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Porn Addiction — Signs Symptoms & Treatment

Admin
January 7, 2021
Reviewed by: Lisa Misquith
porn addiction

The following blog has been reviewed by a Psychologist. If you are reading the blog on a mobile phone, you can see the reviewer’s profile at the end of the blog. Please see our editorial policy here.

Pornography has always been taboo. A hidden topic of discussion especially among curious young adults. With the extensive use of the internet and sexual awareness in recent times, it is easily accepted and accessible now. 

35% content downloaded from the internet, all over the world is pornography. Almost 68 million search requests on the internet are related to pornography. And for that reason, porn addiction is becoming a growing concern.

However, there is much dispute regarding whether porn addiction is a diagnosable addiction or a public health issue. 

What is Porn Addiction?

Pornography can be defined as a type of written or pictorial content, which explicitly shows sexual images and videos that arouse sexual desire in a person.

Frequent use of it can become a serious concern for an individuals personal as well as professional life.  Excessive use of porn has an impact on how our physiology and brain functions. 

Like drugs, people begin to indulge in pornography out of  curiosity and as a need for sexual satisfaction,  Most people don’t use it regularly but many turn to pornography under stress and refrain when stress level decrease. For these type of individuals, watching porn becomes an addiction.

Depending on its effects it has to the person mentally and physically, it may be treated as a sexual dysfunction, an impulse control disorder, or a non-substance-addictive disorder. 

Why is Porn Addictive?

Excessive use of porn has profound consequences for the brain, and it acts similarly to an addictive drug. 

However, it is not a physical substance; the way to get addicted to pornography is usually the same. It leads to the same loss of control, compulsive behaviour to seek out the activity despite adverse consequences.

Continuous exposure to pornographic material causes long-term or even permanent neuro-plastic changes in the brain. 

Dopamine is a reward chemical in the brain, and it is released whenever we accomplish something, be it eating, taking drugs, or sexual activity.  And this dopamine consolidates new neural connections that implement the same activity over and over again. In other words, it rewires your brain.

The more time you spend watching porn, the more dopamine gets released. It reinforces your behaviour and makes you not only desire it in the future but also require it to fulfill sexual needs and desires. 

Furthermore, each orgasm releases even more dopamine, which strengthens the connections made during the masturbation.  It eventually becomes a feedback loop that is harder to escape, and just like a drug, you build up a tolerance for visual stimulus and need more stimulus to achieve the same effect. 

Causes of Porn Addiction

Like every other type of drug addiction, porn addiction can be caused by certain mental or physical reasons. 

Some people try to watch porn to cope with stress or to distract themselves from any other mental health condition. 

Pornography can be very easy to get addicted to because it revolves around a basic yet strong biological instinct — sex. And it is much easier to satisfy sexual pleasure with porn than going out to find a “mate.”

Factors Affecting Porn Addiction

Biological

  • Higher levels of sex hormones such as testosterone or estrogen can cause you to have an increased sex drive. Thus you may be more prone to porn addiction.
  • If you have anxiety or depression, you use porn to lower the anxiety level. 
  • If you suffer from emotion dysregulation or you have sensation-seeking behaviour, then you may be more likely to engage in excessive porn watching.

Psychological

  • If you suffer from sexual or any type of abuse at an early age, you may use porn to explore your sexual curiosity or sexual identity, which you can’t do with others. 
  • If you are unwell with mental disorders such as personality disorders, poor impulse control, Performance anxiety can contribute to porn addiction. 

Social

  • Failure in love and other social causes can lead to porn addiction, to fulfil sexual gratification.
  • Social Isolation is also one of the major reasons, especially for teenagers and young adults, to find other ways to be sexually gratified and resort to watching porn which eventually develops into pornography addiction.  
  • Most teenagers watch porn after knowing about it from their peer groups. Having a friend or a group of friends who encourages watching porn and making the teenager feel guilty for not watching it increases high levels of curiosity and this can eventually lead to porn addiction if habituated to it. It also leads to a term known as (FOMO) in this age where they develop the fear of missing out on what their peers are indulging in at that moment.

