7 Signs You May Have a Problem with Porn Addiction

That we are sexual beings a basic fact of our humanity. Our survival depends on gratifying our sexual desires to perpetuate the species. So just as we need to satisfy our drives to eat and drink, we also experience sexual desires that long to be fulfilled. With the explosion of technology over the last twenty years and the birth of the Internet, it’s no surprise that we’ve found many ways of satisfying our sex drive online with pornography.

 

Many people use online pornography casually: they use porn infrequently and their interest isn’t sustained over time; they don’t feel guilt or shame as a result of their viewing porn; they seek out porn and cybersex activities occasionally for fun or curiosity; they find real intimacy and relationships more fulfilling than porn.

 

For many others, however, the story is quite different. So common is compulsive consumption of porn that “porn addiction” is now recognized as one form of sex addiction. To understand at-risk porn use, then, we need to take a quick glimpse at sex addiction.

 

 

What are Sex and porn addiction?

 

Like other addictions and compulsive behaviors, sex addiction has three essential criteria:

 

  1. Ongoing obsession and preoccupation with the substance or behavior of choice,
  2. Loss of control to use (i.e., the inability to stop), and
  3. Continuation despite negative life outcomes (Weiss & Schneider, 2015)

 

The sex addict’s mood-altering sexual activities become central to his or her life so that the individual needs these activities to feel normal (Carnes, 2001). Often, sex addicts use sexual activities to “numb out” or “escape” their emotional lives. Porn addiction, then, is compulsive sexual behavior that utilizes pornographic materials to act out sexually, and in today’s world, that means using online and digital resources to engage in and fantasize about sexual behaviors.

 

Of course, addictions develop over time, so that the casual pleasure-seeker using porn intermittently may eventually become addicted. There are many signs that may indicate a cybersex user who is at risk for developing a porn addiction.

 

 

7 Warning Signs That you Have a problem with Porn

 

1. You keep your porn use a secret. You use porn in private and lie to others about your cybersex activities. You also lie to yourself, justifying your use of porn by minimizing the damage it does to you and your most important relationships. More broadly, you often keep other secrets, sacrificing intimacy in order to feel accepted, loved, or “good enough.

 

2. Your thoughts often turn to porn, especially when you’re feeling anxious, depressed, or overwhelmed. Sex and porn addiction are like any other addiction in that they’re mood-altering. As your porn habit develops, your thoughts will go toward using porn and pornographic fantasies as a means of escaping difficult feelings. As porn addiction sets in, this mental state becomes a trance-like mood in which one’s thoughts are completely engrossed in sex and porn.

 

3. You become excited or sexually aroused just as you begin to engage in your cybersex activities. If you use porn regularly, you very likely have routines that lead up to your sexual behavior. It used to be that porn users reported feeling excited or aroused when they dialed in via modem and heard the familiar sounds of an online connection being made. Now, your hands might start shaking as you type in the URL of your favorite porn website.

 

4. You lose track of time when you’re looking at porn. Hours go by when you’re online and you notice only after you log off. You enter into an almost trance-like state where you don’t feel fully present in yourself, and so it’s far easier to be unaware of the passage of time.

 

5. You masturbate during and/or after viewing porn and your other cybersex activities. 

 

6. You feel intensely guilty and ashamed after viewing porn. After you’ve finished your cybersex activities, you feel despair, guilt, hopelessness, and shame. If your porn use or online activities were degrading or humiliating, you may feel self-pity; if it violating personal beliefs, commitments, and ideals (e.g., your marital vows and relationship), you may feel self-hatred.

 

7. You’ve promised yourself that you’ll stop watching porn only to use it again after a few weeks or months. You feel that you should cut back on using porn or stop watching it altogether, and so you feel like a failure when you engage in cybersex activities again. There are, however, weeks and months when you’re able to stop.

 

That at-risk porn users are able to stop their online porn use differentiates them from porn and sex addicts, who are unable to stop despite enormous negative consequences. Still, if the criteria above resonate with you, you likely have a problem with porn. Seeking a therapist to talk about your porn use to a great way to find healing.

 

 

References

 

Carnes, P. (2001). Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction (3rd ed.). Center City, MN: Hazelden.

 

Weiss, R., & Schneider, J. P. (2015). Always Turned On: Sex Addiction in the Digital Age. Carefree, AZ: Gentle Path Press.

Jeremy Mast
jmast@awakeningsrelationalcounseling.com
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