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Is porn addiction real?

When does a a “little bit” of porn lead to a “whole lot”?  Are porn addicts a type of sex addicts? We explore here, and invite your questions about porn addiction at the end of the article.

Is porn addiction a real addiction?

For a person who struggles with compulsive sexual behavior (like using online pornography) there is no such thing as a “little” bit of porn. A little bit becomes a whole lot, really quick.

Some people may scoff at the idea of the reality or validity of a porn or sex addiction, but those of us who know what it’s like to get caught by porn, know how addictive it can be. We’re not just talking the average man on the street. If you are reading this words, we just might be talking about you.  How do we know?  We didn’t just go to college and read about sexually compulsive behavior.  We have lived “the life” and gotten over it.

What is a “Little Bit” of Porn?

Why the skepticism about porn and sex addiction? Aren’t men supposed to think about and pursue sex? Don’t all men have a stash of porn or look at online pornography? What makes the distinction between a recreational hobby and an uncontrollable desire?

A porn addict doesn’t know when to say “when.” In fact, as the addict gains awareness they often realize that there is no such thing as a little bit of anything in anything they do. Once absorbed in an activity — like work, a hobby, or pornography —they stay absorbed and have a lot of difficulty in transitioning or shifting gears. All too often here at Compulsion Solutions we hear our clients talking about how they only started “peeking” at porn or had intentions of looking at porn online for just a moment or two before they got back to work. But hours later they realize that they have fallen back into a trap, that their peaking or fantasizing about other women or men has turned into more wasted time, more frustration, and more despair.

Porn Addicts and the “Addict Zone”

We are creatures of comfort and we find comfort in routines. Addicts have predictable patterns and rituals of how and when they act out — unfortunately most of us are not aware of what these are. When we meet clients, we help them to recognize the familiar patterns of how they enter into their “addict zone.”

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Common themes for sexually acting out by viewing pornography include:

  1. Being alone or creating alone time
  2. Having unstructured time
  3. Feeling stressed, overwhelmed
  4. Feeling like it’s time for a reward or recognition

Make a Plan for the “Addict Zone”

Gaining awareness into the patterns is one thing, but what can you do to actually stop? Speaking to the common themes of being alone and having unstructured time, you need to put structure where there is none. In other words, make a plan. We often call this “book ending” your day with activities and other people. Most addicts isolate and create the necessary space for their acting out behavior (i.e. not following up with other people in either a social or work setting). In noticing this pattern, the addict can recognize the need to both address the need for doing something constructive and enjoyable as well as holding themselves accountable.

Exploring the Deeper Issues of porn use

Simply making plans and creating structure only addresses the surface issues of porn addiction. The feelings beneath the behavior need to be felt, understood, and investigated more deeply. Why is it that feelings like being stressed or overwhelmed trigger the need to use pornography? To self-soothe? To pass the time? To really deepen the work and change on a fuller level, a person who struggles with a porn addiction should consider working with a trained professional like a therapist or counselor who understands addictions and the recovery process.

Help is indeed out there.

Porn addiction questions

Do you have questions about possible porn addiction?  Please leave your questions below.  We try to respond to all legitimate concerns with a personal, prompt and helpful reply.

Leave a Reply

31 Responses to “Is porn addiction real?
Mike South
3:18 am March 10th, 2012

First of all no reputable medical association recognizes sex or porn as an addiction.

But let’s be honest here.

Kick a real addiction, like alcohol, opiates, meth, cocaine, nicotine.

Try to get off a real addiction like heroin and then start whining about porn be an “addiction” Real addictions can kill you when you try to kick them and if they dont they will damn sure make you wish you were dead

porn is at worst a compulsive and or obsessive behavior NOT an addiction.

4:13 am March 10th, 2012

Hi Mike. It sounds like you’ve been through a tough time of withdrawal and know first hand about opiate addiction.

I’ll leave the medical definition and debate about the term addiction to the professionals. I don’t think that it really matters, actually. Because what is common among all people who act out with substances or behaviors is a deep longing and emptiness. The compulsion and quick fix can be anything. The pain we try to cope with is a human pain, something that we all have the capacity to feel. Just because the form of coping is different does not mean that the process of covering, ignoring or hiding from pain with a fleeting feel good moment isn’t the same. So whether or not someone is an “addict” doesn’t seem to really be the point. Why does this distinction matter to you?

