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Pornography Addiction: What Is It? And How Serious Is It?

Porn written on screen
 

Pornography is increasingly unavoidable in a sex-saturated world, and explicit websites are only a mouse click away. Forty-three percent of Internet users watch porn online, and 75% say they’ve accidentally viewed a pornographic website. Three percent of people in one poll reported viewing porn at work.

Debates about the value of pornography continue to rage, with some sex experts arguing that porn helps people better understand their sexuality, while others argue that porn is inherently degrading and problematic. Pornography addiction, however, can be extremely damaging, and many addiction specialists are concerned about the ways in which reports of pornography addiction have coincided with the rapid spread of Internet usage.

Addiction or Habit?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) does not list pornography as an addiction, although mental health practitioners may diagnose someone with a porn-related addictive disorder. Some mental health experts argue that pornography is not properly construed as an addiction; instead, it functions as a conditioned habit, akin to biting your nails or picking your nose. Pornography users aren’t ingesting mind-altering chemicals, and there’s no physical dependency on porn, making it distinct from alcohol and drug addictions.

However, pornography does alter brain chemistry. Dopamine, a brain chemical correlated with feelings of pleasure, floods the brain when users view pornography. Frequent use of pornography may cause so many dopamine rushes that users have to use increasingly graphic porn on a more frequent basis to get the same rush they experienced when they first started using pornography. This phenomenon closely mimics the effects addictive chemicals have on the brain, and there’s been a strong push to classify habitual pornography use as an addiction in recent years.

What Is Porn Addiction?
Even one use of illegal drugs or cigarettes can prove problematic for users, but porn is different. Particularly among young people, pornography use is common, and not every porn user is an addict, so it can be difficult to draw a clear distinction between simple, frequent porn use and a true addiction. One excellent way to test for addiction is to determine whether a behavior is interfering with a person’s life. People who get in trouble at work for viewing porn, who experience difficulties with arousal without pornography, or who find themselves lying about their porn usage may have a problem. Also associated with porn addiction:

  • Feelings of guilt and shame immediately after using porn
  • Constructing elaborate lies to cover up usage
  • Repeatedly and unsuccessfully trying to stop using pornography
  • Frustration and dissatisfaction with real-life sexual encounters
  • Comparing sexual partners to porn actors and scenes
  • Feelings of frustration, anger, or stress when porn is not accessible

How Is It Treated?
Like other addictions, the best way to break a porn habit is to stop using altogether. But for some users, this can be difficult without outside assistance. Psychotherapy can help pornography addicts address the issues that led to their pornography addiction and develop coping strategies to wean themselves off of porn. Some users institute behavioral changes to make it more difficult to access porn, such as using only public computers or using the Internet only for work. In some cases, porn addiction is a way to cope with stress, anxiety, or depression, and people who are addicted and experience these mental health conditions may benefit from medication.

Some researchers argue that porn addiction functions as a form of obsessive compulsion. People with other symptoms of OCD may benefit from treatment for that issue rather than treatment targeted directly to the pornography addiction. Twelve-step programs and group treatment can also be effective because they allow people with similar experiences to share strategies and coping skills and to offer support.

References:

  1. Pornography addiction and treatment. (n.d.). Recovery Connection. Retrieved from http://www.recoveryconnection.org/pornography-addiction-treatment/
  2. Praetorius, D. (2011, July 13). Porn at work: 3 percent Of Americans admit to watching pornography at work. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/13/porn-at-work-video-survey_n_896244.html
  3. Reid, R. (n.d.). Is pornography addiction real? Net Nanny. Retrieved from http://www.netnanny.com/learn_center/article/101
  4. The internet porn “epidemic”: By the numbers. (2010, June 17). The Week. Retrieved from http://theweek.com/article/index/204156/the-internet-porn-epidemic-by-the-numbers

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Comments
  • Renee January 4th, 2013 at 5:57 PM #1

    I lost my love to porn. He started by looking, then he actually acted and hired hookers to film- and now he actuall has a vitual porn device that allows him to feel what the other person does. Sadly, it is not me making love anymore. Now he is living porn-thats his love life. Our relationship is over and he still denies that this ruined our love. He uses every excuse to blame me for his cheating that was actually caused by his growing pornaddiction. I would recommend people not to do this too frequently as I myself seen it destroy our making love and our entire love, as well as retirement years together.

  • stella January 5th, 2013 at 4:13 AM #2

    I feel for you Renee, because I have been through the same thing with my husband. We have been able to steadily make some progress and work through it, but it did all come to a head a few years ago when he actually lost his job because of material he had downloaded to his computer there. I am not sure that I will ever get fully past this,knowing that there have probably been times when he has compared me to the “porn girls” he was watching, but you eventually have to make a decision about whether this is somethinjg worth fighting for, and I decided that in our case our marriage was worth it. Please don’t give up on love or yourself because getting through it is possible but it does take a lot of work and a lot of patience. Best of luck to you.

  • Renee January 5th, 2013 at 2:54 PM #3

    Thanks Stells, but after 10 months of sheer agony & pain- there’s no hope for us. I am starting to actually heal some & I am just hoping time will make me the happy person I use to be.

  • stella January 6th, 2013 at 5:26 AM #4

    You will get there, Renee, I promise, but like you said, it takes some time. I spent so much of that healing time wondering what it was about me that made him do it, and it was a tough relaization that it really wasn’t anything I did or did not do, that he was the one who had to own and take responsibility.

  • Calvin January 6th, 2013 at 11:22 PM #5

    Although porn can be seen as a harmless habit,it can quickly become an addiction for some people.I think it’s just like other addictions.Some people are more prone to being addicted than others.I have been exposed o porn before but am in no way addicted.I have read of others being addicted,I think they are just more predisposed to being so.

  • Eunice January 7th, 2013 at 4:06 AM #6

    ech addiction? More like just an excuse for a bad habit

  • Juan January 7th, 2013 at 4:06 AM #7

    “Addiction or Habit?”

    This is d question that keeps so many ppl going back to porn without ever realizing they have a prob.Heres somethin to those who think they only have a habit of watching porn an are not addicted:

    even if it is a habit,a bad habit can cause problems and could eventually turn into an addiction.better safe than sorry,quit porn now.its not good for your mind either,as various studies have shown.

  • maria February 3rd, 2013 at 12:02 AM #8

    Great program for overcoming a porn addiction is the Lifestar recovery program. Meant for couples.

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