Porn Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, Treatment Options & Myths

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What is Porn Addiction?

We Treat Porn Addiction - Hope Rehab ThailandThere is an ongoing debate about the ethical implications of pornography, but this has not seemed to have damaged its popularity. The fact that porn can be accessed so easily using the internet means it is now more popular than ever. The majority of users will only occasionally view this type of material out of curiosity or because they are in search of a bit of titillation (this may be something they do with a partner or when they are alone). There are other people who like porn so much that they will spend a significant amount of their free time looking at this type of material. When does this become a problem?

When Does Regular Porn Consumption Become A Problem?

Porn can encourage unhealthy ideas around the treatment of other people as mere sexual objects, but the fact that people regularly look at this type of material doesn’t automatically mean they have become hooked. It is a loss of control over this behavior that turns it into an addiction. It is a fact the people can’t stop despite obvious negative consequences that suggest they have become hooked.

You will find more precise symptoms of porn addiction listed below.

Is It Possible To Become Addicted To Porn?

Society has come a long way when it comes to facing the reality of drug addiction, but there can still be a highly judgmental attitude when it comes to sex. One of the difficulties with addressing problems related to pornography is that people can feel too ashamed or embarrassed to talk about. Even though most adults in the Western countries (see statics below) will have consumed porn at some time in their life, it can still be considered a bit of a ‘taboo’ subject.

Can Porn Be A Problem The Same Way Alcohol Is – Even Though It’s Not Yet A “Medical Condition”?

There is no doubt an obsession with pornography can lead to severe consequences, but does this make it an addiction? The condition is not yet listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders *, which is considered by many to be the most authoritative source of ‘what is’ and ‘what isn’t’ a medical condition. So, does this mean it can’t really be a problem in the same way as say, alcoholism?

Research Shows Compelling Similarities Between Porn & Drug Addiction

Our understanding of addiction is increasing all the time, and there is no doubt that the effects of pornography can be similar to drugs. Research from the Max Planck Institute found regularly consuming porn appeared to change brain functioning leading to a dulled response to sexual stimulation (this is similar to how drug users develop a tolerance to the substance they are abusing). It also had a significant impact on the brain’s internal rewards system just like other types of addiction. Other research by the University of Cambridge using an MRI scan found that the brains of people dealing with hypersexual disorder responded to sexual videos in much the same way as substance abusers respond to their drug of choice.

This Definition Makes It Pretty Clear

The definition of addiction used by the American Society of Addiction Medicine includes conditions such as hypersexual disorder which involves “pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.

*Hypersexual disorder (which would include porn addiction) almost made it into the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, but at the time there was disagreement about whether there was sufficient evidence to support its inclusion.

How Big Of A Problem Is Porn Addiction? Pornography Statistics

A study by the University of Montreal wanted to look at the use of pornographic material among men in their twenties, and the team was surprised to find that every one of their subjects had used this type of material – on average, this behavior began around ten years old. Research suggests that as much as 30% of all internet bandwidth is devoted to porn. The American Psychological Association suggest that as much as 99% of all men and 86% of all women have used porn, and it may be that up to 10% of these people are experiencing some type of negative consequences of this behavior (although only a minority of them will be addicted).

Is It A Compulsion Or An Addiction To Porn?

Although a loss of control around pornography appears to meet the criteria for addiction, there are other experts who see it more accurately described as a compulsion. To say that something is a ‘compulsion’ means that there is a problem with impulse control rather than an addiction to a particular behavior. The evidence to support this claim is still limited, but what is undeniable is that many people have been helped by addiction treatment for porn.

What Are The Negative Side Effects Of A Porn Addiction?

  • Sex becomes more about self-gratification rather than intimacy

  • It can lead to sexual dysfunction (e.g. the inability to engage in sexual activity with a real person)

  • The person can begin to prefer fantasy over reality

  • The inability to share genuine intimacy can ruin relationships

  • Addiction to porn can mean sex within a relationship feels unsatisfying (looking at explicit pornography can make it harder to get aroused due to increased tolerance)

  • It can mean people become attracted to increasingly perverse sexual activity

  • It increases the likelihood of infidelity

  • It can be used as a form of escapism – this means problems and issues in life can get neglected

  • It can lead to isolation as the person retreats into a fantasy world (e.g. spending an excessive amount of time online watching porn)

  • Like all obsessions, it can mean the person neglects other others of his/her life

  • It can encourage illegal and increasingly unethical activity

  • Pornography addiction can lead to other types of addiction

Am I A Porn Addict? What Are The Symptoms Of Porn Addiction?

