Why Is Porn Addicting?

Table of Contents

Technology has changed many aspects of everyday life—one in particular is human sexuality.

Some people view pornography as a complement to their real sex life, viewing material online that they might not otherwise seek out in offline formats. For example, a person may search the internet to find something they enjoy but that might not meet the standards of social acceptability, such as a fetish. Or they may search for people with bodies as objective examples of ideal, if not exaggerated, primary and secondary sexual characteristics such as large penises or breasts.

In some cases, the internet can be used for healthy sexual expression. Virtual communities can help you feel safe, accepted, and free to express yourself. The internet can also be used to find partners—countless online dating sites are available to help you meet potential partners in real life.

At the same time, the internet can also be used for illegal and deviant activities, including sex trafficking and the distribution of child porn—though these lie at the extreme end of the negative spectrum.

A subtype of the broader Hypersexual Disorder into which porn addiction seems to fit is cybersex, which may include:2

  • Seeking sex partners in real life.
  • Sex chats.
  • Sex via webcam.
  • Arranging an offline sexual encounter.

It can also hinder your real-life relationships and development as a sexual being—instead of complementing your real sex life, cybersex becomes a substitute.

Sourced from Business Insider

Sourced from Business Insider

It is difficult to find real statistics on how much of the internet contains pornographic material because the pornography industry is unregulated, with new adult sites, pages, and videos created every day. One report suggests that 4% of the content on the internet is devoted to pornography and 14% of all web searches are related to adult-related content.1 A Berkeley professor found that 6% of online searches were for sexual content and only 1% of all websites were indexed by search engines as porn sites. Another statistic estimates that 4.2 million websites contain pornography, which is roughly 12% of the internet.2 So although it is not clear exactly how much content on the internet contains pornography, these statistics give a broad picture of how pervasive the online porn industry has become.

Other statistics about porn addiction include:3,4,5

  • 67% of young men and 49% of young women find pornography acceptable.
  • Every second, 372 internet users are typing adult terms into search engines.
  • Every second, $3,075.64 is spent on pornography.
  • Every second, 28,258 internet users are viewing porn.
  • Every 39 minutes a new porn video is created.
  • The porn industry has larger earnings than Microsoft, Google, Netflix, Amazon, eBay, Apple, and Yahoo combined.
  • 40 million Americans are regular visitors to porn sites.
  • 1 in 3 porn viewers are women.
  • 20% of men say they access pornography at work.
  • The average age of a child’s first exposure to pornography is age 11.
  • Utah has the highest per capita purchasers of online adult entertainment in the United States.

It is interesting to note that pornography’s appeal is not restricted to humans. In fact, a study found that male monkeys were willing to give up certain food rewards to watch pictures of a female monkey’s rear end.6

How Does Porn Lead to Internet Sex Addiction?

Porn and Internet Sex Addiction
An estimated 10% of adults admit to having an internet sex addiction, in which they often feel strongly compelled to engage in sexual arousal and masturbation.5 So how does a person get here from simply watching porn? It tends to happen in steps.

First, we know that an orgasm results in positive feelings because of the sexual stimulation. When you repeatedly turn to the internet to achieve that orgasm or arousal, your brain begins to associate these positive feelings with the images on the computer. From here, it is easier to become addicted to the images you view on the internet and to the sexual arousal it produces. And the more you do it, the more you want to keep doing it, resulting in more of the same behavior and more time spent on the internet.9

The Triple-A Engine

The unique qualities of the internet also foster an environment for addiction. In 1998, a famous sex researcher, Alvin Cooper, PhD, coined the term “Triple-A Engine.” He reported that the lure of the internet is powered by “Accessibility, Affordability, and Anonymity.”10

According to Cooper, these three As helped spark an online sexual revolution. Porn is cheaper than ever before—in fact, most of it is free. Instead of spending money on magazines or nightclubs, a person can simply type in a few search terms. Anyone can browse in the privacy of their homes if they are connected to the internet. Most coffee shops and airports have Wi-Fi, and people can engage in a range of sexual activity while remaining completely anonymous. And studies have shown that mobile porn use and sexting is on the rise—especially among young people.11 Some people even use Snapchat to watch pornography.12

Porn Addiction Warning Signs

People who are addicted to internet sex will trade time with family and friends for time in front of the computer. In general, being in a relationship is associated with lower rates of porn watching, but it continues to be an issue for many. As pornography has become more common and socially acceptable, researchers have been investigating how can affect people and their relationships.

