September 12, 2023

How to Stop Porn Addiction

Although porn addiction isn’t classified as a mental health condition in the DSM, many experts agree that it’s possible to watch porn compulsively and exhibit the same addictive tendencies as someone might with substances or other behavioral patterns. Porn addiction can be insidious, but it may affect one’s self-esteem, relationships, and physical and emotional self-care. It can also exacerbate other mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. Here’s how to recognize the warning signs and be mindful of addictive tendencies.

Defining Porn Addiction 

Many people watch porn, but certain behaviors may indicate the presence of an addiction. An addiction is defined by several symptoms, including:

Using porn to cope with problems or feel “normal:” If porn becomes an escape mechanism, rather than just an occasional moment of pleasure, it may indicate problematic use. You might turn to porn to manage uncomfortable feelings rather than try to cope with what’s happening inside. Over time, it can seem like life doesn’t feel normal without chronic porn use. 

Using porn despite ongoing relationship problems: If your partner has outwardly expressed concern about your porn use, you might continue watching it behind their back or downplaying the severity of the consumption. This can lead to further levels of shame, and it may weaken the integrity of the relationship. 

Neglecting other important responsibilities to watch porn: Spending excessive amounts of time watching porn may result in you neglecting other meaningful parts of your routine, including spending time with others, working, or engaging in hobbies. Over time, this can lead to a loss of productivity. 

Feeling like you can’t stop watching porn (even when you want to): One of the telltale signs of addiction is feeling compelled to do something even when it doesn’t align with your desires or values. People who feel addicted to porn often experience intense urges to watch porn- even if they know the consequences or want to cut back. 

Never feeling like there’s “enough”: When there is a porn addiction, people don’t feel satisfied no matter how much they consume sexually explicit material. There’s an increasingly strong impulse to watch porn, and this impulse trumps nearly everything else.

Watching porn that makes you feel upset or disturbed: People become habituated to certain types of porn over time. When there is an addiction, the porn often becomes more and more hardcore to achieve the desired effect. This can create intense feelings of anxiety, anger, or low self-esteem. 

Problems with your sex life: Porn addiction often coincides with unrealistic expectations about sex. As mentioned earlier, you might find yourself fantasizing about more extreme types of sexual activity. This can cause problems with inferiority, poor communication with your partner, or a disinterest in sex with someone else altogether. 

Heightened feelings of guilt and shame: People with a porn addiction often report that watching porn no longer feels enjoyable. Instead, they just feel guilty and ashamed over what they’re doing. If you’re hiding your habit from others, these negative feelings might become more amplified. 

Sense of withdrawal symptoms: Someone with a porn addiction finds it difficult to cut down or stop watching porn. If they are successful, they often report increased feelings of agitation, anxiety, and restlessness. There may also be a sense of emptiness that can persist at first. The fear of experiencing these intense emotions might prevent you from working on your addiction.

Risk Factors of Addiction 

Rather than focusing directly on what prevents addiction, it’s important to consider the warning signs associated with developing an addiction. Research shows that various factors may increase the likelihood of someone misusing a substance or behavior, including porn(1).

Co-occurring mental health issues: Having a mental health disorder such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, or PTSD may increase the likelihood of developing a porn addiction. You might use porn as a way to cope or numb certain mental health symptoms. Over time, however, porn addiction tends to worsen those symptoms.

Early use/exposure: Watching porn at an early age may cause changes in your developing, susceptible brain. The desensitization effect might make you more vulnerable to addiction. 

Loneliness: Being lonely is a risk factor for a porn addiction. Single people may feel lonely, but it’s also possible to experience immense loneliness even with intimate relationships or close friendships. Porn can act as a pseudo-companion, and it’s easy to assume that a relationship with porn can act as a viable substitute for a relationship with a person. 

Chronic stress: Someone might turn to porn as a way to cope with stress. However, if that’s your main coping strategy, this can quickly escalate into addictive behavior. 

Lack of sexual activity or sexual satisfaction: It’s easy to rely on porn for sexual satisfaction, especially if you don’t have a partner or you feel unfulfilled in your current sex life. However, over time, this can morph into more compulsive use.

Sexual abuse history: Research shows a relationship between sexual abuse and higher porn-addictive behaviors, online sexual activity, and a sense of guilt about online porn use(2).  Porn may, at first, act as a way to cope with the sexual trauma. However, addiction actually blocks someone from engaging in the trauma work necessary to heal. 

Other addictions: There is also a relationship between drug and alcohol problems and porn addiction. In addition, it’s not uncommon for people recovering from one addiction to develop symptoms of another compulsive issue. 

How to Stop a Porn Addiction From Happening

The only guaranteed way to prevent a porn addiction is to not watch porn at all. There’s always some risk of abusing something, and that applies to most things in life. However, being mindful of your relationship with porn can help you detect early warning signs and change your behavior before it becomes a problem. 

