Everything You Need to Know About Porn Addiction

Even though pornography has been around for thousands of years, it is still a subject that remains as controversial, and will likely never stop being so. It seems that pornography has existed for as long as human beings have been able to create pictures and art. From the sexually explicit Frescoes of Pompeii to the new sexy tech revolution and explorations into virtual reality porn of today. 

There are people who enjoy it occasionally, and others who partake of it regularly. There are also those who are indifferent and uninterested in pornography and others who get deeply offended by it for any number of reasons (be it moral, religious or other). As with other sexual preferences, it is down to personal taste, choice and innate desire. 

This, consequently, also means that there will undoubtedly be people at the other end of the spectrum when it comes to having a ‘healthy’ appetite for pornography. 

Unsurprisingly, the Internet has made porn more accessible than ever before. As long as you have a working Internet connection, you can access what sometimes feels like literally any type of porn you want in an instant with just a few clicks. While this is not entirely a bad thing (depending on who you ask, at least)  it has also given birth to a very modern-age problem in the form of porn addiction.

That’s right - the more widely available pornography has become, the more people there are who have become addicted to it. In fact, it was reported that one-third (33%) of men between the ages of 18 and 30 either think that they are addicted or are unsure if they are addicted to pornography. It would appear that you really can have too much of a good thing.

Sadly, this issue is not being addressed in as much detail as it should be. This article will take a deep dive into it and focus on everything you need to know about porn addiction. 

What is porn addiction?

Before we delve more deeply into this particular issue, it is important to keep in mind that porn addiction is not an actual official diagnosis recognized by psychiatrists (yet). However, when watching porn becomes an uncontrollable compulsion, it affects people’s quality of life just like other addictions do. 

Since porn can sometimes be regarded as a relatively taboo topic (particularly among conservative countries and societies) a lot of people are quite reluctant to talk about it.  This is why it is difficult to get the exact statistics of people who regularly enjoy porn and people who find it impossible to resist. 

What separates a porn addict from someone who simply enjoys watching porn is the negative consequences. If you can spend a large amount of time watching porn at the expense of every other activity in your life, and if viewing porn persists despite harming your relationships, career, and well-being, you are a porn addict. 

At this point, it is important to understand the difference between compulsion and addiction. 

A compulsion is a repetitive behavior that has no rational motivation. Compulsions are often engaged in to reduce anxiety or for some other similar reason. Addictions, on the other hand, involve a clear inability to stop a particular behavior, despite the negative consequences it may have.

Both compulsions and addictions involve a lack of control. It is for this reason that some researchers suggest that porn addiction might actually be more of a compulsion than an addiction. Either way, though, if porn becomes a problem in your life, you need to figure out how to regain control.

What are the signs of porn addiction?

If you occasionally view porn, or if you enjoy watching it regularly, that does not make you an addict. Moderate consumption of pornography is not something that requires fixing.

As we have established, addictions are all about the lack of control. This is what causes significant problems in people’s lives. 

That being said, what are the signs of porn addiction? Well, you may be addicted to porn if;

  • You can’t stop despite trying to do so. You may be spending more and more time online at the expense of everything else in your life, including your relationships.
  • You want more and more porn. You may be consumed by thoughts of porn even when you are not viewing it. This may have you sneaking away to a private space to get your porn “fix”, and you will find yourself making excuses or getting defensive when asked about it. You may also find yourself viewing porn in inappropriate settings, including at work or in social situations. 
  • You lose track of time when viewing porn. You may find yourself losing most of your day to porn and accomplishing very little because of it. You will also become sleep deprived, lethargic and uninterested in anything else. At the same time, the amount of time you spend watching porn keeps increasing.
  • You lose interest in sex. Real sex seems boring, and your partner suddenly becomes less attractive compared to the people you see in porn. You lose interest in their advances, and you become distant and uninterested. You may also require more stimulation than before just to get aroused, and end up enjoying sex more when you view porn first. 
  • You become more demanding in the bedroom. Porn gives you unrealistic expectations and ideas about sex. When your partner cannot meet these expectations, you become frustrated, and this alienates your partner. In the end, they may become physically and emotionally uncomfortable because of your demanding nature. 
  • You start being in physical pain because of your habit. The motions involved in viewing porn and the strain that comes with staring at screens for a long time often lead to physical pain, including at the wrist, back, neck, eyes, and headaches. 
  • You may also find yourself needing a porn “fix” from time to time, and this fix leaves you with a “high”. This is a common symptom of behavioral addictions, and it is what reinforces that addiction. You simply cannot do without that “high”.
  • After watching porn, you feel guilty, ashamed, or depressed about it and its consequences
  • You insist on watching porn with your partner or acting out certain scenes or fantasies even though they don’t want to. Alternatively, you may be keeping your porn secret from your partner altogether. 
  • You get upset when someone asks you to cut back or stop viewing porn

Why is porn addiction a problem today? 