People who experience or display the following thoughts and behaviors may have a problem with porn addiction:13

  • Spending significant amounts of time in chat rooms or messaging other people to find pornography or cybersex
  • Obsessive thoughts about using the internet for online sex activities
  • Using anonymous communication to engage in sexual fantasies
  • Escalating from cybersex to phone sex or real-life meetings
  • Hiding online activities from family and friends
  • Feeling guilt or shame about internet use
  • Masturbating while looking at porn or having an erotic chat
  • Feeling less invested in their real-life sex partners and preferring online pornography or cybersex as their form of sexual arousal

Research shows that one of the main problems with porn addictions (especially those focused on internet content) is that people spend less time with real people, especially their significant others. People who are addicted to internet sex will trade time with family and friends for time in front of the computer.

Studies have also found that having a male partner with an internet sex addiction can have a negative influence on a female partner. In fact, studies have found that female partners can experience the following effects:14,15

  • Decreased sexual satisfaction
  • Low self-esteem
  • Negative feelings about her body, including feeling confused, fat, ugly, inadequate, sexually undesirable, and unhappy with themselves
  • Feel betrayed
  • Feel isolated from their partner

While some studies show that pornography can have negative effects on relationships, other studies show mixed results. One study found that pornography was reported to be a source of conflict for more than 40% of couples who are causally dating and in more than 20% of married relationships.16

However, another study found that couples who view pornography together reported increased quality and frequency of sex and increased intimacy with their partner. Couples also reported having a better sexual communication when both partners engaged in moderate online sexual activities.17

Some scholars argue that watching pornography may even produce positive individual outcomes, such as:18

  • Assisting in sexual education.
  • Increasing knowledge of sex.
  • Having positive effects on personal body image.
  • Helping you feel comfortable with your own sexuality.

Who Is at Risk?

Low self esteem as risk for porn addictionAn addiction to porn may develop as a response to a number of individual factors. Its development may be influenced by the presence of past physical, sexual, family, and social trauma, or it could be due to feeling lonely and going online as a distraction from real-life emotional voids.13 Low self-esteem, restlessness, and fear of rejection in the real world can also drive you to engage in porn excessively.

Like other addictions, the compulsive behavior associated with porn addiction may provide a psychological escape to cope with painful emotions. You may be at a higher risk for becoming addicted to pornography if you use it for any of the following reasons: 19

  • Coping with depression or stress
  • Taking a break
  • Exploring sexual activities that you wouldn’t in real life

Studies show that watching porn as a way to cope with depression or stress actually increases your risk of developing an internet sex addiction;20 you may feel anxious or frustrated when you are offline, which can reinforce the compulsive porn use.

If you struggle with porn addiction, you may be more susceptible to searching out short-term pleasure despite negative consequences, including:10, 21

  • Divorce or other relationship problems.
  • Financial problems.
  • Loss of job.
  • Sexually transmitted infections.
  • Legal problems.

If you or a loved one is struggling with a porn addiction, give us a call today at 1-888-287-0471 and speak to one of our rehab placement specialists.

Porn and Compulsive Behavioral Disorders

Like other forms of addiction, you may feel unable to control your actions despite the negative impact they can have on your life.Porn addiction is not currently included alongside other addiction in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition (DSM-5), yet despite this many professionals agree that porn addiction and related subsets such as cybersex are public health issues. In fact, researchers from the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) announced that there is enough evidence to introduce a new diagnosis into the DSM-5, called “compulsive sexual behavior disorder.”22

As a compulsive disorder, porn addiction is often described as a failure to control urges to engage in sexual activities via the internet or other sources. Like other forms of addiction, you may feel unable to control your actions despite the negative impact they can have on your life.

Research shows that sexual compulsive behavior follows a number of steps that lead to addiction:13

The Addiction Process

Discovery > Experimentation > Escalation > Compulsion > Hopelessness

Following this model, when you first discover porn, you typically feel thrilled—it is new, exciting, and vast. Online pornography allows you to explore a whole new world, filled with web cams and chat rooms. As you spend more time with it, the type of porn you watch or cybersex you engage in may begin to change. You may search for riskier forms of porn such as torture or child porn, or you might set up meetings with sexual partners in real life. As this behavior continues to escalate, you may develop a compulsive disorder. Your addiction can cause your life to spiral out of control when everything you think about or do becomes for the purpose of engaging with porn.

You may continue this behavior despite negative consequences such as:13

  • Loss of income.
  • Sexually transmitted infections.
  • Divorce.
  • Arrest.

