For most people these forays into cybersex are relatively harmless pursuits, but experts in the field say that the affordability, accessibility and anonymity of the Internet are fueling a brand new psychological disorder -- cybersex addiction -- that appears to be spreading with astonishing rapidity and bringing turmoil to the lives of those affected.
Researchers writing in the current issue of the journal Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity report that many of the men and women who now spend dozens of hours each week seeking sexual stimulation from their computers deny that they have a problem and refuse to seek help until their marriages, their jobs, or both, are in jeopardy.
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Occasionally, they progress to off-line affairs with sex partners they meet online. Al Cooper, a staff psychologist at Stanford who has conducted the largest and most detailed survey of online sex, calls the Net ''the crack cocaine of sexual compulsivity.'' The survey, conducted online among 9,265 men and women who admitted surfing the Net for sexually oriented sites, indicated that at least 1 percent were already seriously hooked on online sex.
The survey found that as many as a third of Internet users visited some type of sexual site.
For example, we’re often asked: “So, what should I do?
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