Breaking The Porn Addiction Cycle

The pornographic industry handles billions of dollars of revenue every year in the United States alone. Worldwide, this number almost doubles. On top of that, pornographic websites make up 12% of the websites on the internet, with a quarter of all search engine requests related to pornography.

This isn’t surprising considering that one study found that 93% of boys and 62% of girls will have been exposed to porn before the age of 18, with the average age of a child being exposed to porn being 11. This cohort of young men, in particular, is especially prominent in the population of people who watch porn regularly. This makes them even more at risk of pornography addiction.

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The Alarming Statistics About Porn Addiction Among Young Men

Although the majority of both boys and girls are exposed to porn in their teenage years, boys are more likely to come across porn earlier in life, more extreme images, and in general view porn more often. Girls, on the other hand, are more likely to be exposed involuntarily.

As they grow older, men are more than six times as likely than women to watch porn. In addition, more than 70% of men between the ages of 18 and 24 report watching porn regularly. A Kinsey Institute study found that 9% of people who regularly watch porn have tried and failed to stop. Porn addiction is becoming a growing concern.

Just as the process often is for drugs, some people are exposed for the first time, then begin viewing porn regularly, and finally, become dependent on porn and develop an addiction. The consequences for individuals who struggle with an addiction to porn can have detrimental effects on themselves and the people around them.

The Consequences of Porn Addiction for Individuals and Their Relationships

Just like any addiction, an addiction to porn can interfere with an individual’s daily function as well as their interpersonal relationships. There is a thin line between watching porn regularly and becoming addicted to it, that is, developing a dependence on porn and not being able to stop consuming pornography.

The effects of porn addiction can permeate the entirety of an individual’s life. One study found correlations between individuals’ use of porn and their tendencies to be more risky in their attitudes towards sex and sexual behavior. Furthermore, there are links between porn use and substance abuse, as well as severe clinical depression. In addition, people who are unable to stop themselves from watching porn at work can suffer financial losses or even lose their jobs.

An addiction to porn most prominently can have negative consequences for an individual’s relationships. In general, porn addiction can lead to a decreased quality in the relationship and an increased risk of infidelity – porn users are 3 times more likely to be unfaithful in marriage. It can negatively affect sex drive as well as make it difficult to initiate sexual encounters. This can make it hard for an individual to achieve the intimacy necessary with their partner in order to maintain the relationship. Almost half of sex addicts end up losing their spouses.

This is especially true when individuals are exposed to porn at a young age. The portrayal of sexual interactions in porn is often unrealistic and can be very different from reality. Individuals who regularly watch porn can then develop unrealistic expectations of sex and intimacy in real life and be disappointed by their partners. This consequence can be even more pronounced in young people who start watching porn before they have relationships and start exploring intimacy and sex alongside a partner. In general, young people who watch porn regularly tend to have lower self-esteem and be more likely to have depression.

How Can You Tell If You Are Addicted To Porn?

Forty million people in the United States report regularly consuming porn. Even more are exposed to porn involuntarily through webpage pop-ups or spam emails. With the heavy use of porn in America, 9% of users report feeling addicted to pornography. This can happen when one crosses the line between wanting to use porn regularly to needing to use porn regularly.

When watching porn no longer becomes enjoyable or fun, but rather obligatory in order to be sexually satisfied, an addiction has developed.

An addiction to porn, like all addictions, will have characteristic withdrawal symptoms. These are symptoms that you may feel if you try to stop watching porn. If you’re unable to stop consuming pornography or you get angry when you’re told to stop, you could be addicted to porn. Other symptoms of withdrawal include being secretive about using porn and continuing to regularly watch porn, even if it negatively impacts your life.

You may also feel depressed or anxious without watching porn. In addition, feelings of guilt and shame accompanying the use of porn can lead to lower self-esteem and a negative mood.

Is Porn Addiction Different Between Men and Women?

Many studies have shown that men tend to watch more porn than women, as well as consume porn with more “hardcore” or rough sexual encounters. One study interestingly found that men watching porn was associated with a lower quality of sex, while on the other hand, women watching porn was associated with an increase in intimacy. This may be due to many reasons.
For one, men are more likely to watch porn alone. Women, however, are more likely to watch porn together with their partners. Watching porn as a couple can help bond two people in a relationship and encourage intimacy, although this is heavily dependent on the couple and the type of porn. Couples who watch porn together typically view pornography that is more “soft” or has a story.

In any case, when either individual in a relationship is addicted to porn and is dependent on using it regularly, the relationship tends to suffer. The partner who is addicted to porn will typically feel more isolated, secretive, and be more likely to be depressed. Porn can be used in a productive manner, but an addiction and over-dependence on porn can be detrimental for any individual or relationship.

