Pornography Addiction

What is Porn Addiction?

Porn addiction has become a relatively common problem in our generation. Many claim it’s the fastest growing addiction.

Porn addiction involves compulsive viewing of pornography, obsessive thoughts and, almost always, also compulsive musterbation.

It is important to clarify from the start that Porn Anonymous is not a faith-based fellowship that takes a moral or religious stand against pornography or any other sexual behaviors. There are members in our fellowship with conservative or orthodox personal religious convictions, and there are others who espouse to liberal and progressive ideals. As a fellowship, we take no stand on religion, morality or politics. Our only goal is to help men and women who suffer from porn addiction.

It is also important to note that our program is intended for those who suffer from addiction. It is not a program for those who watch pornography occasionally and would like to eradicate this minor habit from their lives for whatever reasons, personal, religious or other.

What distinguishes porn-use from porn-addiction is the compulsive aspect of the behavior, which in some significant way interferes with leading a normal, balanced life.

Porn addicts, before they join our program, have usually already tried, with little success, many other ways to quit porn and break free.

Non-addicts who want to control or reduce their porn-habit will find many other helpful ways to do so. But those who join our program found, through personal experience, that the usual methods and advice for changing habits and strengthening their willpower don’t work for them. They have tried to mobilize all their willpower, but cannot stop.

The addict is a person who has very real reasons to stop, but just can’t. The behavior pattern of the addiction is stronger than their willpower, and the usual tools that might help other people, are not enough for an addict.

Addicts know what helplessness feels like. The addict suffers from an obsession with porn that eats at them, and they cannot stop their compulsive behavior. They can spend hours surfing and watching porn, even when they have important things to do, during work hours, or at the expense of family time. This may take its toll on their marriage, and certainly on their self-image and emotional well-being. They have tried to stop but never succeeded, which creates a cycle of frustration and helplessness.

Most addicts are unhappy with who they are and may have lost faith in their own goodness and worthiness. Many addicts suffer from self-loathing and feel like a failure. They feel stuck, weak, and defeated.

They feel like they are leading a double life. On the outside, their life might seem normal, but on the inside, they are consumed with emptiness, self-loathing and hopelessness. They are filled with guilt, shame and a tremendous loneliness. They live in fear of being caught, and simply cannot go on living like this.

The addict might have already tried every possible solution that the experts have to offer, but they continue to use porn compulsively against their better judgment. After every use, they promise themselves that this is the last time, but can never keep that promise. Addicts are not just attracted to watching porn, they have an uncontrollable thirst for porn.

How can you know if you are an addict, or if you just need the normal tools for kicking the habit? There is no fool-proof test or a single answer that can make a black and white distinction. However, there are a few helpful questions:

  1. Do you feel that this attraction is stronger than you, and do you get carried away against your will?

  2. Do you feel that even though you really want to stop, you can’t, and every time you feel the urge you succumb to it?

  3. Have you really tried hard to stop but without success?

  4. Does your frequency of use increase? Is the type of porn you use getting more extreme as time goes on?

  5. Do you repeatedly promise yourself that “this is the last time”, but cannot keep your promise?

  6. Do you feel hopeless about your chances of having a porn-free life again?

If these are somehow not enough, you can ask yourself a few more questions:

Do you feel that porn has become an obsession for you? Do you feel that sometimes your judgment just disappears? Do you feel a desperate need and sense of euphoria before watching porn, but a feeling of emptiness, sadness or depression after?

To know if we have an addiction we also need to be honest with ourselves about how our porn use affects all the areas of our lives including: our self-image, our emotional well-being, our relationship with our partners and other relationships.

Don’t make up your mind without giving it serious thought. If you’re not sure whether you suffer from addiction, take some time for self-reflection. Ask yourself the hard questions so you can reach a clearer conclusion.

Sometimes self-examination doesn’t give us a clear enough answer, so you might consider consulting with an experienced person. You can contact us at Porn Anonymous by email to schedule a phone consultation: help@p-a.online. We’ll be happy to offer our help. You can also consult a mental health professional who specializes in addictions.

Sometimes it’s a good idea to let time teach us what we haven’t managed to clarify ourselves yet. You can try this experiment: focus all your efforts on stopping, or at least reducing your porn use for one month or more. This trial period might help you conclude that you actually do have the ability to make the changes you want. However, if you don’t see any progress, it might bring you to the realization that you are facing an addiction, and that on your own, you are powerless to change. For an addict, the chances of making a significant change using willpower alone are pretty low.

It has been our experience that where other methods failed, the 12-Step program has been able to help us, the porn addicts. The original program was created in the 1930’s by recovering alcoholics, and it since has been successfully adapted to almost all other known addictions. There are hundreds of thousands of addicts in 12-Step programs worldwide, and new members are continuously joining, recovering successfully and receiving the gift of a life free from compulsion and obsession.

If you have come to the conclusion that you suffer from porn addiction, our program is for you. We invite you to join us. If, on the other hand, you decide that you are not actually addicted, we wish you success in finding the help that is right for you.

We wish you every success in any path you choose.

The Three Aspects of Addiction

Why is it so hard for us to stop using porn? It seems like it should be a simple matter. After all, we know from experience that every time we succumb to the temptation, we always ends up with the same pain and miserable feelings of failure and disappointment in ourselves.

It can be so confusing for us addicts. We have tried to find the solution to our problem in so many different directions:

Maybe all we need is more self-awareness? Maybe we can figure out the root cause that makes us run to porn and want to escape from the problems of life?  Maybe we just need to replace this bad habit with better and more positive choices? Wouldn’t that be enough for us to finally stop using porn? Maybe having a partner and regular sex would change all that? But then again, why is it that even after getting married, so many of us continue to watch porn? Why didn’t marriage solve our problem?

