July 28, 2020

Porn Addiction: The Side Effects

Porn Addiction Side Effects

Research shows that every single day, a staggering 68 million search queries are related to pornography. That’s one-quarter of all Internet searches 40 million Americans view porn regularly, and at least 200,000 Americans classify as having a “porn addiction.” 

While pornography may not always be problematic, excessive intake can result in numerous side effects.

What Is Porn Addiction?

The American Psychiatric Association hasn’t formally recognized porn addiction as a diagnosis. However, the compulsion to watch porn mimics that of other behavioral process addictions. 

Porn is highly accessible, and most of it is completely free. These factors can pose serious barriers for people wishing to cut down or abstain from their engagement.

Viewing porn doesn’t qualify someone as an addict. However, you may be struggling with a porn problem if you:

  • Spend excessive time using porn (and neglecting other responsibilities).
  • Experience a sense of craving or “need” to watch porn.
  • Feel guilt or shame while viewing or after viewing porn.
  • Struggle to enjoy masturbation or sexual activity without porn.
  • Feel unable to resist porn even if it’s hindering your life or relationships.
  • Feel like you’re living a double life due to your porn use.
  • Feel angry or anxious if your partner asks you to stop using porn.
  • Lie, deny, or otherwise rationalize your porn use.
  • Need to watch more explicit porn to achieve your desired effects (similar to building a tolerance).

What Causes Porn Addiction?

There isn’t a single root cause for addictive behavior. Instead, experts generally agree that a variety of factors may contribute to addiction. 

Most people first experiment with porn the same way they might experience with drugs. They’re curious, and it feels good. Over time, however, they might start relying on the porn to satisfy their sexual needs. Just like with mood-altering substances, they need to watch more porn to meet their urges.

Porn addiction can also manifest from other mental health problems, including:

People may use porn to escape their psychological distress. In these cases, porn acts as an escape outlet. It’s a way to relieve their uncomfortable symptoms. 

Subsequently, relationship problems may trigger excess porn engagement. Some people turn online when they feel dissatisfied by their sexual activity. Rather than confront the issues directly, they escape through their virtual, sexual fantasies. 

Finally, porn addiction can manifest from unhealthy or rigid cultural norms. Some cultures have specific expectations for how people should look, act, and behave during sex. Some people may seek out porn that fits that particular image.

Side Effects Of Porn Addiction On Adolescents and Teenagers

Research shows that children first stumble upon porn at 11 years old. Most children aren’t actively seeking porn. However, because it’s so widely accessible, it’s easy for anyone to find.

Stunts Natural Sexual Development

It’s normal for adolescents and teenagers to have sexual curiosity. This is the time when most people begin dating and engaging in intimate relationships. 

However, porn can disrupt this natural development. Children are most vulnerable to sexual beliefs and ethics, and porn use can hinder this stage.

Sets Unrealistic Expectations For Sex

People once learned about sex through rumors and magazine articles. Today, teenagers only have to conduct a quick Google search to learn everything they needed to know- and more.

It’s no secret that porn showcases unrealistic sexual fantasies. However, inexperienced teens don’t know the difference. They may take the sex at face value and assume that’s what everyone is doing. As a result, they may pressure themselves (or their sexual partners) to engage in certain activities or behaviors. This pattern can be traumatic and downright dangerous for young people.

May Increase Pregnancy and STD Rates

If one thing is universal in porn, it’s the lack of condoms and other protective measures. Although there are approximately 376 million new STD infections each year, viewers won’t see such precautions taken when streaming porn.

This lack of protection poses a significant problem for teenagers. Many young people already struggle to protect their health; they don’t want to be deemed as prudish or overly cautious. If they see that porn stars aren’t protecting themselves, they may not feel it’s necessary for them to do so. Therefore, teens remain susceptible to risk factors like unwanted pregnancies and diseases. 

Increased Rates Of Child Pornography

Viewing porn is associated with an increased likelihood of sending sexually explicit messages and images. However, in some states, youth sending nude photos and lewd messages via sexting may be considered child pornography.

Sexting is dangerous for many reasons. Children have no way of knowing how images are saved or distributed. Likewise, sexting is often coercive, which suggests there may be higher rates of sexual assault among young people.

Negative Body Image 

Research on young women shows that porn viewership is correlated with lower self-esteem and body image. Similarly, teenage men who watch porn are more likely to be critical of their sexual partner’s body. 

Increased Technology Dependence

Many of us are glued to our electronic devices from when we wake up until we fall asleep at night. We live in a society that encourages this habit.

Porn addiction and Internet addiction can go hand-in-hand. Teenagers may withdraw from friends and family to “hide out” with their electronic devices. Of course, this can hinder social relationships, impair emotional regulation, and exacerbate mental health problems.

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Side Effects Of Porn Addiction In Adults 

Porn addiction impacts adults in multiple ways. Those struggling with porn addiction may face emotional, financial, physical, and legal consequences.  

