You may think of “addiction” as a term related to drug and alcohol use, but it actually describes both substance abuse and some compulsive behaviors, including pornography consumption. Watching porn can become just as addictive as using substances, and the processes and impacts of the two kinds of addiction are very similar. In fact, they are so similar that they frequently happen at the same time or people use one behavior to replace the other. Since compulsive consumption of pornography and substances can both negatively impact your life, it is important to seek treatment and overcome these disorders as quickly as possible.

Porn Addiction Definition

Many people view pornography. However, it is considered an addiction when you view it compulsively in such a way that it negatively impacts your life and you are unable to stop even if you experience harmful consequences. In general, people who are addicted to pornography watch it for excessive amounts of time, typically at least 11 hours per week. Porn addiction is similar to alcohol addiction because in both cases, some consumption of the addictive behavior or substance is normal, but they cause serious problems when used to excess or without control.

One way to tell if you are addicted to pornography is if you experience porn withdrawal when you go for an extended period of time without viewing it. Porn addiction withdrawal symptoms are very similar to symptoms of withdrawal from substances, and can include:

  • Shaking
  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Trouble focusing

If you experience these symptoms when you don’t get your porn “fix,” it may be time to seek help.

Why Is Porn Addictive?

Sex is a natural human instinct that is necessary for survival. As a result, the brain releases chemicals such as dopamine, a hormone responsible for pleasure, as a reward system in response to sexual activity, including sexually stimulating activities such as viewing pornography. Porn also activates the reward system because it involves searching for stimuli and shows you something unexpected. Searching for stimuli and novelties are biological survival instincts that the brain wants to reward.

Over time, you can come to crave the reward response and the high that comes with it, resulting in compulsive viewing of porn. In addition, viewing pornographic videos results in constant, prolonged stimulation, which increases the reward response even more and increases your likelihood of becoming addicted. The neurological process is similar to the stimulation of the brain’s reward system and dopamine release in response to substance use. In both cases, you are likely to become more addicted the more you consume these stimuli, so seeking treatment early on significantly increases your chances of recovering.

Physical Impacts

Both behavioral addictions and alcohol and drug addiction alter the structure of the brain. Especially in the frontal lobe, they can reduce brain volume. With less mass in the frontal lobe, you have less impulse control and are more likely to use compulsive behaviors such as using substances or viewing pornography excessively. Your executive control center might also function less effectively, and the consumption of addictive substances or behaviors can interfere with your working memory.

While pornography consumption is unlikely to lead to conditions such as cardiovascular problems, lung problems, kidney problems, or cancer, all of which are complications of substance use, it can still lead to physical difficulties. Especially in cases where it leads to excessive masturbation, pornography addiction can lead to tissue irritation in the genitalia.

Porn Addiction Signs

Substance use disorders and pornography addiction can both have significant impacts on your social life. If you feel that your social or professional life is being affected, it may be time to seek help. Common porn addiction signs include:

  • Feelings of shame and guilt surrounding the disordered behavior, which can lead to lying to friends, family, and partners, as well as increase the urge to use addictive behaviors. This can result in conflict or isolation, as you may push your loved ones away to make room for the addiction.
  • Difficulty connecting with your real-life partner.
  • Problem pornography use can make it difficult to get an erection through human contact, without the help of pornography, and decrease your ability to experience sexual arousal since frequent sexual stimulation can lead to desensitization or increased tolerance. This process is very similar to building up a tolerance to substance use, which makes you need more of the substance to experience the same high.
  • Addictions can be time-consuming, whether you are searching for access to substances, spending time using substances, or spending hours viewing pornographic videos and images. Not only does this take time away from personal relationships, but it can also make it difficult to hold down a job if the symptoms are severe enough.
  • The compulsive consumption of pornography can impact your employability since you may feel the urge to watch inappropriate videos at work, just as the urge to use substances at work can impact employability.
  • Addiction can make you less interested in goal-oriented activities.

The social and professional impacts of porn addiction are severe, but you can find the right porn addiction solution for you and move towards healthier relationships.

Psychological Links

Substance use disorders and pornography addiction are usually linked to other psychological conditions or past trauma. These could include mood disorders, OCD, personality disorders, anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorders. However, porn addiction is especially associated with narcissistic personality disorder, anxiety, and depression. Just as substances can be used to produce a high as a form of self-medication, you might view pornography as a coping mechanism or a form of escape from reality. In addition, substance use disorders and porn addiction frequently co-occur with one another. When you struggle with multiple addictions, it makes recovery much more difficult since you must replace multiple coping mechanisms at once. Additionally, since addictive behaviors are all symptoms of one disease, relapsing with one addiction increases the likelihood of experiencing relapse with another.

Porn Addiction Solution Possibilities

Another similarity between problem porn use and substance-related addictions is that similar treatment models can be used for both. Since both can be used as a form of escapism, mindfulness is an effective technique as it helps you ground yourself in the present moment and stay in touch with reality. In addition, acceptance of yourself and the events that occur in your life can take the place of shame, guilt, and maladaptive coping mechanisms such as addiction. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which includes both of these concepts, has proven to be an effective model for both problem porn use treatment and substance abuse treatment.

While addiction treatment centers are usually the most effective model for substance abuse disorders, porn addiction apps have proven effective in treating porn addiction problems, possibly because part of the attraction of Internet pornography is the potential for anonymity. Whether you prefer in-person groups or porn addiction apps for recovery, the right addiction treatment model for you is out there, so you can achieve recovery and repair your relationships for a healthier, happier lifestyle.