What is Pornography Compulsion?

Compulsive pornography viewing is a condition in which an individual has an unhealthy relationship to graphic/explicit materials.

Is it a compulsion or an addiction?

An “addiction” is a compulsive behaviour that is classified under DSM-5, the leading diagnostic guide for mental health professionals. In general terms “addiction” refers to a state in which an individual experiences decreased control with regards to their desire for a certain stimulus, and/or increased feeling of routine desire for that stimulus. Studies have shown that porn compulsivity is a genuine problem, as evidenced by the development of tolerance; decreased control over “consumption” despite negative consequences and/or feelings; and changes in brain chemistry after prolonged overexposure.

Like mind-altering substances, the compulsivity of porn use is due in part to the relationship between porn consumption and naturally occurring substances in the brain. Neurotransmitters are substances released in the brain that cause feelings of pleasure and even euphoria in the body to reward healthy promoting behaviors (eating well, sleeping well, feeling happy, feeling loved, for example).

When an individual artificially overstimulates the release of these chemicals through the use of drugs, alcohol, sex, porn, or any other stimulus, the body develops a tolerance of and expectation for those chemicals that cannot be met through normal, healthy activities, and individuals will continue to engage in unhealthy and even destructive behaviors in order to maintain the “high” that has been artificially achieved.

One reason porn is addictive for some individuals is that it may appear to provide a space for sexual gratification in which the individual’s relational difficulties are not triggered. That is, if a person is already struggling with issues of intimacy, trust, or other interpersonal dynamics, sexual gratification through the objectification of others in which the individual is not experiencing any vulnerability because there is no actual connection may seem less threatening. Some research has suggested that this disconnect is a large part of the devastating damage to relationships that porn compulsivity often causes.

Signs and Symptoms of Porn Compulsivity

Do I have a problem with viewing pornography? Is my husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/friend addicted to porn?

As with other kind of compulsivity, signs of porn compulsivity vary between individuals.

  • Increased isolation from family, friends, spouse, and/or sexual/romantic partner;
  • Failed promises to stop consuming pornography, or deflection to a different kind of porn as “evidence” of decreased consumption and/or being in control (for example, switching from one theme or medium of pornography to another);
  • Negative consequences in professional, family, relational, functioning;
  • Preoccupation with accessing/consuming porn, including secretive behavior, scheduling, and strategizing;
  • Feelings of shame, fear, self-disgust, and/or being out of control;
  • Substantially decreased or increased desire for sexual activity related to amount of porn consumed;
  • Increasing desire for increasingly explicit pornographic materials;
  • Feeling unable to control/manage consumption habits;
  • Dishonesty or secrecy with others regarding quantity and nature of porn consumption;
  • Decreased intimacy and increased objectification of others;
  • Planning life/activities/finances/relationship activities around porn consumption;
  • Forgoing previously enjoyed activities/relationships to consume porn.

Consuming pornography does not automatically mean that an individual have a compulsivity behaviour. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your own relationship to pornography, or that of someone close to you, qualified mental health professionals can provide you with a compassionate, nonjudgmental, and comprehensive evaluation to assist you in determining if you might benefit from help.

Need Help for Porn & Sex Compulsivity?

Castle Craig recommends Innisfree Therapy

Innisfree Therapy is a treatment centre specialising in sex and porn addiction and other sexually compulsive behaviours.

They provide treatment for men, women, couples and partners.

Contact Innisfree Therapy in strict confidence on 0207 935 5333 or info@innisfreetherapy.co.uk

Helping Problem Pornography alongside Alcohol or Drug Addiction Use at Castle Craig

If someone comes to us for help with an addiction to alcohol or drugs and we discover an underlying issue with using pornography we can help them through individual counselling from one of our trained sexual compulsivity specialist therapists.

How to Overcome Porn Compulsivity?

Can the harmful cycle of porn compulsivity be broken? How?

Yes, many individuals are in recovery from porn compulsivity. Individual, group, and family therapy as well as a number of other treatment modalities are used in treating problem porn use.

Are there withdrawal symptoms? What do they look like?

As in the case of most addictions, pornography compulsivity “withdrawal” symptoms occur because the individual has become used to a certain quality and quantity of stimulation that they are no longer experiencing. Unlike substance dependence, the withdrawal symptoms of pornography addiction are not medically inherently life threatening. Irritability, difficulty concentrating, relational difficulties, self-medication with drugs or alcohol, depression, and anxiety are a few.

On the other hand, individuals are at an extremely high risk for depression due to the guilt, shame, relationship failure, social isolation, relational disruptions, substance abuse, and other devastating consequences that may come with the acknowledgement of a porn compulsivity. The potentially resulting depression, anxiety, and isolation places these individuals at increased risk for self-injurious behaviors, violence, and suicide.

Seeking Professional help/Porn Compulsivity Treatment

Is it difficult for people with a problem with pornography  to seek out counseling/therapy? Why?

As with other addictions, individuals with problems relating to pornography often perceive difficulties asking for and seeking out professional help because they fear the stigma of acknowledging their compulsivity and related consequences. They may have received mixed messages from their spiritual community, family, or culture that discourages them from acknowledging the addiction because it has been labeled as shameful, weak, or evil. However, there is expert help available for persons seeking recovery from porn addiction as well as for their families.

Should people with problems with pornography seek professional help? Why?

Individuals who are concerned they might have a porn compulsivity problem should absolutely seek qualified professional help. Porn compulsivity can have devastating consequences for individuals and their families. If you or someone you know may have an unhealthy relationship with pornography, seek professional help from qualified experts as soon as possible.

 

Page last reviewed and medically fact-checked | October 5, 2020