Porn addiction is a behavioural addiction that means you feel compelled to watch porn to an extent where it interferes with your life in negative ways. This can be emotionally, socially and physically – or a combination. 

If you have become addicted to porn you will often find that you feel an overwhelming compulsion to view porn, and that you need to spend more and more time, with often ever-increasing intensity, watching it. You might also find yourself drawn to porn in niche genres or watching porn that doesn’t align with your sexuality (like watching gay porn for example if you’re straight).

You may struggle to stop viewing porn even if you wish to stop, and find that real life or ‘vanilla’ sex isn’t as satisfying to you as porn is. You may also find that you have trouble getting and maintaining an erection without porn and find it hard or impossible to masturbate without using pornography.

The bottom line is - if you find that you can’t stop watching porn and that doing so is impacting your work life, relationships, sex life and social life – you have an addiction.

What is porn addiction?

A porn addiction is a type of behavioural addiction. Behavioural addictions, also known as process addictions, are addictions to certain habits or activities. Since these addictions don’t actually require people to be taking substances, like drugs or alcohol, they are a bit different than the typical sort of addictions that are sensationalized by the media.

Porn addiction is, quite simply, addiction to pornographic material. Somebody with a porn addiction will habitually make use of porn far more than somebody with a healthy or recreational habit.

For porn use to become an addiction, it generally must cause the user some degree of difficulties or problems.  For this reason, sometimes it can be difficult to separate or draw a distinction between addiction and recreational use. When diagnosing yourself or somebody else with an addiction, it’s important that you pay attention to the signs and symptoms to avoid a misdiagnosis.

Of course, self-diagnosis is not always accurate. However, according to the mental health industry, pornography addiction is not yet identified as its own ailment. It is considered under the blanket term of sex addiction, which also includes addictions to masturbation, intimacy, and sex itself.

Regular porn use or addiction?

As mentioned above, it can be a little bit difficult to draw a line separating porn use from porn addiction. Plenty of people are able to watch porn without it becoming a serious addiction. On the other hand, some people with blatant porn addictions may consider their addiction to only be a normal habit.

Identifying and diagnosing a porn addiction can be a bit challenging. When it comes to addictions to substances like drugs and alcohol, the symptoms and behaviours are very obvious. More often than not, people with drug and alcohol addiction are likely to hear about these issues from their friends and families. 

Substance addiction can cause serious changes in behavior, physical appearance, emotional health, and so on. These changes are generally very obvious and it’s not uncommon for someone to have their friends and family speak out about their behavioural changes before they’re even aware of any changes themselves.

Porn addiction, on the other hand, is something that people have to come to terms with on their own. Except in the case of very close friendships where pornographic habits are discussed, or in the case of romantic relationships where porn use might cause friction, it’s generally up to people to recognize porn addiction on their own. 

Unfortunately, nobody wants to be addicted to anything. So it can be pretty hard for someone to acknowledge, accept, or even begin to consider that they may have a porn addiction. It certainly does happen, but it’s rare for someone to look themselves in the eye and announce to themselves, “I have an addiction problem.”

So, how are you supposed to know whether or not you have an actual porn addiction? One way is to take a look at the signs and symptoms of porn addiction. These signs and symptoms are generally a clear indication that your use has become more than recreational.

Since porn addiction rarely manifests in any physical symptoms, you’ll have to decipher the emotional and mental symptoms to decide. 

Signs and symptoms of a porn addiction

As mentioned above, the best way to determine whether or not you are struggling with an addiction is to check and see if you have the signs and symptoms of an addiction. Plenty of people watch pornography without it becoming an addiction. However, habitual and repetitious use of pornography can cause behavioral changes that indicate your use is out of control.

Frequently thinking about porn

If you find that a good portion of your day is spent thinking about watching porn, this is a sign of addiction. It’s normal to spend some time thinking about the things you enjoy. However, if you spend so much time thinking about porn that it’s taking up time you could be thinking about other, more productive pursuits, you may want to reconsider your habits.

Changing or intensifying porn preferences

One of the telltale signs of addiction is an increase in the intensity of addictive material and behavior. In the case of porn addiction, this would mean that you are starting to look at more and more intense pornographic material, or that you are starting to watch porn that you would previously not have considered.

Watching porn more and more often

If you’re watching porn more often than you did before, this is a sign that your habit is building in intensity. It’s important to catch yourself before you were suddenly trying to watch porn with every moment that you can spare.

Neglecting your hobbies and activities in exchange for pornography

Another telltale sign of addiction involves neglecting your own passionate pursuits in exchange for your addictive behavior. If you notice that you’re spending less time with your creative pursuits, hobbies, sports, or anything else because you’re more interested in watching porn, then you should be very cautious about your usage.

