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How to Stop Porn Addiction

by | Last updated Mar 18, 2021 at 11:00AM | Published on Nov 10, 2020 | Health and Wellness, Mental Health

how to stop porn addiction

Although porn addiction isn’t sending people to the emergency room on overdoses every day, it’s still damaging. Those who struggle with addiction to pornography often live a life filled with secrets, shame, and guilt. So, it’s no wonder many of them ask about how to stop porn addiction. In this complete guide about porn addiction, we’ll lay out the basics of this mental health condition and how you can find the right treatment to manage this illness. 

Addiction to Pornography

First of all, to this date, the term “porn addiction” isn’t an official diagnosis by the American Psychiatric Association. At one point, proposals wanted to include this terminology as a subcategory of hypersexual disorder. However, there was not enough evidence to support the diagnosis of porn addiction. 

The Connection to Substance Abuse

Still, many psychiatrists consider porn addiction to be classified as a compulsive disorder along drug or alcohol addiction lines. Those who support this theory believe that brain activity changes that occur in both instances are strikingly similar. 

One medically reviewed article concluded that internet pornography addiction shares basic mechanisms with drug addiction. Another study noticed a change in brain activity within 300 milliseconds of viewing porn. This same activity happens when a drug user views drug-related paraphernalia or images. 

Criteria for Porn Addiction

The problem with porn addiction is that it merely meets the overall criteria for an addiction. Any type of compulsive behavior needs to meet the four clinical conditions associated with addiction, including:

  • Experiencing intense cravings to partake in activities and failed attempts to cut down or control such activity. 
  • Failure to complete significant tasks at school, work, or home.
  • An inherent association with risk-taking behavior.
  • Develop tolerance or withdrawal effects when quitting.

While some people argue it is possible to experience these behaviors or associations with porn addiction, the relationship remains inconsistent or vague. To be categorized as an addiction, these behaviors need to be consistent. 

Compulsion vs. Addiction

Because of the limited criteria, some experts believe pornography is a compulsion rather than an addiction. A compulsion means someone engages in repetitive behaviors with no rational motivation but often reduces anxiety. On the other hand, addiction involves an inability to stop the behavior despite adverse consequences. Regardless, both behaviors can be perilous and lead to long-term effects.

Symptoms

Someone who enjoys watching porn occasionally doesn’t have an addiction. On the other hand, when someone starts losing control over their porn-viewing habits, this is when the problems arise. You or someone you know might be struggling with a porn addiction if you noticed that you:

  • Feel consumed by thoughts about porn even when not watching. 
  • Find your amount of time watching porn keeps increasing.
  • Feel as though watching porn is a fix for a stressful day or makes you feel high. 
  • Start watching porn on your cellphone at work or in social situations.
  • Feel guilty, ashamed, or depressed about your levels of porn viewing.
  • Continue to watch porn despite adverse consequences.
  • Experience reduced sexual satisfaction with partners when pornography is not involved. 
  • Get upset when someone asks you to cut back on your porn habit or stop looking at porn. 
  • Continue to insist on your romantic or sexual partner views porn or acts out porn fantasies when they don’t want to.
  • Spend hours perusing online porn sites, even if it means neglecting responsibilities or sleep.
  • Have tried to control, limit, or quit your porn-viewing habits but were unsuccessful. 

How to Stop Porn Addition By Yourself

Although the cause for porn addiction remains unknown, there are some things people may be able to do to gain control over their porn-viewing habits. These are some tips on how to stop porn addiction:

  • Delete all online pornography sites from bookmarks or history on all your devices.
  • Set up parental-control or anti-porn software on your electronic devices. Ask help from someone who can set it up without giving you the password.
  • Whenever an urge to watch porn hits you, consider an alternative activity like breathing, exercise, singing, or dancing. 
  • Think about what triggers your urges and try to avoid those triggers. 
  • Start journaling and write down setbacks, reminders, things that work, new triggers, and more.

