If you are struggling with pornography cravings and looking to end the cycle you’ve been stuck in, there is hope. It’s also important to know that you are not alone and that up to 6 percent of the population suffers from an unwanted craving, dependence, or behavioral addiction to pornography use.
There are many different routes that you can take if you are looking to change your habits surrounding pornography, and we will go through some of your options. First, let’s look at what “pornography addiction” is and isn’t.
What Is Pornography Addiction?
The concept of pornography addiction is a controversial one. Some medical professionals and therapists hesitate to use the word “addiction” to define what many people consider an addiction.
This is because an emotional dependence on pornography, similar to “sex addiction,” is vastly different from substance use disorders with alcohol and drugs. However, people who are emotionally dependent on pornography have similarities to those who are addicted to other substances.
Some people become so dependent on viewing and collecting internet pornography or filming pornography that it begins to interfere with their daily lives and ability to function in society — similar to those who have come to terms with their substance abuse addiction.
Even if not a true addiction, porn use dependence certainly presents addictive behaviors and can require effective treatment programs.
How Do I Know if I’m Addicted to Pornography?
At this point, you may wonder how to tell if your pornography viewing habits are normal or if they are starting to get into addiction territory. Some telltale signs signal you may be headed for trouble.
Some indications that pornography habits may be creating a problem include:
- Pornography causing relationship problems.
- A person’s sex life becoming less satisfying, or a person preferring to watch pornography than have sex.
- Engaging in risky sexual behavior to watch pornography, such as doing it in a public place.
- Ignoring important tasks or responsibilities to watch porn.
- Progressively increasing the amount of porn viewing.
- Spending exorbitant amounts of money on pornography.
- Using pornography to cope with anxiety, depression, anger, or insomnia.
- Feeling shame after watching pornography but being unable to stop.
- Trying to stop watching — or cut down on time spent watching — but being unable to do so.
Why Is Pornography So Addictive?
Pornography is not a substance like alcohol, heroin, or cocaine. It can’t create a physical, sexual addiction. Because of this, you may wonder just how and why pornography can be addictive and harmful.
The primary function that contributes to porn addiction is brain function. A study of men who self-identified as porn addicts showed their brains responded to pornographic material similar to those with alcohol and drug addictions.
Long story short? Porn is designed to be addictive. Pornography acts the same way as a drug in your brain, and the people marketing pornography rely on and prey on this fact. With the vast availability of the internet, this substance is ready and waiting whenever you feel the urge.
Compulsion vs. Addiction: How Can You Tell the Difference?
One of the reasons why the term “pornography addiction” is so controversial is because many medical professionals consider it more of a compulsion than an addiction. What is the difference between the two terms?
Here is some information to consider as you ponder whether or not you have a problem.
A compulsion is a repetitive behavior with no rational motivation but is often used to reduce anxiety (self-soothing behavior). The person who feels the compulsion wants to repeat the action repeatedly due to an obsession with a specific inciting object, person, or otherwise.
Addiction is often considered a treatable disease rather than simply an urge to do something. There is evidence that addiction can actually change our brain chemistry. Addiction puts the brain in a state of dysfunction and involves a cycle of motivation and reward.
When someone is truly addicted to a harmful substance or behavior, extreme negative consequences won’t stop the person from executing their behavior. The main behavioral aspect of addiction is the continuous use of a substance, even when that use results in disaster.
Whether you classify the issue as pornography addiction or a compulsion to view pornography, questioning whether there is a problem means that there might be one. If you are concerned about your pornography habits, there are ways to change them. There is help out there, and all you need to do is seek it out.
What Are My Treatment Options for Pornography Addiction?
You are already doing an amazing thing by taking the first step. It’s not easy to admit that you might have a problem with something that most people view as taboo. You are not alone, and you don’t have to fight alone.
Let’s take a look at some of the treatment options for those who are struggling to change their pornography habits.
Try To Stop on Your Own
Yes, it is possible to change your habits on your own. Some small steps to alleviate your pornography viewing tendencies include deleting porn bookmarks on your computer, throwing away any hard-copy pornography material, and figuring out your triggers and avoiding them.
You could also try to have a friend install anti-pornography software on your electronic devices. Just don’t let them give you the password!
Trying to stop on your own is possible but can be very difficult, especially if you don’t have accountability. You might want to consider connecting with others who can relate to your struggles.
If you believe that you have an addiction or a compulsion, you may want to look into seeing a therapist. Truthfully, talk therapy is useful for anyone, not just those who suffer from addiction.
Working with a therapist through psychotherapy, especially with a therapist specializing in addiction recovery, can help you identify your triggers, understand what caused your obsession with porn in the first place, and learn different coping methods when you feel an urge.
Some specific types are especially effective for addiction-based mental health disorders, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT focuses on the thought patterns associated with the unwanted behavior and tries to rewire them.
You may not believe it, but there might just be reasons for your pornography addiction that you have never considered. People with a compulsion for pornography viewing frequently also have been diagnosed with anxiety or depression.
Psychiatry with a mental health professional can be a helpful tool in outpatient recovery. In the same way alcohol and drug abuse can often function as a band-aid to temporarily cover a wound, porn addiction can be the tip of a much larger iceberg.
It’s worth talking to your doctor or healthcare provider for health information, despite the apprehensiveness you might feel about such a conversation. Control of your mental health could be vital to breaking your established pattern.
It might sound a little cliche, but a support group can be one of the best things for addiction. Addiction can be incredibly isolating, and finding fellowship with people who understand what you’re going through can be helpful.
Information is available online regarding where to find local support groups. If you are trying to avoid the internet (for obvious reasons), you can call the SAMHSA hotline and talk to someone who will help you find what you need.
Don’t be embarrassed. Pornography addiction is a common problem, and people are going through exactly what you’re going through.
What if My Addiction Is Left Untreated?
There can be dire consequences if a pornography addiction or compulsion is left untreated. The most prevalent consequence is in your romantic relationships. Relationships can suffer greatly if one or both partners suffer from porn addiction.
If you are not in a relationship, issues could still occur if you don’t get a hold of your problem. You can suffer from low self-esteem and reduced sexual satisfaction, which can leech into other areas of your life.
If you ignore responsibilities to satisfy pornography compulsions, you may experience financial troubles and even lose a job. It is worth seeking an appropriate treatment plan for your addiction and taking care of yourself.
No matter how big or small your problem is, there are many ways that you can find help. There is hope, whether you try to solve the problem alone or find others to help you through it.
Remember that addiction is not a character flaw; it is an illness and one that you can recover from. Think about options like therapy, medication, support groups, or journaling, and you will be on your way to living a life beyond your wildest dreams.