Overview, Signs, Symptoms & Treatment
For some individuals, behaviors which may otherwise be all right in moderation (like gambling, shopping, eating unhealthy foods, etc.) can become addictions just like substances do. Watching pornography is one of those behaviors which can be normal in small amounts, but when a person only wants to do this and nothing else, it can become problematic toward every other aspect of their life.
There is a possibility that someone can become addicted to pornography and the behavior that ensues can become dangerous and destructive toward the rest of the person’s life. Treatment may be necessary for someone in this position, and there are many ways to discover through signs and symptoms of the individual whether or not it has truly become an addiction.
Pornography Addiction Overview
Pornography addiction can become an issue for an individual who starts to realize that they are unable to stop or curb their use of pornographic materials. According to UT Dallas’ counseling center, “This can happen when people spend increasing amounts of time using pornography and begin using increasingly more extreme pornographic material.”
While pornography addiction (and some other behavioral addictions) is still not as well recognized in the medical community as a health issue that needs to be solved with medical treatment, there are steps being taken toward this type of acceptance. According to an NCBI study, hypersexual disorder is a diagnosis that is being added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition (or the DSM-5) for use by psychiatrists and clinicians to diagnose mental disorders in patients. This disorder includes “problematic, compulsive pornography use.”
In addition, NIDA advisor Glen Hanson stated that “‘NIDA Director Nora Volko also felt that her institute’s name should encompass addictions such as pornography, gambling, and food'” in order to “‘look at the whole field.'” Coupled with the fact that the Internet makes the possibility for getting ahold of pornography so much easier, there is a stronger push to create better pornography addiction awareness for individuals who need it.
Pornography Addiction Signs
The signs of pornography addiction are similar to the signs of any other type of addiction. Someone who
- Only wants to spend time watching or reading pornography
- Ignores other responsibilities in order to watch more pornography
- Avoids taking care of themselves (not showering, not eating, etc.) in order to watch more pornography
- Is only happy when they are watching pornography
- Spends money on pornography that is incongruent or damaging to the financial situation of other aspects in their life
- Uses pornography to the point that it is “creating emotional distance between people [they] love or causing those in a relationship with [them] to feel neglected” (UT Dallas)
- Is consumed by their use of pornography to the point where all they want to think about, talk about, etc. is the use of pornography
- Tries to keep their pornography use (or the extent of it) secret from others and goes to extreme lengths in order to do so (lying, creating a new bank account, etc.) Uses pornography constantly and consistently in places they shouldn’t (such as school computers, at work, etc.)
- Spends an excessive amount of time using pornography, to the point where it seems that this is all the person wants to do
- Becomes hostile or evasive when asked about their pornography use
- Has become extremely withdrawn from others as a result of their pornography use (as in not wanting to spend time with other individuals and just wanting to watch more pornography)
- Engages in watching pornography in order to avoid stress or other unpleasant feelings to the point where it becomes their only coping mechanism
- Has problems in school or work that stem from their pornography use (as in discipline from a superior in a school or work situation because the individual does not do their work and only wants to watch pornography instead)
has a significant problem with pornography use. Many of these signs exhibited together can point to pornography use that has become addictive. The pathological gambler, an individual who the medical community has recently understood is in need of medical treatment and help in order to stop gambling, begins to have real problems in their life that stem from their uncontrollable gambling. If you know an individual whose pornography use is affecting them in the same way, it could very well be an addiction, and the individual may need treatment to stop.
The most clear sign that an individual is addicted to a behavior will be their inability to stop that behavior. Bryn Mawr College states, “Those affected are not able to control how often they engage in the behavior” which can often be what leads to the inability to stop. The individual may lose track of time when watching pornography and may not realize how much time they are spending on this behavior or why. But if they try to stop and are unable to, or refuse to stop or cut back by making excuses for themselves, even though it is hurting them and other individuals in their life, this is a strong sign of addiction in any type of behavior or substance abuse.
Pornography Addiction Symptoms
Sometimes, the person needs to ask themselves whether or not it is an actual addiction. It can be hard for someone else to pinpoint whether or not someone is actually addicted to a certain behavior, but with an open mind, the person can decide themselves if their pornography use has become excessive, unhealthy, problematic, etc.
If you are worried that your pornography use has gotten out of hand and may have become an addiction, ask yourself the questions below.
- Do I use pornography every day to the point where, if I don’t use it, I feel unhappy or strange?
- Has using pornography become the only outlet for my stress?
- Have I ever neglected important aspects of my life (school, work, family, significant others, friends, etc.) in order to spend more time using pornography?
- Do I feel that I think about pornography more than anything else to the point where other aspects of my life do not seem as important?
- Am I constantly needing to use more “extreme pornographic material” in order to achieve the effects that I want? (UT Dallas)
- This is similar to the tolerance caused by substance abuse where an individual becomes tolerant to the effects of the drug and often must take more of it or take a stronger, more dangerous drug (ex. moving from prescription opioids to heroin) in order to feel the same effects.
- Do I feel “guilt, shame, depression, and/or remorse after using pornography” because my beliefs or values cause me to feel this way?
- Does simply the amount of pornography I use cause me to feel guilty?
- Despite these feelings, do I continue to use pornography without being able to cut back?
- Have other people noticed and commented on my use of pornography because of the fact that I do it so often or have done it in places that I shouldn’t have been?
- Do I feel that I would not be able to stop using pornography, even if I wanted to?
If many of these feelings and actions describe you and your use of pornography, there is a strong chance that you may be addicted to the behavior of using pornography. Many individuals experience an issue such as this one, and there are many ways that you can receive help and try to change your behavior so that you may go back to the way things were before your pornography addiction.