Compulsive pornography use is a behavioral addiction based in the compulsive hoarding and viewing of pornographic material. Although society at large seems to disagree with the level of damage pornography can do, or if it is even harmful, current research continues to prove the negative effects associated with it. With the rise and convenience of Internet, smart phones and social media, pornography is more accessible than ever, as well as more easily hidden. This multi-billion dollar industry continues to thrive on the isolation and secrecy of its users. Consequently, the number of individuals addicted to pornographic material is also on the rise.
Pornography and sex addiction is only recently receiving attention as an actual problem. In the past, the compulsion was written off as “a guy thing” or at worst, the result of poor self-control based on the justification that the individual was not actually introducing a foreign or mood altering substance into the body. In reality, researchers are now equating pornography addiction with a heroin addiction in its intensity and severity. Like someone with a substance abuse addiction, pornography addicts eventually replace priorities and relationships with their “drug”. They will spend thousands of dollars and spend hundreds of hours in isolation in order to get their next fix. Relationships inevitably suffer and compulsive pornography use is consistently being cited as a reason for divorce.
Cambridge University conducted a study that assessed the brain activity of regular pornography users against non-compulsive users. Results from the MRI scans showed that the reward center of the brain in compulsive users reacted the same way as an alcoholic or drug addict might on seeing their own addictive stimulus. Non-compulsive users did not. Research further shows that regular pornography use deregulates the dopamine levels in the body, requiring a more stimulus each time to reach a sexual high.
The human brain is hardwired to reproduce, making sex a natural part of the human experience. Hormonal and neurological balances in the brain cause a human to bind with the object of their sexual focus, usually a committed partner. This biological response is hijacked when an individual responds to sexually without an actual partner, such as during masturbation. The bond is therefore loosened with their significant other and it becomes more difficult for the individual to respond to their familiar stimulus. Erectile dysfunction and emotional indifference are very common side effects for pornography addicts.
Recovery from pornography addiction is very possible with both outreach and honesty. Once an individual decides to make a change, he will find that there are many options to choose from. Recovery begins with finding someone with experience in working with sexual addiction and admitting the problem in its entirety. This can involve individual therapy, a 12 step program or both. Most individuals will also need to attend family or relationship therapy to repair that area of their life as well. Seeking help for a pornography addiction can feel embarrassing or shameful; however, being consistently open and honest is crucial key to recovery as pornography compulsion feeds on isolation and secrecy. It is helpful for someone in recovery to have access to someone they can talk to, who is familiar with the ups and downs of the process. Recovery also involves making a plan that sets specific boundaries for activities and behaviors. Because it is not always reasonable for a pornography addict to abstain from sexual activity completely, the first day adhering to the plan marks the first day of “sobriety”.
If you or someone you know is struggling with pornography addiction, there is hope. Contact us at Desert Solace to discuss your options for treatment and therapy.