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Porn Addiction

Treating This Co-Occurring Disorder in Rehab

Porn Addiction

Treating this Co-Occurring Disorder in Rehab

What is Porn Addiction?

Pornography addiction is a condition which some doctors don’t officially recognize, while other doctors do.1 Addiction is a problem that often requires rehab in a facility. Symptoms of porn addiction include an uncontrollable urge to watch porn to the point where it causes significant problems in daily living.1

Porn has been present for hundreds of years in society, but the invention of the Internet and live streaming services make porn more accessible than ever. As a result, porn addiction is evident in greater numbers. According to an article in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, an estimated three to six percent of adults may suffer from hypersexual disorder, which can include porn addiction. 2

ICD-11 vs. DSM-V

The International Classification of Diseases, 11th edition (ICD-11) and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Diseases, 5th Edition (DSM-V) are two guides that mental health professionals use to diagnose people with disorders like depression, anxiety, and addiction.3

The World Health Organization (WHO) releases the ICD-11. The latest, eleventh version came out in June 2018.3 The term “porn addiction” is not used in the manual, but “compulsive sexual behavior disorder” is described, including examples of other descriptions that may be considered a compulsive sexual behavior disorder, such as porn addiction, sex addiction, or hypersexuality.

Some of the ways the disorder is described include:3

A persistent pattern of failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses

Repetitive sexual activities that become the focal point of daily life and causes neglect of personal health and well-being

Failure to control sexual urges over six months or more

The creation of distress in ’family, education, work, or other key areas of life

Compulsive Behavior

According to the Reward Foundation, an estimated 80 percent of people with compulsive sexual behavior use porn to excess, or report having a problem with porn use.3 The ICD-11 currently classifies compulsive sexual behavior under the category of “impulse control disorders.”

The DSM-V does not include a sexual addiction or disorder in its language. The authors had considered including “hypersexual disorder” in the DSM-V but did not add it.3 This is controversial, because without the designation, therapists don’t have specific diagnostic criteria and insurance companies don’t have an official diagnosis to reimburse treatments for. Right now, many therapists will classify sexual addictions under categories like “Substance-Related and Addictive Disorder,” or “Disorder Due to Addictive Behavior.”

Is Porn Addiction the Same as Sex Addiction?

Porn addiction can be like an intersection of several addictions. This includes Internet addiction as well as sexual addiction. According to an article in the Delhi Psychiatry Journal, sex addiction is “having a sick or pathological (out of balance) relationship with sex that is harmful to one’s self or others.”2

Those addicted to sex find an uncontrollable need to achieve gratification through sex, while those addicted to porn find an uncontrollable urge to view and use porn.

Effects of Substance Abuse on Porn Addiction

Some researchers believe that those who have a history of addiction, including substance abuse or gambling addiction, may be more likely to suffer from porn addiction. These often have the effects of an “addictive personality,” where a person may be more likely to continue pursuing activities in an addictive pattern.

For many people, addiction is an escape. Substance abuse can be utilized as an escape from feelings of anxiety, depression, or other mental health concerns. Porn addiction can be used in the same manner.4

Sex Addiction and Substance Abuse

Doctors have found a connection between sex addiction and porn addiction as well as smoking, substance abuse, and even obsessive video game usage.4

Sex Addiction and Addiction Interaction Disorder

Addiction interaction disorder signifies cross addictions or co-occurring addictions. Examples of such are addiction to a substance, such as alcohol or heroin and another behavior or substance including gambling, sex, or porn.5

According to the Psychiatry & Behavioral Health Learning Network, male sex addicts men with sex addiction are more likely to experience cross addictions with cocaine and methamphetamine.5 Women who are addicted to sex may also experience addictions to controlling eating or to alcohol.

Those who experience addictions are all ultimately seeking control and sometimes a way to escape underlying psychological issues. Examples may include anxiety, depression, or past traumas.5

When does Personal Preference Become a Problem?

Simply liking to watch porn or even watching porn a lot doesn’t signify an addiction. Porn watching becomes a problem when there is a loss of control over how often or how much porn is watched. The preoccupation with porn starts to invade almost every aspect of daily lives, which inflicts negative effects.

