Like any type of addictive behaviour, be it using alcohol, drugs use or gambling, the habitual use of pornography can cause significant harm to your mental health, your relationships and your quality of life.
Porn addiction is often categorised as becoming emotionally dependent on pornography to the point that it interferes with their daily life, relationships, and ability to function.
While the term 'porn addiction' is not formally recognised as a mental health disorder in the DSM-V, an increasing number of men (and sometimes women) are seeking help for dealing with addictive behaviours linked to pornography.
In many cases, clients speak of having developed these unhealthy behaviours from a young age, and all say that their addiction has negatively impacted on their relationships and quality of life.
An addiction is more than just an intense interest in something. It changes the brain and the body and causes the person to feel compelled to continue using a substance or partaking in an activity, even when doing so may cause harm.
Unlike a chemical dependency on drugs or alcohol, porn addiction is considered behavioural, however it still works on the part of the brain that deals with your body’s natural reward system.
With regular and constant exposure over time, your brain and body are programmed to rely on porn and sexual release as a means of achieving happiness. As you go on, you feel stressed and your body craves porn or masturbation to relieve that stress and achieve emotional balance. This creates a vicious cycle of dependency.
In most cases, viewing pornography begins to take precedence above all other areas of life becomes a priority, and to do so even at the detriment of those areas. Ultimately a person’s sex life becomes less satisfying, causing relationship issues or makes a person feel less satisfied with their partner.
Indications that a person may be developing an unhealthy relationship with porn include:
· They ignore other responsibilities to view pornography.
· They view progressively more extreme pornography to get the same release that less extreme porn once offered.
· They feel frustrated or ashamed after viewing porn but continue to do so.
· They want to stop using pornography but feel unable to do so.
· They spend large sums of money on pornography, possibly at the expense of daily or family necessities.
· Engaging in risky behaviour to view pornography, such as doing so at work.
People with a pornography addiction often use it as a form of escape from other emotional and psychological problems. This includes escaping from stress, anxiety, depression, and social isolation.
Comparing real-life sex and intimacy to porn is also dangerous when it comes to asking and expecting your significant other to engage in certain sex acts.
Porn videos are supposed to be extreme and over-the-top. Expecting your lover to participate in taboo or fetish behaviours could make them uncomfortable and create even more intimacy issues.
Research also indicates that porn consumers increasingly become desensitised to porn, often needing to consume more extreme forms of porn, or consume porn more often in order to get the same response they once did. In the most extreme cases, this can result in viewing illegal child exploitative material online, leading to the attention of law enforcement.
What is the treatment is available for porn addiction?
If porn addiction is affecting your quality of life or your relationship, seeing a trained counsellor is definitely the best place to seek help. They can help you learn how to control your urges and avoid porn triggers. Often this will include working on other mental health problems that may be contributing to the addiction, such as depression or anxiety. Working with a 12 step program such as sex addicts anonymous can also be helpful.
Couples’ counselling can also help, where porn use has caused stress on a relationship, therapy can provide partners talk with a space to about their values, repair and cultivate deeper trust and understanding and ultimately help determine whether porn has a place in their relationship.
Making healthy changes in your lifestyle and effective self, and-care can also be helpful. Some people use pornography out of boredom or exhaustion. Engaging in a more healthy lifestyle means spending fewer hours on the computer.
If anything in this article raises concerns for you or a loved one and want to get confidential help and advice with addressing your behaviours please feel free to get in touch. I offer a free 15-minute phone consultation, or if you would like to make an appointment for either a face to face or online counselling session whichever is convenient.