Table of Contents
Porn Addiction, Abuse, and Symptoms

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. The Basics

This guide explains the effects, trends, and dangers of porn abuse, as well as an unbiased analysis of the behavioral treatment methods for porn addiction based on current research and publicly available statistics. In some cases, usage statistics are derived from subcategories of mental health disorders, such as behavioral addiction or impulse control disorders.

Primary Porn Abuse Dangers

  • Addictiveness: Whether or not porn is addictive is somewhat controversial. The American Psychological Association notes that many people use porn recreationally without it impacting their life. However, around 9% of people who view porn say they tried to stop and can’t do so on their own. That’s true even when porn causes negative consequences for those individuals. A study of literature on addiction to behaviors such as gambling, internet use, and sex looked at the neural data related to individuals compelled to engage in such behaviors and compared that to data from studies about substance abuse. The conclusion of the review is that there are similarities between addictions to behaviors and addictions to substances, supporting the fact that porn can be addictive for some people.
  • Risks of abusing or overusing porn: Abusing porn can have an impact on someone’s life, including relationships, careers, and finances. According to TechAddiction, a third of porn addicts reported losing a job because of porn abuse and abusing pornography can increase the chances of being unfaithful in marriage by 300%. A study titled Personal Pornography Viewing and Sexual Satisfaction: A Quadratic Analysis questioned how the “dose” of porn impacted someone. It found that the more someone engaged with porn, the less they were interested in the physical aspects of intimacy with someone else. Using porn also comes with a risk of desensitization that causes someone to need to use more porn or more shocking or risky porn to experience the same effect.
  • Unintended side effects: Porn’s impact isn’t just on external factors, either. It can have unintended side effects on a person’s mind and body, including a distorted perception of the actual realities of sex and intimate relationships. For example, pornography can present sex as a recreational activity akin to sports, promoting ideas about promiscuity, virility, and sexual behavior that do not translate in a healthy manner into real-world practices or relationships. This can result in aggression, abuse, or sexual addictions that hurt the person who is abusing porn or other people who they attempt to engage with in physical realities.
  • Legal risks: While porn itself is not necessarily illegal, the United States does have obscenity laws. It’s also illegal to possess or distribute obscene videos and images containing minors. Many people who view porn don’t do it with the intent to engage in illegal activity, but ongoing use of porn can cause someone to explore further into the niche — either because of curiosity or a need to find newer or more sexualized content to gain the same satisfaction. That can lead someone into illegal territory before they realize how much they’re caught in this addiction.

Porn Abuse Background

Diagnosis Can be diagnosed as a behavior addiction or impulse control disorder under DSM-5 diagnostic criteria

Can be diagnosed as “other sexual dysfunction” or “unspecified sexual dysfunction” under ICD-10 classification

Ways abused Viewing online, streaming on television, watching on recorded video media such as DVD, viewing via apps, sharing via text or messenger systems
Potential negative impacts (noncriminal)
  • Impacts the ability to engage in normal sexual intercourse or intimacy with a partner, specifically a lack of interest in such activity
  • A distorted view of sex and the role of intimacy in a relationship
  • Financial consequences related to spending a great deal of money to feed a porn habit or neglecting personal finance tasks while engage in abusing porn
  • Loss of job due to poor performance because someone can’t stop thinking about porn or using porn on the job
  • Loss of a relationship, including marriage
Is it legal? The legalities of porn can be complex. In general, porn that involves consenting adults acting and consenting adults watching is legal.
Potential illegal activity
  • Watching, storing, or distributing porn involving minor children
  • Being involved in creating and distributing porn that is based on actions that don’t involve consent between adults
  • Breaking U.S. obscenity laws when it comes to distributing or sharing porn in certain ways
Potential legal consequences Due to its status as a Schedule II controlled substance, Concerta is illegal to possess without a valid prescription from a licensed medical professional. Possession is usually charged as a misdemeanor, and the penalties for a conviction may include fines, jail time, or participation in a substance-abuse treatment program. Penalties for a second or subsequent conviction are usually harsher; for example, an individual convicted for a third possession offense may have to spend time in prison rather than a local jail.
Punitive Legal Measures: Selling/Distributing The consequences of illegal activity related to porn can vary. Violation of child pornography laws can come with especially severe consequences, including 15 to 30 years in prison as well as fines for first-time offenders

II. Signs of Abuse

What’s the difference between someone who checks porn out of curiosity or occasionally turns to porn for added excitement in a relationship and a person who is addicted to porn and can’t control it? A lot of it comes down to the signs and symptoms. Porn abuse can have both behavioral and physical symptoms.

Behavioral Symptoms of Porn Usage and Abuse

How porn abuse affects the brain

Some studies have shown that abusing porn can cause similar changes to the brain as abusing some types of drugs does. For example, in one study, men who identified as engaging in problematic porn use were shown erotic images. Men who did not engage in PPU were shown the same images. The men who had a history of PPU reacted differently and had different brain activity than the other study participants, demonstrating that the abuse of porn had changed the way the brain responded to it. The same was true when it was merely the anticipation of porn and not actually viewing it.

