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Porn Addiction

Pornography addiction, not officially classified in the DSM-5 but recognized as a behavioral addiction, significantly affects mental health and personal relationships. This condition, often shrouded in secrecy and stigma, parallels recognized disorders like Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder and is effectively treated with psychotherapy, behavior modification, and support groups.

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Getting Help For Pornography Addiction

Pornography addiction is a compulsive desire to consume pornography through sexual images, videos, erotic novels, or pornographic artwork despite damaging consequences. Individuals may experience intense cravings and the urge to view more.

Whether a person chooses to view pornography is generally considered a personal choice. However, when your use of pornography starts negatively affecting you, it’s time to make a change.

Quick Overview of Porn Addiction

As of 2024, even though pornography addiction isn’t officially listed as a specific mental disorder in the leading guide used by mental health experts in the U.S., it’s still a topic of serious discussion. This guide, called the DSM-5, helps professionals diagnose mental health issues, but it doesn’t yet recognize “porn addiction” as a separate problem, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be in the future.

Even though it’s not labeled as an “addiction” in the DSM-5, the challenges people face with excessive porn use are recognized and addressed by health professionals.

If someone is struggling with porn addiction, they might find themselves using it too much, to the point where it gets in the way of their everyday life. They might try to stop or cut down but find it really hard to do so. This issue is taken seriously by those who help with mental health, and they often treat it by talking through the problem, trying to change behaviors, and sometimes joining support groups.

When people talk about porn addiction, they usually mean a kind of behavioral addiction. This means someone might feel a strong urge to watch porn, even when it causes problems in their life, like hurting their relationships or affecting their job. It’s a bit like other problems that are officially recognized, such as Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder, which an international health organization acknowledges.

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Pornography Addiction as a Behavioral Addiction

Porn addiction is a type of behavioral addiction. Behavioral addiction is an addiction to a specific behavior or activity. Someone with a behavioral addiction will continue engaging in the addictive behavior regardless of its negative impact. For instance, someone with an addiction will keep viewing it even after it has caused problems in their daily life.

Behavioral addictions are similar to alcohol or drug addiction because they affect the same part of the brain as drug or alcohol abuse. Over time, a person can become addicted to a specific behavior (i.e., use of porn) due to the dopamine their brain releases while engaging in this activity.

While pornography addiction doesn’t have the same adverse health results as substance use disorder, such as overdose or death, it can still cause significant consequences to a person’s mental health and well-being.

Some examples of other behavioral addictions include:

What Causes Addiction to Porn?

Porn addiction can happen to anyone. Like any behavioral addiction, it occurs due to overusing certain brain chemicals.

The causes of porn addiction are a mix of nature and nurture, wiring and environment.

While viewing porn, brain activity in the reward center increases, releasing dopamine—the brain’s “feel good” chemical. This dopamine rush feels good to our brains, and we often seek out that same behavior to get that positive sensation.

In this case, a person getting a dopamine rush from viewing pornography might continue to seek out porn to feel those sensations.

However, the brain adapts over time, and it takes more and more of the same behaviors to achieve the same effect. A person can become dependent on porn to feel sexual satisfaction. Eventually, this dependency can lead to compulsive behavior and addiction.

Common Warning Signs

While using pornography doesn’t automatically mean an addiction will develop, there are some warning signs that your pornography usage might be becoming problematic.

Below are some potential warning signs of addiction to porn:

  • A less satisfying sex life
  • Trying to stop using porn, but can’t
  • The feeling of shame after viewing porn but continuing to do so
  • Engaging in risky behavior to view porn
  • Experiencing relationship issues as a result of pornography
  • Allowing porn to get in the way of other responsibilities
  • Needing to view more and more porn to reach the desired effect
  • “Graduating” to more extreme forms of pornography while masturbating
  • Using pornography as a way to cope with emotional or mental health issues
  • Getting into financial trouble as a result of spending money on pornography
  • Constantly thinking about pornography
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Negative Consequences of Problematic Pornography Use

Like other addictions, it can cause issues for the porn addict and their loved ones (typically their romantic partners).

