What is Porn Addiction?
Porn addiction is a behavioural disorder classified by people who experience difficulties with all-consuming sexual thoughts and behaviours. Their compulsions to watch pornography consequently can create emotional fall-outs such as stress, mood swings, depression or anxiety. People struggling with porn addiction problems tend to find they live a “double life” which may result in them pulling away from significant life events and relationships with others.
These behaviours may often be linked to intimacy-related issues or the inability to communicate or connect on interpersonal levels with a romantic partner. Porn addiction and the underlying fantasies they offer allow people an “escape” from having to confront their reality. This may include the unpredictability of real-life interpersonal relationships, their fears of rejection, judgement or past trauma which may all often trigger emotionally painful events. In some cases, the side-effect is that porn is simply being used to avoid certain situations.
Historically the medical field has described addiction as a chronic relapsing disorder, or continued use of illicit substances (including alcohol) despite the negative consequences that result from prolonged use. It is when someone abuses substances such as alcohol or drugs to the point where their body becomes overly dependent on the substance to function. As the physiology of an addict’s or alcoholic’s body is different from the average person, their use of substances/alcohol creates a physical craving for more each time either is consumed. But how does this explain porn addiction problems and a non-substance related addictions such as a porn addiction?
While many people understand the addiction to alcohol or drugs, not everyone realises how viewing pornographic material obsessively, being exposed to sexual imagery or videos can be extremely addictive; especially since it’s not a physical intake of a chemical or substance that they put into their body. However, pornography and porn addiction problems can still activate regions in the brain that are associated with motivation and reward – such as the dopamine system.
Porn addiction is when the brain becomes dependent on pornography to experience dopamine surges; therefore, it may cause a lack of control over their sexual behaviour. The obsessive and compulsive behaviour of viewing pornography is the brain’s demanding need for stimulus, and each time the act of viewing occurs so does a release of dopamine. However, over time, the body stops providing as much dopamine as it did when first engaged with porn – which means people begin to watch it more often or view more extreme pornographic scenes to receive the same pleasure. The constant craving for these dopamine surges can reduce the brain’s response to ordinary stimuli. Which in turn increases the desperate need to view more pornographic content more frequently and dependency is established.
What are the side-effects of porn addiction?
The side effects of porn addiction problems may vary from person to person, and some scenarios will require formal treatment.
As porn addiction is a deeply private, fantasy-driven realm for individuals, and is a classic “escape” from an otherwise mundane or routine driven existence, a person’s real life tends to become less of a priority and riskier behaviours begin to emerge. Obsessive thoughts and compulsive sexual behaviours begin to displace relationships and negatively harm a person’s real life in terms of work and other relationships.
When a person starts to avoid their lives in favour of their routine escapes- their fantasy begins to overtake the importance of their reality and consequentially impacts their well-being. This cycle can often result in feeling disconnected from others. It also tends to manifest in other addictions or co-occurring destructive behaviours such as eating disorders, depression, chronic stress, depression and anxiety. As porn addiction problems are considered an intimacy disorder, it becomes hard for a person to mask the underlying need to escape to porn or “wanting to leave” everyday scenarios to satisfy a porn craving. Often people with porn addiction problems may at times get angry or hostile, or even just irritable when they are asked to stop engaging with pornography or forced to endure events/situations where porn viewing may not be available.
Another marked side-effect of porn addiction includes the secrecy involved in their attempts to “hide” their use of porn from loved ones. This, in turn, creates the sense of living a “double” or “secret” life that is directly attributed to obsessive porn use and has a negative impact on critical things like attending work, events or prioritising personal well-being and relationships. With any case of classifiable addiction, there is a distinct sense of personal powerlessness or an inability to stop the behaviour for any length of time.
If you or a loved one are battling a porn addiction and need assistance – know that help is readily available. The road to recovery is not always an easy one, but getting yourself or your loved one the best care from the team at Crossroads Recovery Centre, provides you with a map to sober, healthy living. No matter how bad things seem, there is hope and it’s just a phone call away. If you or anyone close to you needs help with an addiction to sex, gambling, substances, alcohol or food, please contact us for a free assessment.
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