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Am I Addicted to Porn?

A man sits on a white leather couch, his back faces the camera, he is holding a tv remote and it is pointed at the television

If you’re a regular user of pornography, you may wonder, “Am I addicted to porn?” You might be surprised to learn that pornography addiction is a rising concern among the population. It’s believed that about 40 million adults in the United States admit to viewing pornography online every day.

Since pornography is so easy to access, the number of those who are addicted continues to rise. There are some ways to figure out if you might be addicted to porn.

What is Porn Addiction?

Pornography addiction is a compulsive, uncontrollable need to view pornography. It may have begun as viewing porn from time to time, but the behavior increased to the point that it’s impacting your daily responsibilities and relationships. Once you realized it was becoming a problem, you probably tried to stop viewing porn but found you couldn’t, even with repeated attempts to control the behavior.

The inability to stop is because addiction happens in the brain. The brain actually changes the way that it responds to certain stimuli. When you use a particular substance or engage in a behavior, the brain’s reward center is activated more intensely than in someone who doesn’t have an addiction.

Once the reward center is activated, your brain wants to keep feeling this positive release of chemicals, specifically dopamine, that occurs during the process. To get this feeling, the brain encourages you to engage in the behavior that brings about this state of euphoria.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that makes you feel good. The brain releases this chemical during pleasurable activities. When dopamine levels are high for some time, it can cause you to seek pleasurable sensations. In your case, this means watching porn.

Over time, pornography will become more and more important while other activities will be pushed to the sidelines.

Because of the brain’s excessive response to the stimuli, you will feel an overwhelming desire to engage in your addiction regardless of any negative consequences that may occur because of such behavior.

Recognizing Signs of Porn Addiction

People with porn addiction share similar symptoms. Hallmarks of addiction are that it’s harmful to your life and you can’t stop the behavior, even if you try. Beyond that, consider whether you show these signs of porn addiction.

Signs of porn addiction include:

  • Intrusive Thoughts. You think about porn, even when you’re not watching it or you’re trying not to think about it. For example, when you’re trying to focus on work but instead are thinking about how soon you can watch porn.
  • Focus. You give up doing other activities you previously enjoyed to view porn instead.
  • Secrecy. You try to hide the porn you view from your loved ones, including your partner. You clear your browser history, lie, deny the viewership, or take other actions to avoid getting caught.
  • Increased Usage. You spend increasingly more time viewing porn, and you want to spend even more. You even give up other activities or neglect responsibilities to spend more time on porn. For example, your wife wants to attend a weekly dinner with her parents, but you say you don’t feel well, so you can stay home and watch porn.
  • Dissatisfaction. You feel unsatisfied until you view porn. You may even feel unsatisfied with your sex life or partner unless porn is involved or you’re acting out a fantasy based on something you’ve seen in pornography.
  • Risky Behavior. Porn viewing is resulting in risky behavior. For example, you’re seeking more intense or graphic types of pornography or watching porn in more public places.
  • Shame and Guilt. You feel shame or guilt about watching porn, but you continue to do it anyway.
  • Disapproval. You continue viewing porn even though your partner doesn’t like the habit and repeatedly asks you to quit.
  • Debt. You spend so much money on porn that you put yourself in debt.
  • Increased Need. You want to watch increasingly more porn, and what you want to watch is getting more extreme.
Wondering If You Have a Porn Addiction? Take Our Pornography Addiction Quiz
 

The Psychological Impact of Porn Addiction

Over time, porn addiction negatively impacts a person’s life, and it grows more damaging if left untreated, just like any other type of addiction or mental health issue. Therefore, it’s essential to understand the dangers of pornography addiction.

Not only does pornography addiction negatively impact your life, but it can also change the way your brain functions. Continuous stimulus from porn hijacks the brain’s reward system, causing it to produce dopamine for extended periods. This process results in the brain’s dopamine receptors shutting down, making it more difficult for the brain to produce dopamine naturally. This suppression reinforces the addiction cycle because you want to improve your mood. 

Porn addiction also can reduce the functioning of your frontal cortex, affecting brain functions like willpower and control. It can even cause changes in the brain’s shape, size and chemical balance. 

Further, porn addiction can contribute to the development or worsening of other mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. It also can result in low self-esteem. Not everyone with a pornography addiction will develop additional mental health concerns, but the circumstances surrounding the addiction lead to risks.

Physical and Social Consequences

Beyond your emotional health, pornography addiction also has physical and social consequences. 

Porn can become more important than basic care, like hygiene, getting enough sleep or eating. It also can negatively affect your ability to perform sexually, even causing erectile dysfunction in some cases.

Because it can take more to get the same high over time, you may find yourself watching harder pornography or possibly turning to using harmful substances in addition to watching porn.

If you’re spending money to watch pornography, this can quickly escalate, leaving you unable to pay your other financial responsibilities, such as mortgage, utilities, and other bills.

Watching porn can lead to you neglecting your partner. Alternatively, it can damage the relationship you have if you always insist on watching pornography just to have sex, if you consistently expect your partner to fulfill fantasies based on your porn viewing, or if your partner is against pornography in the first place.

As you feel the need to engage with pornography in increasing amounts, this could affect your job as well. You may find that you’re not getting your work done, or you may even lose your job if you’re caught watching porn at work.

Spending more time on pornography can lead you to lose interest in other activities, such as hanging out with friends or even making sure you take a shower. If you continue on this pathway, you could find yourself alone and in debt until you get help for your addiction.