The American Psychological Association points out that viewing pornography can often be detrimental to the sexual health of a relationship. For instance, research shows that some men who use pornography report lower levels of sexual activity in their real-life relationships.

What Are The Effects of Porn Consumption?

Pornography addiction, while often not given the same level of concern as substance addictions, can have profound long-term impacts on individuals. These effects can range from social isolation due to excessive consumption and feelings of shame to more severe consequences like distorted views on relationships, decreased libido, and potential mental health challenges like depression and anxiety.

Porn addiction can alter the brain’s reward system, desensitizing individuals to real-life stimuli and leading to porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED). Relationship strain, unrealistic sexual expectations, decreased trust, and a loss of interest in non-porn-related activities are other effects of this addiction.

For those in a committed relationship, dealing with a porn addiction can lead to a wide variety of issues, including:

  • Neglecting their partner
  • Sexual dysfunction unless using pornography
  • Feelings of betrayal by the partner/spouse of the person
  • Loss of trust in their relationships
  • Damaged self-esteem in the partner/spouse
  • Infidelity

Even for those who are not in a committed relationship, someone battling compulsive porn use might still deal with many negative consequences, such as:

  • Isolation
  • Neglecting other areas of their lives, such as work or school
  • Distorted perceptions about sex and relationships
  • Negative feelings about themselves
  • Development of sexual addiction
  • Low self-esteem or issues with body image

Pornography Addiction Statistics

While the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) does not recognize porn addiction as an official mental health condition, the World Health Organization added compulsive sexual behavior to its list of mental health disorders in 2018.

Below are some statistics about pornography addiction:

  • Roughly 200,000 Americans are addicted to porn.
  • A 2019 National Institutes of Health (NIH) study found that 3-6% of people suffer from some form of hypersexual disorder (including porn addiction).
  • In 2019, the well-known pornography website PornHub received 115 million daily visits.
  • A 2002 Kinsey Institute survey found that 9% of people who viewed porn were unsuccessful when trying to stop.
  • According to a 2013 Forbes article, 25% of adults have admitted to looking at porn on their work computers.
  • About 35% of all internet downloads are porn-related.

Who’s at Risk Of Developing An Addiction To Porn?

While not everyone who watches porn will develop a problem, some people may find themselves at a greater risk than others.

Someone prone to or currently addicted to something else is likelier to develop an addiction. Individuals with mental health conditions are also at a greater risk of developing an addiction to pornography.

Studies have also shown that certain biological factors, such as changes in brain chemistry, can also increase the risk.

Porn Use’s Connection to Hypersexual Behavior

Porn addiction falls under a broader category known as hypersexual disorder. Hypersexual disorder, also known as compulsive sexual behavior, refers to any repeated behavior or preoccupation that is sexual and difficult to control, can negatively affect you, and can cause distress.

Some common examples of hypersexual behavior include:

  • Excessive masturbation
  • Often engaging in cybersex or telephone sex
  • Sexual addiction
  • Paying for sex
  • Frequenting strip club visits
  • Having multiple sexual partners at once

It is important to remember that while porn and sex addiction fall under the same umbrella of hypersexual disorder, they are not the same thing.

The Danger of Porn’s Accessibility

Pornography comes in many formats, including movies, videos, real-life pictures, artwork, and erotic novels. It is also easily accessible due to the internet.

Some forms of pornography require purchasing. Adult “sex shops” and other retail stores sell pornographic content. People can also make pornographic purchases online through website subscriptions or memberships.

However, many websites offer free pornographic content, which can be problematic for a few reasons. For one, underage people can access porn sites from their computers or smartphones. While porn websites include a disclaimer that the sites are only for individuals 18 and up, a curious teen can easily bypass this screen and access material that isn’t age-appropriate.

