Is porn addiction such a big deal?
The arrival of the Internet has not only changed the way humans communicate, study, do business and shop; it’s also changed our sexual behaviour dramatically. In fact, the consumption of porn online has mushroomed beyond control with more Porn Addiction sufferers that ever before.
A study in 2016 showed that a whopping 35% of ALL internet downloads consisted of “adult” material.
On the world’s largest porn site, people watched 4, 599 million hours of porn. That adds up to a staggering 525 000 years’ worth of hardcore porn viewing on a single web site in one year alone!
But, isn’t everybody else doing it?
Pornography is nothing new. For literally thousands of years, people have created erotic images – paintings and statues – for titillation and entertainment.
As humans, we are sexual beings, with a complex range of emotions and thought processes that dictate not only how we go about achieving procreation (a basic condition for the survival of any species), but also how we can enjoy sex for its own sake.
In the late 1880’s the first known soft-core erotic film was produced in France. Fast-forward to roughly 100 years later: Modern porn has been consumed world-wide in books, magazines, film and video.
Then the internet arrives – and the ease of access to porn (previously self-limiting) sends consumption off the charts.
In 1997 there were around 1 000 porn sites. By 2015, that figure skyrocketed to over 2,5 million. It’s estimated that around 65% of people aged 13-25 seek out porn at least once a week. With mobile devices as well as computers, it’s literally at your fingertips within seconds.
So what’s the harm in watching porn?
Attitudes towards porn have changed over the years. Many less conservative people see it as essentially harmless, a “victimless” crime (although the back-story of “actors” being badly exploited is no secret). The trouble is, excessive porn viewing has been shown to have many negative spin-offs that mirror the side-effects of severe addictions like alcohol or drugs.
What are the side-effects?
The most critical damage is seen in the breakdown of interpersonal relationships – with spouses, family members and at work.
Excessive porn viewing has been linked to stress, irritability and depression.
Desensitisation to pornographic images can result in real-life sexual problems: dissatisfaction with partners; a compulsion to experiment with different sexual practices and/or partners; difficulty with maintaining intimacy and increasingly, erectile dysfunction in men. Failure to reach orgasm is not uncommon.
Ironically, the initial sexual thrill of watching porn becomes subverted to a compulsive need that can destroy your sex life!
That’s scary stuff; how can addiction happen?
Our brains can be our own worst enemies. In the case of addiction – any kind of addiction – the brain follows a similar pattern of reprogramming itself to seek and prolong a “high.”
We know that drugs and alcohol produce a pleasurable rush of the neurotransmitter dopamine, along with other biochemicals, such as oxytocin, serotonin, adrenaline and endorphins.
However, substance abuse isn’t the only way to achieve this rush. In fact, sexual stimulation to the point of orgasm results in a massive release of dopamine etc. The brain craves the pleasurable sensation and so it demands more stimulation. The more it gets, the more it wants. But, as with substance abuse, the addict builds up a tolerance over time, which requires increased doses to achieve the same thrill.
Eventually, the addict is no longer watching porn for pleasure; he or she is simply trying to avoid the depression and stress that accompanies the craving. That’s where their online addiction negatively spills over into real life.
Does it qualify as a real addiction?
In the US the jury is still out when it comes to porn addiction. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence, some authorities don’t recognize it as a “proper” addiction. In more tech-savvy countries like South Korea, China and Japan though, where “tech addiction” is already recognized, pornography addiction is listed as a subcategory. Interestingly, Online Gaming addiction is also listed, as the neurological effect is virtually identical.
Among the defining factors of any type of addiction are, the development of tolerance to the addictive substance, resulting in an irresistible compulsion to increase the frequency and amount of dosage.
On that count alone, porn addiction is as real as any other type of addiction out there.
How do I know if I’m addicted to porn?
In this day and age, it’s nearly impossible to avoid porn completely. It’s not just out there, it’s everywhere. Popular culture, including music, film and advertising, has always thrived on sex. And the line between what’s acceptable titillation and porn has become increasingly blurred.
That said, here are some signs that you may have a porn addiction:
Do you feel powerless to stop viewing porn?