Some of the signs that watching porn may start to be a problem include:

Spending more and more time watching porn

Feeling the need for a porn "fix" and that it's the only thing that brings feelings of satisfaction or joy

Feeling guilty after viewing porn

Requiring or insisting that others watch porn even if they don't want to

The inability to enjoy sex unless simultaneously watching porn

The use of porn cannot be ceased even though the negative effects are known

Why Do People Watch Porn?

The reasons for watching porn are numerous, from a mere interest or provocative challenge to curiosity about different sexual approaches, or to add excitement to a relationship, or for a sexual release.

Unfortunately, porn does bring with it the potential for addiction. This is possibly due to what’s known as the “triple-A” influence that includes affordability, accessibility, and anonymity.6 Because a viewer can be whoever they want to be on the Internet, using porn often provides an easier escape from everyday life.

Is Porn Bad?

Porn isn’t bad, and it is experienced by many without adverse effects. Porn-like drawings have even been found in caves for prehistoric civilizations. Porn isn’t a new approach, and it isn’t likely going away any time soon.

Causes of Porn Addiction

Doctors think that porn addiction can occur in a very similar way to substance addictions, according to Healthline.1 Once the experience of watching porn instills a feeling of euphoria, as watching it causes the brain to release feel-good chemicals that the brain can become addicted to, a need to watch it more and more to achieve the same feeling evolves into an addiction.

Risk factors for porn addiction can include:2

Low self-esteem

Poor or distorted body image

Untreated sexual dysfunction or sexual issues

History of previous sex addiction

Biological Causes​

Addiction of any kind creates a feedback mechanism for the brain, causing a need for the feeling of the reward in sexual satisfaction. It is possible to feel withdrawal and sadness when unable to use porn for sexual satisfaction.

Using porn can stimulate the release of dopamine, which is a feel-good chemical that is present in larger amounts in those who experience substance abuse disorders.6

Psychological Causes​

Some may turn to porn as an escape or release from everyday concerns. Examples include to release frustrations or to reduce stress or boredom. Porn can become an escape from the stresses of everyday life.3

Social Causes​

Low self-esteem or extreme loneliness may affect the ability to interact with others. The inability to make connections face-to-face with people may cause lonely or awkward persons to turn to porn as a way to reach sexual satisfaction. Porn takes the place of a real relationship with another person.

Addiction vs. Compulsion

When talking about porn addiction, it’s important to know the difference between compulsion and addiction. A compulsion is a behavior used as a means to relieve anxiety.1 An addiction occurs when behavior cannot be stopped even when the person wants to and has tried. Both conditions cause a loss of control over behavior, but addiction usually causes negative effects from the behavior.

Recognizing Porn Addiction

Some of the signs of porn addiction include the following:

Watching porn at inappropriate times or places, such as while at work or in public

Spending more and more time watching porn

Experiencing problems keeping up with work, education, or other commitments due to porn use

Having problems with relationships with a significant other, family, or friends due to the addiction

If these issues become prevalent, a mental health professional should be consulted.

Consequences of Porn Addiction

Untreated porn addiction can cause a number of effects, including problems maintaining relationships with others, low self-esteem, and poor sexual satisfaction. It can also impact the ability to live and work and loss of focus, time, and money.

Porn Addiction in the Marriage​

Porn addiction can significantly impact a married couple’s sex life and intimacy.7 Some of the signs that a partner may experience porn addiction include:

  • avoidance of sex
  • experiencing a detached feeling during sex
  • requesting to always watch porn during sex

Often, when a spouse experiences a porn addiction in a marriage, they had a history of early access to porn in their life or used porn substantially before their marriage.7

Use of pornography can not only affect intimacy, but it can also affect the self-esteem of the person’s significant other and can greatly impact the stability of the marriage.7

Teenage Porn Addiction 

The Internet has made porn increasingly accessible to young people. With little Internet knowledge, most people can access pornography content.3 This increasing access can make curious teenagers find pornography more easily than ever.

Adolescent Porn Addiction 

According to an article in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, a significant portion of adolescents access porn to shape their first sexual experiences, including masturbation. Most of the time, therapists view this as a source of sexual health and the natural progression of a young person’s sexuality.

