The Truth About Porn Addiction

porn-addiction

Written By: Lighthouse Editorial Team

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Lighthouse Editorial Team. "The Truth About Porn Addiction." Lighthouse Recovery Institute., Last updated Oct 2, 2020 at 4:23PM | Published on Dec 9, 2015, https://lighthouserecoveryinstitute.com/the-truth-about-porn-addiction/.

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Last updated Oct 2, 2020 at 4:23PM | Published on Dec 9, 2015 | Health and Wellness

Pornography isn’t new; neither is porn addiction. Some people aren’t interested in pornography; others are offended by it while others occasionally partake in it. Eventually, it’s a personal preference choice. But in the end, what is pornography addiction?

Addiction vs. Compulsion

First thing first, we have to understand the difference between addiction and compulsion. Addiction to something involved someone’s inability to spot the behavior, despite experiencing negative consequences. Compulsion, on the other hand, is repetitive behaviors with no rational motivation, but that could reduce anxiety. Both involve a lack of control. 

One review article labeled online pornography shares the underlying mechanisms that trigger substance abuse. However, other studies believe pornography is more of a compulsion rather than an addiction. 

What is Pornography Addiction?

Before we continue, it’s important to note that the term “porn addiction” isn’t an official diagnosis by the American Psychiatric Association. As a result, there isn’t a definitive diagnostic criteria guide.

Porn addiction and addiction to cybersex have recently become widely known as real behavioral addictions. Studies have substantiated the rewarding and reinforcing properties of these behaviors. While the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) does include a new section featuring behavioral addictions, addictive gambling is the only disorder listed thus far.

The DSM-5 acknowledges that behavioral addictions are very similar to substance dependencies because they share similar symptoms.

These include:

  • Increased preoccupation with the behavior
  • Diminished ability to control engagement in the behavior
  • Increased tolerance
  • Psychological withdrawal
  • Negative psychological effects
  • Adverse psychosocial consequences (interpersonal, work-related, etc.)

However, to this day, the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists says that there’s little evidence to back up the claim that either sex or pornography is addictive. The organization goes to the extent that labeling the idea of watching porn as addictive is an outdated concept rooted in harmful cultural norms. 

What Does Porn Addiction Look Like?

Enjoying or regularly watching porn doesn’t make someone addicted to it, nor does it mean someone needs sex addiction treatment. On the other hand, addicts lack control and often experience many consequences because of their problems.

Those who are addicted to porn will watch online pornography compulsively. In general, porn addicts engage in the behavior to the point where it begins to interfere with the normal functioning of their day-to-day lives. This variation of behavioral addiction is extremely prevalent throughout modern-day society.

Consider the following habits that might be of concern, if you:

  • Keep increasing the periods of time you spend watching porn
  • Feel watching porn makes you feel “high” or serves as a “fix” to your troubles
  • Feel guilty about the consequences of vieweing pornography
  • Spend hours perusing online porn sites, even if it means you’re neglecting self-care or responsibilities
  • Insist that your romantic or sexual partners watch porn with you
  • Feel unable to enjoy sex without first watching porn
  • Feel unable to resist the urge to watch porn

Other indications that your pornography use has become a problem include:

  • Less satisfying sexual life
  • Relationship issues
  • Engagement in risky behavior to watch porn

Surprising Pornography Statistics

The use of pornography for various reasons is not new. Both teenagers and adults engage in porn watching all year-round. Here are some surprising statistics about porn use nowadays:

  • Around 40 million adults in the US visit internet pornography sites regularly
  • 1 in 5 internet searches on mobile devices are for pornography
  • Men who classify themselves as “happily married” are 61% less likely to look at porn
  • Over 20% of men admit to viewing porn at work
  • Close to 35% of all internet downloads are porn-related

Porn is so related to distress release that during the COVID-19 pandemic, one major online pornography site experienced a 24.4% increase in traffic. Perhaps, even more, impressive is what the act of watching porn does to our behaviors. For example:

  • One study found that the consumption of pornography was associated with increases in verbal and physical aggression among males and females
  • Another study found that teenage girls who consumed pornography were at a higher likelihood of being victims of sexual harassment or sexual assault

These outcomes could be surprising if it weren’t because 88% of porn scenes contain physical aggression, and close to 50% include verbal aggression. 

What Causes Porn Addiction?

