How Do You Know if You Have a Pornography Addiction?

Sep 04, 2009

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By Dr. Bernell Christensen

Having practiced as a therapist for over 30 years, I have helped individuals from all walks of life deal with the heavy burden of pornography addiction. In nearly every case, one of the greatest obstacles to getting people into recovery is “denial. With rare exception, individuals come to me for assistance after one or both of the following events take place:

1.  The pornography addict hits “rock bottom where their life and/or most important relationships have become so miserable, dysfunctional or unmanageable, they will do “anything to get help.

2.  A spouse, partner, parent or boss discovers the individual’s porn addiction and demands they get help “or else.

One of the scenarios that is conspicuously missing from this list is a third option: The struggling individual seeks help voluntarily, early in his porn addiction—before his life and relationships get hammered. Unfortunately, these individuals are very few and far between. Why? In my experience, porn addicts hesitate or refuse to get help for a number of reasons:

A.   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.

B.  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.

C.  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.    

 Regardless of which of these scenarios apply, I find that most individuals caught up in porn use tend to diminish, discount or outright deny that they have a problem. So how do you know if you are addicted to pornography? There are many different signs and attributes of addiction. Here are just a few questions that can help you in the addiction identification process:  
How Do I Know if I’m Addicted?

Answer the following questions:

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 are addicted to pornography. In my 30 years of clinical experience, I can tell you that if you don’t take steps to get on the path to recovery, your addiction will only escalate and your life will become increasingly unmanageable over time. In addition, if you believe you can conquer this on your own, history is against you. I have yet to find an individual who was able to break free all alone.

However, I also know of the guilt, shame and fear that accompany this addiction. If you are like many struggling under the weight of this heavy burden, “going public with your porn use and telling a spouse, parent, family, friends or others may be “unthinkable. This is why my colleagues and I created the Candeo online recovery training program—so that you could have a safe, anonymous place to come and get started on your recovery journey. In the Candeo program, we also provide you with a “program Coach—a real human being who communicates with you anonymously through your own private message board.
So, what are you waiting for? We’re here, ready to help you begin the process of breaking free from your pornography and masturbation addiction. And as you begin experiencing recovery success, your confidence, self-esteem and courage will greatly increase. You will get to the place where you no longer desire to “go it alone—you will begin to reach out and connect with people who care about you; people who will help you continually move forward in recovery and your overall success in life.