Dealing with the Stigma of a Porn Addiction

According to an article in the Delhi Psychiatry Journal, an estimated seven of ten people who access porn online keep their activities a secret.2 Of the respondents who reported using porn online, men were six times more likely to watch online porn than women.2 However, women are more likely to engage in erotic chat forums than men.

How to Stop Watching Porn

For those addicted to porn, stopping watching porn isn’t as simple as turning it off. The experience of strong urges to return to porn use, and difficulty resisting the urges to watch or use porn again is insurmountable in some cases The following are some techniques that may help address a porn addiction.

Stopping on Your Own Versus Professional Help

There are some steps one can take at home to stop watching porn. If these help, there may be no need for professional help.

Steps include:

Identify any potential triggers to watch porn. Avoid them whenever possible, and find activities that can take the mind off urges to watch porn

Deleting links to porn sites and porn apps on the computer and smartphones

Throwing away all Blu-rays, DVDs, or videos of porn

Installing anti-porn or parental guidance features that can hinder their access

Asking a third party to set the password to block access

Sometimes, it isn’t enough to try and quit watching porn on one’s own. It’s hard to deal with feelings around the addiction and also to know how to find sexual satisfaction without porn. The presence of other mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, would make it more likely to benefit from seeking professional treatment for porn addiction.4

Because the larger psychiatric community doesn’t officially recognize porn addiction as a medical condition, there are not many therapists who specialize in treating porn addiction. However, a potential therapist may have treated people with porn addictions and may be able to describe what approaches they may take.

Porn Addiction Recovery Groups

Some people may find they benefit from participating in support groups for those who’ve struggled with porn addiction or other sexual addiction forms. Examples may include Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous and Sex Addicts Anonymous.2

Porn addiction recovery can be difficult because a person cannot usually avoid using the Internet, computers, or smartphones in their daily lives.2 Therefore, they have to find other ways to work around feeling the need to view online sex or porn.

Treatment Options

The following are some treatment options that medical professionals may use to help those struggling with porn addiction.

Inpatient Recovery

Inpatient recovery can include staying at an inpatient facility where a person can participate in counseling sessions as well as group therapy. Inpatient recovery may be an ideal treatment option for those who struggle with other addictions or mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. A person may need this time away from their computer and smartphone as a means to truly break free from their addiction.

Terry Crews Inpatient Porn Rehab Story

Terry Crews is a former NFL football player and actor who has admittedly struggled with a porn addiction.8 In 2016, Crews released a series of videos to his Facebook account where he acknowledges that he was addicted to porn and how it affected his marriage.

Crews decided to go to rehabilitation for his porn addiction as a means to save his marriage and to improve his life. He reported that his recovery included refraining from engaging in sexual intercourse with his wife for three months after he completed rehab.8 After his treatment, Crews said that he was able to improve his sense of intimacy with his wife as well as see people less as “objects,” and more as human beings.

Treating Co-occurring Condition SUD/AUD and Porn Addiction

A struggle with multiple substance abuse disorders can be insurmountable to treat along, so seeking professional treatment may be the best approach, as the issues revolving around porn addiction, and other substance addiction can be very complicated.

Therapies That Can Help

One of the most common approaches to treating porn addiction is cognitive-behavioral therapy. This is a therapy that helps a person identify how their thoughts affect their behaviors.1 This therapy type also helps a person identify how to change their behaviors in ways that help them live a happier, healthier life.

Other therapy approaches that may help include couples’ therapy, as well as twelve-step programs that can help to reduce the sensations of shame that can sometimes come with experiencing porn addiction.5

Wellness Activities That Can Help

Those who struggle with porn addiction spend a significant amount of time engaging in porn use. As a result, the effort to pursue new, healthy activities that allow effectively relieving stress and take thoughts away from using porn is necessary. Examples of these wellness activities may include:

Meditation

Engaging in new physical activity approaches, such as walking, taking an aerobics class, or riding a bicycle

Journaling

Pursuing art or music therapy

These activities can assist better physical wellbeing, as well as help mentally after struggling with porn addiction.

Medicines that can Help

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t approved certain medications to treat porn addiction. However, doctors have prescribed certain medications that may help reduce the symptoms of porn addiction. Examples include naltrexone and paroxetine; a medication doctors often prescribe to treat depression.5 Naltrexone may help to reduce cravings for drugs as well as reducing the euphoric sensations one may experience during the use of porn.