Of all sex related addictions, pornography addiction is the most common. It can occur on its own, or in conjunction with other related sex addictions. The diagnostic criteria and psychological categorization (addiction, disorder, compulsion, or habit) of pornography abuse is still being argued and debated by researchers, the APA, and other academic and mental health institutions across the nation and even globally.
While an accepted categorization is still being considered and decided upon, we recognize that many people are actively seeking help to gain control of their frequency and level of pornography consumption, and many are even trying to quit viewing pornography all together. Because this is a need we see and most identify with the term pornography or porn addiction, we will refer to an overuse of pornography as pornography abuse and pornography addiction. The goal here is to understand symptoms, effects, and possible treatments or therapies for those individuals who have found they cannot control their pornography consumption.
Identifying Pornography Addiction
According to dictionary.com, an addiction is “A physical or psychological need for a habit-forming substance such as a drug or alcohol.” What makes pornography a potential classified addiction is that individuals have the propensity, with increased exposure and frequency of use, to become overly obsessed with finding and viewing pornographic material to the point that their level of consumption begins to have an adverse effect on their physical health, mental health, romantic relationship, social life, or financial well-being.
While it is entirely possible to view pornography without becoming addicted to it, a percentage of users may be at risk of a pornography addiction. In a 2002 survey done by the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction at Indiana University, 9% of the survey respondents who had viewed porn, said they had tried unsuccessfully to stop.
Porn Addiction Symptoms and Warning Signs
Besides finding physical pornography images or seeing pornography websites in their search history, how do you know if someone you know or love has a pornography addiction? If you are questioning whether or not you have an addiction or dependence on porn, these may also apply to you. Here are some signs and symptoms of a pornography addiction that HyperSexualDisorders.com suggests watching out for:
- Withdrawal– If your loved one used to be more social and now spends an unusual amount of time online or alone, or they are less connected than they have been in the past, it may be due to a pornography obsession.
- Excessive Time Online– Because the internet has so much free porn content, many individuals turn there to satisfy their cravings. According to WebRoot, 35% of all internet downloads are porn-related. If you find pornography sites in your search history, or even if you can’t find your search history because your loved one has deleted it, that may send up some red flags. Additionally, if your partner is secretive or hides what they’re viewing when they’re online, that is also a flag. Actor, Terry Tate, said, “I’m gonna tell you something: If day turns into night and you are still watching, you probably have got a problem.
- Emotionally Absent– Whether this is during sex or in your everyday life, pornography tends to disconnect the consumer from relationships. This may be most apparent during sex or when you’re together physically but they seem to be somewhere else mentally. Unfortunately, most times your partner may not even notice or worse yet, care that they are distant.
- Increasingly Critical of Your Body or Appearance– As your partner spends more time watching pornography and is exposed to the fake reality that is portrayed, they start to blend the lines between a healthy reality and the contrived, hyper-sexualized, and totally unnatural world that exists in pornography. Most porn actors have surgically enhanced bodies, are young, and their actions and bodies are filtered or edited through the filming process to create fictional and unrealistic sex appeal. Unfortunately because your partner is comparing you to this fake world they see in porn, your partner may not be aroused as easily by you, they may not give as much in return, and they may not be as interested in having sex as they were in the past.
- Their Sexual Tastes Have Changed– While your sexual experiences together may have been very compatible and safe for you in the past, they probably have changed if your partner is viewing pornography. They have been exposed to significantly unnatural sexual encounters and as a result, your partner may be more rough and demanding and may have different ideas of what sex is than they used to. It may also start to feel like they are treating you like an object to give them satisfaction rather than someone they love.
- Increasing Lies, Secrets, Evasiveness, and Defensiveness– As with any behavioral dependence that thrives on secrecy, pornography use breeds disconnection and dishonesty. You probably notice an increase in lies, secrets, and your partner’s desire to shut you out. The reason is that they’re not being honest with you. If you try to ask questions, they may become evasive or defensive, sometimes even angry. Quick mood shifts may also be happening. You may also find that if they’re hiding pornography from you, they may also have other hidden things that help them access porn, e.g. private email addresses, money spent on porn, etc.
The Dangers Of Pornography Addiction
While being addicted to pornography doesn’t cause the level of physical harm associated with drug and alcohol abuse, people suffering from a porn addiction often find that their addiction has a very negative effect on their life and relationships. The effects of pornography addiction can include:
- Desensitization to erotica over time resulting in the consumption of increasingly graphic material.
- Cravings for pornographic material that the user might previously have considered to be repellent.
- Damage to romantic relationships and intimacy with significant others.
- Increased likelihood to objectify people, especially the opposite gender.
- Negative consequences of being discovered viewing pornography in inappropriate places, such as job loss or legal penalties.
- Neglect of other interests or responsibilities in favor of pornography consumption.
- Increased propensity to commit acts of sexual violence, particularly in minors.
- Changes in brain chemistry similar to those seen in the brains of people suffering from drug addiction.
