For some men this might be a confronting question, but for someone who knows they have a porn addiction, it is possibly one of the most confronting questions they could encounter. Once we have explored more about porn addictions the reasons for this may become clearer.
So, do you have an addiction to porn?
Firstly, let’s understand what we are talking about. The term ‘porn’ itself probably doesn’t need much clarification. However, the term ‘addiction’ is something that is often used very freely in our society to define a broad range of behaviours.
There are an infinite number of different ways that addiction has been defined, but one of the most generic and simplest is Wikipedia’s definition of it as “a continued involvement with a substance or activity despite the negative consequences associated with it”.
From this definition it is clear that the term ‘addiction’ could be applied to any number of different challenges. Alcohol and drug addictions are commonly understood issues in our society. Other addictions that counsellors might regularly encounter include sex addictions, gaming addictions, TV addictions, etc. There is a debate within the helping professional about whether porn addictions actually exist, and whether they should be classed in the same was as other ‘addictions’.
So while someone may be addicted to something like porn or gaming, it does not suggest that the behaviour or the activity itself is problematic or an ‘issue’. Issues and problems relating to addiction generally only apply when the behaviour is ongoing and continues, despite impacting negatively on other areas of one’s life or the life of those around you.
Porn itself often carries a negative stigma. This may originate from a family or religious value system. As a result, some people may find that they have a number of responses or reactions to their behaviour, either during or after having viewed pornography. For someone who has been raised with values that suggests porn is ‘wrong’, there can be a sense of guilt or shame. Other elements of self-judgement can arise too, such as thinking that one may be a ‘bad person’ or ‘feeling worthy-less’ or worthless. For many men accessing porn may be something that they do in secret, either a secret that they keep alone, or possibly one that is shared with a close friend or partner.
So what is the difference between simply watching porn and being addicted to porn?
Perhaps you can ask yourself these questions:
1. Do you access porn on a regular basis? Perhaps more than once per week?
2. Do you notice any anxiety within yourself if you aren’t able to access porn as often as you’d like?
3. Are parts of your life being negatively impacted because you are accessing porn?
4. Are any of the relationships in your life being affected?
5. Do you often intend to do some other activity and then somehow find yourself accessing porn instead?
6. Are you regularly getting less sleep than you should because of porn?
7. When you access porn do you often find yourself spending far more time than you had intended?
8. Have you increased your broadband plan to accommodate your porn needs?
9. Do you often tell yourself you’re going to stop or you’re going to limit the amount of porn you access, but then it doesn’t actually happen?
I’m not going to tell you that because you’ve answered these questions with a ‘yes’ that you definitely have a porn addiction. To do so would simply add to the ‘judgements’ that you’ve possibly already heaped on yourself. However, if some of these questions do apply to you, then perhaps there is something there for you to explore.
Often someone with an addiction will focus all of their efforts on trying to stop the addiction. They will set themselves goals, such as “I’m not going to do it for 7 days”. Sometimes there is even a reward at the end: “if I abstain for 2 weeks I’ll reward myself with a…”. They will often question why they do it, and what it’s caused by. The addiction, and stopping it, can be something that begins to consume their life and their thoughts, and can have a significant impact on how they feel.
From my experience in working with clients, persistent behaviours such as porn addictions, often suggest an absence of something else in their life. While it is important not to completely ignore the addictive behaviour, often the journey towards a better balance in life is through actually focussing on other aspects of one’s life, such as relationships, family of origin issues, and other feelings deep within that are desperate to be explored and heard.
Addictive behaviours are sometimes a way for men to cover up, or hide away, something else in their lives that they don’t feel they are ready to deal with. For some men, they may not be aware of what these other issues are, or even that they exist.
Porn addictions can occur in cycles. There can be a time where one accesses porn very often, almost not being able to stop. And, then there are other times when the feeling is not as strong, or life is interesting and busy enough that one doesn’t even think of porn, or perhaps because there isn’t an opportunity. Because of the cycle of addition men may sometimes commit to seeking help for their addiction, but then when they are feeling less addicted, or less attracted to the porn, they tell themselves they are on the right track and don’t follow through. And then the cycle begins again.
My professional experience and training suggests to me that it is extremely hard for someone to find a ‘solution’ to their addiction, or to let go of their addiction, on their own. Most often it is necessary to engage some help. Because of the nature of porn addictions it can be really hard for many men to seek help from those close to them. They may not want anyone else to know.
By seeking help from a professional who has the experience to help you and is also bound by a confidentiality framework, it is possible to find a way forward in a safe and supportive way. It is important to realise that the journey to healing addictions has many ‘ups and downs’. Having a professional who is able to expertly guide you and remain a constant for you during this journey, is invaluable.
So, whether you have a porn addiction or not, if you feel that porn is an issue in your life, try to seek some support and help from a qualified professional.
It’s good to talk.
While I don’t want to suggest that porn is either good or bad, the porn industry does have a reputation (which may or may not be valid) of sometimes exploiting individuals. A concern that is often expressed about porn is that it treats men and women as objects. By accessing porn in which anyone has been exploited we can become de facto supporters of that exploitation ourselves. However, for the purposes of this article, I am assuming that we are referring to porn where all the participants are informed consenting adults.
Disclaimer: This article is meant to provide men with general information about porn and porn addictions. This article should not be interpreted as a recommendation for a specific treatment plan or course of action. Before making any decisions about your health, you should consult a qualified health professional such as a counsellor, therapist or doctor.