How To Manage Pornography Addiction
By: Nadia Khan
Updated May 19, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Nicole J. Johnson
In our society, pornography is everywhere. In fact, according to fightthenewdrug.org, just one top pornography site, Pornhub, received a staggering 28.5 billion visits in 2017 alone. That is just one website, out of hundreds of millions that offer pornographic content. It can be argued that our society is in the middle of a public health crisis, with experts citing that pornography is as addictive as street drids.
However, like with any addiction, acknowledging there is a problem is just the first step. If you can stick to effective strategies, it is possible to manage an addiction to pornography successfully.
Determine Whether You Truly Have A Pornography Addiction
Before you can start overcoming pornography addiction, you must make sure addiction is what you are dealing with. Just because you watch pornography on occasion, it does not necessarily mean that you are addicted, or are likely to get addicted. After all, millions of adults enjoy alcoholic beverages every day, yet can still maintain a healthy relationship with alcohol that does not affect their personal lives.
Sometimes, people can fall into the trap of thinking they have an addiction to pornography just because they enjoy watching it. This may be due to feelings of guilt or shame associated with the act of watching pornography, or because a spouse, friend, or loved one has forced them to believe that is the case. In reality, addiction is a very complex process that presents certain signs when an issue truly exists.
What Is Pornography Addiction?
Addiction occurs when a certain behavior, in this case watching pornography, becomes hard-wired into the brain as a reward due to the activation dopamine and GABA, or Gamma aminobutyric acid. These neurotransmitters are responsible for feelings of happiness and pleasure. Routinely activating these neurotransmitters by watching pornography, reinforces the reward state associated with the behavior, creating a maladaptive relationship between pornography and happiness that becomes stronger over time.
Signs Of a Pornography Addiction
The signs of addiction look similar, no matter what substance or activity someone is addicted to. If you can answer "yes" to several of the following questions, you may be addicted to pornography:
1. Do you find yourself needing increasingly taboo or violent content to achieve satisfaction while watching pornography?
2. Do you watch pornography more than you want to?
3. Do you regret watching pornography after you do so?
4. Has pornography impacted the amount of time you spend with family or friends?
5. Has pornography impacted your ability to work?
6. Are you watching pornography in places where it is not allowed (work, library, school)?
7. Do you find yourself choosing to watch pornography instead of spending time with others or taking part in social obligations?
8.Do you make plans around your ability to watch pornography?
9. Would you rather watch pornography than be physically intimate with a romantic partner?
10. Do you find yourself struggling financially because of pornography?
11. Do you have difficulty decreasing amount of time you watch pornography?
12. Does the idea of not watching pornography cause you great anxiety?
If you can answer "yes" to any of these questions, or "yes" to most of the questions found on standard pornography addiction tests, it is time to reach out to someone who can help you manage your relationship with pornography. It is important to note that these are just some of the signs that an addiction to pornography might be present. If your relationship with pornography is causing you any distress, depression, or anxiety, or is affecting your relationships, it is beneficial to seek professional help, no matter your responses to any self-assessment.
"Pornography Addiction" is not something you will be diagnosed with by a mental health professional. The term does not exist in the DSM-V, the diagnostic tool that mental health providers use to diagnose their patients. However, a trained therapist, like those provided through Betterhelp, can help you understand and treat any impulse control behaviors or underlying issues that may be perpetuating a need for pornography.
Pornography addiction treatment will look different for everybody, depending on their relationship with pornography. In most cases, talk therapy can help find the cause of your pornography addiction, provide you with resources for conquering your addiction, and will help you navigate any personal challenges that arise as the result of overcoming pornography. Medication is also available if you are dealing with issues like anxiety or depression too.