Causes of Pornography Addiction

While researchers haven’t determined one specific cause for this type of addictive behavior, they’re in agreement that it’s a complex issue that may have a combination of causal factors.

  • A chemical imbalance in the brain
  • Neural pathway changes within the brain
  • Certain brain diseases
  • Underlying mental health disorder

Are you at increased risk to be addicted to porn?

Consequently, in addition to possible causes, there are some risk factors that may be associated with becoming addicted to porn.

  • Issues with relationships
  • Ease of access
  • Personal or family drug addiction
  • Conflict in your home life
  • Past physical or sexual abuse
  • Unhealthy views on sex

When to Seek Help: Understanding the Threshold

Although many people view porn, you might have a problem if it’s affecting your life. If you have to ask, “Am I addicted to porn?” then you may want to speak with a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist like the ones at Begin Again Institute and Boulder Recovery. CSATs will provide a confidential assessment of your situation and make treatment recommendations based on your results. In the meantime, you can take our porn addiction quiz to determine if you’re still uncertain whether there’s a need for concern.

Consider seeing a CSATs if any of the following applies to you:

  • You’ve tried to stop viewing pornography but feel you can’t
  • You develop mental health problems
  • You have other addictions
  • You feel guilty about your behavior
  • You develop sexual dysfunction with your partner
  • It’s affecting your relationship
  • It’s interfering with your home, work, school, or social life
  • You’re failing to meet your obligations

How Pornography Addiction Negatively Impacts Your Life

Complications can occur from porn addiction just like with any other condition. The guilt or shame that you feel from viewing pornography can cause you to have other mental health conditions, especially those like anxiety or depression.

Because it can take more to get the same high over time, you may find yourself watching harder pornography or possibly turning to using harmful substances in addition to watching porn.

If you’re spending money to watch pornography, this can quickly escalate, leaving you unable to pay your other financial responsibilities, such as mortgage, utilities, and other bills.

Watching porn can lead to you neglecting your partner. Alternately, it can damage the relationship you have if you always insist on watching pornography just to have sex, if you consistently expect your partner to fulfill fantasies based on your porn viewing, or if your partner is against pornography in the first place.

As you feel the need to engage with pornography in increasing amounts, this could affect your job as well. You may find that you’re not getting your work done, or you may even lose your job if you’re caught watching porn at work.

Spending more time on pornography can lead you to lose interest in other activities, such as hanging out with friends or even making sure you take a shower. If you continue on this pathway, you could find yourself alone and in debt until you get help for your addiction.

Many treatment options are shown to be effective in treating pornography addiction, including treating the root causes of sexual addiction. As a specific cause or combination of causes will be unique to your situation, you and your therapist will determine the best methods to help you recover and regain control of your life.

Treatment Options for Porn Addiction

Many porn addiction treatment methods are effective, so help is available, even if taking control of the addiction feels impossible.

Therapy can help treat pornography addiction. Mental health professionals can use trauma-focused approaches like brainspotting and psychodrama to help address addiction.

Treatment programs like the 14-Day Men’s Intensive at Begin Again Institute and the 14-Day Christian Men’s Intensive, Boulder Recovery, help people get a jump start on recovery.

Other recovery methods include:

  • Attending individual or couples therapy
  • Identifying and avoiding the triggers that make you want to view porn
  • Learning relapse signs and having a plan of action when you start them
  • Monitoring porn withdrawal symptoms and having a plan to cope with them 
  • Finding a support group of like-minded people to rely on
  • Personal Stories: Recovery and Hope

You’re not the first man to experience pornography addiction. Others have been where you are now and have worked their way into recovery through treatment with Begin Again Institute. 

“When I left, I was equipped with tools that I never had before and a willingness to continue my journey of healing, one day at a time. I highly recommend this program for anyone who is suffering and wants to change for the better!”

-Alex

Kermit said Boulder Recovery helped him heal from his pornography addiction after many failed attempts to stop.

“While attending Boulder Recovery, I learned that my addictive behaviors had root causes of which I was not aware, and they were dictating my decisions and choices. Boulder Recovery was able to expose these tentacles and gave me an approach to overcoming my addiction. I’m able to continue the program they set me on, and it’s set me free to live life without the secrets that hindered joyful, happy living.”

-Kermit

These are just two real-life examples of men who have overcome their addictions with treatment and support. 

Support for Partners and Loved Ones

Since pornography addiction also impacts your loved ones, they need help healing, too. Begin Again Institute and Boulder Recovery offer that assistance through our Partner Support Program

Your partner may experience betrayal trauma as a result of your actions. Betrayal trauma happens when a trusted person you rely on betrays your trust, leaving you emotionally wounded and often questioning your judgment. The closer you are to that person, the more profound the betrayal is.

Betrayal trauma can negatively impact your partner, physically and emotionally. It can cause physical symptoms like headaches or gastrointestinal concerns and can result in depression or anxiety. This trauma can even result in the development of a substance use or eating disorder.

The potentially damaging impact of betrayal is why treating betrayal trauma is integrated into each of our programs at Begin Again Institute. Our team facilitates a virtual support group for partners before, during, and immediately after the men’s treatment programs – at no additional cost.

Help for Pornography Addiction

You don’t have to just learn to live with pornography addiction. Help is available. The first step is determining if you’re addicted to porn. Take our pornography addiction quiz to help discover the truth. Once you receive your results, contact Begin Again Institute. You’re only a conversation away from help healing from pornography addiction. 

  • Category: Pornography Addiction
  • By Begin Again Institute
  • January 12, 2024

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