Social changes

Such as with any addiction, a porn addiction might lead to a number of social changes. If you’re choosing to stay home and watch porn rather than socialize, this detrimental behaviour suggests that you are developing an addiction. Furthermore, you may find yourself excusing yourself from social situations so that you can watch porn. 

Or, maybe you are directing conversations with your friends or family members towards pornography, discussing your favourite scenes, actors, or genres. This isn’t objectively wrong, however, it certainly indicates that your porn habits are occupying a great portion of your everyday focus. If you are discussing porn around friends or family members who are disinterested, this also suggests that your habit is beginning to take control of your behavior. Loss of self-control is a sure sign of addiction.

Trying and failing to stop using porn

If you’ve made a conscious effort to reduce your porn-watching habits without success, this is another sign that you’re losing control.

Problems caused by porn addiction

An addiction wouldn’t be an addiction if it didn’t cause problems. The problems caused by porn addiction are generally emotional or social in nature. These psychological changes can make it difficult for somebody to develop healthy relationships before they address their porn habits.

Sexual problems

As a sexual addiction, some of the most obvious problems associated with porn use are sexual.

Porn addiction is associated with masturbation addiction, more often than not. Masturbation addiction can cause all sorts of physical sexual challenges, especially for men. Excessive masturbation can lead to premature ejaculation or erectile dysfunction. Both men and women may develop difficulties becoming aroused without the use of porn.

Porn addiction during adolescence can also interfere with or stunt sexual development. Because of porn, some people may jump into sexual behavior before they’re ready. On the other hand, someone may avoid becoming physically sexual, preferring instead to isolate and watch porn.

Social problems

Porn addiction can cause a number of social problems. Some of these were discussed in the previous section. Neglecting your friends and family, or excusing yourself so that you may watch porn, can damage your relationships. Discussing these topics with people who are not interested can also damage your reputation.

This isn’t to mention the social problems that can result from this type of addiction on a larger scale. Porn addiction, and pornography in general, have had a drastic impact on the way our society approaches sex. These days, most teenage boys first learn about sex through porn. Porn and sex in movies have had a huge impact on gender roles, expectations, sexual behaviour and attitudes, and just about every other aspect of sexuality.

Most of these changes have not been for the better. Pornography has led to a stark increase in sexual aggression and violence against women. It has also damaged relationships and become a milestone by which men and women base their sexual self-esteem.

Relationship problems

Pornography addiction can create problems in personal relationships. Some partners may not want their partners watching pornography. This can lead to feelings of insecurity, shame, or resentment.

Some people also begin to develop unreasonable expectations because of pornography. Whether these expectations are placed on themselves or their partners depends on the individual. In either case, these expectations create difficulties that are often impossible to overcome.

Psychological problems

Like any addiction, porn addiction can cause a number of psychological problems.

On a biological level, porn addiction actually changes the way that the brain works. It interferes with our reward pathway. Because the brain can’t tell that the experience of watching porn is actually separate from real sexual activity, it is constantly priming itself as if you are having sex all the time. This causes a number of changes in the brain that, over a period of months or years, can make it difficult for people to enjoy pleasure — sexual or otherwise.

Sexually, porn addiction tends to create tremendous changes in an individual’s self-image. Porn addiction can lead to insecurity and hesitation when seeking a relationship. This, as well as the biochemical effects of porn addiction, can lead to fairly serious depression.

How to manage a porn addiction?

Porn addiction is a challenge, but it is not an insurmountable one. There are lots of different solutions available for anybody interested in managing their porn addiction.

Porn addiction can be treated in all sorts of different ways. Psychologically, different treatments can help people overcome some of the emotional problems associated with porn addiction. Socially, the friends, family, and partners of people struggling with porn addiction can help support them through their difficulties.

Therapy and counseling

Therapy and counselling are some of the best ways to manage any type of addiction. These psychological treatments will help you get to the root of the issue.

Seeing a relationship counselor can also help if your porn addiction is affecting your romantic relationships. They may also help you to work through any psychological or emotional issues that you picked up or developed as a result of your addiction.

Group meetings

Group meetings are a great way for anybody with an addiction to find support. One of the hardest things about any addiction is the feeling of isolation or rejection. Many people feel like they don’t have anybody to reach out to. This is especially true with porn addiction, which is fairly taboo as well as something that is usually only tended to behind closed doors.

Support groups can help you connect with other people who have similar issues. Sexual support groups can be found in most major cities. You should check online to see if there are any near you. If not, you can take part in an online support group.

Wrapping it up

Porn addiction might not be as dangerous as drug or alcohol addiction, but it can still cause a lot of problems. Learning how to identify and carefully overcome a porn addiction can help improve the well-being of individuals, their partners, and society at large.