Porn addiction does seem like a strange topic to discuss and it doesn’t come up much in polite company. In its most extreme form using up hour after hour, it starts to sap the essence of relationships, motivation to be productive and one’s sheer well-being. The first move is to realize that the problem is neither ridiculous nor infallible. Whatever your opinions are on the issue of pornography and whether there can actually be an addiction to it, it remains a real issue that so many people deal with, men and women, boys and girls.
Pornography addiction is becoming a huge problem for teenagers
It used to be easy for parents to monitor the kind of things that their children watched or were exposed to but nowadays kids have all these mobile devices with high-speed internet connections at their fingertips thus there is virtually no barrier between them and porn. According to psychotherapists, this exposure is a serious issue as it could be presenting them with a false image of sexuality. Porn is a fantasy no different from most of the fantasies displayed in various sci-fi and epic movies. For many young people whose only understanding of sexuality is what they see online, experts say it can create a distorted vision of intimacy making it nearly impossible to maintain a real romantic relationship.
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Is pornography addiction a mental disorder?
No, pornography addiction is not a mental disorder, as it is not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders. There are conflicting research and reports regarding the addictive nature of pornography.
Pornography addiction is a small subset of sexual addiction
Sex addiction, sometimes referred to as hypersexuality or hypersexual disorder, is defined as the compulsive need to have sexual activity in spite of the ensuing potential negative consequences. As both actions (sex addiction and porn addiction) release the same pleasure chemicals into the brain, many are quick to lump pornography addiction and sex addiction into the same mix. However, the two are differentiated by the fact that sex addiction requires a predilection towards intercourse while pornography merely implies the need to view explicit material. So in other words, many sex addicts overuse porn but porn addicts often don’t crave sex per se.
Pornography can be seen as a substitute for an actual multiple sex partners scenario. For porn addicts, the fantasies that are played out in porn can never be met in real life sex scenarios. According to a study in a journal of sex research, men who watch porn once a week have a greater desire for partners who talk dirty, dominate them, use sex toys and engage in threesomes. For addicts, this can take a toll on their relationships as it becomes very difficult to enjoy intimacy with a partner which in effect makes them emotionally distant and thus begin the negative spiral that so many addicts face.
Porn Addiction Compared to other Forms of Addiction
Porn addiction just as any other addiction is not something that you can simply quit and that’s that. Like most addiction types, it goes beyond mere habit and becomes a chemical addiction where there is a chemical process that goes on in the brain, in the pleasure and reward centers as porn is being watched. Porn addiction has actually been compared to heroin addiction on account of how hard it is to break. What makes it ever so hard is the immediate availability and sheer volume of options of pornographic content. It is synonymous to an alcoholic working in a bar. Breaking out of this addiction is very difficult to do on one’s own without help of some sorts.
How are porn addiction and drug addictions different?
There’s not much difference between porn addiction and drug addiction when it comes to the influence on the brain. A porn addiction can be as hard to break as a heroin addiction. However, the shame that comes with porn addiction is much greater than that of alcoholism or drug addiction.
Unlike alcoholism or drug addiction, there is much more shame that comes with porn addiction and it is an addiction that can go pretty much undetected when you compare it to other forms of addiction. This makes porn addiction a silent killer as it does all this damage to your life, your relationships without you or others even realizing it.
Pornography and the Brain
Our brains respond powerfully to stimuli like sexual attraction in conditions where they are very scarce. Our brains never acquired the capacity for self-control commensurate with the temptations offered by the modern day digital world. Levels of discipline that were once entirely adequate to deal with sexual attraction in small villages just can’t cope with the multitude of galleries of millions of explicit digital content available today. The problem of porn addiction is similar to that of food. It has been shown that pornography addiction has similar neurological repercussions to those that are found with eating disorders and other types of addiction. Our brains that were once fully equipped to manage stimuli from a few berries are now defenseless before the vast array of artificial sweeteners and additives we have in food today.
How does pornography affect the brain?
Pornography affects the brain in the same way that eating disorders and other kinds of addiction do. They share the same neurological repercussions. The pressures and stressors of a person’s environment are what make users vulnerable to pornography addiction.
Also with all of the pressures of real life routines, relationships, unfulfilling workplaces, difficult family dynamics, a lot of people fall into a despondency that makes them extremely vulnerable to the intense highs offered by the content of these explicit videos and images.
