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What You Need to Know About Porn Addiction

writtenByWritten by: Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse
Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse

Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse

Tessa is a MSN prepared Registered Nurse with 10 years of critical care experience in healthcare. When not practicing clinical nursing, she enjoys academic writing and is passionate about helping those affected by medical aliments live healthy lives.

Read more posts by this author.
reviewBy Reviewed by: Melissa Dowd (Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist)
Reviewer

Melissa Dowd (Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist)

Melissa Dowd received her Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Dominican University of CA and is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. In addition to her work as a clinical therapist, Melissa is passionate about promoting emotional wellness through leading workshops, guest appearances, and across social media platforms.

December 9, 2020 Read Time - 10 minutes

What is Porn Addiction 

Porn addiction refers to a person becoming dependent on pornography to the point where it affects their daily life, activities, and relationships.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, addiction is a complex condition that is manifested by compulsive use despite harmful consequences.

This definition typically refers to the overuse of drugs such as alcohol, marijuana, opioids, cocaine, or tobacco. However, it is possible to be addicted to a wide variety of things that surround us in everyday life, including porn.

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What Does Porn Addiction Look Like?

Porn addiction will affect each individual differently and have varying consequences. Generally, signs of porn addiction include:

  • You watch porn despite the negative impact on life.
  • You are unable to quit watching porn.
  • You keep it a secret from your partner.
  • You neglect personal care.
  • You lose interest in other activities and other responsibilities due to porn viewing.
  • You become less interested in social interactions.
  • You watch porn at places that are not appropriate like work or school.
  • You are craving porn despite a lack of enjoyment.

Related Quiz: Am I Addicted to Porn?


Is Porn Addiction Real?

While many who view adult content remain unaffected, porn can become problematic for others. So, when does it become an addiction and how much porn is too much porn?

Scientists debate whether porn addiction is considered an addiction in the medical sense of the word. Some healthcare providers consider porn addiction a hypersexual disorder, but it is not necessarily that simple.

There is difficulty defining the addictive behavior pattern which constitutes a disorder, but understanding what drives any behavior is the key to treatment.

Although porn addiction is not currently recognized as a disorder by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), many people do consider themselves addicted and are unable to quit watching porn despite harmful effects on their lives.

Is Porn Addiction a Mental Health Disorder?

In 2018, the World Health Organization added compulsive sexual behavior as a mental health disorder, and although pornography isn’t explicitly singled out, the addition is defined by repetitive sexual activities that become the central focus of a person’s life thereby causing neglect toward their health, personal care, other interests, activities and responsibilities.

During the last decade, there has been debate regarding whether compulsive sexual behavior should be classified as a mental health disorder and whether or not pornography is a diagnosable addiction. A lot of push back against research funding is due to its highly political and controversial nature.

The international classification of diseases (ICD-11) rejected porn addiction as a disease code but does include impulsive control disorders such as pathological gambling, intermittent explosive disorder, kleptomania, pyromania, and trichotillomania.

Providers may justify porn addiction under the ICD-11 code of compulsive sexual behavior which appears under “impulse control disorders.” The understanding of compulsive sexual disorder will evolve as research continues to determine neurobiological and environmental underpinnings of the condition.

For now, the ambiguous line between problem and disorder has not been clearly defined.

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How Much Porn Do People Watch?

According to international studies, porn consumption rates are 50% to 99% among men and 30% to 86% among women.

According to a study from the Kinsey Institute, approximately 9% of habitual porn viewers reported unsuccessful attempts to stop. 

Signs and Symptoms of Porn Addiction

Porn addiction mirrors substance addiction. Like all addiction, you are bombarded with obsessive thoughts and then act out those thoughts through compulsions to temporarily relieve the intrusive thoughts.

Compulsions are repetitive behaviors with no rational motivation but are often engaged in to reduce anxiety. Such habits are only a temporary solution and force addicts to go back to the negative behavior again and again. According to an article in the Addiction Center, there are many signs of porn addiction.

Porn addiction may present as intrusive thoughts of porn even when you are not actively watching it. It is an obsessive thought cycle. You may view porn at “risky” times such as while at work and feel ashamed and guilty after you are finished watching.