Those who suffer with a porn addiction or compulsion may display a range of symptoms depending on the severity of their consumption. These can include:
- Guilt or shame when using pornography.
- Spending more time viewing pornography than intended.
- Difficulty becoming sexually aroused without pornography.
- Decreased sexual satisfaction.
- Seeking out increasingly more graphic pornography or stimulating intimate interactions to satisfy desensitized arousal levels.
- Choosing pornography over commitments with work, family and friends.
- Devaluation of monogamy, marriage, and child rearing.
- Inability to stop viewing pornography despite wishing to quit, feeling guilty about neglecting real life commitments or worrying about the serious consequences of being caught.
- Diminished trust within intimate relationships.
- Increased cynicism about love or the need for affection with partner.
- Spending more money on pornography than desired.
- Fearing that use of pornography will be discovered.
- Feeling stressed, anxious, or irritable in situations where pornography use is not appropriate or available.
- Use of pornography in inappropriate places that could have serious consequences, such as losing a job or legal charges.
Identifying a pornography addiction can be difficult, as accessibility is open to every digital and print format, yet compulsive use tends to be easily hidden and overlooked. While many people are able to recognize when they have a recurring obsession or problem with pornography, many are unable or unwilling to self diagnose themselves as a pornography addict or abuser; these individuals most likely will have a hard time seeking external help. Those who openly seek professional help for a pornography addiction should start to feel relief from the depression or anxiety that was caused by pornography abuse or relief as they come to understand and deal with the problems and stresses that pornography was “medicating.”
- 64% of American men report they view porn monthly.
- 10% of adults admit to internet sexual addiction.
- 5% of 40-year old men experience erectile dysfunction (ED); ED is linked to pornography use.
- In 2014 there were 4.2 million U.S. websites dedicated to porn.
- 13,000 adult videos are produced each year, generating over $13 billion dollars in profit, while Hollywood released 507 movies and made only $8.8 billion.
- Every second there are as much as 30 million internet users viewing porn sites.
- On average, children are exposed to internet porn at 11 years old; for boys it’s 10 years old.
- There are over 68 million internet searches each day for pornography.
- 70% of all internet porn traffic occurs between 9 am – 5 pm, during work-hours.
- 20% of American men admit to accessing pornography online while at work.
- 13% of women admit to accessing pornography online while at work.
- 25%-33% of internet porn consumers are women.
- About 30% of all internet data transfers contain porn.
Treatment Options for Pornography Addiction
Seeking help from a treatment facility or counseling center is a great way to combat addiction, but before selecting a course of action, it is important to research your options and clarify whether the professionals providing the pornography treatment services specialize in pornography treatment or not. General treatment centers vary greatly and some may be better equipped to treat pornography compulsions or addictions than others. Financially speaking, it may be possible to get insurance coverage for pornography addiction through the mental health services of your insurance policy, so be sure to find out whether the treatment center or counseling program you choose is covered by your insurance.
Because there is a shortage of research-backed statistics on the impacts and effects of pornography use and abuse, the American Psychological Association continues to warn that using non-research proven treatment models can harm patients. As research is still immature and limited, be sure that wherever you chose to be treated, they can offer solid positive research and previous successful patient case studies.
Celebrities Talk About Pornography Addiction
Russell Brand Talks Sex, Softcore and Hardcore Porn
Pornography Treatment Programs
Resources and Blogs About Pornography Addiction
- Fight The New Drug
- Sex Addiction Symptoms, Causes and Effects
- Porn Addiction Help for Men
- Issues I Face
- Overcome Porn Addiction
- The Life
- Pornography Addiction Assessment
- The Fight Against Pornography
- Fight Sexual Addiction Like a Man
- Fight Addiction in a Pornographic Culture
- My Battle With Pornography
- The Witherspoon Institute
- The Pornography Stats Pack
- Covenant Eyes
- Porn Harms Research
- Facts About Pornography
- The Porn Circuit: The Science of Porn Use
- 5 Sex Addition Tips 4 Getting Help
- Website Blocker: stopprocrasting.com
Recovery from a porn addiction does not end with treatment, and as with any addiction, sufferers are at risk of relapsing. Just as recovering alcoholics tend to avoid alcohol and recovering drug abusers tend to avoid situations where drug use might occur, avoiding pornography entirely is often the best way to maintain recovery. Many former addicts choose to install pornography blockers on their computers, televisions, web applications, and avoid using the internet in private places that are not monitored or on their phones.
In addition to setting up monitors and blockers, adding a variety of healthy activities into your schedule will continue to be a healthy distraction and productive way to occupy your thoughts as you continue to resist the temptation to view pornography. Maintaining and regrowing relationships of trust and healthy intimacy are also important.
Prevention is always better than having to treat, so if you’re concerned about your pornography use, it is a good idea to regularly take a look at any effect it might be having on your life and the frequency at which you are viewing it. While most people may be able to consume porn in a healthy way, a percentage do end up finding that it has adverse effects on their lives and relationships, making it advisable to regularly self check for signs of compulsive and damaging behavior.