Porn Addiction; What Is It? How Can You Manage It?

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Porn addiction is often a loosely used term, and identification and treatment of an actual porn addiction may take months, if not years. In this article, we’ll break porn addiction down to its statistics, causes, signs and treatment options.


Here are a few statistics about porn you should know:

  • 25% of search engine requests are related to sex

  • 35% of downloads from the internet are pornographic

  • 70% of men aged 18 to 24 visit a porn site at least once per month

  • The largest consumer group of online porn is men between the ages of 35 and 49

  • One-third of all internet porn users are women

  • 88% of porn scenes contain physical aggression. 49% contain verbal aggression



Not everybody who watches porn has an addiction to it. Today, porn addiction, or problematic pornography use, affects approximately 5–8% of the adult population. People who are addicted to cyber-porn spend at least 11–12 hours viewing porn online every week, though this amount can be much higher.


The increasing exposure of children to internet porn also likely contributes to the rise in porn addiction. Age restrictions on porn sites often consist of no more than a button to click claiming to be 18 or older. The average age of first exposure to pornography is now only 11 years old. As many as 93.2% of boys and 62.1% of girls first see porn before they turn 18. Early exposure to porn is correlated with increased porn use and addiction later in life.


The interesting thing to note is that pornography has the power to alter your sexual preferences over time, and in cases of porn addiction, may make you completely unresponsive to regular sex. How does that work? It’s all about Dopamine.



You see Dopamine is a neurochemical that is released in the brain every time you perform an activity that increases the possibility of you or your DNA surviving. Dopamine is released when you exercise, eat healthy foods, inculcate healthy lifestyle habits, and also when you orgasm. The quantity of Dopamine released varies from activity to activity, and from sex, the release of Dopamine is the highest from any natural activity. The Dopamine rush is experienced when you have an orgasm, which is the peak of sexual pleasure. This is nature’s way of telling you, you’re doing a good job, keep doing it. In people addicted to pornography, this Dopamine rush is experienced not with actual sex, but with porn. Just like muscles (which bulk up if you exercise them more), the brain also works on the “Use it or lose it” phenomenon. The repeated dopamine rush from porn makes the brain strengthen neural connections that trigger Dopamine response to porn, and weaken connections that trigger the same response to sex. It is because of this unnatural conditioning of the brain to respond only to porn, that stops it from responding to regular sex.



Factors Influencing Porn Addiction

Biological

  • You may have a genetic predisposition to impulsivity or sensation-seeking behaviour.

  • You may have a predisposition to other characteristics that are associated with sexual addiction, like anxiety or depression.

  • As you might expect, higher levels of sex hormones like testosterone or oestrogen can affect libido. If you are inclined towards impulsive behaviour and have high levels of sex-related hormones, you may be more likely to engage in excessive or compulsive porn watching.



Psychological

  • Early-life environmental factors, including adverse events like abuse or exposure to sexual content, can contribute to some of the underlying traits involved in porn addiction behaviours.

  • Mental Health Issues:

  • Anxiety.

  • Depression.

  • Personality disorders.

  • Poor impulse control.


Social

  • Rejection in relationships and social circles can lead to unhealthy ways to find sexual gratification.

  • Social isolation: Not only does social isolation increase one’s likelihood of seeking inappropriate ways of being sexually gratified, it also leads to a host of other problems–like depression and physical maladies–that can contribute to porn addictions or unhealthy sex behaviours.

  • Peer influence: If others around you are doing something, you are more likely to do it, too. Having a friend, or a group of friends, for example, who engage in excessive porn viewing can influence your behaviour.

Porn addiction, like all other addictions, proceeds in stages. If you want to know what stage of porn addiction you’re in. Here are the 10 Signs of Porn Addiction:



1. You Can’t Stop

You are unable to stop using or viewing pornography, despite trying to do so. If your partner can’t stop, you may notice that they are spending more and more time on the internet despite your attempts to communicate with them.


2. You Want More

Similar to how someone can be addicted to heroin, people who suffer from porn addiction will feel cravings if they have gone without it for any amount of time. If your partner is craving porn, you may notice them sneaking away from you to another room. It’s possible that they’ll make an excuse or get defensive when you confront them. It is the porn “fix” that gives addicts a “high”


3. You’ve Lost Time

People suffering from porn addiction can lose large periods of time to viewing porn, wasting most of the day without accomplishing anything. You could notice that someone addicted to porn is lethargic and not accomplishing much as of late. They might seem like they don’t care or are very uninterested in anything else.


