What is Pornography Addiction?

Porn or pornography addiction is a condition in which an individual has an unhealthy relationship to graphic/explicit sexual materials. Porn can include magazines, books, videos, movies, graphic novels, or any other medium in which sexual acts and or sexualized images are explicitly depicted.

Is it an Addiction? Why and how does it work?

Addiction” in general terms 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 addiction is a genuine behavioural addiction, 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 addictiveness of porn 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 addicted 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 addiction often causes.

Signs and Symptoms of Porn Addiction

Am I a porn addict? Is my husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/friend addicted to porn?

As with other kind of addiction, signs of porn addiction 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 has an addiction to porn. 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.

How to Overcome Porn Addiction?

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

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

What is the timeline for getting “clean” from pornography?

Getting “clean” usually refers to the amount of time it takes for an addictive substance to clear the individual’s body, as many drugs stay in body tissues for some time even after the individual’s last use. In the case of porn addiction, there is no physical molecule to get “clean” from … however, the amount of time an individual may experience a chemical imbalance after having artificially elevated their pleasurable neurotransmitter activity is variable. An individual is technically “clean” from porn as soon as they stop consuming it and engaging in any activities related to accessing it.

Are there withdrawal symptoms? What do they look like?

As in the case of most addictions, pornography addiction “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 addiction. The potentially resulting depression, anxiety, and isolation places these individuals at increased risk for self-injurious behaviors, violence, and suicide.

Seeking Professional help/Porn Addiction Treatment

Is it difficult for porn addicts to seek out counseling/therapy? Why?

As with other addictions, individuals addicted to pornography often perceive difficulties asking for and seeking out professional help because they fear the stigma of acknowledging their addiction 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 porn addicts seek professional help? Why?

Individuals who are concerned they might have a porn addiction should absolutely seek qualified professional help. Porn addiction 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.

Porn Addiction Timeline

Stages of Porn Addiction: What does the process look like?

Like other kinds of addiction, there is no one pathway to porn addiction. Some individuals may have a non-dependent relationship with explicit sexual materials for years without developing unhealthy consumption habits. They may turn to porn during a time of relational strain or decreased sexual activity with their partner caused by normal life circumstances, and not realize they have become addicted. Other persons may have had little or no exposure to porn, and become quickly addicted after relatively brief exposure. Refer to the Signs & Symptoms of porn addiction above to review some of the many features that may indicate an addiction to porn.

How far can porn addiction go if left untreated? What kind of consequences might an individual experience?

Untreated porn addiction can have devastating and life-altering consequences if left untreated. In addition to relationship breakdowns, financial strain, loss of job and family, increasing isolation, anger, depression, anxiety, and irritability, some kinds of porn are illegal and prosecution of obtaining and or possessing these materials can carry serious legal consequences that may include but are not limited to prison, parole, being placed on a sex offender monitoring program, severe financial penalties, and a criminal record.

The Causes of Porn Addiction

What are some of the root causes of pornography addiction?

There is no one cause of or pathway to porn addiction. Like other addictions, the consumption of legal pornography may initially take place in a healthy, manageable context and later escalate into unhealthy patterns of use during times of increased stress, relational dissatisfaction, depression, loneliness, anxiety, or other normal life stressors. Persons with pre-existing impulse control issues, unresolved relational issues or unaddressed histories of sexual abuse, and other variables may be particularly vulnerable to porn addiction, but none of these factors are determinants of porn addiction, nor are their absence any kind of guarantee that one will not develop a porn addiction. Like other addictions, porn addiction has no relationship to age, race, ethnicity, nationality, intelligence, income level, family structure, education level, or sexual preference. Anyone can develop an addiction to pornography.

Need Help for Porn & Sex Addiction?

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 [email protected]