Consider your current porn habits: Think about when you use porn. Do you notice any particular habits? Do you feel tempted to use porn to cope with certain emotions like sadness, loneliness, or anger? Do you ever procrastinate on other tasks due to watching porn? At this point, you may not necessarily need to change your behavior, but it’s important to cultivate insight into what motivates you to watch porn.

Keep a balanced schedule: Many people watch porn to “fill time” or cope with boredom. Instead of focusing directly on cutting back on porn use, think about how you can add more hobbies, relationships, or other meaningful activities into your daily routine. 

Stop watching porn for 30 days: If you aren’t sure if you have an addiction, it may be helpful to “test” yourself by taking a detox break. These 30 days can provide immense information. For example, if you find that it’s a massive struggle, it may indicate that you have more of a problem than you realize. Or, you might discover that you’re pleasantly surprised by the extra free time, motivating you to become more productive and engaged with the world around you.

Focus on stress management: Porn and masturbation can be great stress relievers in moderation. But it’s essential to know how to identify and cope with stress in other ways. You might consider meditating, journaling, or taking a brisk walk to regulate your emotions.

Get support for other mental health issues: If porn is a way to self-soothe, it’s important to treat the underlying issues causing you to want to self-soothe in the first place. This may mean talking to a therapist, getting medication, or implementing healthy lifestyle changes to improve your mental health.

Join a support group: Many support groups focus on sex, love, and porn addiction. Even if you aren’t sure if you have an addiction (or if you want to stop), seeking peer support can help you feel validated and less alone in your struggles. Consider attending a Porn Addicts Anonymous or Sex Addicts Anonymous meeting. They hold free meetings both in-person and online worldwide.

How to Help a Partner With a Porn Addiction

If you’re in a relationship with someone addicted to porn, you may feel lonely, angry, and betrayed. You might not be sure if this “problem” is manageable or if your relationship can be salvaged. These are normal reactions, and here are some important considerations to keep in mind.

Express your genuine concerns: Focus on your feelings when talking about your partner’s porn use. Let them know your fears candidly. Aim to be neutral and compassionate during this discussion. If you become demanding or come from a stance of blame, you might shut your partner down completely. 

Set clear boundaries about your expectations: While you can’t control your partner’s relationship with porn, you can establish limits about what you will and won’t tolerate. For example, this may include no lying about watching porn or stopping porn use altogether. 

Be prepared to implement your boundaries: Addiction often comes with deceit and secrecy. Even if your partner promises to change, you may find that it’s hard for them to respect your boundaries. You need to decide the potential consequences should they cross an important boundary. In some cases, that may mean ending the relationship.

Encourage that your partner seek professional help: Ask your partner if they would be willing to attend therapy or a support group to address their porn use. Let them know that you support their treatment efforts.

Consider seeking your own professional support: A therapist can help you manage your own feelings and needs during this vulnerable time. You may also benefit from having a space where you can discuss values, boundaries, and potential issues with codependency.

Avoid enabling the addiction: It’s important to try to avoid unintentionally enabling problematic behavior, such as making excuses for their porn habit or pretending the issue doesn’t exist. Enabling sends the message that their addiction is permissible.

Be willing to attend couples therapy: Couples therapy can be extremely beneficial for couples coping with a porn addiction. In therapy, you will both have the opportunity to discuss your feelings and needs. Your therapist will help you address problems that may have emerged due to the addiction.

Aim to remain supportive and optimistic: Recovery can be challenging, and progress does not always follow a linear path. That said, aim to acknowledge when your partner makes steps in the right direction. Some setbacks are normal, but focusing on the big picture can help you maintain perspective if you feel frustrated. 

Final Thoughts

There is no doubt that porn is a contentious and controversial topic in modern society. If you watch porn, it’s a good idea to evaluate your relationship and consider if it aligns with your values and needs. If it doesn’t, it may be time to reassess your priorities and consider if you want to make any changes.

Sources

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/drug-addiction/symptoms-causes/syc-20365112 
  2. https://www.psychiatrist.com/pcc/addiction/assessment-problematic-pornography-use-among-lebanese-adults-role-child-partner-abuse/
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Disclaimer: This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your healthcare provider. This is only a brief summary of general information. It does NOT include all information about conditions, illnesses, injuries, tests, procedures, treatments, therapies, discharge instructions or lifestyle choices that may apply to you. You must talk with your health care provider for complete information about your health and treatment options. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to accept your health care provider’s advice, instructions or recommendations. Only your health care provider has the knowledge and training to provide advice that is right for you.

You must talk with your health care provider for complete information about your health and treatment options. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to accept your health care provider’s advice, instructions or recommendations. Only your health care provider has the knowledge and training to provide advice that is right for you.

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