A Pandemic for the Ages: Pornography Addiction Myths
In a world of revolving pandemic discussions, everyone’s first thought is COVID-19. Rightfully so, it is a global tragedy. Yet from my view there is another pandemic we are also faced with. Pornography Addiction.
Approximately 25 percent of Internet searches or 68 million hits are directly related to pornography. Is Pornography addiction real? The data on this is really clear; however, we also live in a culture that is fueled by sex, consumption and above all else: We the people love the joy of conflict and argument.
Larger attention of the myths and facts of porn addiction is important for learning to recognize the condition and help people who have this condition receive the right support, guidance and education to take back their life and relationships.
Here are some myths on pornography addiction and what to do if you or a loved one is struggling with pornography addiction.
6 myths about Porn Addiction
Porn addiction doesn’t additionally affect people close to the user.
Myth Buster: Pornography creeps into many of the user’s relationships. Which can be exposed within extended friendships, work and other social situations.
The main person affected by porn addiction is, of course, the person who is addicted. However, the problem caused by such compulsive behavior invades into their relationships with others too, your partner, your family, your work.
People in a romantic relationship with the porn user, especially a long-term committed relationship like a marriage, are affected the most. This often adds tremendous confusion for both the sexual engagement between the couple; as well as, highlights the communication gaps between lovers. Other family members may be crushed as well, and even friends and colleagues may be affected indirectly through lack of focus and emotional deregulation on the part of the user. Ultimately, the very dark area that exists with work place porn use is also very worrisome.
I believe that porn use harms romantic partnerships. Even at minimal levels porn affects intimacy at a great level. Partners of porn users feel less content the more their partner watches porn. They often have self-esteem issues. Part of this is because people who watch more porn tend to have higher expectations of sex and sexual partners, and become less attentive or even disenchanted in their real-life partner.
People Addicted to Porn Simply Want More Sex
Myth Buster: People can develop an addiction to porn regardless of how much sex they are having.
In the movie Don Jon written and directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the lead character has just this problem. Loves sex and more so loves porn.
A common stereotype of porn users is a single man who turns to Internet porn to satisfy an unfulfilled desire for sexual contact. Where as I believe it has many different starting points, maybe the user developed an early pattern of pornography use only to no have it as a “pacifier”. Or it is not uncommon for the user to feel safer and find pornography “easier” to use rather than “have to” engage in the courtship of “real sex”. Like other stereotypical images, this stereotype is not the case most of the time in reality. Many people with porn addictions are in committed relationships and would otherwise have a satisfying sex life.
When a behavior becomes an addiction, people keep participating in it whether they truly want to or not. Numerous people with a porn addiction desire that they could use porn less or quit the act all together. They may have tried to stop but have been unable to get traction. At this point, it has nothing to do with a desire for sex. We are all rats in a cage (Tangent…) B.F Skinner taught us this quickly, (hint, hint… Is that your phone or did something just shock you?) and pornography addiction may come down to a simple need to look at the behavior modification approach.
Only Men Become Addicted to Porn
Myth buster: Men, women, transgender and non-binary genders can become addicted to porn.
The vast majority of people with porn addictions are men, but men aren’t the only ones. Accurate numbers are difficult to pin down, but research has found a fair number of women are addicted to porn as well. One survey from the Internet estimated that about 4.4% of men and 1.2% of women consider themselves addicted to pornography.
The total of women who use porn has been on the rise. Now, approximately one-third (33 % of all Internet pornography users are women, (by the way is up from 15% in 2015. Though still the minority, more porn is being formed specifically for women these days. A large amount of content is made to target other demographics now as well, including for LGBTQ+ and gender non-conforming interests.
Porn Addiction Only Affects the User
Myth buster: There are several less obvious ways the effects of porn addiction reach others:
1. Cyber-porn addicts spend up to 12 hours a week watching porn on their devices, this takes time away from socializing with family and friends and fostering “REAL” time relationships.
2. Ok brace yourself. Up to 28 % of people who use computers for work visit pornographic websites during their working day, accounting for a substantial amount of lost focus, insane sexual misconduct let alone the lost productivity at the hands of the user
3. People who consistently use porn often develop financial difficulties as a result, which in turn causes hardship for families.
Porn Addiction Isn’t Valid
Myth buster: Porn addiction is a real condition with real consequences.
Whether or not it is an official or recognized condition, there is no question that porn addiction is a major problem with devastating effects. The majority of therapists have a varying opinion surrounding pornography. I think they may have a lack of information if they believe pornography to be ok. Evidence is on the rise of many different symptoms that are manifesting due to pornography. These symptoms are anxiety, depression, anger, and loss of motivation, suicide ideation, addiction, ADHD, and the Erectile Dysfunction. One thing, I can also say is excessive porn use is harmful to intimate relationships, social functioning and worth.
Doctors and scientists are still debating whether porn addiction truly is a disease in its own right. Presently, the American Psychiatric Association or other medical agencies do not legitimately classify pornography addiction as a disorder. However, recent research into problematic pornography use and other addictive behaviors is changing how psychologists view these types of conditions. Um… It’s a screen. It’s not real.
The idea that addiction doesn’t need to involve drugs, alcohol or other substances is becoming more conventional in our culture. Recently, the conversations have been recognized to be a social problem, so porn addiction may be officially recognized soon too.
Porn Addiction Is Innocent
Myth buster: Porn addiction harms the user, their relationships and others.
As with other addictions, porn addiction is not harmless. By definition, addictive behavior is when someone does or thinks about an otherwise normal activity so much that it interferes with their daily activities or otherwise harms their life. Addictive behaviors, such as compulsive porn use, get in the way of relationships, disrupt family dynamics, cause problems at work and can lead to financial hardships.
Some say watching porn on occasion is usually not a problem, nor is moderate porn use. However, I believe it is an entry point into excessive porn use that runs the risk of several risks including:
Loss of intimacy in romantic relationships
Decreased self-esteem of sexual partners
Loss of efficiency at work
Getting fired for visiting porn sites at work
Financial struggles (from decreased productivity and excessive spending on pornography)
Potentially contributing to illegal or exploitative industries (such as child pornography)
What to do if you or someone you love is struggling with pornography
Fortunately, despite a shortage of clinical agreement or widespread acceptance of porn addiction as a diagnostic category, there are numerous options for pornography or sex addiction treatment. The chief method of treatment is therapy. Effective treatment options for porn addiction include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Solution Focused Therapy or other psychodynamic treatments. It ultimately takes accepting and acknowledging there is a problem and then making a significant effort do the work at removing it from your life.
People who struggle with inner conflicts between their faith and their pornography use can benefit from faith-based treatment, while people whose porn use is having a negative impact on their relationship with a loved one may benefit from couples counseling. Peer support and 12-step groups can provide additional support.
Porn addiction recovery is possible. The first step toward healing is often realizing that misuse of pornography is not an isolated source of shame, but a generally shared condition and a sign of inner pain in need of healing. Often, porn addiction links with other mental health conditions and with other addictions including substance use disorders. An integrated care plan can help people address multiple conditions as part of one path toward healing and rebuilding.
Again I ask… Is Pornography addiction real?
I leave you to answer this question. When you’re ready I’m available to support you.
Dr. Ryan Westrum is a clinical psychologist and licensed marriage and family therapist that specializes in healing clients and couples that have been afflicted with pornography and sexual addiction. You can reach him at healingsoulsllc.com or firstname.lastname@example.org