Are There Treatment Options Available?

Around 40 million adults in the US visit internet pornography sites regularly. If you believe you or someone you love has a compulsion or addiction towards pornography, speaking with a mental health professional for medical advice can help. Speaking with a healthcare professional can also help you rule out the hypersexual disorder.

Many individuals benefit from speaking with a psychiatrist or psychologist who can help them overcome emotional difficulties and make positive changes in their lives. Usually, treatment incorporates:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): This therapy focuses on challenging and changing unhelpful cognitive distortions and behaviors, improving emotional regulation, and developing coping strategies that target current problems. 
  • Individual therapy: One-on-one therapy sessions offer a unique and transparent space for those in recovery to express their challenges, emotions, and hopes. 
  • Couples therapy: When behavioral addictions break apart relationships, both romantic and family ones, couples counseling can help restore trust and rebuild relationships, which can be essential for support in long-term recovery.
  • Group therapy: Speaking about challenges, emotions, and troubles in a group environment, can offer a sense of fellowship and support and provide a space to build sober relationships.
  • Self-help groups: Usually, addiction is a lifelong journey; self-help groups can offer aftercare support once someone ends treatment. Usually, these 12-step programs provide a sense of structure that can help with long-term sobriety.

What Happens If It’s Left Untreated?

Like many other untreated compulsions or addictions, porn addiction can be self-destructive. In the case of porn addiction, relationships can be negatively impacted. It’s common for those struggling with untreated porn addiction to have poor relationships, lower sexual satisfaction, and lower self-esteem. 

Also, this type of addiction can lead to professional or financial problems. Once the addiction starts to interfere in work responsibilities or other obligations, it can lead to long-term issues. 

How to Know If You’re a Sex Addict? [Quiz]

Again, just looking at porn isn’t usually a cause for concern. It might be curiosity; some people genuinely enjoy watching porn with no ill effects. Some manage to incorporate porn into their romantic relationships and have no problem. However, the question arises when you or a loved one starts to:

  • Watch porn while at work, school, or at other inappropriate places and times.
  • Spends increasing amounts of time watching porn, sometimes even interfering with their sleep.
  • Cannot keep up with their social, occupational, or other obligations because of porn.
  • Experiences relationship difficulties attributed to porn. 
  • Keeps trying to cut back or stop but can’t seem to keep themselves away from it. 

If you notice someone you care about is showing signs of porn addiction, it may be time to open communication. Staging an intervention or considering having a nonjudgmental conversation with them might be the right course. Sometimes, an addict isn’t aware of their struggles. Learn more about how to do this by downloading our guide on how to stage a successful intervention. 

The Bottom Line

Watching porn once in a while doesn’t mean you have a problem. But, if your porn habits are starting to negatively affect you, it might be time to speak with a mental health professional with experience in treating compulsions, addictions, and sexual dysfunction. 

The treatment plan could involve cognitive-behavioral therapy, group support, medication, or treatment for related addictions or mental disorders. A professional therapist will look at your triggers, struggles, and needs to determine a comprehensive and individualized treatment program to help you find relief. If you or someone you love has been suffering from porn addiction or any other compulsive and destructive behavioral pattern, please call our admissions office today. At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our addiction therapists can help you find a comprehensive and holistic program to address your addictive behaviors.

Geraldine Orentas

Geraldine Orentas

Geraldine is Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s Digital Marketing Manager. She has a Bachelor’s in Journalism and experience in the digital media industry. Geraldine’s writing allows her to share valuable information about mental health, wellness, and drug addiction facts, hoping to shed light on the importance of therapy and ending the stigma.
Medical Disclaimer:

Lighthouse Recovery Institute aims to improve the quality of life for anyone struggling with substance use or mental health disorder. We provide fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their outcomes. The material we publish is researched, cited, edited, and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide in our posts is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be used in place of the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider.

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