Cybersex And Depression Linked

    November 4, 2008
    WebProNews Staff

It’s kind of a chicken and egg question: Does cybersex contribute to increased depression or does depression contribute to increased cybersex? It could be both. A recent Australian study found a correlation between online sexual activity and clinical depression.
Cybersex And Depression Linked
Authored by Swinburne University of Technology doctoral student Marcus Squirrell, the study’s conclusions were based on a survey of over 1,300 Australian and American men frequenting online porn, sex, fetish, swing, and webcam sites. Squirrell says his team found that more than 27 percent of the study participants were moderately to severely depressed.

The more often participants engaged in sexual activity online the higher their level of depression and anxiety were. Thirty percent had high levels of anxiety and 35 percent were moderately to severely stressed.

"But there’s also a chance that depressed people are spending time on these sites to help lift their mood or reduce stress,” said Squirrell.

Certainly, correlation doesn’t always (if ever) imply causation, and the jury is still out as to whether sad men are more likely to seek sexual gratification, or if lack of actual physical contact produces temporary euphoria followed by depression because of amplified absence.

TechRadar reports “BitchBuzz” founder and self-described sex expert Cate Sevilla (public LinkedIn profile doesn’t indicate academic background, though) rejects the implications of the study. “I think that there are a lot of men out there that look at and watch porn online that are perfectly healthy – it’s just a part of their sexuality,” she said, though the study didn’t seem to refute that assessment to begin with. Sevilla suggests obsession among some is the real problem.

Another recent study suggested cybersex, on a stress-relief level, or even masturbation, were no substitutes for good old fashioned coitus—those magic endorphins just aren’t released by simulation. It’s likely necessary for survival that reproductive sex is more rewarding emotionally.

Something else simulated or cybersex lacks, which deserves more study as to the effect on depression and anxiety, is the release of oxytocin, a hormone released during labor, but also is generated by physical touch as a bonding chemical between mothers and infants during breastfeeding, and also between lovers. 

Freudian psychoanalysts could have a field-day with those implications—lack of intimacy driving mama’s boys online in pursuit of unfulfilling digital relationships—but let’s not mine the depths of the spooky subconscious today, thank you. But it’s at least plausible that the bonding experience induced by real sex is not accessible in cyberspace—hence all the depression.