Porn Addiction

Porn addiction may require further study to fully understand whether to classify the behavior as an actual addiction; however, there is no denying the negative consequences that compulsive pornography consumption can have on one's life.

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What Is Porn Addiction?

The validity of whether porn addiction is an actual addiction is a controversial topic. Porn addiction is a considered by some to be a behavioral addiction that is characterized by an obsessive compulsion to view pornographic material. Many experts say that the brains of people watching porn do not function in the same ways as the brains of drug users do; however, there are a multitude of studies and people that argue that it is a very real addiction all the same.

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Some individuals become so obsessed with sexual thoughts and behaviors that they compare their impulses of needing to watch pornography to those of a nicotine smoker needing a cigarette. Professional therapist offices and inpatient centers are filled with men and women who have lost control over their sexual behaviors and identify as suffering from a porn addiction. Many skeptics of the condition cite the fact that the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic Statistical Manual for Psychiatric Disorders (DSM-V) does not include sexual addictions as disorders, but it is important to note that the American Society of Addiction Medicine does recognize porn addiction as a behavioral addiction.

Signs Of A Porn Addiction

In a 2014 study performed by the University of Cambridge, researchers found that the same reward centers of the brain were activated when 19 different compulsive porn users watched pornography as when addicts saw their drug or drink of choice. Similarly, many people that are addicted to porn and attempt to stop go through the same symptoms of withdrawal that drug users and alcoholics also experience. The Kinsey Institute Survey found that 9% of porn viewers have tried to stop the behavior and been unsuccessful.

Common Symptoms Of Addiction To Any Substance Include:

  • Compulsive behavior that leads to loss of control
  • Unsuccessful attempts to stop despite potential negative consequences
  • Preoccupation with the activity
  • Increased need for more
  • Development of tolerance (what was once enough no longer is)
  • Withdrawal symptoms

Those addicted to pornography experience all of these, and the warning signs of porn addiction echo those of substance use disorders.

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Common Symptoms Of Porn Addiction Include:

  • Spending large amounts of time watching porn
  • Being unable to stop using porn or behaviors associated with porn, despite repeated attempts to do so
  • Experiencing cravings to view porn
  • Becoming angry or hostile when asked to stop using porn
  • Requiring increasing amounts or more explicit porn to gain the same satisfaction
  • Losing interest in intimacy with one’s partner
  • Abandoning social activities to use porn
  • Keeping all or part of one’s porn use secret from loved ones

The Effects Of Porn Addiction

The damage that pornography addiction can do to a couple’s relationship can be huge. Many individuals suffering from porn addiction feel embarrassed by their constant use and often lie to their partner about watching it and/or lie about their whereabouts or activities to be able to continue to watch it. Additionally, many people addicted to porn have low sex drives as they excessively masturbate to X-rated content on the internet to the point that actual intercourse participation is low.

What I’m seeing is increasing numbers of young men who cannot maintain an erection because they’ve wrecked their [sexual] appetite with pornography.

- Paul Hall, Sex Addiction Specialist

Many individuals that perceive their partner’s porn use as problematic experience lower self-esteem, poorer relationship quality, and lower sexual satisfaction. Those addicted to porn understand that their compulsive use of pornography is damaging to their relationship and hurtful to their partner; however, they simply can’t stop.

You’ve probably heard a saying that porn is great but doesn’t compare to the real thing. When you’re addicted to porn, you’ll feel the opposite. Sex is great, but it doesn’t compare to porn. I had trouble getting aroused with my wife, just because it wasn’t enough anymore.

- Anonymous, Porn Addict

Relationships aren’t the only area of one’s life that can be damaged by excessive pornography use. Psychologists describe patient reports of losing their jobs because they couldn’t control the urge to visit adult websites at work. Researchers have found that 25% of working adults admitted to looking at pornography on a computer at work. If left untreated porn addiction can lead to broken relationships, loss of self-esteem, feelings of guilt, problems with work or school, and financial troubles.

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Treatment For Porn Addiction

Like all behavioral addiction treatment plans, porn addiction rehabilitation must simultaneously address the addiction and change the patterns of behaviors and thoughts that contribute to the addiction. Studies have found that those suffering from a pornography addiction respond positively to both pharmacological and psychosocial treatments. Counseling such as cognitive behavioral therapy can help those struggling with a porn addiction to effectively change their habits and address any underlying emotional issues that may be contributing to the addiction. Support groups and 12-step programs, such as Sex Addicts Anonymous, have also shown to be particularly helpful in aiding recovering pornography addicts to identify potential triggers and maintain abstinence.

In some cases pornography and other sexual addictions are associated with mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Therefore, recovery for porn addiction may require a dual diagnosis treatment program as well.

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Get Help Now

If you’re someone that’s addicted to porn and have tried to quit unsuccessfully on your own, it may be time to seek help. Know that you are not alone in this struggle and that there are rehabilitation opportunities out there. If you’re ready to take back control over your life, contact a treatment provider to learn more about available options today.

Published:

Author

Jena Hilliard

Photo of Jena Hilliard
  • Jena Hilliard earned her Bachelor’s of Arts degree from the University of Central Florida in English Literature. She has always had a passion for literature and the written word. Upon graduation, Jena found her purpose in educating the public on addiction and helping those that struggle with substance dependency find the best treatment options available.

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Reviewed by Certified Addiction Professional:

David Hampton

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  • David embarked on his journey into sobriety in June of 2005, which led him to his current career path as a Certified Professional Addiction Recovery Coach in private practice in Greater Nashville. David is also a public speaker and the author of two books. David is cohost of the weekly Positive Sobriety Podcast, as well as being a frequent contributor to various articles and recovery based materials. As a member of the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC), David works closely with area treatment centers, recovery orientated nonprofit organizations, as well as being a keynote speaker for various recovery-focused events.

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Reviewed by Doctor of Addiction Medicine:

Dr. Ashish Bhatt, MD

Photo of Dr. Ashish Bhatt
  • Throughout his career, Dr. Bhatt has been a leader in substance abuse treatment programs, including administrative and medical directorship positions for inpatient and outpatient programs, detox units, and inpatient residential dual-diagnosis facilities. He is a Board Certified Diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in both Adult and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, a Certified Medical Review Officer, and is Board Certified in Addiction Medicine. He has served as the Chief Medical Officer for regional and national behavioral health companies and worked to develop public and private substance abuse and dual diagnosis facilities.

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Sources

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Midwood Addiction Treatment

Charlotte , NC

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Harmony Recovery Center

Charlotte , NC

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Summit at Harmony Oaks

Charlotte , NC

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Harmony Oaks Recovery Center

Chattanooga , TN

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