A 2020 study found that 25% of young adults say they consume porn as their primary source of sexual education, which poses another problem. By learning about sex from porn, teens and young adults will likely develop a skewed perspective of healthy sexual relationships.

Pornographic materials can also warp their self-esteem by providing an unrealistic representation of the human body.

Take Porn Addiction Assessments & Quizzes

Since viewing pornography is private, it might be difficult for someone to confide in friends or loved ones if they think they have a problem with porn. However, someone worried about their viewing habits can start with a self-assessment test to examine their behavior.

One valuable tool that can help determine if you are addicted to porn is the Porn Addiction Test.

This test is based on the six symptoms of addiction and is utilized much like drug and alcohol addiction screening tests.

How to Find Treatment for Porn Addiction

If you have taken the test and it indicates that you are fighting a battle with porn addiction or feel that your pornographic consumption has gotten out of hand, it is time to take steps toward fixing the problem. Some withdrawal symptoms may arise during detoxing from compulsive masturbation, and it can put someone with a history of substance abuse at risk of using drugs and alcohol again.

There are several options for those seeking treatment, including pornography addiction rehab, psychotherapy, medication, and counseling. These options vary based on the severity of the addiction and a person’s unique situation.

For those who do not seek professional treatment or want to treat themselves first before seeking professional help, there are many things you can do on your own.

Some helpful home remedy tools include:

  • Delete all downloaded porn and all bookmarks on all devices
  • Throw away any hard copies of pornography
  • Ask a trusted friend, family member, spouse, or loved one to install anti-porn software on all electronic devices and hide the passwords.
  • Confide in someone you can trust and who will hold you accountable
  • Keep a journal to track your progress and take notes
  • Chose another activity that you can do when the urge to view porn hits
  • Identify possible triggers and try to avoid them
  • Remind yourself of the negative consequences of watching porn when the urge arises
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Treatment & Rehab Programs

For those seeking professional help, or if you tried home remedies that didn’t work, one option is to enter an inpatient or outpatient rehab program. These programs are similar to your enrollment for a substance abuse problem.

As with most addiction treatment programs, porn addiction rehab uses various therapies, including group and individual counseling.

Therapy

While rehab programs provide therapy, you don’t have to go to rehab to see a therapist. Psychotherapy is the most popular form of psychiatry used by therapists, counselors, and other mental health professionals for treating porn addiction.

Psychotherapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), helps identify the triggers that led to the development of the addiction.

Psychotherapy can also help in learning healthy and more productive ways to deal with these triggers in the future.

Medication

In some instances, a person might turn to using pornography as a way to cope with mental health struggles like stress or anxiety. In those situations, a therapist might prescribe medication to help with the mental health condition(s) that might have contributed to the issue.

Some medications that are designed to help control brain chemicals and can be effective while treating porn addiction include:

  • Mood stabilizers
  • Antidepressants
  • Naltrexone
  • Anti-androgens

Support Groups for Porn & Sex Addiction

Much like support groups are available for those battling other addictions such as drugs, alcohol, and gambling, there are also support groups for those battling pornography addiction.

Support groups provide a safe and supportive environment to work through your addiction with others struggling with the same issue. Not only can support groups offer encouragement and accountability, but they can also help improve your overall mindset and emotional well-being.

One of the largest support groups for those dealing with porn addiction is the Sex and Pornography Addiction Support Group section on the DailyStrength website.

You can also ask your doctor or therapist to recommend any support groups in your area.

Lastly, there are mobile apps focused on treating porn addiction that can help with accountability and ongoing support.

For the Spouse or Partner of An Addict

The range of emotions can be expansive for the spouse or partner of a person with porn addiction. They might feel sad or even ashamed that their significant other is obsessed with pornography. In some cases, they might even feel as though they have been cheated on.

If you are the spouse or partner of someone with porn addiction, tools are available to get the help you need.

Talking to a professional can be a healthy way to work through some of your feelings. You can also learn strategies to speak with your loved one about their issue.