The experience of countless addicts has proven that the standard ways of coping are simply ineffective when it comes to addiction even when we use every ounce of our will-power. They simply do not work for us. We keep falling back and can’t stop.

We’ve all been there. And after this endless cycle, we’ve come to understand that our problem has three separate aspects. Without addressing all three, we cannot have long-term recovery and there is little chance of real self-control.  Our problem is a) psychological, b) physical, and c) spiritual, and we need a comprehensive plan for all three.

The Psychological Side

The mental element is the clearest: we just cannot stop our compulsive behavior. We know very well that it will cause us grief, but this knowledge simply doesn’t help us. We seem to be drawn back to it against our will. We seem to be missing the basic mental mechanism that’s supposed to stop us from doing things that hurt us. A person who touches a hot oven once and gets burned, will be careful not to touch it again in the future. However, we’ve been burned so many times, but we still can’t stop! Each time, we convince ourselves that the oven isn’t really hot.

The bottom line is that porn serves as an escape from the difficulties of life, a kind of hiding place from challenges we don’t want to face.

Beyond that, we get something when using porn that we haven’t found anywhere else, and it gives us more than just a place to hide. Some of our members describe the feeling while using porn as a time and place where they feel acceptance, warmth and fulfillment of their fantasies.

The Physical Side

We call the physical dimension an “allergy,” because of the abnormal reaction we suffer from using porn. We aren’t doctors or scientists, but using the term “allergy” helps us explain things that are difficult to understand. Ordinary people can watch a little porn and then stop, but not us. Some people can see a picture or a video and walk away, but once we succumb to the impulse, we’re like a car without brakes, going down a steep hill. Something in our brain isn’t working properly. Even though we know for certain (in our sober moments) that even one step in the wrong direction will send us into a tailspin that ends in a crash, we keep telling ourselves that this time will be different, and we’ll be able to stop before it’s too late. Just like a person who is allergic to peanuts can have an abnormal reaction if he eats even one peanut, we have an abnormal response when we’re exposed to sexual stimulation. We’re not talking about a skin rash or difficulty breathing, but an uncontrollable need to continue using porn without being able to stop until we crash.

The Spiritual Side

When we talk about the spiritual dimension, we don’t mean religion. We’re referring to our outlook on life, and the realization that without change we cannot heal. Our program is based on this desire for change, using a spiritual approach. When we say “spiritual” we mean the changes we need to make so that we switch from a life based on self-gratification to a life based on what we can contribute to others. In other words, what we give, and not just what we take. Porn addiction, just like any other addiction, is the opposite of spirituality. When we’re consumed with porn, we’re totally self-absorbed. This is the clearest symptom of addiction. Recovery requires the opposite: to stop focusing on ourselves, and instead, let God enter the picture.

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Even though addiction is a problem that has three aspects, we rely mainly on a spiritual solution. Obviously, we need to address the physical and emotional aspects as well, but that is not where we focus our efforts. Our experience has shown us that when we focus on the spiritual solution, as offered in the program, then the emotional and physical problems get alleviated too.

Does Sex Cure Porn Addiction?

Many men are introduced to pornography at an early age. Unfortunately, when these powerful images enter the highly impressionable, developing brain of a child or teenager, addiction can be the result.

Many young porn addicts have the mistaken belief that once they enter adulthood and a committed relationship, their fascination with pornography will cease. Many young people believe that “sex” will cure their porn addiction.

What they fail to understand is that porn addiction is literally a “brain chemical” addiction, in many ways identical to a drug addiction. Someone hooked on cocaine as a teenager, would not reasonably expect to automatically lose that desire or dependency simply because they reach legal age. Likewise, porn addiction does not magically disappear with adulthood.

But what about sex? Why would someone continue seeking out pornography when they can have sex with their partner? Why would they still have the need?

Think of it this way–would having sex eliminate a cocaine addict’s desire for their drug? Of course not, because cocaine addiction is not about sex. The same principle applies to porn addiction. Most people are completely unaware that pornography addiction is NOT about sex. Pornography creates a literal chemical dependency in the brain. The individual uses porn as a “drug-of-choice” to escape and “self-medicate” in response to any number of pressures, difficulties, needs or situations in his life. Having sex is not going to heal a chemical addiction.

It is true that sex can sometimes temporarily reduce the perceived need for pornography. Because self-pleasure and masturbation virtually always accompany porn viewing, sex can temporarily replace the fantasy images and masturbation. However, when one’s partner is simply a replacement for addiction, she can usually sense the facade. As many wives of porn addicts say, “I feel he’s just using me to masturbate. We’re not connected.”

So, sexual intimacy doesn’t replace or stop pornography addiction. The pornography simply creates problems in the relationship. And soon, sex with one partner isn’t sufficient to meet the “brain chemical” needs of the addict.

If you’re struggling under the burden of porn addiction, be careful not to fool yourself into thinking that if your partner was more sexually exciting and responsive, your problem would be solved. This makes about as much sense as believing sex would eliminate a drinking problem. You have to get on the recovery path and put in the time and effort to address the “real” underlying issues and causes of your porn use.

This is what PA is all about. We can help you move towards lasting freedom. You can break free and you can have a close, committed, wonderful relationship with your partner. But you can’t expect that person to rescue you from the work of recovery, or magically make your struggles go away. They can encourage, support and walk with you, but only you can make the commitment and get started. We’re here for you.