Effects of Porn Addiction

Pornography addiction has several short-term and long-term effects on your body and mind.

Physical Effects

  • Premature ejaculation
  • Impotence 

Psychological Effects

  • Constant sexual thoughts throughout the day 
  • Confusion, guilt, shame
  • Impulsive behaviour
  • Depression, anxiety, and other psychological disorders

Social Effects

  • Loneliness
  • Deriving sexual pleasure from watching porn rather than in real with a partner
  • Fantasising about a random person or obsessing about sexual contact with random strangers and developing a fetish for aggressive sexual activities
  • Emotional detachment with a partner
  • Anger or violence in relationships

Effects of Porn Addiction in Teenagers

Because of easy accessibility, porn addiction has become a growing concern among teenagers. Pornography watching can have drastic results for teenagers and cause long term adverse effects for them. Such as —

  • Increased anger and risky behaviour
  • A skewed view of the world
  • Inability to develop and form a healthy relationship
  • Sexual violence
  • Aggression towards women or men depending on their sexual identity

Apart from that, teenagers who are addicted to pornography are more likely to develop substance abuse disorders or mental health disorders in the long run.

Signs and Symptoms of Porn Addiction

  • You can’t stop yourself from watching — You lost control of yourself. Despite trying not to watch, you can’t stop yourself from watching porn. 
  • You are using more — Similar to drugs, you built a tolerance for pornography. You need to expose yourself to more pornographic content to get the same type of gratification. 
  • You are wasting time — You are wasting a large chunk of your time watching porn and not doing any work. People who are addicted to porn are sluggish, and they may seem disinterested in everything.
  • Lost interest in sex — If you are addicted to porn, you may find your partner less attractive and lose interest in real sex. This makes them reluctant to engage in sexual intimacy with you as well.
  • You became demanding — Watching extreme porn gives you an unrealistic idea about sex. And you try to demand the same from your partner. This can make your partner mentally and physically uncomfortable and sexually harassed which would eventually be the cause of many underlying mental health issues such as depression or trauma. 
  • You are physically hurting — If you are addicted to porn, you may begin to experience real pain. Maybe due to excessive strain in your body while using a computer or due to physical movement while watching porn, people addicted to pornography often complain about headaches, body aches and wrist pain. 
  • You are losing money — If you are addicted to porn, you may start to spend real money on it, to buy or view high-quality pornographic content. 
  • You always feel angry — Like any other addiction, you become easily irritated without porn. Your patience decreases and mood swings increase. You may even lash out to your partner without reason. 

Diagnosis of Porn Addiction

You should see a doctor or therapist

  • If you have a problem having sex with a partner
  • If you experience an increase in sexual dysfunction
  • If sex is painful for you
  • If you are experiencing anxiety, depression or other mental health conditions
  • If your relationship suffers due to pornography

In the case of any physical injuries occurred due to excessive masturbation, seek medical assistance immediately

Treatment of Porn Addiction

Like any other addiction, porn addiction is a mental health problem, and it is very much treatable. 

1. Group Therapy

Group therapy with a trained professional is an excellent approach to the treatment of pornographic addiction. It consists of 60-90 minutes sessions and primarily focuses on changing behaviour due to porn addiction. 

Group therapy also allows us to be in a community of people who are going through the same problem and act as a support system.

2. Cognitive-based Therapy

The main goal of CBT therapy is to help people find the connection between their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. A therapist who treats patients with porn addictions uses cognitive-based therapy to show them the reason behind their addiction. They also try to show them how porn addiction is preventing them from living a fulfilling life.

Therapists also recommend other strategies to cope with triggers that drive you to watch porn.

3.Acceptance & Commitment Therapy

Acceptance & Commitment Therapy is a type of CBT that encourages patients to identify their triggers and practice to not react to the triggers.  In this type of treatment, patients don’t have to change their thought patterns, instead change their response to their thoughts. 

Studies have shown that eight to ten 1.5hr sessions of ACT can decrease the risk of porn addiction by 85 per cent. 