Some indications that pornography viewing may be causing problems include.

  • You may hide porn watching from your partner and or get upset if your partner asks you to stop looking at porn. 
  • You may even lose track of time when watching porn and have tried to cut back on watching it but are unsuccessful.
  • You view progressively more extreme pornography to get the same effect as less extreme porn once offered.
  • You spend large amounts of money on pornography at the expense of necessities.
  • You are using pornography to cope with depression, anxiety, insomnia or other mental health issues.
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  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

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Causes of Porn Addiction

Due to the controversy surrounding the idea of pornography addiction, researchers have yet to identify clear causes. Porn addiction is a complex issue with a range of possible causes. Porn addiction may be caused by several factors including:

  • A need to escape from psychological stress
  • Relationship problems
  • Biological causes such as brain chemistry
  • Dissatisfying sexual relationships
  • Psychological trauma. 

Behaviors Correlated With Porn Addiction

Certain traits are highly correlated with porn addiction. When a person with the following traits views porn, they may be at an increased risk of addiction:

  • Neuroticism
  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Obsessive checking behaviors

Porn’s Effect on the Brain

What are porn addiction’s effects? Some research has been done on porn effects on the brain. An electroencephalogram (EEG) can measure the brain’s response after a stimulus in about 300 milliseconds. This is often referred to as the P300 value. The value increases when people are emotionally engaged with a certain stimulus presented. 

When people who are addicted to drugs view drug-related content, they show a clear increase in their P300 score. Surprisingly, there was no clear change in the P300 score with porn addicts who viewed porn. This further complicates the efforts to legitimize porn addiction as a medical diagnosis.

Can Porn Addiction Cause Depression?

Some research suggests that porn addicts often struggle with depression and anxiety after using porn. Feelings of guilt, shame or moral conflict are also reported for frequent porn users.

Porn use can certainly trigger depression in some individuals, but there are no studies that confirm the validity that porn causes depression. However, while porn addiction may not cause depression for all viewers, a person who uses porn as an outlet for psychological issues may already have a predisposition to depression and anxiety.


Read: Porn and Depression


The question remains: Do depressed people view more porn or does frequent viewing of porn trigger depressive symptoms? It is the proverbial question; which comes first, the chicken or the egg?

The truth is, porn addiction has an impact on individuals, couples, and families so if you’re struggling, where do you go for help?

How to Stop Porn Addiction

How do you break a porn addiction? Therapy, support groups, and medication may help with your porn addiction.

According to our medical director here at PlushCare:

“Early evidence suggests that cognitive behavioral therapy with a psychologist/therapist can be effective in treating compulsive sexual behavior. There is also limited research and case studies showing preliminary evidence that SSRIs (eg, citalopram, fluoxetine, sertraline) and opioid antagonists (eg, naltrexone) may reduce symptoms and behaviors of this condition.”

– Dr Adonis Saremi M.D.

Porn Addiction Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is often used for those struggling with porn addiction. CBT takes on the obsessive thoughts to change underlying emotional issues contributing to the addiction. 

These days traditional therapy sessions, much like many other medical treatments, have moved to virtual platforms. At PlushCare, we’re proud to offer the best in online therapy services. Getting started is simple, just click here to set up a virtual appointment with one of our trusted therapists.

Support Groups

Support groups and 12-step programs are offered for porn addicts. Porn Addicts Anonymous and Sex Addicts Anonymous has been shown to be particularly helpful for those recovering from porn addiction.

Support groups can help an individual identify potential triggers that may not otherwise be recognized in CBT therapy, as well as connect you with others who can relate to your experience and hold you accountable.

Medication

Porn addiction and mental health medications can be prescribed to help with underlying behavioral causes of the addiction such as depression and anxiety.

In some cases, those affected by porn addiction can be diagnosed with depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and these underlying conditions may be treated with medication.

Early clinical studies show evidence that certain antidepressants such as SSRIs citalopram, fluoxetine, and sertraline can help reduce symptoms of porn addiction.