Unfortunately, there’s no one-way answer to why viewing porn can escalate to addictive behavior. Many people experience a rush when watching porn and find themselves looking for the same rush more often. By then, most people don’t see it as a problem.

So far, research shows some behavioral addictions, involve neural processes that mimic those of substance addiction. Under these parameters, internet pornography is similar. Like many other behavioral addictions, it can happen to anyone. 

Some studies suggest a prevalence of 3-6% for these types of disorders. However, there’s no formal classification for them, which means rates can be challenging to determine. 

What Research Says

It appears that the sole cause of porn addiction is the stigma linked to watching porn. A recent study found that believing you’re addicted to pornography, not actual pornography use, caused more distress. 

Similar to other addictive behaviors, porn addiction is exceptionally complex, with a range of possible causes. Some of these causes include:

  • Underlying mental health conditions
  • Relationship problems
  • Unhealthy cultural norms
  • Biological factors

Should I Seek Treatment?

It depends. Above all, the importance here is differentiating between porn addiction and porn-watching compulsion. While you can resort to official diagnosis criteria, there are things you can try:

  • Delete electronic porn sites from all your devices
  • Discard any hard-copy porn you have
  • Install anti-porn software on your electronic devices
  • Find an alternative activity or a plan to execute when you feel the urge to watch porn
  • Consider if there are any triggers and avoid them
  • Keep a journal of your setbacks, feelings, and things that work

If you can’t successfully stay away from porn, consider speaking to a professional. Porn addiction treatment is available. You or someone you love should also consider seeking treatment if you:

  • Pornography use is causing relationship problems
  • Feel guilty about your porn use
  • Try to cut down the amount of time you spend watching porn and feel unable to do so
  • Have trouble orgasming with a partner
  • Experience sexual dysfunction
  • Sex becomes painful
  • Struggle with other addictions
  • Experience depression, insomnia, or depression

Treatment Options

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 be helpful. Speaking with a healthcare professional can also help you rule out the hypersexual disorder. Additionally, some people struggling with porn addiction might benefit from addressing underlying issues like relationship problems, depression, anxiety, or sexual shame.

Depending on how your porn use impacts your life, a therapist might recommend individual, group, or family therapy. Here are some treatment options to consider:

  • Psychotherapy – Can help you understand your relationship with porn, unmet sexual needs, and help people develop strategies to manage distress
  • Counseling – Sometimes couples counseling can help partners analyze their relationship and see the role porn has in their relationship
  • Medication – When pornography is used to cope with conditions such as anxiety or depression, medication can help treat the underlying issue
  • Lifestyle – When people turn to pornography due to boredom, healthy lifestyle changes can help
  • Support Groups – Many people find talking to others with the same problem helpful

If a mental health specialist rules out a behavioral addiction, resources such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can prove helpful. 

Nowadays, people can also join sex addiction treatment programs. In many cases, these operate similar to the 12-step programs used for alcohol abuse or other substance use disorder programs. 

The Downside of Porn Addiction

Untreated addictions can become very destructive and cause long term repercussions in someone’s life. With porn addiction, relationships, particularly romantic and sexual ones, struggle negatively. Not to mention, it can lead to lower sexual satisfaction and lower self-esteem. 

If the issue persists, it can lead to career and financial struggles. If someone ignores their responsibilities or misses their obligations to satisfy their addiction, it can negatively affect many areas of their life. Sometimes, people struggling with porn addiction might feel the urge to watch porn at work, which can lead to disciplinary actions. 

Finding Help

As more and more individuals are coming forward, exploring and expanding potential treatment options continues to grow. Whether excessive pornography use is seen as addictive in the traditional medical sense or not, it can cause serious problems.

Finding help with a sex-positive therapist who can identify underlying issues and offer evidence-based treatment solutions can help someone struggling with pornography addiction. The treatment plan could involve cognitive-behavioral therapy, group support, medication, or treatment for related addictions or mental health illnesses. A professional therapist will be able to 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 one of our representatives today. At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our addiction therapists can help you find a comprehensive and holistic program to address your addictive behaviors. 

There’s no shame or stigma with finding the help you or a loved one needs to improve their relationships, mental health state, and regain a sense of control over their lives. 

🛈 This page’s content is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek your physician’s advice or another qualified health provider with any medical condition questions—full medical disclaimer.

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