  • Neglecting family, social, or work commitments to look at pornography

  • Feeling guilty about the behavior

  • Making promises (to yourself or other people) to reduce/stop the behavior but being unable to do so

  • Feeling uneasy if you can’t access porn for a period of time

  • Preferring pornography over sexual intimacy with a partner

  • Acting dishonestly (e.g. lying) to protect the behavior

  • Choosing more intense/taboo forms of pornography (this can be a sign of increased tolerance)

  • Spending an increasing amount of time looking at porn

  • Using this activity to escape problems

  • Becoming defensive if anyone questions the behavior

These are just some of the common symptoms associated with pornography addiction, and you don’t have to experience all of them for there to be a problem. The main sign you are in trouble is that you want to stop but don’t feel able to.

What Is The Difference Between Sex Addiction And Porn Addiction?

It is common for porn addiction to be considered a subset of sex addiction, but there are some good arguments for why it could be viewed as almost a separate condition. It is true that many people with hypersexual disorder (the technical term for sex addiction) use pornographic material excessively, but it is not the case that all porn addicts are obsessed with real-life sexual activity – some of these porn users don’t even use it as an aid to masturbation. There can also be a difference in the common personality types associated with each condition. The need of the sex addict to keep finding new sexual partners can mean she/he appears quite outgoing, but it is typical for porn addicts to be more of the ‘loner’ type.

The fact that hypersexual disorder and porn addiction are so closely related in many ways means that when it comes to treatment, similar approaches are likely to work. It is important though for there to also be a recognition of the unique aspects surrounding loss of control around porn when seeking help.

How Do I Deal With A Porn Addiction?

Admitting that there is a problem is a significant step forward, but it is likely to be just the beginning of a longer process of recovery. Even though you can now see how this behavior is damaging your life, and you have made promises to change, you may find that doing so is harder than you expect. The problem is that addiction involves a loss of control due to changes in brain function, and this means you can be sincerely ready to change in the morning and repeating the behavior by the afternoon.

The nature of addiction means that it can be too much to deal with alone. The problem isn’t just with stopping but with staying stopped long-term. For most people, there are going to be underlying emotional and cognitive issues driving the behavior, and until these are dealt with, the chances of long-term recovery are likely to be slim. This is why it is important to get sufficient support, and this may need to include therapy, a support group, or possibly even inpatient treatment in a rehab.

What Porn Addiction Treatments Work?

Porn Addiction Therapy/Counselling

The job of a therapist will be to help the client look at the reasons behind the behavior and to suggest better ways of dealing with life. Some people will initially turn to porn due to feelings of low self-esteem or confidence, and it can also be a response to some type of emotional trauma – all of these issues can be addressed by a competent therapist. It is important to choose a therapist who has a good understanding of the issues and challenges specifically related to porn addiction.

Mindfulness for Porn Addiction

Mindfulness is an approach that has been around for thousands of years but has only recently become popular as a way to deal with addiction. It involves developing a far more objective relationship with the forces that govern behavior. This means that rather than just acting out on our thoughts and emotions, we develop the ability to ‘take a step back’ and view the contents of our minds as being like clouds passing through the sky. Mindfulness also helps practitioners connect with an inner peace (a peace that exists in the absence of seeking) that is so nurturing that it does away with the need to escape life.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Porn Addiction

CBT works on the assumption that it is thoughts that govern behavior. Therefore, thinking in a different way will lead to changes in behavior. CBT involves looking at the underlying beliefs that drive the porn addiction and challenging them through clearly seeing the consequences of the behavior. This approach also includes other tools that can help the individual cope better with life.

The 12 Step Approach to Porn Addiction

Sex Addicts Anonymous is a twelve-step group where people addicted to porn can find friendship, support, and a program that can deliver them from addiction to serenity. This spiritual approach works the same as similar groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. It is arguably the most successful self-help group around, and the support is offered for free.

Rehab for Porn Addiction

The benefit of an inpatient program is it means you can focus all of your energies on getting well, and it also means that you have access to all of the resources and support to manage a transformation. It can make a huge difference to be surrounded by people who understand where you are coming from, and this gives you the opportunity to pick up all the tools you will need to build a better future.

How Do I Deal With A Porn Addicted Partner?