The final stage of addiction is hopelessness, referred to by some as “rock bottom.” This is when you realize how your addiction has taken a hold of your life. You may feel regret, shame, or guilt during this stage and abandon your addiction. Or you may try to get your life back on track and engage in healthy behaviors such as exercising, eating healthy, and paying attention to relationships that might have been damaged as a result of the addiction. If you do not seek treatment at this stage, it is likely that you will relapse.13

Behavioral Health Problems

Behavioral Treatment

If you suffer from a behavioral health disorder, you are at a higher risk for addictive behaviors. Reach out to find the help you need today.

Treatment for Porn Addiction

Due to how much some people use the internet, it is almost impossible for someone to go “cold turkey” from a porn addiction that involves the internet. For instance, a person may need to use a computer for their job or for school.

Taking this fact into consideration, some strategies to help reduce the temptation to use the internet for sex include:13

  • Moving the computer to a public area of the home.
  • Install software that limits time online.
  • Talk about your addiction with someone you trust and ask them to help hold you accountable.

Treating a porn addiction also involves behavior change. Recovering from this type of addiction may be more similar to recovering from a food addiction than a drug addiction in that food and sex are natural, healthy things, as opposed to introducing a foreign, harmful substance to your body. So in the same way that those with eating disorders learn healthier ways to interact with food, you can learn healthier ways to engage in sex.

By entering an outpatient or inpatient treatment program, you can work with a therapist to identify the underlying issues that are fueling the addiction and participate in groups to learn more about your addiction and how to recover. Because mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and stress are often the root cause of a porn addiction, therapy is a good way to learn how to best work through these concerns.13

Often, when you are first ready to find treatment, you go online. This can be helpful when you connect with others on websites, bulletin boards, or chat rooms and talk about your addiction with a certain amount of anonymity. And it may be particularly appealing to you since your struggles with a porn addiction may have created a stigma around your behavior, and online support offers a solution. However, it is important to work with a trained mental health clinician in order to achieve long-term abstinence and truly address the underlying issues of addiction.

Before treatment can begin, you will need to receive an initial assessment by a mental health professional. It may be helpful to read online stories about others who have gone through the process to get a sense for what to expect. Then, once a treatment plan or program is recommended, you can begin to learn how to cope with not engaging in pornography.

The main difference between the inpatient and outpatient programs is the level of care provided. Inpatient treatment programs, sometimes known as residential treatment programs, require you to stay at the facility for the length of treatment. Supervision and access to medical and mental health care services are provided 24/7. Different residential facilities may offer a wide range of amenities, depending on the location and program specifics (e.g., luxury residential treatment, executive treatment). Therapy is a major component of inpatient treatment—you may engage in individual therapy, group therapy, couple’s therapy, or any combination of these.

Outpatient treatment programs allow you to attend to life obligations such as school, childcare, and work as you go through treatment. In outpatient treatment, you will participate in group therapy sessions, individual therapy, and couple’s therapy when applicable. Your assigned clinician may also prescribe medications to help manage any anxiety and depression you may have.

Often 12-step groups are a recommended part of recovery that continue after you’ve completed inpatient and outpatient treatment. Several are modeled off of Alcoholics Anonymous, including:

If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to porn give us a call today at 1-888-287-0471 and speak to a rehab placement specialist to learn about your treatment options. We are available 24/7 to take your call.

Sources

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  11. Vanden Abeele, M., Campbell, S. W., Eggermont, S. & Roe, K. (2014). Sexting, Mobile Porn Use, and Peer Group Dynamics: Boys’ and Girls’ Self-Perceived Popularity, Need for Popularity, and Perceived Peer PressureJournal of Media Psychology17(1), 6–33.
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  14. Brown, C. C. (2014). Me, You, and Porn: A Common-Fate Analysis of Pornography Use and Sexual Satisfaction Among Married Couples.
  15. Szymanski, D. M., Feltman, C. E. & Dunn, T. L. (2015). Male Partners’ Perceived Pornography Use and Women’s Relational and Psychological Health: The Roles of Trust, Attitudes, and Investment. Sex Roles73(5-6), 187–199.
  16. Willoughby, B. J., Carroll, J. S., Busby, D. M. & Brown, C. C. (2016). Differences in pornography use among couples: Associations with satisfaction, stability, and relationship processes. Archives of Sexual Behavior45(1), 145–158.
  17. Grov, C., Gillespie, B. J., Royce, T. & Lever, J. (2011). Perceived consequences of casual online sexual activities on heterosexual relationships: A US online survey. Archives of Sexual Behavior40(2), 429–439.
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