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recovery from porn addiction

You probably know how detrimental porn addiction is to your well-being. From disrupting relationships to affecting your physical health, porn addiction can quickly become your enemy. It can feel like porn controls your time, energy, and money. So, how do you stop porn addiction?

Understanding the stages of porn addiction recovery is essential to know what to expect. Recovery isn’t an easy journey, but it is worthwhile. You can always take the first step in stopping porn addiction, no matter how long it’s been ongoing.

Understanding How Porn Addiction Works

If you have an uncontrollable desire to view porn that you can’t stop, it’s probably time to take action. Porn addiction can cause intense strife in your life, especially if gone untreated. 

The Dopamine Cycle 

To fully understand how porn affects the brain, you must also understand how addiction hijacks the brain’s reward system. Each time you view pornography, you get a dopamine hit and experience a pleasurable feeling. The brain starts overproducing dopamine. Then dopamine receptors begin to shut down. By routinely watching porn, you’re training your brain to reinforce the behavior. The increased arousal and enjoyment keep you coming back for more, which is why breaking an addiction is difficult, even if you really want to. 

How the Cycle Affects the Brain

As your brain releases dopamine in response to watching porn, it attempts to maintain balance by lowering the dopamine normally released. Over time, you build tolerance. Alternatively, the brain releases another chemical called dynorphin, which works against feelings of pleasure. After a dopamine rush, you’ll crash and want even more the next time. Suddenly, those things that used to feel good aren’t as pleasurable as they used to be. It takes increased or more explicit content to get the same satisfaction. It’s an endless cycle that is difficult to escape. 

Methods of Stopping Porn Addiction

Because of porn’s accessibility, affordability, and anonymity, it’s difficult to avoid. But once you take control of your addiction, you can find relief.

Stopping porn addiction requires:

  • Rewiring the Brain. Your brain’s reward system needs a reset. You’ll have to relearn habits and find healthy stimulation outside of porn. You’ll need to rediscover activities or hobbies you enjoy and invest your time and energy in positive habits. 
  • Unrooting Origins. At Begin Again Institute, we understand that trauma is the root of most addiction. We help you uncover the root cause of the addiction by working backward to understand where the need for dopamine began.
  • Identifying Triggers. It’s important to recognize what behaviors, people, places, or devices can cause you to relapse and to avoid them. You may need to alter your routine to avoid these temptations.
  • Attaining Skills for Relapse Prevention. Recovery takes discipline. Building skills like redirecting when you feel tempted or confiding in a trusted friend will help you with accountability. Implement healthy habits that become part of your daily routine. 
  • Learning Steps for Intimacy Recovery. It’s common to push away loved ones when addicted, but in recovery, you can rebuild relationships. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable and experience emotional intimacy with your partner or loved ones can reestablish connections and help you learn about yourself. 

Ed Tilton, Regional Director of Integrative Life Network, said pornography addiction requires a multifaceted solution to treat and heal. 

“The best way to start winning the battle with porn addiction is to start being honest with yourself,” he said. “Be honest with your behaviors as it relates to cravings and about the consequences of the addiction.” 

From there, Ed said people should seek treatment that helps them understand the addiction and how it stems from a root cause that must heal.

The Main Stages of Recovery 

Recovery isn’t linear, nor will all people experience the same thing. But knowing what to expect and how best to prepare yourself is helpful.

Stages of recovery include:

  • Understanding. The first step to recovery is recognizing your addiction and understanding why it got this far. It’s also beneficial to understand how addiction affects your brain and behavior.
  • Preparing. Porn withdrawal symptoms are usually the opposite of the feeling you get from the addiction. You must mentally and physically prepare yourself for various emotional, physical, and psychological effects.
  • Mindfulness. Mindful meditation and yoga are great places to start. By consciously paying attention to your thoughts and actions in a non-judgmental way instead of ignoring them, you can build up armor to protect yourself from any intrusive thoughts or stresses.
  • Acceptance. Accept the things you can’t change about yourself and addiction. Make amends for any people you hurt, but don’t dwell on the past. Finding healing means moving forward. Don’t get stuck in the past.
  • Practicing. To make habits stick, you have to practice. It takes resilience to stay with it, but the more you practice, the better your chance of ending a porn addiction for good.
  • Aftercare. A good addiction treatment program will offer aftercare, including tools and support, to help you stay on track for recovery. 

If someone with a porn addiction truly understands how it affects them and those around them, they are more likely to want to get sober.

“Helping someone see their need for help through treatment is best achieved by honest, clear, and consistent communication,” Ed said.

Managing Withdrawal Symptoms

Just like any other addiction, you may experience withdrawals once you stop. Knowing what to expect as you manage your porn addiction is important. 

Common porn withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Cravings for porn
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Lack of presence in the moment
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Headaches and stiffness or pain in other parts of your body
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Agitation
  • Lack of focus or concentration (brain fog)
  • Nausea, fever, and other forms of sickness
  • Little or no sexual desire, known as a “flatline”
  • Excessive sexual thoughts
  • Depression, despair, and other forms of sadness
  • Mood swings
  • Avoiding socializing
  • Flashbacks or dreams about pornography

When you remove an addiction, you need a healthy habit to replace it. By implementing healthy coping mechanisms, you have an established system if you feel tempted to relapse.

Start by building a healthy daily routine. Incorporate activities you enjoy, intentional distractions, and space for mindfulness. Invest your time in a healthy diet or workout routine. Institute healthy coping mechanisms and habits to help you stay your course. And most importantly, communicate. Talk to a trusted friend or counselor for help if you’re overwhelmed by withdrawal symptoms. You don’t have to take the journey alone.

Changing Your Life for the Better

Addiction doesn’t have to control your life. By recognizing your behaviors, uncovering the root of the addiction, and committing to recovery, you can stop porn addiction and live more authentically. Enrolling in a treatment program at Begin Again Institute can help you find the support you need to conquer your addiction. 

An alumnus of our program said understanding the root cause of his addiction was life-changing. 

“It gave me tools to start the changing I need to do in my life,” he said. 

Our counselors are trained to approach healing with compassion and without judgment. Contact us to start your journey to recovery.

  • Category: Pornography Addiction
  • By Begin Again Institute
  • January 21, 2023

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