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What Is Porn Addiction?

  1. Article SummaryPrint
  2. Common Signs and Side Effects of Porn Addiction
  3. Compulsion vs. Addiction
  4. Treating Porn Addiction

Man looking intently at computer screen watching pornPorn addiction is considered a behavioral addiction that is characterized by an ever-growing compulsion to view pornographic content or material. In the past, a person suffering from an addiction to pornography would primarily satisfy his or her craving for pornographic content by viewing or storing pornographic videos, magazines, and photos. Now, the tools available to feed a porn addiction have since evolved thanks to the internet and other technologies, allowing anonymous access to unlimited pornography at all levels of explicitness.

In addition to the internet, a range of others means, such as social media and smart phones, enable porn addiction by providing an outlet to view pornography anywhere and at any time. These devices allow you to store and view porn in higher volumes than ever before while leaving little or no visible physical evidence of your porn use. Several studies estimate that international rates of consumption of porn can range from 50% to 99% of men and 30% to 86% of women.1

Common Signs and Side Effects of Porn Addiction

Relationship troubles as a result of porn addictionAlthough many medical and psychiatric professionals do not treat the compulsion to view or use pornographic material as an addiction, the signs and symptoms of porn addiction are often very similar to those that signify an addiction to drugs or alcohol.2 Symptoms or signs of a porn addiction will vary depending on the person, especially in the availability of pornographic material, the length of time pornography has been a compulsion, and the severity of the addiction. There are symptoms that are commonly present for many patients seeking treatment.

Warning signs and symptoms of a porn addiction may include:

  • Being unable to stop using porn or stop engaging in the behaviors associated with porn, despite repeated attempts to do so. Approximately 9% of viewers reported that they had made unsuccessful attempts to stop.1
  • Experiencing cravings to view porn.2 Much like substance users report feeling strong urges to use drugs, porn addicts can experience strong urges to view porn.
  • Becoming angry, hostile, or irritable when asked to stop using porn.3 Porn addicts may deny their porn viewing or be upset when loved ones request that they stop.
  • Keeping all or part of one’s porn use secret from loved ones. Porn addiction has been shown to lead to increased secrecy in relationships.1
  • Feeling as though one is living a double or secret life because of porn use. A person with a porn addiction may feel guilty or ashamed and work hard to hide his or her porn viewing from others.
  • Continuing to view porn despite negative consequences, such as broken relationships or a job loss. Relationships where one partner is addicted to porn can lead to a reduction in intimacy, emotional distance, reduced sexual satisfaction, and an overall poorer quality of relationship.1 Being unable to abstain from porn during work hours can lead to disciplinary action or even job loss.1
  • Losing track of large chunks of time due to being absorbed in porn use. Porn addicts may spend much of the day viewing pornography. This can lead to porn becoming a priority, with everything else set aside in favor of viewing porn.
  • Requiring increasing amounts or more explicit porn to gain the same satisfaction or thrill, similar to the development of a tolerance.3

To determine whether porn addiction treatment is necessary, you may be asked to consider which of the following statements are true for you:

  • I feel powerless to resist the urge to view porn.
  • I frequently spend more time or money on porn than I initially intended.
  • I have made many unsuccessful attempts to limit or stop viewing porn.
  • I spend a significant portion of time viewing porn, thinking about porn, or engaging in activities that will enable access to porn.
  • I neglect family, social, or work obligations to view porn.
  • I continue to use porn despite experiencing negative consequences.
  • I pass up opportunities, or consider passing up opportunities, to have more time to use or view porn.
  • I feel anxious, stressed, or irritable if I’m unable to access porn.

Many of these warning signs echo the behaviors associated with substance abuse disorders, such as isolating in order to engage in viewing porn, or ignoring, replacing, or neglecting significant relationships due to a fixation on pornography. Porn addicts may find themselves viewing pornographic images or content for hours.

If left untreated, porn addiction can lead to broken or troubled intimate relationships, feelings of shame and guilt, problems with work or school, job loss, financial troubles, and divorce. Many porn addicts also suffer from other mental health issues, such as alcohol or substance use disorders, and mood disorders, such as depression.4If you or a loved one displays any of the signs and symptoms listed above, professional treatment for porn addiction may be helpful. Contact a treatment advisor at 1-888-287-0471 to find some answers to your questions.

Compulsion vs. Addiction

Mental health professionals are limited in their ability to diagnose someone as conclusively porn-addicted, because this behavior is not formally recognized as a disorder. Although there is a fine line between the two, some mental health professionals feel that porn is a compulsion rather than an addiction. Still, support for the existence of porn addiction has gained support from recent research studies.1

Porn addiction shares many of the same characteristics as a substance use disorder. One of the important criteria in defining an addiction is the development of tolerance to the addictive substance. Over time, a porn addict may require more frequent and increasingly explicit porn to experience the same high or excitement as he or she originally did. Compulsive viewing of pornography can lead to the cycle of addiction, which involves a craving stage where the individual is preoccupied or anticipating the viewing of porn. This is followed by actively viewing porn and then experiencing a negative emotional state, where the individual can become irritable or hostile.2, 3

Because of these similarities, treatment centers often view porn as an addiction when planning rehab and recovery programs. Research demonstrates that addiction to porn is a function of brain changes, which affects the same areas of the brain as substance use.1, 3

Treating Porn Addiction

CBT for Porn AddictionPorn addiction treatment and recovery must address the addiction, but it must also work toward changing patterns of behavior and thoughts that contribute to a porn addiction, and developing relapse prevention skills.2 The first step in getting help is admitting that you have a problem, followed by finding a professional who is experienced in treating porn addiction and is aware of the most effective treatment methods, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).4 It is important to be honest and comprehensive with a therapist. Don’t leave out important details because they are embarrassing or uncomfortable, because they can help guide your treatment plan. Finally, keep in mind that the therapist is there to help, not judge.

Seeking help and admitting that you are battling a porn addiction can feel embarrassing or humiliating, but to overcome the addiction, you must choose to take that first step toward recovery anyway.

Choosing the right porn addiction treatment center may seem confusing or difficult. Call today to speak with a treatment advisor at 1-888-287-0471.

Sources

  1. American Psychological Association. (2014). Is pornography addictive?
  2. Grant, J. E., Potenza, M. N., Weinstein, A. & Gorelick, D. A. (2010). Introduction to behavioral addictions. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse36(5), 233–241.
  3. Love, T., Laier, C., Brand, M., Hatch, L. & Hajela, R. (2015). Neuroscience of Internet pornography addiction: A review and update. Behavioral Sciences, 5(3), 388–433.
  4. Dawson, G.N. & Warren, D.E. (2012). Evaluating and treating sexual addiction. American Family Physician, 86(1), 74-76.

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