Normalization and Perpetuation of Rape Myths

Porn can be so graphic and violent, and people struggling with addiction can internalize that this type of sex is acceptable. As a result, people may be more coercive and forceful with their partners. Likewise, partners may be more likely to take on a submissive role under the pretense that this is what they’re “supposed to do.” 

Increased Rates of Viewing Deviant Porn

Porn addiction resembles other addictions in the sense that people can become habituated to their “drug.” For example, someone using opioids may first start taking one prescribed Oxycontin a few times per week. Two years later, they’re injecting up to two grams of heroin into their arm a day. 

Porn can follow a similar pattern. Someone might start by watching a couple having sex, but then they may eventually “grow bored” by that type of porn. It no longer keeps them sexually satisfied. As a result, they may turn to illicit content to feel aroused. 

Increased Rates of Depression

People who view porn daily are more likely to indicate being severely depressed than those who view porn 3-5 times a week or less. Of course, this information is correlational, which means it’s impossible to tell if one condition “causes” the other. Instead, it appears that the two issues are intertwined. Depressed people may be more likely to seek out porn. However, porn viewership may exacerbate feelings of depression.

Relationship Dissatisfaction 

Porn can wreak utter havoc on relationships and marriages. In fact, up to 40% of sex addicts eventually lose their spouses. Research shows that people who engage in excess cybersex or pornography lose significant interest in sexual intercourse. Subsequently, about one-third of their partners lose interest as well.

Continued pornography exposure tends to perpetuate ongoing dissatisfaction. Over time, the partner may feel completely apathetic or even repulsed. Partners tend to feel more distant and resentful towards each other. 

Increased Rates of Infidelity 

Approximately 40% of relationships and 25% of marriages experience at least one incident related to infidelity. Likewise, up to 70% of all Americans engage in some kind of extramarital affair at some point during their marriage. Pornography use can increase the likelihood of infidelity by a whopping 300%. 

Infidelity typically occurs from residual relational dissatisfaction. One or both partners feels like their needs aren’t getting met. Some couples work this out before cheating. Many don’t.

Separation and Divorce

Porn addiction is a significant factor attributing to separation and divorce rates. Nearly 70% of divorce cases involve one partner meeting someone new over the Internet. Over half involved at least one party showing an excess interest in pornography. Many also spend increased time in online chat rooms engaging in cybersex. 

Treatment For Porn Addiction

Getting help may feel scary, but recovery is possible. There isn’t a single gold standard for treatment. Instead, there are many options worth pursuing.

Individual therapy: Individual therapy can help people better comprehend their relationship with porn. Therapy also offers a safe place for addressing the factors maintaining porn addiction and learning new coping skills to manage triggers.

Relationship therapy: Relationship or marital therapy can help couples address the issue porn plays in their lives. Therapy can explore essential values and also teach couples how to restore their sex lives and relational trust.

Support groups: Many support groups target sex and porn addiction. Often, these groups focus on using peer support to strengthen self-esteem and individual resolve. Some groups promote an abstinence approach to porn viewership. Others encourage finding an individualized recovery plan.

Psychiatric medication: Many people use porn to cope with or alleviate other mental health conditions. Treating those conditions with medication can reduce the intensity of one’s porn addiction. 

Holistic and lifestyle changes: Optimizing a healthier lifestyle may reduce porn engagement. Simple changes may include adding new hobbies, spending more time with friends, meditating, exercising regularly, and focusing on increased self-care.

Like with any addiction, relapse may be a part of the process. Unfortunately, relapse tends to confuse, frustrate, and anger people. As a result, they tend to feel even more shame- which triggers a vicious cycle.

Recovery is a marathon. It takes time, conscious effort, and discipline to change and integrate new habits. Don’t be too hard on yourself for trying to make a positive change.

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Abstinence Vs. Harm Reduction For Porn Addiction

Abstinence refers to completely quitting all pornography use. This approach is black-and-white. There is no “guessing” if you’re succeeding in recovery or not. You know if you are.

For some people, abstinence is the best method. It eliminates porn and all the temptation associated with it. Although you may still experience intense cravings, you know your bottom line.

Others benefit from taking a harm reduction approach. Harm reduction refers to setting controlled limits on porn viewership. These limits will vary from person to person. Some examples of harm reduction limits include:

  • Viewing porn for a designated amount of time each day, week, or month.
  • Viewing porn from a specific source.
  • Viewing only one particular kind of porn.
  • Viewing porn only with a partner.

Some people start with an abstinence approach and then move into more of a harm reduction method. Others do the opposite. Ultimately, it’s about finding what works best for you and your relationships.

However, if you feel the need to keep hiding or lying about your porn consumption, it’s time to reconsider your method. Chances are, you’re only hurting yourself and your loved ones.

Final Thoughts 

Porn addiction doesn’t just consume excess time and energy. It can result in severe psychological and relational issues. Over the long-term, it can affect nearly every area of functioning. Many people struggling with porn addiction want to stop, but they need to commit to taking action towards growth. 

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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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