More than half of people who engage in cybersex are married or are in a serious relationship, Australian research reveals.
Marcus Squirrell, a doctoral candidate of the Swinburne University of Technology, surveyed over 1300 internet users who regularly frequented online sex, fetish and swinging sites to engage in online sexual activities - ranging from downloading erotic pictures and chatting online to using webcams to interact with others.
He found that 55 per cent of respondents were either married or classified themselves as 'in a committed relationship'. He also found that 65 per cent of respondents had met someone offline after engaging in cybersex with them online.
According to Squirrell, many people can benefit from using the internet for sexual activity. But for some participants, particularly those in relationships, it can become problematic and damage their 'real life' interactions.
"For many people, chat-lines can provide a vehicle for exploring their sexuality in a safe environment, which may increase their sense of social and emotional connectedness to their community," he said.
"But for some people their use of the internet for cybersex becomes unmanageable and their behaviour takes on an obsessive and compulsive flavour," he said.
"These people are putting so much energy into cybersex - in some cases up to ten hours per day - that it is detracting from their relationship with their partner. It can also adversely affect other areas of their lives, such as their education and employment."
The Swinburne study also found that cybersex participants are mostly male, well educated and with an average age of 41 years.
According to Squirrell, cybersex addiction is a growing phenomenon in Australia, with more people seeking treatment than ever before.
He hopes that the findings of this study will give psychologists a better understanding of the psychological characteristics of cybersex participants, to enable best-practice treatment.
He will be presenting his findings at the Australian Psychological Society conference in Darwin next week.