Allayna
1:40 pm March 19th, 2012

Hello George, I cannot say that I am particularly educated on the topic of porn addiction, but as a doctoral student in Clinical Psychology, I was struck by a few points you made in your blog. I appreciate that you tied porn addiction to compulsive behavior found in other domains in one’s life, as I imagine addiction is rarely isolated to one area. I also appreciate your assertion that a lack of structure creates space for unwanted behavior–this seems consistent with a cognitive-behavioral theoretical approach. I do wonder, however, what it is about creating that isolation and reward that feels safe? Of course, the answer to this question will vary based on the individual. But it seems valid that what might connect these individual narratives is a sense that one does not deserve the kind of intimacy implicit in the sexual acts portrayed via pornography. Is this something that can be remedied by imposing more structure? As you allude to in the blog, sex is never just sex, and it is likely that the addiction has more to do with the meaning attached to being close to someone than the act itself. Perhaps there is something about the detachment and control over what one is exposed to sexually that feels safer to such a person. There also might be a spiritual/cultural component if sexual activity is confined to certain sanctioned relationships or purposes. For this reason, I would hypothesize that this sort of behavior is more common among those who feel constricted by their culturally-bound beliefs about sexuality. I would also point out that your article focuses exclusively on men. Is this phenomenon limited to men? If so, what protective factors might women have against this particular addiction? Finally, food for thought: What would happen to the number of people addicted to porn if we removed socioculturally-constructed shame around sexuality from the equation?

Mike South
6:08 pm March 19th, 2012

The difference is you are trying to pharma-cologize sex, If you want to be taken seriously over the long haul call it what it is, not what it isn’t. As “House” would say “It doesn’t fit”.

Ever hear about the little boy who cried “Wolf”?

George Collins
10:44 pm March 23rd, 2012

Hi Allayna,

Good to hear from you and thanks for both your feedback and own observations about this topical topic. I’ll do my best to address your questions. What I see most regarding the creation of space to act out (isolation/reward, i.e.) is based on the routine or familiarity specific to that person. For example, a porn addict needs the opportunity to act out and therefore will isolate themselves to create that opportunity. Not following up with friend or family; finding reasons to work from home while their spouse is at work. Porn addicts don’t simply fall into unstructured, alone time-they usually create it. The reward aspect is something I see too in that porn addict may feel less guilty if they act out after taking care of a big project or responsibility. As you point out, it depends on the individual’s habits and schemas.

Though this short piece focuses exclusively on men (straight men no less) by no means is this solely a man’s issue. The bulk of female clients are usually coaddicts but we do see a fair share of female sex and love addicts. To address that, would require a whole new article as men and women do approach this behavior differently and we treat it differently. I invite you to visit our website and see some of the information there.

Good question on shame. What indeed? A paradigm shift in that this becomes somewhat “normal?” I’d like to hear your thoughts more on that one.

Mike South
7:02 pm March 25th, 2012

funny how you ignore the elephant in the room

You won’t find sex addiction in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Because it isn’t an addiction…..

Marilyn Kegley
12:12 am April 18th, 2012

Personallity, I think sex and porn addictions are serious and real addiction problems. An addiction to these two can ruin a person’s life. I believe these can be both be deadly as well. A sex addiction can increase a person’s risk for contracting a deadly STD and both can inflict mental and emotional pain, which could lead to suicide. There are even treatment programs available for those battling these problems.

sd
8:22 pm May 3rd, 2012

Am suffering with this problem for the past so many years.Years have passed on, the way I wanted to lead life has gone astray.I am stuck.Stuck with the melancholy mood almost always.

For me porn addiction is real.And also the other post which talked about ‘Looking at women wrong or cheating’.

Days have translated into years in the pursuit of these two addictive behaviors.Days upon days I traveled in buses;each time desperately craving and creating that opportunity of groping the women in the buses.

A promising career as far as I can feel has been made to languish.

Even now I am writing this after indulging in ‘that last time this time around’ porn viewing.

What shall I do?

12:40 pm May 9th, 2012

Hello sd. It sounds like you may be at a healthy turning point if you are really willing to make a change and start trying new thoughts and behaviors. My first suggestion would be to try to find a psychotherapist or counselor who specializes in compulsive sexual behavior. You can check the IITAP sex counselor directory here: http://www.iitap.com/promote-your-services/sex-therapist-directory

Otherwise, you can start reading more about sex addiction and look into books on Amazon to begin self-help strategies.

Are you in an intimate relationship with a partner at the moment?

sd
1:37 am May 10th, 2012

Yes I am married.And the equation between both of us is also good.And I have got two wonderful children.And I am from Hyderabad,India.

