How Do You Know if You Have a Pornography Addiction?

Jul 31, 2018

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Teen boy sitting on steps outside looking concerned while using a tablet

Many individuals and couples try and convince one another that a “little porn” will help their intimacy, while teens convince themselves that a “little peek here and there” won’t hurt anyone…until it does. When the idealized love interest becomes the ever-present object in one’s mind and heart, taking over daily thoughts and real life interactions, one must wonder if they have an addiction to pornography.

Is Porn a Problem Or An Addiction?

Individuals question and defend whether or not their porn use is disabling, a fetish, a problem or an addiction. Regardless of the label, dabbling in porn often begins the end of their personal and relational stability.

Experts in the field of sexual addiction often ask their clients if their obsession has complicated their social, relational and occupational functioning. With the accessibility of online pornography, many have found it easy to access pornography during their school and workday. Easy access begins easy dependence. Gone are the days of having to drive to adult bookstores, dance clubs or massage parlors; much can be found online which gives parents and loved ones pause as they consider what is “normal” behavior and what behavior becomes a “problem?”

Addiction specialists think of potential addictive behaviors on a continuum ranging from infrequent, occasional, binging, to addictive, keeping in mind that all addictive behaviors are progressive over time. Any of these can cause problems personally or in relationships, regardless of the intensity of the problem. It is not uncommon for the “addict” to minimize the acting out even when their loved one is suffering. The use of porn often begins as one partner exploring pornography on their own, often to excess, and then trying to convince the other partner to engage in an “enhancement” to their intimacy. Sadly, what begins to happen is an envious experience of one idealized partner against the real-life partner.

Teens and Pornography

Teens who access online pornography dangerously enter into the world of private sexual exposure that can alter their expectations for healthy relationships and can expose them to risky sexual relationships. Regardless, the secrecy cultivates painful experiences within the pornography user.

Is Your Loved One Addicted?

Here are some thoughtful reflections in contemplating whether you or your loved one is potentially addicted to pornography:

  1. Shame and Fear: The porn user feels tremendous shame, and fears that if those he cares for find out about his addiction, they will reject him—he will lose his reputation, their respect and their love.
  2. I Can Handle it Myself: Because he fears anyone discovering his addiction, he convinces himself that he can break out of his porn use by himself. He may also go it alone because he is convinced that “it’s really not that serious—it’s no big deal. Of course, he chooses to discount or ignore the fact that he has tried to overcome it by himself countless times and failed.
  3. I’m Not Sure I Want to Stop: Pornography use triggers the release of powerful neurochemicals in the brain producing an instant pleasure rush, a high and an escape from the stress and pressures of life. Porn can create a “chemical dependency like that found with other drugs of choice. The addict doesn’t know if he can, or even wants to give up his self-medication through porn.

Many experts will help others consider their pornography use as a difficulty if it impairs their social, emotional, or occupational functioning. With that said, here are a few questions that families can ask of themselves in regards to any addiction, including the addiction to pornography:

  1. Does your porn use feel out of your control?
  2. Do you have trouble controlling when you will look at porn and limiting the time you spend? Have you made unsuccessful attempts to quit?
  3. Do you feel anger or irritability if you are confronted about your porn use or asked to stop?
  4. Do you feel like there is another person or force inside of you driving you to pornography?
  5. Do you keep using porn despite negative consequences?
  6. Do you “get lost in porn use—lose track of time; spend more time than intended; neglect work, school, relationships and other responsibilities?
  7. Does pornography consume your thinking? When you’re not viewing it, do you think about it and anticipate when you will indulge again?
  8. Is your porn use in conflict with your values and beliefs? Do you feel guilt, shame, remorse, empty and/or depressed after viewing porn?
  9. Do you keep your porn use a secret and fear that others might find out?
  10. Have you ever promised yourself that you would never use pornography again?

If you answered “yes” to more than a few of these questions, there is a very strong probability that you have a significant relationship with pornography and that is can be causing difficulty in your family and love relationships, along with your relationship with yourself. Guilt, shame and fear accompany this addiction.

What Can You Do About Porn Addiction?

  1. Seek help: there are many therapists and 12-Step programs that can help you identify the origins of the problem, the nature of the problem and the maintenance of sobriety.
  2. Understand your vulnerability. When are you most likely to seek out pornography? Lonely? Angry? Sad? Find other ways to meet the needs you are feeling whether within yourself or within your relationship.
  3. Initiate safeguards: when you identify your triggers, whether that be online media, print media or social clubs, initiate hurdles that keep you safe. Online acting out can be one of the easiest ways to cultivate an addiction—quick, anonymous, lonely, frequent, habitual, toxic. Install online software to protect you and your family. Identify social clubs and networks that are tempting and dangerous.
  4. Encourage your loved ones to seek help and support. There are many 12-step groups for partners and parents of those who are having difficulty coping without pornography use.

Regardless of where you find yourself on the continuum of pornography use—from occasional, to frequent, to obsessive. Then ask yourself honestly if pornography use ADDS to your intimate relationships and personal well-being. If it is becoming a problem, seek some help from a trained professional where you can begin to distinguish healthy intimacy from unhealthy obsession—real connection from a “little peek” gone awry. To help safeguard your children from stumbling upon inappropriate content, consider using parental control software to filter out bad content.

Dr. Bernell Christensen - Guest Blogger from Candeo

Charlene Underhill Miller, PhD

Dr. Charlene Underhill Miller, a psychotherapist in Southern California, working with parents, couples, and families. She is a frequent and popular speaker to community groups, a professor, a wife, and mother.