Side Effects of Porn Addiction
The short term and long term side effects of porn addiction are something that we are only just beginning to understand as more and more research is geared towards this. At Cambridge, they studied the brains of 19 porn addicts versus a control group of people who say they are not addicted to porn and they did brain imaging study. The same kind of brain activity that is observed in alcoholics, drug addicts, and, gambling addicts was also observed in the brain of porn addicts. The same pleasure and reward centers of their brains lit up during the imaging.
There are inherent dangers associated with porn addiction just as any other form of addiction. Alcohol, drugs, and gambling are mostly fine on their own if they are engaged responsibly but once a crucial threshold is passed we start to see the negative effects and outcomes. The same thing applies for pornography and its addiction.
Porn addiction desensitizes the user and as time goes on, he starts to crave more and more. Someone who starts out with just little erotic and softcore content begins to crave something more hard-core and this can actually degenerate into a desire to play out these fantasies in real life with unwilling partners which can sometimes have a violent outcome.
Also, we begin to see not just a behavioral change but structural changes in terms of how the user’s brain responds to stimuli as it triggers the addiction cycle in the brain.
Lastly, there is an almost inevitable outcome of masturbation addiction as a direct result of porn addiction. Anybody addicted to pornography will almost always masturbate as regularly as he watches porn so the correlation is direct.
How common is pornography addiction?
20% of men admit to accessing porn at work, and 13% of women admit to the same. 40 million adults in the U.S. regularly visit porn sites. 10% of these adults are considered to have a pornography addiction.
Pornography is a multi-billion dollar industry and it has been suggested that because so many people are using porn today, the porn industry is making more money than all of the professional sports combined.
According to statistics:
- 20% of men admit to accessing porn at work and 13% of women admit to the same.
- 40 million US adults regularly visit porn sites.
- 10% of adults admit to porn addiction.
- 17% of women suffer porn addiction.
Breaking Porn Addiction
How to break a porn addiction?
Breaking a porn addiction is not easy, but there are ways to overcome your addiction such as by:
- Acknowledging the problem
- Avoiding excessive alone time and idleness
- Engaging in meaningful activities
- Strengthening your support network
- Finding resources and educating yourself
From the outside, the situation might seem hopeless and from the inside, one may feel trapped and one might start to rationalize porn addiction as being harmless as no one is getting hurt directly by it. This is usually a denial process that temporarily allows the porn addict to cope but it doesn’t take long to realize that deep down it’s a lot more than that and there’s yearning for a change. The addict needs to realize that they’re not alone in this fight and face the problem head on. There is quite a lot at risk if the addiction to porn is not overcome. There are ways to overcome porn addiction but what works for the goose may not necessarily work for the gander. So, in essence, one has to find what suits one best or what method really tackles one’s own specific situation better. So many of these methods are scientifically proven to decrease addiction problems and eliminate cravings to remove your brain from the destructive habit loops. And others have been deemed ineffective. There is no single solution to this problem and there is no easy way out. Success rates are significantly higher if more than one approach to breaking the addiction is employed. All of the successful methods require a painstaking, dedicated and sustained effort on one’s part. Some of the best ways to overcome porn addiction are highlighted below.
- Acknowledge the problem.
First of all, you need to acknowledge the problem before you can make any real effort towards overcoming it. If you can’t admit to yourself that you have a problem then there is no way that you’re going to actively seek out help or try to change the situation. You will get comfortable in that destructive loop and you will be blind to all its negative effects on your life. So a crucial step in overcoming the addiction is admitting to yourself that you have a problem and that you need help. It’s almost like the saying, “a problem shared is a problem half-solved” the only difference being that you’re sharing this with yourself.
- Avoid excessive privacy and idleness.
It is a no brainer that the temptation to watch porn comes when we are alone and we have nothing else more pressing to do. Whenever these two conditions are met, the urge to watch pornography becomes so great that it is irresistible. So, one way to alleviate the addiction is to avoid being alone and idle at all cost. Also, you can modify your living arrangements by putting all the computers and other devices you access porn through in public areas of the house where it is unfathomable that you’ll be watching porn. This is not a total solution as you still have your mobile devices and laptops but it goes a long way in crippling access.
- Engage in meaningful activities.
Doing other fruitful and fulfilling things like exercising, volunteer work, gardening etc. helps fill the emptiness that might be felt when you are going through porn addiction withdrawal. Making sure this withdrawal does not go out of hand is critical to making sure you don’t falter or fall completely back into your old habits. Also, it is preferable to go for activities that take you out of the house or involves other individuals. Being in a generally good mood will help against the triggers that lead back to watching porn.
