Porn Addiction: Signs, Causes and Treatment

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While the use of porn is common, most people who view porn do not have an addiction. Porn addiction can usually be identified by large amounts of time spent watching explicit material and the negative consequences associated with it.

This blog looks at the signs, symptoms, causes and health risks of porn addiction, and how to overcome it.

What is porn addiction?

Porn addiction – also called cybersex addiction – is a behavioral disorder where sufferers struggle with excessive and problematic viewing of graphic, sexually-explicit material. Porn stops being something they watch purely for entertainment and starts consuming their thoughts at all times.

According to Relativity (formerly known as The Sexual Recovery Institute) “most porn addicts get their ‘fix’ on the internet, spending at least 11 or 12 hours per week on digital devices in search of the perfect image or video. Many are on the hunt two or three times that amount.”

Although traditional types of pornography are still in use – such as books, magazines and DVDs – the internet has made porn much more widely available. Most users prefer the anonymity, affordability and instant accessibility of online porn.

Some experts proposed adding porn addiction to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5) as a subtype of hypersexual disorder. However, the American Psychological Association reports that DSM reviewers made the decision to exclude it from the manual due to a lack of evidence supporting its inclusion.

In fact, porn addiction is a controversial issue with some research disputing that that it is a real condition at all.

Prevalence of porn addiction

Research by de Alarcon et al. 2019 suggests that the prevalence of porn addiction may be about 3-6% but acknowledges that it is difficult to be more precise because there is not a formal definition of the disorder.

A 2017 study by the Université Laval in Quebec identified three types of porn user:

  • Recreational (75.5%)
  • Highly distressed non-compulsive (12.7%)
  • Compulsive (11.8%).

Online porn statistics

Pornography is a multibillion-dollar industry. A 2015 report suggested that the porn industry is worth more than all professional sports combined. The report revealed some other statistics about porn use in the US:

  • 40 million Americans regularly visit porn sites
  • 10% of Americans class themselves as addicted to internet porn
  • 20% of men and 13% of women admit to viewing porn at work
  • One-third of porn viewers are women.

Signs and symptoms of porn addiction

Some common signs and symptoms of porn addiction include:

  • Long periods of time (hours or days) spent finding and watching porn
  • Continuing to access porn despite negative repercussions and/or promises to stop
  • Increasing the intensity or type of sexual content viewed to get the same fix
  • Lack of interest in other activities, including those previously enjoyed
  • Getting irritable or angry if asked to stop
  • Lying and trying to hide porn use from others
  • Using alcohol or drugs in conjunction with porn
  • Relationship problems, and social isolation from friends and family
  • Inability or disinterest in forming lasting romantic relationships
  • Loss of interest in sexual relationships with spouse or partner
  • Feelings of shame or depression regarding use
  • Compulsive masturbation habits, including in public spaces
  • Using the internet for anonymous sexual rendezvous or to find prostitutes
  • Problems at school or work due to inappropriate use of technology.

Causes of porn addiction

Porn addiction is a complex issue with a range of possible causes. Some of these causes may include:

  • Underlying mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety
  • Substance use problems, or family members who have them
  • Family conflict
  • History of physical or sexual abuse
  • Brain chemical imbalance – high levels of serotonin and norepinephrine have been linked to porn addiction
  • Relationship issues – porn can be an outlet for sexual problems.

How is porn addiction diagnosed?

As porn addiction is not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5), there is no definitive diagnostic criteria for mental health professionals to refer to.

However, it is generally agreed that a person has a problem with porn if they spend an excessive amount of time viewing, collecting and/or downloading porn, and it interferes with their daily life, relationships, career, education, health, finances and ability to function.

Health risks of porn addiction

People who spend hours watching online porn can suffer from physical health risks linked to a sedentary lifestyle. These include heart problems, musculoskeletal disorders, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and obesity. Porn addiction can also cause physical harm to a sufferer’s genitalia if they masturbate too much.

For most people, watching porn does not lead to mental health problems. However, porn addiction has been linked to several underlying mental health conditions including depression and anxiety. A sufferer may also watch porn excessively in order to escape from psychological distress.

Treatment for porn addiction

It is important to seek treatment if you, or a loved one, are struggling with problematic porn use.

As with any type of addiction, treatment methods for porn addiction vary. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is often used to uncover any underlying emotional and psychological reasons for the addiction. Porn addiction sometimes co-occurs with other addictions, such as digital addiction, and it is important that these behaviors are also addressed.

At Kindbridge, we have therapists who specialize in helping people with porn addiction. They will be able to identify underlying problems and offer evidence-based treatment to help you, or a loved one, regain control of your porn use.

Get in touch today to book your free 30-minute consultation.

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