Many people who suffer from pornography or sex addiction, experience feelings of guilt and shame about their problem. The secret they carry and the double life that they may be leading, can be a lonely and isolating experience. Reluctance to share their concerns may result in the development of anxiety and depression symptoms.
It is reported that pornography addiction is comparable to cocaine addiction; this is due to similarities in neurochemical activity that takes place in the brain. Masturbating and reaching climax in conjunction with viewing pornographic images may serve to increase the pornography addiction due to the development of a chemical dependency on the neurochemicals produced in the brain.
Although porn addiction is not yet listed as an official mental disorder, the same criteria may be applied that identifies other addictions. An addict develops a dependency that affects and impacts on many aspects of their life, often interfering with work, relationships, family life, friendships and their social lives. As their addiction becomes stronger they often disconnect from the important relationships in their lives and struggle to maintain good daily functioning.
An addiction to pornography can create unrealistic expectations about a sexual relationship. If the addict is in a relationship, the intimacy once shared can disappear. Often they become dissatisfied in the bedroom and the high that is created by watching or looking at images while masturbating can no longer be matched or replicated in reality. Sometimes this can cause resentment towards the partner who does not want to partake in certain sexual acts and a strain can develop on the relationship.
As the addiction continues to grow, the intensity or explicitness of the pornography may increase as the addict becomes more desensitised to the material being observed/used. The escalation can be by way of viewing different more intense material, going to strip clubs, seeing prostitutes or having affairs. In these environments the fantasies about what sex 'should' be like for the addict, are able to be acted out.
When is it an addiction?
Many people ask whether they are addicted to porn or how much porn is "normal"? Unfortunately, the jury is out on this question. How often or how much time you spend watching porn before it becomes a problem in your life will vary from person to person. Rather than making broad judgements about how much is too much, it suffices to say that when it starts to interfere with your everyday life, your relationships or you start experiencing it as a problem or as an addiction, then it is.
Many men and women who feel addicted to pornography may make attempts to stop. If they don't succeed, it is not because they don't want to change but, like other addictions, it is very difficult to break a habit without help and support. Most often, people put off seeking external help because it involves revealing a deeply private part of their lives that they have kept hidden due to feelings of shame, guilt and fear. After several attempts at quitting on their own, many feel that they have tried everything and nothing works. Some feel that they are weak, a failure or that there is something inherently wrong with them. This can compound existing feelings of shame and guilt and can make it even more difficult to reach out.
When seeking counselling for pornography addiction, it is important to remember that you have choices regarding the outcome. The therapist is not there to judge or give advice regarding what is the 'right' behaviour for you. The therapist is there to support you in exploring what behaviour is acceptable for you around pornography, whether that means eliminating porn from your life, cutting down on the frequency at which you watch porn, or how to incorporate porn into your and your partner's sexual repertoire in a way that is mutually respectful and comfortable.
If you would like to seek help relating to pornography addiction but you are anxious about being judged, or if feeling shameful is getting in the way of getting help, perhaps establishing initial contact through email may help you feel more at ease about making an appointment.
If you would like to speak to someone regarding pornography or sex addiction, Victoria can be contacted by telephone or email.
The use, production, and/or transmission of CHILD PORNOGRAPHIC material is against the law and Mandatory Reporting applies.