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Porn Addiction

Porn addiction and hypersexual disorder can negatively disrupt a person’s life and lead to consequences, such as impaired personal and professional relationships and the neglect of various responsibilities.

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What Is Porn Addiction?

The categorization of excessive porn consumption as an addiction is hotly debated. Some experts feel there is not enough evidence to classify it as an addiction. However, several studies in the field of addiction have shown that excessive pornography viewing has a similar effect on the brain as substances like drugs and alcohol.

Reliable data on the prevalence of porn addiction is scarce. A study in the Journal of Clinical Medicine conducted a general population survey that included 20,094 participants. They found that 1.2% of the women surveyed considered themselves addicted to porn, while 4.4% of men considered themselves addicted.

Many people believe that because watching porn is neither illegal nor inherently unsafe, it cannot cause an addiction. Yet, as with alcohol, the excessive use or abuse of it can lead to impaired personal and professional relationships as well as the neglect of various responsibilities.

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Porn Addiction Signs And Symptoms

With the release of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th edition (DSM-V), psychiatrists introduced a number of behavioral addictions that require further study, including internet gaming and food addictions. Hypersexual disorder and internet addictions were added to the appendix “pending further research” and were not explicitly defined as addictions at the time.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), however, classifies sexual compulsivity among its behavioral addictions. The ASAM maintains that behavioral addictions change the way the brain functions.

The major brain changes that have been observed across substance addictions and that researchers believe are also applicable to pornography addiction are:

  • Sensitization
  • Desensitization
  • Dysfunctional prefrontal circuits (hypofrontality)
  • Malfunctioning stress system

Common signs of a possible porn addiction include:

  • Hiding/lying about the amount of porn you watch
  • Unsuccessful attempts to stop behavior
  • Experiencing intense cravings
  • Spending large amounts of time or money on watching porn
  • Experiencing difficulty with arousal
  • Withdrawing emotionally from an intimate partner
  • Losing interest in intimacy with your partner
  • Abandoning social activities
  • Increased symptoms of anxiety and depression

You may also notice symptoms if you attempt to stop pornography use. A study of college-aged students found that 51% admitted to making at least one attempt to give up using porn. Over 70% of those attempting to quit indicated the experience of at least one associated effect. The statistics are as follows:

  • 53% reported erotic dreams
  • 26% reported irritability
  • 26% reported attention disturbance
  • 22% reported a sense of loneliness

Porn Addiction Causes And Risk Factors

Addiction is more than simply an overuse of a coping mechanism. Brain pathways are actually altered in the case of addiction, hijacking the reward responses in the brain and causing a person to continue the behavior despite negative consequences. As an addictive behavior, watching porn targets all three pleasure systems in the brain — arousal, satiation, and fantasy. Moreover, cravings, highs, and withdrawals associated with porn consumption can help medical professionals recognize a porn addiction.

Some factors found to increase the risk for problematic sexual behavior and pornography use include:

  • Being a man
  • Young age
  • Religiousness
  • Frequent internet use
  • Negative mood states
  • Being prone to sexual boredom and novelty-seeking

Not everyone who suffers from a porn addiction chooses to masturbate while watching it. However, individuals who do so are more likely to form a bond with porn due to chemicals released in the brain during orgasm.

Dopamine and oxytocin are typically released during orgasm in order to create an emotional attachment between two people. When dopamine-oxytocin is released while watching porn, an individual can become emotionally attached to pornographic images instead of another human being. This form of attachment can negatively affect a person’s romantic relationships and ability to connect to other people.

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Porn Addiction Treatment

People suffering from behavioral addictions, including porn addiction, have responded positively to pharmacological and psychosocial treatment. For instance, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and 12-step programs — commonly used to treat substance use disorders (SUDs) — have helped a number of people recover from porn addictions.

CBT is a therapeutic approach that attempts to change thinking patterns that lead to particular behaviors. Often, our addictive behaviors are tied to other emotional and cognitive distortions that can be challenged and improved.

Naltrexone (used to treat alcoholism and Opioid addictions) has been used successfully in clinical trials to curb compulsive sexual behavior and internet addictions. This evidence suggests that the receptors in the brain responsible for substance use disorders may also be involved in behavioral addictions.

Porn addiction can also have profound effects on an individual’s romantic relationships. Partners of individuals with a porn addiction have reported lower self-esteem, poorer relationship quality, and lower sexual satisfaction. Accordingly, couples and individual counseling may be required to mend damaged relationships.

Many mental health professionals provide online and telephone therapy as an alternative to in-person sessions, which may provide some relief if you have concerns about anonymity or confidentiality.

Porn Addiction Complications

As with SUDs, the onset of a porn addiction may be aggravated by other underlying and untreated mental health issues like:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder

Thus, receiving treatment can potentially alleviate a spectrum of negative symptoms.

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If you’re ready to change destructive behaviors and take your life back from addiction, explore your online therapy options today.

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