What is Porn Addiction?

The sudden easy access to internet pornography has shifted so much of our cultural and emotional landscape. Research varies, but it’s estimated that anywhere from 86 to 96 percent of men are regular porn consumers. One popular porn site logs about 40 billion visits per year. That comes out to over 100 million each day.

The number is lower for women, but they are also impacted in many other ways. Porn addiction is not yet recognized as a diagnosable condition, but the problems it causes are vast. Even if some do not view it as an “addiction,” they agree it is a compulsive behavioral issue with serious implications.

So, Is Porn Addictive or Not?

Based on growing evidence, pornography can be addictive even if that term is not widely applied. Two factors to keep in mind:

  • Brain activity in chronic porn users is similar to the reward-motivation-memory cycle in the brains of those addicted to drugs or alcohol.
  • In 2018, the WHO (World Health Organization) added “compulsive sexual behavior” to its long list of mental health disorders.

Semantics aside, what matters most is how your consumption of pornography is affecting your life and the lives of others.

Possible Signs of Porn Addiction or Problematic Use

In a general sense, you’re looking to identify if porn use has created strong urges in you to consume such content. Are you neglecting other responsibilities to satisfy these urges? Have you stopped doing things you loved because porn has become a top priority?

Another major sign is a shift in how you view and participate in sex. For starters, porn sets unrealistic expectations for how partners will look and behave. If you have a current partner, they will likely feel frustrated and rejected when you expect them to say or do things a certain way. Wanting them to look like the people in porn videos is a slippery slope toward alienation.

More likely, however, you will simply lose interest in having real sex and start experiencing sexual dysfunction. You require stimulation of a certain kind to get aroused, and this is not available outside the world of virtual, only violent depictions. Even porn itself can lose its appeal unless you continue to find more and more extreme versions. This has the added impact of probably costing a fair amount of money.

Here are some more red flags:

  • Even when you try stopping and/or you stop enjoying it as much, you can’t stop
  • You use porn to soothe your anxiety
  • If you’re in a relationship, it begins to feel dissatisfying (and not just sexually)
  • Choosing porn over social time with friends and family
  • Personal care and hygiene in neglected
  • You get very agitated and angry if you cannot view porn
  • You’ll watch porn even if you’re in an inappropriate location for it
  • A general sense of distraction
  • You feel detached from your body and everyday life

The Effects of Porn Addiction or Problematic Use

As touched on above, the effect goes well beyond the user. For example:

  • Relationships grow distant and stale
  • Responsibilities are ignored and neglected
  • Family members lose trust in your ability to keep promises
  • Your work life suffers from distraction and disinterest
  • You may be spending money to get certain kinds of pornography
  • You may be losing money from concentrating less on earning an income

With sex being so misrepresented by porn, problematic use can negatively influence how you view potential partners — particularly women.

There are steps you can take to slow down usage, e.g., putting a blocker on all your devices. But a hugely positive step is to connect with a therapist who understands and can get you on a path toward recovery.

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