4. You’ve Lost Interest in Sex

That’s because of the Use It or Lose It phenomenon I just told you. Porn addicts may lose interest in the advances of their partner. This makes them seem distant or even uninterested in sex. They may require more stimulation than they needed before to become aroused.


5. You’re More Demanding

People suffering from porn addiction develop unrealistic ideas about sex. This can make them more demanding in the bedroom, easily frustrated. You insist that your romantic or sexual partner views porn or acts out porn fantasies even though they don’t want to.


6. You’ve Lost Attraction

Porn addiction can give the afflicted unrealistic expectations of beauty for their partner. This can make their partner feel hurt about their appearance and create a greater problem for their self-esteem. You are unable to enjoy sex without first viewing porn, which further reduces your attraction to your partner.



7. You’re in Physical Pain

Be it from the physical movements involved when viewing porn, or the strain that comes with excessive computer use, people addicted to porn frequently complain about wrist, back, and neck pain and headaches.


8. You’re Losing Money

Some people who suffer from porn addiction start spending money for what they consider higher-quality content. When this happens, they can quickly begin falling into some kind of financial hardship. This appears as them complaining more about money problems, but unwilling to disclose the exact nature of these problems.



9. You’re Distracted

When people are addicted to porn, they can become distracted from different aspects of life. Their mind drifts to porn when they are with friends, family, or at work. It could actually impact their work and relationships. This makes them distant from their partner and their attempts to connect with them.


10. You’re Angry

Like any addiction, someone suffering from porn addiction will become easily irritable if they go without porn. They may have less patience in certain acts if they see them as delaying watching porn. This can also make it easier to lash out at their partner. They’ll be more irritable, agitated, or even erratic. Their partner could notice major changes in their personality and don’t feel that they are the same person they loved before.


If You’re A Porn Addict, What Can You Do At Home To Make Things Better?


Here are a few things you can do:

  • Delete electronic porn and bookmarks on all your devices.

  • Discard all your hard-copy porn.

  • Have someone else install anti-porn software on your electronic devices without giving you the password.

  • Have a plan — choose another activity or two that you can turn to when that powerful urge hits.

  • When you want to view porn, remind yourself how it has affected your life — write it down if that helps.

  • Note if there are any triggers, and try to avoid them.

  • Partner up with someone else who will ask about your porn habit and hold you accountable.

  • Keep a journal to track setbacks, reminders, and alternate activities that work.

What Treatment Options Are Available?


Medications for Porn Addiction

Porn addiction and related sexual dysfunctions oftentimes co-occur with mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. These mental health issues can be treated using antidepressants (such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors or “SSRIs”) or related drugs, which can reduce sexual cravings associated with porn addiction.


In addition to this, Naltrexone, a medication typically used to ease withdrawal symptoms in alcoholics and opioid addicts, has shown promise in managing cravings. This medication can ONLY be taken if it is prescribed to you by your doctor.


There are other medications which are coming up with evidence too. Contact your Psychiatrist for the best suited medication for you.

Therapy will usually consist of 30-60 minute sessions, focusing on your behaviours related to porn addiction and any related issues.


Types of Individual Therapy


Cognitive-Based Therapy (CBT)

CBT is based on the concept that our thoughts, emotions, and behaviours are all related, and when these become “dysfunctional”, it leads to serious consequences in our lives. CBT will often focus on negative thoughts about oneself, others, and the world (e.g., “I will never stop watching porn”) and work to change these into more positive, or functional, thoughts (e.g., “If I work at it, I will be able to stop watching porn”).


Motivational Interviewing (MI)

An MI approach will work on “meeting you where you are at” in your current addiction and help you make your own decision when, and if, you are ready to make a change in your life. Essentially, it works on increasing motivation to quit from within.

Mindfulness-Based Therapies

Mindfulness-Based Therapies incorporate “mindfulness” as a key ingredient in treatment. Mindfulness is the cultivation of attention that is present-focused and nonjudgmental. This allows these “temporary” and “fleeting” experiences of porn cravings and artificial highs from porn viewing to rise and pass away instead of letting them control one’s behaviour.

Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy works under the assumption that unconscious drives, conflicts, and memories are influencing our behaviour. This therapy will traditionally explore early-childhood life events and their contribution to creating habits or “patterns” in one’s life; however, it can also be present-focused and help the patient identify what is currently keeping them “stuck” in a certain behaviour, in this case porn addiction.