Related: Get Antidepressants Online


PlushCare’s primary care physicians can help diagnose and treat mild porn addiction and coexisting mental health conditions, such as depression, online.

Pornography’s Effect on Relationships

Unhappy couple with problems in relationship because of porn addiction on bed at home.

Pornography use can impact relationships in a negative way. When pornography use becomes extreme, romantic relationships may suffer.

Researchers at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, surveyed female college students who experienced lower self-esteem, poorer relationship quality and lower sexual satisfaction when their boyfriends watched excessive porn. 

Conversely, female use of porn, was associated with improved sexual quality for women. Overall, when porn becomes so severe in frequency or duration, it will most always interfere with the significant other’s life.

When to Seek Professional Help for Porn Addiction

Porn addiction may be controversial, but there is no denying that negative consequences can result from compulsive pornography consumption. Here are the warning signs of addiction:

  • Compulsive behavior is present that leads to loss of control.
  • You find yourself spending at least 11 hours a week viewing porn.
  • There are futile attempts to stop on your own despite previous negative consequences.
  • Obsession with worry exists with the activity.
  • There is an increased need for more (what was once enough no longer is).
  • Some withdrawal symptoms appear when the stimulus is gone.

If you have lost a job, gotten in trouble at work or school because of porn, lost romantic relationships, had financial problems, have erectile dysfunction when you attempt sex because it’s “not the same as porn,” or if you are unable to go throughout your daily activities without obsessively thinking about porn; it is time to seek professional help. 

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

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Can Primary Care Physicians Treat Porn Addiction?

Yes, in general, primary care physicians can treat mild porn addiction. Primary care providers are trained to recognize and manage addictive sexual disorders such as porn addiction as well as the underlying conditions that may cause it. In severe cases you may be referred to a specialist.

The primary care physician will determine a pattern of behavior and discuss possible causes of those behaviors. Signs of depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder may be discovered and subsequently treated.

You can book an appointment with one of PlushCare’s highly trained board certified primary care physician’s here.

PlushCare is available to assist you by providing effective, affordable, and efficient medical care. With a network of doctors from the top 50 medical schools and an average of 15 years experience, it is no wonder 97% of conditions are successfully treated on the first visit.

Don’t hesitate to book an appointment with a top online doctor today.


Quiz: Am I Addicted to Porn?

Wondering how much porn is too much porn? Answer the following questions as honestly as possible to find out if you have any tendencies associated with porn addiction.

This quiz is not a diagnostic tool. Only a licensed physician can diagnose and treat porn addiction. If you want to talk to an online doctor discretely and affordably, book an appointment here.

Do you ever lose track of time while looking at porn?
Have you tried to cut back or limit the amount of time you spend watching porn?
Have you ever lied about how much porn you watch?
Do you feel restless or irritable when you try to limit the amount of porn you watch?
Do you feel guilty, sad, or anxious when watching porn?
Do you find yourself spending more time viewing or downloading pornography as opposed to socializing in real-time with people or engaging in other real-time non-sexual activities?
Do you secretly wish you could be less involved in online Internet pornography?
Do you find yourself viewing pornography at all hours of the day and night—even when it means interrupting other things you are or should be doing, including sleep or schoolwork, or your job?
Do you look at porn while you are driving or when you’re doing other activities that require your focused attention and concentration?
Do you watch porn more than once a day for several days or weeks in a row?

Read More About Porn Addiction


Sources

American Psychiatric Association. Is pornography addictive? Accessed on December 3, 2020 https://www.apa.org/monitor/2014/04/pornography

Kraus, S. W., Krueger, R. B., Briken, P., First, M. B., Stein, D. J., Kaplan, M. S., Voon, V., Abdo, C., Grant, J. E., Atalla, E., & Reed, G. M. (2018). Compulsive sexual behaviour disorder in the ICD-11. World psychiatry : official journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), 17(1), 109–110. https://doi.org/10.1002/wps.20499

World Health Organization. International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). Accessed on December 3, 2020 at https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/18-06-2018-who-releases-new-international-classification-of-diseases-(icd-11)

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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