "I'm just a piece of turd". "What if the soccer moms knew what a pervert I am?""I'm disgusting to myself." Perhaps the price paid in self-esteem is the most damaging part of cybersexaddiction.Question: What about the effects on the family?Answer:There are powerful and adverse consequences to those whose partner has become compulsively involved

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