Although not listed as an official diagnosis in any version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, pornography addiction is a very real condition that many people struggle with on a daily basis. Whether or not it is an addiction in the same way that alcohol and drug abuse can be an addiction is a highly debated and controversial topic. However, this question is extraneous to those who are negatively affected by porn use, as porn addiction is harmful regardless of its status as a mental diagnosis.
People who identify as being addicted to porn report ill-effects on their marriage, social life, and all-around well-being. Similar to drug addicts, many people with porn addictions develop a tolerance, (a need for more stimulating types of porn) as their porn use increases. Additionally, withdrawal symptoms may occur when the viewing of porn is stopped. An addiction to pornography can also interfere with daily life activities. Some people even experience one or more forms of sexual dysfunction, such as premature ejaculation or impotence. This can greatly effect a marriage or sexual relationship with a partner.
There is not one known cause of porn addiction, although several factors are believed to contribute to its development. Because sex is a natural human drive that creates a great sense of pleasure when acquired, it is easy to understand how the ease of access to porn can become a go-to way of achieving a pleasurable feeling. The orgasm that can come quickly while watching porn becomes a reward that the brain craves, and thus pornography becomes associated with a convenient way to experience a rush of pleasure. Biological factors can increase one’s vulnerability to developing a porn addiction, particularly if that person is predisposed to impulsivity and/or sensation-seeking patterns of behavior.
Despite the fact that addiction to pornography can be a source of distress in one’s life, treatment does exist and can be effective if pursued willingly. One treatment is CBT, or cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT is done with the help of a mental health professional in a therapeutic setting. It is a type of psychotherapy in which the therapist and client examine the client’s thoughts and look for patterns of cognitive distortions that may be leading to the undesired behavior. Coping skills are then implemented in an attempt to redirect thoughts and stop unwanted behaviors. Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is a similar technique that incorporates the practice of mindfulness.
Other treatments include support groups such as NoFap or 12-Step programs. Couples therapy can benefit both the addict and their partner. For a more intensive form of treatment, inpatient/residential programs exist. These centers provide clients with a safe environment in which they will not have access to porn, and will have frequent therapy sessions as well as supportive groups.
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