- Strengthen your support network.
There are a lot of things that fall under this method. One first step is to spend more quality time with your loved ones, family, and friends and be actively involved and present in building these relationships. This keeps your mind and thoughts focused in the right places. Also one of the most effective ways of overcoming porn addiction or any other addiction, in fact, is to tell the people close to you and those you can trust about your problem. This makes you accountable not only to yourself but to your loved ones and this helps a lot in motivating you to quit and stay porn free. You can also join support groups where you can interact with other addicts and share your stories and encourage one another. There are a lot of support groups and 12-step recovery programs around that you can attend. Therapy is also a great way to overcoming this if you can afford it. The sad truth is that not many people can, and some of those who can, don’t have the luxury of time required to go through with it. Nevertheless, it is still a great way to overcoming the addiction.
- Educate yourself
If you are serious about overcoming this addiction, you need to get your hands on as many resources as you can. You need to know what experts and people just like you have to say on the issue. Search online for educational resources that may help you better understand your problem and look into various techniques and methods that people have employed in the past. You just might stumble on that key and crucial one that works best for you. Getting help over the internet is ironic seeing as it’s the very place that your problem most likely started. However, many people have made a lot of progress and have found solace in sharing their stories and drawing strength from other peoples’ experiences.
How hard to break is a porn addiction?
Breaking a porn addiction can be very hard, and there’s no single solution to the problem. There are methods that are scientifically proven to help with your addiction, however. Breaking a porn addiction can be a very painstaking process, but also very effective if you dedicate yourself to the process.
How Does one Address Pornography Addiction Relapse?
Expect and plan for relapse as a stage in the treatment for addiction to pornography. Behavior change is a process of successes and setbacks. Relapse does not mean failure. It means there is something more to be learned. Prevention of pornography addiction relapse requires whole person treatment, planning for a relapse, evaluation following relapse.
Pornography addiction is disputed as an actual diagnosis. On the one hand, research has found porn works on the reward circuits in the brain like any other addiction, while others say pornography addiction is a reflection of an increased sexual appetite. Regardless of what experts will and will not diagnose, people who cannot control their use of pornography for sexual gratification experience psychological and behavioral distress. For those who seek treatment for this compulsive behavior, it does not matter what experts believe. What is important is how the behavior affects their life and the lives of those around them.
Behavior change is a process of successes and setbacks. Prevention of pornography addiction relapse requires whole person treatment, planning for a relapse, evaluation following relapse.
Porn Addiction Relapse – Whole Person Treatment
There are many reasons people become addicted to pornography. Sexual behavior is learned, and tastes are acquired; therefore, recovery requires learning about healthy relationships and healthy sexual relationships. Therapy should not only focus on the pornography addiction but on other issues as well including:
- Potential other mental health disorders
- Physical health problems that may interfere with sexual relationships
- Core beliefs of self, relationships, and sexuality
- Distorted messages about self, relationships, and sexuality
- Any confusion between sex and love
- Feelings of guilt and shame and how they come out in relationships
- Feelings related to the inability to replicate behavior with porn or while watching porn
Planning for Relapse
First, change your outlook on relapse. Relapse does not mean failure. It means there is something more to be learned. Second, at the beginning of recovery, go through all the possible reasons relapse could occur. A useful resource for recovery planning, going through questionnaires like a Wellness Recovery Action Plan with loved ones and a therapist can help identify triggers and create plans to avoid them or a plan to build substitute behaviors. For example, if being alone causes someone to want to view pornography, one way to prevent it from happening is by creating a plan of what to do if they are alone.
Learn From a Relapse
A relapse happens, now what? First, don’t get angry and don’t resort to shaming. When someone experiences a relapse, there are enough feelings involved with perceived “failure.” Second, evaluate the circumstances surrounding the decline. Analyze the situation and figure out what went wrong, what was different, what was not planned for, and if it was an anticipated situation, why didn’t the plan work? After analyzing the situation, revise your plan. Third, evaluate treatment. If someone is trying to break a pornography addiction on their own, perhaps it’s time for professional help. If someone wants to do it without a support network, perhaps it’s time for outside accountability. If someone has a therapist and progress is at a standstill, maybe a different therapist could help.