If you suspect that your partner is addicted to porn (check out some of the signs below), and this is having a negative impact on your relationship, you may be confused as to how to handle the situation. There can be a great deal of shame and embarrassment around pornography, and the process of addiction can mean your partner is in denial as to the serious of the condition. Here are a few tips for dealing with a porn addicted spouse/partner:

  • Don’t believe that your partner is using porn because there is something wrong with you – it is not your fault – don’t believe your partner if he/she tries to shift the blame onto you.

  • Learn as much as you can about the condition so you will be better equipped to deal with it.

  • Don’t let embarrassment stop you from getting advice on support – these days there is plenty of information available online but talking to another person can make all the difference.

  • Groups such as Sex Addicts Anonymous can offer advice to partners, family, and friends.

  • Even though the negative impact of the addiction may be obvious to you, your partner may be in denial about the situation, so you need to be prepared for this.

  • Talking to your partner about your concerns around the behavior is a good idea, but this needs to be done in a non-confrontational, non-blaming, and non-judgmental manner, or your partner is likely to go on the defensive.

  • Some type of ultimatum (e.g. threatening to end the relationship) can be effective in getting your partner to seek help but only give an ultimatum if you are serious about following through with it.

  • Understand that you can’t make your partner quit the behavior – you can only offer encouragement, advice, and support.

  • Avoid covering for your partner (e.g. phoning into work sick for them because they were up all night watching porn) as this just enables the behavior.

What Are The Signs Of Porn Addiction?

Here are some of the possible signs of a partner addicted to porn:

  • Being secretively about their online activity (e.g. clearing the search engine history)

  • A change in sexual tastes (e.g. wanting to experiment with rougher sex)

  • Your partner has started to compare you unfavorably to other women/men

  • Spending a lot of time online

  • Hiding pornographic material

  • Loss of interest in sexual intimacy

  • A reduced feeling of intimacy when engaging in sex

10 Myths About Porn Addiction

  • Myth 1 – Looking at porn isn’t going to hurt anyone. Reality – Even if we ignore the ethical concerns around using pornographic material, it would still be untrue to claim that it is always a harmless activity. Like all addictions, it can lead to negative consequences for the individual, the people close to them, and society in general.

  • Myth 2 – All that is needed to overcome a pornography addiction is will-power. Reality – the difference between addiction and overindulgence is a loss of control. Once the negative effects of the behavior become obvious, the person may well want to stop or reduce the behavior, but changes to the brain mean this is usually easier said than done. Will-power alone is usually not enough.

  • Myth 3 – Porn addiction is not serious enough to require a stay in rehab. Reality – Breaking free of this type of compulsion can be a too much for a person to manage without help as there are usually underlying issues driving the behavior. An inpatient treatment program can offer the best chance of a lasting recovery from porn addiction.

  • Myth 4 – Those who get addicted to porn are just ‘bad people’ who need to behave better. Reality – The condition is characterized by a loss of control due to changes in the brain, so it would be more accurate to say it was a type of disease than any type of moral deficiency.

  • Myth 5 – You are only addicted to pornography if you engage in this activity every day. Reality – it is not about the frequency of the behavior but the impact it has on the person’s life.

  • Myth 6 – The problem ends when the individual quits using pornography. Reality – there are usually going to be underlying issues behind the need to escape life by using porn. Unless these issues are addressed, the individual is likely to relapse or turn to new maladaptive behaviors.

  • Myth 7 – It is only men who develop a problem with pornography. Reality – women can become addicted to porn as well.

  • Myth 8 – It is only people who don’t engage in regular real life sexual activity that are at risk of developing a porn addiction. Reality – people can be in a loving relationship yet still prefer pornography over actual sexual intimacy.

  • Myth 9 – It is only ‘hard porn’ that is dangerous. Reality – it is common for people who become addicted to pornography to progress to the harder stuff, but this isn’t always the case. Even soft porn becomes a problem if the person has developed a compulsion to use it.

  • Myth 10 – “I could easily stop using porn if I wanted to”. Reality – denial means people can be addicted to porn without realizing they have lost control. It is only when people try to stop and struggle to do so that the extent of the problem becomes more obvious.

What Next?

If you feel ready to break free of your addiction to pornography, why not come and join us at Hope Rehab Thailand? Our community is going to offer you the support and resources you need to make this change. Our approach includes a number of evidence-based treatments including CBT, 12-step work, mindfulness therapy, wellness therapy, group therapy, and recovery coaching. Contact the team now to find out more.

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