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As we work with the men that come through our program we began to see some common threads about what leads them to pornography addiction. One of the most common traits that we see as we help people overcome their addiction is the role trauma played in developing their addiction to pornography.

Trauma can take many forms: physical, emotional and sexual. Therapists have separated these further into two main groups: developmental trauma and event or shock trauma. These two different types of trauma often lead people to addiction as a way to cope with their pain.

Developmental Trauma

Developmental trauma happens when vital developmental needs are not met or someone of authority (parent, teacher, family member) inhibits a child’s ability to receive the needs children require to mature and grow. An example of this kind of trauma can be seen when teens are left to their own devices when it comes to figuring out healthy sexuality. Developing sexuality can also be thwarted by authority figures that are too critical, repressive or encouraging of teen’s sexuality which prevents normal sexual development from occurring.

It is important to remember that the most critical thing parents can do to help their kids deal with traumatic events like developing their ideas about sex, is to be open and honest.

When parents or caregivers do not fulfill their roles teens and young adults can experience the second type of trauma – Event/Shock Trauma.

Event/Shock Trauma

Event trauma can happen at any time, at any place, to any gender, race or social class. This kind of trauma can have lasting effects which may lead to unhealthy sexual development, signs of irrational emotions or even an over stimulation of the nervous system. When people go through traumatic events it can dramatically effect healthy sexual development because this kind of trauma interferes with normal healthy development by not allowing the person to process the trauma accordingly.

This last step is important to understand because this is where addiction comes into play. People will try to self-medicate in order to overcome the trauma. One of the fastest growing ways for people to self-medicate is through the viewing of pornography.

Self-Medication through Pornography Viewing

We live in a stressful world. From jobs, marriage, kids, and health to a whole host of other personal issues, we can find ourselves in a constant state of stress and trauma. While some may choose to medicate their trauma through alcohol or exercise, some people use pornography to help them deal with the trauma that everyday life throws at us.

The problem with this way of thinking is that pornography can damage our brains and our relationships in the same way that drugs can. Here is a story of one our patients to illustrate this point.

“Kevin was a successful father of two wonderful little girls and a beautiful wife of 10 years. Even after the financial crash of 2008 he was able to keep his job which he loved. Unfortunately life through him a curve ball and he found himself out of work and nowhere to go in 2012. The job loss devastated Kevin and soon he found himself viewing pornography as a way to deal with the stress and trauma of being let go. At first it was only a couple of times a week when the stress of job hunting and rejection got to him, and before long it became an addiction he actively hid from his family. He finally hit his breaking point after his pornography addiction cost him a new job and he came to Desert Solace.”

As he worked with our trained therapist he began to see how throughout his life he had used pornography as a way to deal with trauma. Kevin and his therapist were able to uncover the pain from past events and set up a plan to help Kevin deal with stress and trauma in the future. Kevin is doing great now and was able to find a job to support his family.

We all will experience trauma, but it is up to us to do our very best to deal with the trauma in the right way. We should also never judge people who are going through trauma and use pornography as an escape. These people need our love and support, and with help they can learn to overcome their personal traumatic events.