Porn Addiction FAQs

What is porn addiction?

Porn addiction is a relationship or an involvement with porn that provides some immediate gains or relief while simultaneously reducing your involvement in other important relationships and activities.  When your use of porn takes up more mental space in your life than other things you value and care about, or than you would like it to, or is negatively impacting your real relationships with others and with yourself, yet you aren’t able to moderate or stop using, you could consider that you have a porn addiction.

Am I addicted to porn?

Only you know the answer to this question. Weighing the negatives of using porn with the positives of using porn in your life space can serve as a guide. When the negatives are outweighing the positives and yet you feel that you cannot stop, you may be addicted to porn.

Why is porn so addictive and why are porn problems so common?

Porn in and of itself is no more addictive than other engaging, sometimes pleasurable activities, substances or behaviors. That said, it can be a all-encompassing virtual experience, one that connects to basic human needs for sexual self-expression and fulfillment, and even to intimacy. Part of the likelihood of porn addiction is due to its high accessibility: on phones, pop-up adds, links, etc., so that it can become totally engrossing, i.e., highly addictive.

At a cultural level, some people note this commercialization of sex to represent the “pornification of American culture.”  Technology makes sexual content of every kind instantly accessible. Rampant porn use is impacting the very nature of intimacy and sexual expression in modern American relationships, starting at an early age. Moreover, much porn content is aggressive and violent towards women in societally unacceptable ways.

While we don’t call all porn use addictive, and porn use can be a perfectly normal part of life, including within a relationship, there is no question that porn addiction is prevalent and likely increasing. (PornHub is the most visited site in the world.) So if you are struggling with porn use you are NOT alone.

What are the effects of porn addiction?

The effects of porn addiction vary as the unique life space of each individual impacts the reasons for and consequences of using porn. REMEMBER, porn use in itself isn’t inherently detrimental, and can be incorporated into good, sexually actively intimate relationships. However, some common complaints of negative, excessive, addictive porn use can include:

  • Increased guilt and shame after using.
  • Decreased attention to daily tasks, including effects after using and preoccupation when not using.
  • Less attention devoted to family and other daily relationships, including children as well as partners.
  • Negative changes in mood, i.e., depression or anxiety, related to porn use.
  • Decreased sense of self efficacy and lowering of self esteem.
  • Decreased ability to engage in direct sexual activity, including decreased interest in a sexual partner or spouse.
  • Erectile dysfunction.
  • Sneaking, hiding and lying about use to a partner or spouse.
  • Increased need for stronger or more hard core porn content.
  • Seeking out more intense online sexual encounters including phone sex, hook-up sites, or in-person engagement in strip clubs and sex establishments.
  • Potential resulting harms to partner relationships, leading to increased marital strain and divorce.

How can I overcome my porn addiction?

First and foremost, you CAN overcome your problematic relationship with porn!

There are many online and in person treatments and supports for porn addiction as well as apps for tracking use, etc. As with any addiction that is causing negative life consequences, taking a full life inventory is needed, with or without professional help. Along with seriously evaluating the impact porn is having on your life, this should include examining your porn use patterns and history, reasons for your use, the needs porn use might be filling in your life, and finding new ways to address those needs.

Building on one’s own unique strengths, values and positive life habits, while developing new skills, tools and resources for building value-congruent and purposeful life experiences, can help reduce or eliminate your problematic porn use. There are several science based treatment/support options to consider.

How can I tell if I am watching too much porn?

You are the expert on your own life experience. Taking an honest inventory is critical: Is your porn use causing you increasing distress? Is it beginning to take over your internal and external life space, reducing other positive and necessary life involvements? Seriously reflecting on the above is ultimately the only way that you can decide that you are watching too much porn, and could be addicted to it.

However, remember that addiction is not all-or-nothing, black and white. You may be tending in a negative direction, and may want to cut back porn use, especially to engage in other positive activities, alone or with others, without necessarily giving up porn altogether.

The overall quality of your life experience is the question to explore more than the time spent. Put simply, we only have so much time in a day, so much attention to divide up. Does it feel like you are devoting too much time and attention to porn? Is someone you love complaining about the time you spend on it? Are you feeling worse about your porn use, yourself, and your life due to your devotion to porn? These are the ultimate signs of addiction.

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Stanton Peele

Dr. Stanton Peele, recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts by The Fix, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.

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