Couples counseling can be a vital tool in recovery for individuals battling addiction, resulting in problems with their romantic partner. Couples counseling provides a safe space for you and your significant other to discuss how your addiction has affected your relationship. It can also help rebuild lost trust between you.

Additionally, there are support groups available specifically for those who are the spouse or partner of a porn addict. A group of women started the Hope and Healing website for spouses of pornography addicts. They chronicle their journeys as addicts’ wives and offer advice and comfort for others in similar situations.

Top Resources (April 2024)

Our comprehensive guide on pornography addiction resources covers various support systems and tools for individuals grappling with porn addiction and resources for families, spouses, and parents.

  • Recognized platforms like BetterHelp offer professional online therapy
  • Resources like Fight the New Drug and Recovery Zone focus on education and holistic treatment.
  • Several mobile apps like Relay App, Canopy, and Brainbuddy are available for real-time content filtering and habit-changing activities.

We also include targeted advice and resources for spouses, parents, and students.

Christian-specific and other faith-based resources are also included for those seeking spiritual guidance in overcoming addiction.

Getting Help for Your Problem with Pornography

If you find that watching pornography has hurt your life, it might be time to stop and seek help. Viewing pornography excessively can cause serious problems, whether or not it is addictive in the traditional medical sense.

Although there is disagreement about the causes of pornography addiction, treatment usually involves addressing an underlying issue, which could relate to mental health. Simple lifestyle changes or behavioral health treatments can help tremendously for some people.

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FAQs about Porn Addiction

How is pornography addiction treated?

Porn addiction can be treated using various methods, including home remedies, inpatient or outpatient rehab, therapy, medication, and support groups.

What percentage of people who visit porn sites are addicted?

Anywhere from 3-6% of all people who visit a porn website are addicted to porn.

What is the definition of pornography addiction?

Someone battling pornography addiction is so emotionally dependent on pornography that it interferes with their ability to function or go about everyday life.

How is pornography defined?

Pornography is a term used to describe any material that is erotic, including pictures, videos, artwork, and writing. In the context of porn addiction, pornography and the intimate experience generated by interacting with it, is similar to other addictive substances.

What are the possible effects of pornography addiction?

Someone suffering from pornography addiction might experience a less satisfying sex life, increased agitation, problems with their spouse or partner, or financial problems resulting from their addiction, amongst other issues.

How can I get help with porn addiction?

Getting help begins with understanding the reality of the issue and pursuing psychological therapy solutions that can help change behavioral addictions.

What are the top porn addiction resources available?

Our helpful and comprehensive guide on porn addiction resources available covers a range of support systems and tools that can be useful for individuals who are struggling with pornography addiction, as well as for their families, spouses, and parents. Various recognized platforms like BetterHelp provide professional online therapy, while others, like Fight the New Drug and Recovery Zone, focus on education and holistic treatment. Additionally, several mobile apps, such as Canopy and Brainbuddy, offer real-time content filtering and habit-changing activities. We also provide targeted advice and resources specifically for spouses, parents, and students.

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. is a founder of Addiction HelpReviewed by:Kent S. Hoffman, D.O.

Chief Medical Officer & Co-Founder

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. has been an expert in addiction medicine for more than 15 years. In addition to managing a successful family medical practice, Dr. Hoffman is board certified in addiction medicine by the American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine (AOAAM). Dr. Hoffman has successfully treated hundreds of patients battling addiction. Dr. Hoffman is the Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of AddictionHelp.com and ensures the website’s medical content and messaging quality.

Jessica Miller is the Content Manager of Addiction HelpWritten by:

Editorial Director

Jessica Miller is the Editorial Director of Addiction Help. Jessica graduated from the University of South Florida (USF) with an English degree and combines her writing expertise and passion for helping others to deliver reliable information to those impacted by addiction. Informed by her personal journey to recovery and support of loved ones in sobriety, Jessica's empathetic and authentic approach resonates deeply with the Addiction Help community.

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