How To Break the Porn Addiction Cycle

Because of both compulsion and withdrawal symptoms, an addiction to porn, just like any other addiction, can be difficult to recover from.

Individuals who are addicted to porn may need to watch porn in order to get sexual pleasure or relieve feelings of depression, and may also struggle with feelings of shame and guilt because of their behaviors. They may feel caught in an endless cycle of negative moods and low self-esteem.

However, there is always a way to break the cycle. If you’re struggling with an addiction to porn, it’s important to realize the fact that you’re not alone, and porn addiction is real. The DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) considered including porn addiction in their latest revision and already has a section on behavioral addictions. This is in parallel to substance abuse disorders and hypersexuality.

The next thing to do when struggling with an addiction to porn is to begin to accept your porn addiction. It can be especially difficult to acknowledge to yourself that there is a problem. Here, talking to the people close to you can be helpful. Opening up to others can help process negative feelings or withdrawal symptoms.

Another useful way to recover from an addiction to porn is to distract yourself with other activities or coping mechanisms. Doing things you find enjoyable (like listening to music, going out for a walk, eating with friends, etc.) can help take your mind off a compulsion for porn or withdrawal symptoms. This should take up more time in your day and give you less time to spend on porn.

If these options are not enough, you can also get professional help. This can mean talking to a therapist or a psychologist. They can provide therapy and counseling to help treat porn addiction. They may also recommend joining a support group or offer other resources to help. Peer support groups can be encouraging, both in meeting other people who also struggle with porn addiction and picking up new ideas. Still, the most effective treatments are often forms of therapy. Therapies to treat porn addiction can include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), and psychodynamic therapy.

Finally, an addiction to porn is often combined with other addictions and mental health disorders, like substance abuse. Still, the methods listed above can be greatly helpful in dealing with these struggles as well. A health professional can help put together a personalized integrated care plan. If you’re struggling with an addiction to porn, talking to friends and family, using distracting coping mechanisms, joining a peer support group, and/or making an appointment for therapy or counseling can be a huge first step towards putting you on a swift road to recovery.

Where To Find Porn Addiction Counseling

Finding counseling with a therapist can be difficult, especially if you have poor or no coverage with mental health insurance. Thankfully, there are ways to get around this. There are many resources available to help you find counseling from a therapist or addiction center.

Here are some online directories to help you find therapy:

  • Rise Above the Disorder provides you with resources for finding a therapist, answering questions about mental health, and applying for grants to cover therapy costs.
  • 211 is an online directory where you can search for local resources and support.
  • Aunt Bertha is another online directory where you can search for free or reduced cost local resources.

If you are unable to find counseling with these resources, another option is to go to your primary care physician and ask for a referral for a psychiatrist. Your doctor may have other helpful resources to offer as well. If you feel that you need to be in a separate setting, completely removed from your addiction, you may also consider a rehabilitation addiction center.

You can look up some rehab addiction centers here:

  • Addiction Center is an online informational guide that works with treatment facilities to provide addicts with treatment, counseling, rehab placement, and financial support.
  • Addiction.com offers many different types of addiction treatment programs as well as information on various addictions and a free consultation.

Although it can be difficult to overcome at first, it is now easier than ever to find counseling for porn addiction. This will point you in the right direction to turn your life around and recover.

Lastly, if you’re struggling with porn addiction, it can be helpful to learn more about the biology of addictions and how they work. Between counseling sessions, you can pick up the go to reference for porn addiction: Your Brain On Porn, by Gary Wilson and Anthony Jack. This book contains essential information for anyone dealing with an addiction.

Your Brain On Porn

Here, Gary Wilson gives an analysis of the neuroscience behind addiction and describes the mechanisms of craving. Most importantly, he talks about how these brain functions affect our daily lives and what can be done to help combat this.

In short, the summary for this encouraging read:

When high speed internet became widely available a few years ago, growing numbers of people began to worry that their porn use was running out of control. Far from preparing them for fulfilling relationships, viewing an endless stream of porn videos led to unexpected symptoms. Perhaps most surprisingly, for the first time in history erectile dysfunction was becoming a significant problem for young men.

This led to one of the largest informal experiments in the history of science. Tens of thousands of people have tried abstaining from sexually stimulating material in a process they call ‘rebooting’. Many of them reported startling changes, from improved concentration and elevated mood to a greater capacity for real-life intimacy.

Your Brain on Porn

More Online Resources

Sometimes counseling and therapy aren’t enough to combat porn addiction. Or you simply don’t have the financial means to go to counseling or check into a rehab center.

If not, here are some more online resources to explore:

Porn addiction is a real problem, and the fast growth of the internet will only make it more of an issue. With these resources under your belt, you are fully equipped to combat and treat an addiction to porn. Now, you can take your first steps towards recovery!

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