It is a little difficult to pinpoint a specific reason why viewing porn is getting more and more out of control and turning into addictions among many people today. 

Shot of a young couple using their cellphones in bed at night

For most people, it usually starts quite innocently. Watching porn does not seem like it could be a problem at first, and they enjoy the rush that comes with it. Eventually, they start wanting that rush more and more often, and it is that in-the-moment high that always lures them back, even when they try to stop. 

This is how most behavioral addictions sneak up on people. And just like any other addiction, it can happen to anyone. 

Why porn addiction is on the rise

One of the main reasons why porn addiction is on the rise is because there is a lot of porn out there – more than there ever was in history. Plus, it is easier than ever before to get your hands on it. As long as you want it you can have as much of it as you want. 

Therefore, the fact that more people are watching porn than ever before only means that we will continue seeing a higher and higher number of porn addicts. This may seem like a hyperbolic statement or even a sweeping generalization, but if we look at the correlation between the rise in the quantity and accessibility of online porn - we can surely identify causation as well.

More porn generally means more porn addiction. 

The second reason has to do with the age of the addicted demographic. Where teenagers are concerned the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine, responsible for controlling the pleasure and reward centers of the brain and the process of forming neural connections within the brain itself, are at a high level. This means that a younger demographic are at risk more than an older demographic where dopamine production is not quite so high.

So, when it comes to porn, the younger the viewer, the greater the neural response to it. This response could potentially last for a very long time. 

This is why the fact that this younger, more susceptible population, has more access to porn than ever before could be one of the reasons why porn addiction has become such a significant problem today. In 2016, it was found that about 53% of 11-16-year olds in the US have seen explicit material online at some point in their lives. And this number is getting bigger every year. 

Why pornography is causing problems 

The porn industry is very male-dominated, male-driven, and male-targeted. Plus, as we have seen, porn often has a lasting impression on the user’s idea of what sex is supposed to be. 

In the end, it presents one world view and one side of the story to its audience. This has a massive effect because you end up with an entire generation of people who believe that good sex is what you see in porn.

Several studies have shown that porn does affect real-life sex to worrying degrees. And it’s not just men who are feeling its adverse effects. The number of women who underwent a labiaplasty, which is a procedure that reduces the size of the vagina, in the US in 2016, rose by about 40%. It is believed that this procedure was elected by women who want to keep up with what they see in porn, and by women whose partners impose their unrealistic expectations on them. 

A 2014 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that one out of every four new erectile dysfunction patients were under the age of 40. Since then, more and more young men are seeking treatment for ED, a condition normally associated with the middle-aged and elderly. 

The study found that one of the reasons for this was that more and more people are being introduced to porn at an increasingly younger age. By their late teens and early 20s, they will have become desensitized and unable to get aroused in the bedroom. 

This problem is exacerbated by the fact that everyone has a smartphone now, and porn is extremely easy to access. 

What problems can porn-addiction cause?

If left untreated, porn addiction can become a destructive force in your life. Just like any addiction, it can have a serious impact on your day-to-day living, including (but obviously not limited to) the following: 

Porn addiction can impact relationships

Porn addiction can make it difficult to form and maintain meaningful relationships - and this is especially true for sexual relationships, which are usually the first to feel the negative impact of porn addiction. 

Porn addiction can lower sexual satisfaction

It’s already been established, time and again, that porn sex is not ‘real’ sex. SO, it comes as no surprise to learn that when you are addicted to porn, regular sex becomes less satisfying than it used to be, and you find yourself thinking that porn is better than the real thing. 

Porn addiction can lower self-esteem

Behavioral addictions can often lead to feelings of guilt and self-hatred. Additionally, the unrealistic expectations that come with over-exposure can make you feel less attractive while also causing problems for your partner when they cannot meet your expectations about their appearance.

Porn addiction can cause financial and career problems

This might seem like a no-brainer (as career and finances almost always suffer when someone has an addiction that causes disruptive behaviors), but it is not often mentioned, at least not as much as the more ‘sexually charged’ problems (like problems with intimacy and sexual dysfunction). But when you are so addicted that you put porn above everything else in your life, it stands to reason that you’ll neglect your obligations and responsibilities.