Pornography addiction recovery is a process, but there are simple steps you can do to ensure your success. Consider the following strategies:
Confront Your Beliefs
Start listening to how you speak to yourself. Pornography addiction happens because it provides us with a reward. Think about why you may need happiness to come from pornography instead of within. Do you doubt your yourself? Speak to yourself without love? Believe you do not deserve physical intimacy? These unhealthy beliefs may be subconsciously fueling your addiction. Finding them and challenging them is a crucial step in your pornography addiction recovery.
Setting goals are essential to any addiction recovery process. If your long-term goal is to stop watching pornography completely, do not try to reach this goal on day 1. Break your goal into achievable steps. Consider where you would like to be in one day, one week, and in one year.
Go beyond your pornography addiction when creating goals. Think about what types of behavior you want to change within yourself, what thinking patterns you want to eliminate, and how you want your lifestyle to look once pornography is out of the picture.
Make your goals specific, so you know what you are working towards. For example, "I want to attend two social outings a week," instead of "I want to get out more." Or, "I want to say no to watching pornography when I am home alone," versus, "I want to watch less pornography."
Find The Trigger
It is helpful to try to pinpoint the exact circumstances or situations that make you want to seek pornography. For some, it may be stress, others boredom. You may find that feeling lonely, or simply having too much spare time on your hands leads to you seeking out pornography more.
See if you can find any trends in your pornography viewing habits. Is there a certain time of day, specific place, or emotional state that drives you to pursue pornography? Avoiding the triggers is a quick way to immediately reduce the amount of time you will spend with pornography and will help prevent opportunities for relapse to occur.
Create A Plan
One way to ensure success is to create a plan for what you will do when you want to watch pornography, or when the opportunity to watch pornography presents itself. For example, if you know you seek pornography when you need a release from stress, come up with a plan to deal with your stress in another way.
If it is boredom that causes you to resort to pornography, purposefully keep your day as structured as possible, limiting your downtime. Your game plan does not simply have to include busy work or distractions; it can consist of a healthy physical release of yoga or run too. The plan should be easy to execute around your triggers and should keep your mind and body busy.
Setting boundaries is an important part of overcoming pornography addiction. This step requires a great deal of self-discipline. If you know that you are more likely to watch pornography if you are on your laptop in your room, versus your family PC, stop using the laptop altogether. Likewise, if late nights usually end in you reaching for pornography, firmly stick to an early bedtime. Your boundaries should work to eliminate the opportunity for your triggers to happen.
As difficult as it is to deal with pornography addiction, it is helpful to have resources by your side to assist you. Reach out to family or friends if you are comfortable, or join a group dedicated to pornography addiction recovery. Many religious organizations have resources to help individuals cope with pornography addiction, but it is important that your resources are a source of support, not shame, guilt, or obligation.
Keep in mind resources can go beyond working face to face with others. There are many self-help books, websites, and podcasts that can aid you if you are not comfortable working directly with someone else. If you need help finding pornography addiction resources, ask your mental health professional.
As you change the way your relationship with pornography looks, it is vital that you celebrate your achievements. All achievements, whether small or large are important to stop and acknowledge during this process. If your goal is "no pornography for the next 24 hours," and you accomplish that, reward yourself in a positive, and healthy way. Focus on how it feels to succeed and take time to realize you are one step closer to your end goal.
A Note About Relapse…
Recovery is a process. There are many times you will want to give up, try to convince yourself your addiction is not "that bad," or try to argue with yourself that "just one more time will not hurt." This type of self-talk is a sign that you might be headed for a relapse. If a relapse does occur, remember that it is just part of the process. It is not a sign that you should give up or that you are "starting over." Communicate openly about relapse issues with your therapist, or another trusted individual, so they can help you get back on track to recovery quickly.
When it comes to knowing how to stop pornography addiction, no one way works for everyone. Each person's journey through recovery is their process. However, sticking to a sensible, flexible, and effective plan can mean the difference between success and struggle. Pornography addiction can impact our personal lives, relationships, careers, and health. Managing an addiction to pornography will give you added happiness and success in your everyday life.