In today’s world, porn addiction is the most common form of sexual addiction. Without doubt, this is thanks to the Internet, which offers an almost endless supply of free, easily and anonymously accessible erotic imagery of every ilk imaginable. For porn addicts, the Internet is a bit like dropping an alcoholic in a liquor store and saying, “Everything is free, drink as much as you like, and nobody will know what you’ve been up to.”
In general, porn addiction is defined based on the same criteria as every other addiction:
- Preoccupation to the point of obsession
- Loss of control over use, most often evidenced by failed attempts to quit or cut back
- Directly related negative life consequences, including ruined relationships, problems at work or in school, depression, isolation, shame, loss of interest in previously enjoyable hobbies and activities, declining physical health, financial woes, legal trouble, etc.
Research tells us that active porn addicts typically spend at least eleven hours per week with pornography. And many compulsive porn users say they “lose themselves” in porn for double or even triple that amount of time. Unsurprisingly, most of these hours are spent online, with addicts perusing traditional porn websites, tube sites, dating sites, social media, hookup apps, etc., constantly searching for the perfect image or video, or at least the newest image or video. Yes, traditional forms of pornography still exist—magazines, books, DVDs, adult bookstores, adult theaters, and the like—but digital-era porn addicts nearly always prefer the anonymity, affordability, accessibility, and, most of all, the never-ending variety they can find online.
Common signs that porn use has escalated into porn addiction include:
- Increasing amounts of time spent searching for, viewing, masturbating to, exchanging, and/or organizing pornography
- Continued porn use despite promises made to yourself (or others) to stop
- Continued porn use despite directly related negative life consequences
- Viewing progressively more arousing, intense, or bizarre sexual content
- Lying about, keeping secrets about, and covering up the nature and extent of your porn use
- “Losing time” with porn (intending to go online for a few minutes and then realizing, many hours later, that you are still online)
- Shame about the amount and/or types of porn you are using
- Depression and/or anxiety related to your porn use
- Social and emotional isolation
- Reduced or total loss of interest in real-world sexual relationships
- Anger or irritability if asked to stop using porn
- Masturbation (in conjunction with porn use) to the point of abrasions or injury
- Sexual dysfunction (erectile dysfunction, delayed ejaculation, inability to reach orgasm) with real world partners but not with pornography
- Escalation from two-dimensional images and videos to casual/anonymous hookups, prostitutes, webcams, affairs, etc.
- Drug and alcohol abuse/addiction/relapse in conjunction with (or in response to) porn use
Sadly, most porn addicts are reluctant to seek help for their problem, often because they don’t view their solo sexual behaviors as an underlying source of their ever-increasing life problems. Other times, porn addicts keep quiet because they are too ashamed of their behavior to openly discuss it. Sometimes, as consequences begin to mount, compulsive porn users seek treatment for their addiction’s related symptoms (relationship woes, depression, social isolation, and the like) rather than the porn problem itself. In such cases, these individuals may attend therapy and other 12-step groups for months or even years without ever mentioning or being asked about porn use. As such, their core issue remains underground and untreated, and their symptoms grow worse instead of better.
Written By: Robert Weiss