Since the time I wrote those two posts and after reading the material on your website I am trying to inculcate the gist of the matter into my routine.I can say that there is an improvement in my behavior.Would like to carry it forward.

12:56 pm May 10th, 2012

Hi sd. I’d suggest the book A Couple’s Guide to Sexual Addiction. The author of this article wrote the book and it’s very good! Please let me know if you need help finding the book. It may be available online, or ordered through Amazon.

vaDer
10:45 am June 25th, 2012

Am a doc was addicted to hashish for many years and have some know how of the things being discussed ,would like to thank the author and I just wanted to say to anyone who is failing to realise that porn is in fact an addiction is well in denial, and for those who are in it I guess like any other addiction its all about making a decision and sticking to it and though at first you might find it hard but gets easier as you develop your will.power and then can ultimately kick the habit all together and on a side note love helps too

George
5:17 am June 26th, 2012

vaDer, Yes, love helps AND……. YOU are not your mind. YOU are not your addict. Get into the habit of watching how your mind works and how you live in reaction to your negative history. YOU are fine. Always have been. That’s the truth my friend.

Mike
1:04 am August 5th, 2012

As someone who has been affected by this I suggest Mike South should shut up and syop talking about something he know nothing about…….thanks for tha great blog…..people like me need blogs like this

ohh
4:01 am November 25th, 2012

i believe that porn can be addicting to the weak. people that have a hard time controlling there erges.

Mary
8:15 pm November 29th, 2012

I Just don’t know Trying being a wife married to someone who after 11 years of porn use hiding and lying is now screaming addiction. Is he screaming addiction because he never believed id leave and I packed my shit and was on the way out and its just another attempt to hold me here just to wait for the next time he looks at porn so now he can call it a relapse and apologize and I have to forgive him if I am being forced to be the supportive wife – So is it just another way of keeping me from walking out the door. Or is it really an addiction and me packing my bag’s is what it took for him to realize he can’t stop without help? IDK!!!! Im So damn confused and so full of hurt and anger and so many different other emotions I can’t even think straight so I find my self on so many sites trying to figure out if its real or if he just waited til the last minute to try to save our relationship or if he’s just trying to play the game and im just a pawn

Joe
10:28 pm December 4th, 2012

yes it’s real, but personally… of all the addictions this is the one to have. Nothing wrong with a healthy libido.

George
5:08 am December 9th, 2012

Joe, Really? I used to say what you said until I realized that porn had taken over my life. I wasn’t dating real live women, I was more interested in porn than any kind of meaningful career, and I just felt “down” all the time. That’s when I realized that porn addiction WASN’T the “one to have.” George

Matt
12:43 am January 10th, 2013

I’m not sure if I’m addicted to porn or not. I’m 18 years old and am in college. I have a healthy relationship with my girlfriend. I look at porn quite often but only when I am able to. If I not able to look at porn I don’t freak out. I live on campus so I would not look at porn for days until I went home. It has not affected my grades or my love life yet. Am I addicted or will I grow out of this once I have a wife and kids?

1:21 pm January 10th, 2013

Hi Matt. Hmmm. Just the fact that you’re asking the question makes me wonder how “healthy” watching porn is for you. Especially if you’re hiding it.

It might be good to be open about porn with your girlfriend, or to talk immediately with a psychologist who knows more about human sexuality. It’s possible that you have problems with fantasizing and if you are open, you can learn how to be more intimate with your sexual partner. What does porn do for you that your girlfriend does not?

M.ankit
7:40 am January 21st, 2013

People addicted to watching pornography on the internet are in danger of suffering from short-term memory loss, researchers say.Sexual arousal and its impacts on cognitive processes might explain parts of these negative effects,On an average, they answered correctly 67 per cent of the time when they viewed pornographic pictures, which rose to 80 per cent when they saw the clean pictures.pornography have many more side effect which generate both mental and physical ability.

lisa
6:16 am April 29th, 2013

iam an atractive woman with a goood body and great sense of humor. my boyfriend got so in to porn that he couldnt get hard for me anymore. it hurt me so deeply. i couldnt understand how he could get turned on by ugly women on porn but not for me. it made me feel so ugly and bad about myself. his porn addiction increased until it ruined our sex life. i still cant shake the insecurities i developed. u might think u r not huurting anyone else, but imm telling u it hurtsa

George
2:30 pm April 29th, 2013

Lisa, I understand. You are brave to comment. This will help others. Please call here and talk to one of our counselors. We’ll get you going in the right direction. YOU are fine. Porn kills reality and ruins intimacy. Pick someone who will appreciate you for who you are.