Do you spend more time or money on porn than you intended?
Have you tried unsuccessfully to cut down/stop viewing porn?
Do you spend a lot of time viewing porn, thinking about porn, or engaging in activities that will give you access to porn?
Do you neglect family, social, or work obligations to view porn?
Have you experienced negative consequences (e.g. getting into trouble at work, fighting with your partner, sexual dissatisfaction) as a result of watching porn?
Have you continued to use porn in spite of these?
Do you consider giving up other activities up opportunities to have more time to use or view porn?
Do you go to great lengths to conceal your porn use?
Do you feel anxious, stressed, or irritable if you can’t access porn?
Do you find you seek more and/or harder porn to get aroused?
Have you found yourself wanting to act out porn, e.g. by seeking out other relationships either online or in real life?
If you answered yes to two or more of these questions you may be addicted or becoming addicted to porn.
Kenneth Wilson ( shown Left ) is currently the Director of Houghton House Outpatient Services.
As a registered Counselling Psychologist he deals with Love addiction and sex addiction. Which are seen as are intimacy disorders and needs for control, power, love or affection. Like all addictions, intimacy disorders like sex addiction and love addiction are progressive in nature. More Details at http://cleanstart.co.za/
Just as your brain can be programmed into addiction, you can reprogramme it to overcome the addiction.
The first step in getting help is admitting that you have a problem. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Actually, it’s one of the most difficult things – porn may be everywhere but it still carries a social stigma. You may feel embarrassed or ashamed. Rest assured though, you are not alone.
Find a therapist who is familiar with porn and sex addiction. These professional counselors are there to help you, not to judge you. Individual and group therapy is recommended, depending on the individual (you might feel uncomfortable discussing your addiction with others at first – that’s perfectly normal). They will also be able to offer the most effective
effective methods of reversing porn addiction, including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?
CBT is different from other types of therapy that typically examine how your past experiences are affecting your present.
CBT focuses on the immediate problematic behaviour. You’ll look at what is triggering emotional discomfort and the desire to escape through porn and sexual fantasy. Together, you’ll figure out how to short-circuit the patterns that result in you acting out your Porn Addiction.
There are so many possible triggers: boredom, stress, loneliness, unexpected arousal (seeing an attractive person in the street or on a TV show), travel, relocation, relationship problems, substance abuse (which lowers inhibitions), financial worries… the list goes on.
The main thing with Porn Addiction is to be aware of your personal triggers and train your brain (the old dopamine seeker) to derive pleasure from alternative sources. This could be simply talking to a friend, working out, building or fixing things around the home, meditating; basically anything that keeps your brain focused on something (besides porn) that will make you feel good. As these good behaviours are reinforced over time, your neurological patterns reset themselves and they become your norm.
How do I know if my partner has Porn Addiction
It’s in every addict’s nature to conceal their addiction – often until their condition is critical. You might be totally unaware that your partner, friend or family member is a porn addict.
So, here are a few warning signs of Porn Addiction to watch out for:
- Personality and behaviour changes including, aggression and irritability, loss of interest in hobbies or pastimes, decreased enthusiasm for things they used to enjoy.
- Secretiveness and anti-social behaviour including, spending more time alone, changes in money spending, covering up devices, erasing browsing histories, blocking access to phones, laptops etc.
- Acting hostile or defensive when asked to stop. If you catch your partner watching porn, it might not be anything to worry about. However, if they get upset when asked to stop or denied access to their device, that could indicate a problem.
- Inability to stop, even after getting into trouble. If your partner has been disciplined (or worse, fired) for porn in the workplace but still keeps using it, seek help.
- Increased usage. If someone is spending more and more time viewing porn, and especially if they seem to be seeking out harder or kinkier porn, this may indicate that they are building up a dangerous tolerance to porn.
If you think you may have porn addiction, or are becoming addicted to porn, or you are concerned about someone close to you, it is important to act fast. Porn addiction can have disastrous effects on a person’s emotional and physical health, but it can be overcome.
Professional therapy and support is available on either an outpatient or on a full-time basis. For more information, contact Houghton House
Article: written by Alistar Mathie