The nature of addiction also means that free pornography will eventually lose its appeal and also means you’ll likely end up spending money on what you feel is higher quality content, which can quickly become a financial burden. When an addiction is so strong that is is a compulsion - this can lead to risky and unusual behaviors - such as watching pornography at inappropriate times (like whilst at work, for example). 

Porn addiction can cause irritability and anger issues

Just like an addiction to cigarettes or alcohol - deprivation can lead to feelings of irritability and anger. You will also become less patient, seeing everything else as things that take up your precious porn-viewing time. This can cause you to lash out at the people who are closest to you, and they will notice major changes in your personality. 

Porn addiction can lead to a need for more extreme content

Porn alters the way we view sex. Even a mild consumption often has some effect on your world view. Plus, the dopamine increase that results from it will mean that you will need a stronger sensation from real sex to match it. This is actually the main reason why addicts feel like real sex is no longer as satisfying as porn. 

Therefore, generally speaking, the more porn you watch, the more desensitized you become. Regular porn becomes too “vanilla” for you, and you find yourself seeking increasingly more hardcore, more violent, more aggressive, and more demeaning porn. Eventually, you will gradually progress to a need for more graphic and extreme porn. 

The effect of this need will trickle down to your relationships, and you may find that can only enjoy more extreme sex. In the end, the relationships you build may end up being one-sided, violent, and centered around sex. 

How do you overcome porn addiction?

While pornography addiction can be destructive and debilitating, it is important to remember that, like other addictions, it is an illness - and consequently nothing to feel ashamed of (though this is obviously easier said than done). One of the first steps toward healing is to accept and forgive oneself; so if you are reading this and think that you may have an unhealthy relationship with pornography that is causing pain in your life - know first that you are not alone, and second that shame is not going to help to heal you. 

Finger over the delete key from a dusty black keyboard.

Working to curb your addiction, on the other hand, will ultimately lead to self-healing. Enrolling in support groups and 12 step programmes designed to help fight addiction can be a big help, but there are also habits that you can form and steps that you can take to help yourself. 

It is possible to regain control over your porn addiction on your own. Here are a few things you can try: 

  • Delete porn bookmarks and downloads on all your devices
  • Discard hard copy porn
  • Have someone install anti-porn software on your devices without giving you the password
  • Have someone you trust who you can be accountable to about your porn habit
  • Have an activity or two constantly ready that you can turn to when the urge hits
  • Remind yourself how porn has affected your life whenever you want to view it. Have a list written down if that’ll help, and always take it out and read it when the urge hits
  • Find the things that trigger that urge for you and try to avoid them
  • Keep a journal and track your setbacks, lessons, reminders, and alternate activities that prove effective

If you follow the above advice and suggestions but find you are still struggling to curb your habit, it may be time to bring in some outside help.

Seeking external help for porn addiction

Sometimes going it alone just does not yield the results you want.

Having an addiction can be extremely isolating in and of itself - and add to that the potential feelings of guilt, shame or embarrassment that can accompany a porn addiction and you have a recipe for suffering in silence.

But it really shouldn’t be this way!

If you’ve tried to shake the habit alone, but can’t - then consider seeing a therapist or other professional to find out what treatment options are available. The medical professional will come up with an individualized treatment plan to help you deal with your addiction. 

Therapy can go a long way in helping people with compulsions and addictions. You’ll also get the extra help you need if your porn addiction also includes anxiety, depression, or signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

Additionally, depending on how porn is affecting your life, your therapist may also recommend individual, group, or family counseling. 

Counseling will help you figure out what caused the addiction in the first place to help you work your way back from there. You can also develop effective coping mechanisms with your therapist that will help you change your relationship with porn. 

Some final thoughts about porn addiction

Now that we’ve explored porn addiction and its consequences, it is important to point out that the simple act of viewing porn does not mean you have a problem! Viewing pornography is a perfectly natural and non-damaging human behavior. Just like having a fetish for feet, or sniffing used panties - what arouses us sexually is as broad and diverse as the human race itself.

So it is only natural that, along the way, some of us may fall victim to overexposure to such things, and potentially harmful habits can develop. 

So, if you find yourself viewing porn too much, and you cannot stop no matter how hard you try, it might be time to start thinking about ways to curb your exposure to pornography. Consider seeking help from a professional specializing in compulsions and addictions - but above all, remember that porn addiction is nothing to be ashamed of.