Best, George (Director, Compulsion Solutions)

Dann Aungst
12:40 pm August 15th, 2013

I am a recovering addict and was an addict for nearly 40 years. I think that if a person looks at porn more than once, there is an obvious attraction, a desire which turns into a craving. A craving in and of itself isn’t bad but when is for something that we have been taught as bad or inappropriate then it quickly represents a problem. Everyone who tries to defend porn as normal knows in their heart that its a problem, they just need to justify it for themselves , as I did. I was searching to fulfill something that I was not getting in normal life, in reality. Fantasy is an escape from reality and all porn is, is an attempt to escape from reality and find something that fills what we are missing. But it doesn’t work except for a brief moment, thus we look again, and again, and again. And for many,, (like me) the looking isn’t enough, I must have the real thing…affairs, prostitutes etc. It consumes your life. Eventually life revolves around the escape rather than reality. It distorts perverts,and contaminates what true love and intimacy are. EVERYONE who looks a porn more than once is lacking love, acceptance and/or intimacy in some area of their lives. And pure discipline in most cases will not permanently stop the cycle. It may curb behavior, but the craving is always there unless we find the real problem in ourselves. The real hole in our heart and soul.
And yes, I did use my full and real name in this post. I am committed to helping men find freedom from the devastation of this addiction. If interested, simply Google my name and you can find my book, website etc,

George
6:49 pm August 15th, 2013

Dann, Well put. It takes great courage to show up and tell the truth and you’re doing that. You’re SO right…It’s what’s UNDERNEATH the addiction that needs our attention. Every time we want to act out intimately, something ELSE needs our attention. That’s what we need to pay attention to. We’re both helping men (and women) to realize THAT, as well as helping folks embrace the intimacy that they truly deserve. Thanks so much for your comment. Best, George

Dann Aungst
10:58 am August 18th, 2013

George; I couldn’t figure our how to contact you directly but you obviously respond to comments here so I figured I’d do it this way. If you are interested I would like to send you a copy of my book :”From One Addict to Another”. Please just send me an email at dann[dot]aungst[at]addict2addict[dot]org. And the offer for a free book is open to the next 10 people who see this post too.

George
11:21 pm August 19th, 2013

Dann, It’s easy to get to me through the website….. http://compulsionsolutions.com/. I Look forward to your response.
Best, George

Joe M
6:58 am March 21st, 2014

Everybody knows the fact that porn creates physical, mental, and emotional
negative effects on your life.
There’s No sense in denying it.

Rikki
8:17 pm May 27th, 2014

For a woman, being married to a porn addict is like being married to a gay guy – his sexualy energies are being expressed elsewhere and he has zero interest in you. It may start out as just a little bit of looking at airbrushed pics, but in time that doesn’t satisfy. The addict moves on to more and more obscene stuff and spends more and more time on the addiction. Lunch hour is spent at the strip clubs. Some move on to prostitutes and affairs. “Normal” sex is no longer interesting and, in fact, many addicts have ED issues. The addict, if he could be honest (and they are great liars) would tell you that porn is all he thinks about. Does that sound healthy? No, it sounds like a real problem. Doesn’t really matter if this is technically classified as an addiction or an obsession, the point is that it is destructive. Is it worth losing your job/spouse over this? Do you really want to spend your life in bondage?

Personally, I believe the people who deny this is a problem are, well, in denial.

Jimmie
4:26 am August 13th, 2014

Is there anyone put there experienceing panic attacks because of porn use?

Kara
1:20 am November 17th, 2014

I’m in the same boat with Rikki. And, yes…initially, I thought he was essentially asexual (after I went through the “is he gay” and realized he wasn’t). I only learned how much and how often he obsesses over sex after I learned the extent of his porn addiction. And, yes, I absolutely refer to it as an addiction in that he is unable to quit on his own even though his excessive (and inappropriate–as in at work) usage has wrought havoc throughout his entire adult life.
Mike South–if you do some quick research into why excessive/compulsive porn usage is sometimes referred to as an “addiction”, (I can’t include the link b/c it won’t let me) you should find some discussion of the neurobiological similarities between porn “addiction” and opioid addiction. I get that it’s impossible for a person to actually OD on porn, but it’s not really a contest over which addiction is worse. Any compulsive behavior that has the potential to be life-alteringly detrimental is problematic and worth addressing.

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