4. Dialectical Behaviour Therapy

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy is a type of CBT therapy. In DBT, people learn skills to improve emotional regulations, distress tolerances, and interpersonal interactions.

Like ACT, DBT also teaches people to recognize and accept the urge to watch porn without reacting to the urge.  By learning “radical acceptance” and learning how to hold an attitude without judgment, people practising DBT can counter the internal urge to watch pornography.

5.Psychodynamic Therapy

For many people, porn addiction is a byproduct of experiencing sexual abuse or trauma in childhood.  Psychodynamic therapy can be useful in treating conditions just like that.  With the help of psychodynamic treatment, people understand why they behave in a certain way and get addicted to porn and help them release those negative feelings. 

4.Couple Counselling

Pornography addiction has a very adverse effect on relationships. Porn can cause a lack of interest in real sexual activities and reduce sexual responsiveness. And it can lead to complete loss of sexual interest.

For this kind of problem, couple counselling is necessary. This kind of counselling focuses on resolving individuals’ addiction or behaviours and improving communication and healthy sexual functioning between two people.

Medication for Porn Addiction

There is no certified medicine to treat porn addiction. Porn addiction and other sexual disorders often occur with some mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. And to address these problems, antidepressants are used. 

If someone doesn’t respond well to antidepressants or experience adverse side effects, there are a couple of alternative medications that can be used.

Naltrexone It is used to treat alcohol and opioid withdrawal symptoms. But it also can decrease the urge to watch pornography content.

Anti-androgenic medications Anti-androgenic medications can help to diminish sexual urges by reducing the male hormone level in the body. But this type of drug is not a permanent solution. If you stop using these drugs, your hormone level will come back to normal and again cause problems.

There is not enough research conducted. That is why a conclusive recommendation can not be made.

Pornography Addiction for Teenagers

Due to the excessive availability of the internet, children and teenagers are at a higher risk of getting addicted to pornography. As their brain is not fully developed, porn addictions are especially risky for children and teenagers. It can cause mental health problems and emotional disturbance among them and give them an unrealistic view of sex.

And as a parent, if you find your child is addicted to pornography, it is essential to have an open communication with your child. There are some essential things to keep in mind when talking to your child.

  1. Have an open and honest parent-child-communication and relationship.
  2. Provide sex education to your child and provide appropriate resources. 
  3. Monitor Internet usage and preferably use parental control.
  4. Present yourself as an example and limit your technology use.

Prevention of Pornography Addiction

There is no better prevention of pornography addiction than stop watching pornography altogether. And here are a couple of ways you can do that.

  • Hold Yourself Accountable — After you decided to stop watching pornography, approach your family members or friends, and announce your decision. Finding someone to support yourself will make quitting much easier.
  • Delete Your Pornographic Collection — As long as you have the collection, falling back to the habit of watching porn is easy. Instead, destroy the sources and delete your pornographic collection. 
  • Install Anti-Porn Softwares in Your Devices — There are many programs available that block pornographic content on the web. You can use those to block yourself from watching pornography.
  • Fill Your Time With Other Activity — Boredom is one of the main reasons for pornography addiction. To prevent boredom, you can find activities for occupying yourself such as:
    • Exercising
    • Taking up a hobby
    • Socialising with people
  • Find a Healthy Alternative — If you are sexually frustrated, It is a good idea to seek a real romantic relationship. It will fulfil your sexual desire as well as emotional needs.
  • Seek Professional Help — If quitting pornography is causing too much stress in your life, it is best to seek professional advice from a therapist. They can help you to get over your stress.

Like drug addiction, many people suffering from porn addiction feel ashamed of their behaviour. 

But if you have porn addiction symptoms, you must come out and speak openly with your family members or professionals. Without that, it will be challenging to break the habit and recover from the addiction. 

Sources

https://www.healthline.com/health/pornography-addiction#complications

https://www.psychguides.com/behavioural-disorders/porn-addiction

https://www.psychguides.com/behavioural-disorders/porn-addiction

https://www.webmd.com/sex/porn-addiction-possible#1