This month, gossip blogs and celebrity magazines were rocked with the news that Californication star David Duchovny checked into rehab for sex addition.Previous reports suggested that Duchovny was struggling with an addiction to Internet pornography and cybersex, but more recent rumors maintain that actual physical infidelity occurred. (However, just because Duchovny created a television series in which his fantasized writings turned into actual dalliances, we can’t assume this infidelity manifested in his real life as well. Until we receive proof to the contrary, let’s assume that he kept his pants on, unlike the main character he dreamt up and plays everyday.)

That being said, most couples would agree (rightfully so) that cybersex addiction can be just as devastating and hurtful as an actual affair, and it is becoming a growing concern in our tech-savvy society. According to a study released by Stanford University, 25 million Americans visit cybersex sites 1-10 hours per week, while 4.7 million Americans visit cybersex sites more than 11 hours per week. 

What does the growing presence of available Internet pornography and cybersex mean for modern relationships?

Communication is required. Couples need to discuss what they consider infidelity within the confines of their relationship. For instance, is it okay for your partner to look at online pornography? Does it matter if you are present, or can he/she be free to surf solo without fear of you taking offense? Is it permissible for your partner to contact other people via the web for cybersex? Whatever you and your partner decide, agree to keep the honesty intact when accessing the web.

Consider the amount of time the cyber world takes away from your relationship.  Even if you and your partner decide that cyber play is permissible, be aware of how much time you are spending on the Internet. If you are devoting more time to online erotica and virtual strangers than you are to your partner, then something is amiss. This can also be a sign of a cybersex addiction, particularly if you feel helpless to control your time online.

Secrets are a warning sign. When secrecy creeps into your “innocent” Internet play, it means that there is a problem. Whether you are hiding from your partner how much time you spend on the Internet, the sites you visit, or the people you talk to online, you are creating an environment for infidelity and relationship breakdown.

If you think that cybersex activity has become more than just a passing hobby, don’t despair. Cybersex addiction can be treated, and your partner can help you through this difficult time. Click on this link for resources and treatment options. Cybersex addiction (and all sex addiction) can be just as devastating as drug/alcohol addictions, and most people need a system of support to stop their destructive behavior. Ask for help — you will be so happy you did.

By Dr. Laura Berman