The science related to porn addiction’s impact on the brain is still fairly new and is not without controversy. Some studies demonstrate that brain pathways in people who abuse porn are not changed, and more research needs to be done. However, health care and mental health professionals have begun to adopt a belief that while porn itself may not be harmful to everyone, it can be harmful to someone who has used it to the point of negative impact or who cannot stop using it.

Behavioral signs of porn abuse

Behavioral signs of porn abuse or addiction can actually be similar to those that might be relevant to a drug or alcohol addiction. This is because if someone is addicted to porn, they may be making a bigger space for it in their life or be constantly distracted by it. That can lead to issues such as:

  • Ignoring responsibilities or relationships to engage in porn use
  • Lying or acting oddly to hide porn use out of shame, guilt, or fear that someone will put a stop to the porn abuse
  • Using the computer for hours at a time, even if it means a lack of sleep or incurring huge data charges
  • Insisting that someone else, especially a romantic partner, view porn with you
  • Using porn as a way to “gear up” for sexual intercourse
  • Demanding that someone act out scenarios from porn with you
  • Engaging in risky behavior to view porn or because you can’t wait to view porn, including watching it at work or in other inappropriate locations
  • Spending a great deal of money or money you can’t afford on pornography

Physical Symptoms of Porn Abuse

How porn abuse affects the body

For someone who has grown addicted to porn, it’s possible that their physical reactions can be impacted. When you first view porn, for example, you may get easily excited or aroused by what is on the screen. But as you continue to view it, your mind and body become desensitized to the content. You may need more porn or more aggressive content to have the same reaction. You may even feel that porn gives you a “high” that you begin to be psychologically dependent on.

In the same way, porn can reduce your ability to be satisfied with real physical intimacy. Your brain may become used to receiving the fantasy elements included in pornography, which makes the realism of sex with another person less appealing. This can lead to an inability to enjoy sex without first viewing porn or involving it in some way.

Further Resources

 

Both Medical News Today and Healthline offer in-depth information on both the symptoms and treatment of porn addiction.

III. Porn Usage

Understanding porn use and addiction can be difficult, due in part to the limited research and disparity with which clinicians diagnose these types of addictions. However, some research has been completed, and there are statistics to help individuals see that they aren’t alone.

Prevalence of hypersexual disorder in the United States

A publication from the National Institutes of Health notes that sometimes, clinicians use an umbrella category of hypersexual disorder to classify people with a porn addiction. This term can also refer to those who engage in other problematic sexual behaviors, such as excessive visits to strip clubs, excessive masturbation, and excessive telephone sex. In short, it describes someone who can’t stop engaging in activities of a sexual nature, including pornography. According to the NIH, the prevalence of these types of disorders in adults in the United States may be 3% to 6%.

Porn use leads to other mental health concerns

Documentation from TechAddiction shows that people who use internet porn are twice as likely to have clinical depression as people who don’t use porn. In general, people who use porn don’t feel good about doing so, and it can be a gateway to sexual compulsions or other sexual disorders. When asked about how they feel about internet porn, a high number of people with diagnosed sexual disorders say that discovering internet porn was one of the worst things that ever happened to them.

IV. How to Find Help

Those who are addicted to pornography may have many of the same challenges in getting help as someone addicted to drugs does. First, they might feel guilty or ashamed, not knowing how to admit this issue to someone else. In some cases, they may not believe they have a problem at all, considering themselves in control of the habit. But if pornography is getting in the way of your relationships, careers, health, or other vital aspects of your life, it’s important to realize that you’re not alone, and it’s possible to get help.

Many addiction recovery and mental health providers offer assistance for behavioral addiction. You might want to look for providers that offer treatment for porn, sex, gambling, video game, or internet addiction. Providers who are experienced in treating behavioral addictions are more likely to recognize a porn addiction for what it is and have the tools and knowledge to treat it.

Treatment typically includes cognitive behavioral therapy or other proven methods to help you discover the root causes of your addiction and create new habits and coping mechanisms for living a porn-free lifestyle in the future. Professional counselors can also help you understand if you have co-occurring issues, such as depression, that might need to be addressed.

Read more: Porn Addiction Rehabilitation and Treatment

Staging an Intervention

If you have a loved one who’s struggling with addiction, staging an intervention is often the first necessary step, but it’s important to be strategic and loving in your approach. Even the most well-meaning of interventions can have a negative effect if they aren’t handled correctly.

5 Tips for Staging an Intervention

1. Don’t Do It Alone. A professional interventionist is always the most qualified to guide a successful intervention. Also, rely on non-addict family and friends – especially those who have a close relationship with you or the addict.
2. Research Ahead of Time. It’s best to do plenty of research ahead of time to gather insight on the addiction and how it affects the addict. Also, be prepared with local resources for getting help.
3. Write Out Your Statement. During the actual intervention, emotions will likely be running high, so it’s best to have a statement of how the person’s addiction has impacted you and your relationship with him or her. These statements should be honest, yet written from a place of love – no personal attacks.
4. Offer Help. It’s important for everyone attending the intervention to offer tangible help and support as the person works through detox and rehabilitation.
5. Set Boundaries. If the person refuses to seek help and take the next steps outlined, it’s important that they understand that everyone present will end codependent and enabling behaviors.

V. Sources