Am I addicted to porn?

Pornography and Sex Addiction are hotly debated topics in today’s culture. From the questions about whether sex addiction even exists or how much pornography is too much, many people don’t know where to begin when considering the question “Am I addicted to porn?” With scandal after scandal in churches, Hollywood, and the political arena, it is impossible to deny that our sexuality can create problems not just for individuals but for families and communities as well. But when celebrities and public figures enter treatment, it is not uncommon to hear phrases like, “Men are men,” or “that’s just a made up excuse”, even in mainstream media sources.

Then, when it comes specifically to the issue of pornography, the lines get even more blurred. What is pornography, anyway? It doesn’t hurt anyone, right? Everyone does it, what’s the big deal? It’s not like I’m actually cheating on my boyfriend. I have to learn about sex from somewhere, my parents never taught me. The justifications are many.

Rather than discuss the moral or ethical implications of pornography, the more important issue is whether or not it has become a problem in your life, or for someone you love. And while there are currently no blood tests or brain scans that could confirm the presence of addiction, there are some helpful tools and assessments in beginning to answer the question of if your pornography use, or your relationship with sex in general, is potentially a problem.

Consider your answers to the following questionnaire, called the PATHOS:

1. Preoccupation

Are you often or constantly thinking about sex or pornography?

2. Ashamed

Do you hide your behaviors or thoughts from others?

3. Treatment

Have you tried unsuccessfully to stop your sexual behavior, or sought help from a pastor or counselor?

4. Hurt

Has your behavior caused hurt to you or someone you loved?

5. Out of control

Do you feel controlled by your sexual desire?

6. Sad

Do you ever feel sad or depressed after you have watched pornography or been sexual?

If you answered yes to even one of those items, it could indicate that pornography has become an issue in your life. Pornography addiction does not just mean you watch pornography for 8 hours a day every day, though that can at times be the case for some people. The preceding list shows how pornography can disrupt internal thought patterns, intimate relationships, and feelings about one’s sense of self—and that sort of disruption is worth paying attention to. Many porn addicts can suffer from the emotional and psychological consequences of anxiety, depression, isolation/withdrawal, low sense of self, or unresolved stress/trauma.

It might be tempting to think that pornography is just about sex or that if you watch a lot of it that you are hypersexual and have a high sex drive. However, it is common for porn addicts to link sexual arousal with affect (emotional) avoidance and anxiety reduction. Rather than feeling sadness, disappointment, or loneliness, addicts return to the “high” of pornography, often accompanied by masturbation, instead of dealing with their underlying emotions. As stress increases, so does sexual acting out. The reason for this is that pornography, masturbation, and orgasm have an effect on the brain that is about 98% the same as heroin. It dumps large amounts of serotonin and dopamine (the “feel good” neurochemicals) into the body, while reducing the amount of cortisol (the stress hormone).

While pornography may be effective at reducing anxiety and avoiding other feelings, the side effects that come along with using it take on an addictive nature. You eventually need more and more to achieve the same effect, and there are withdrawals (irritability, sleeplessness, etc.) when you try to quit.

The good news is that it is possible to overcome the destructive and often devastating consequences of compulsive sex or pornography use. In addition, addressing the underlying problems and issues beneath the surface can create a life with more fullness, freedom, and purpose.

More about Charis’ Sexual Addiction Conseling

If you suspect you or someone you love might be dealing with an addiction to pornography, the next step toward healing is not far away. It is important to find someone with adequate knowledge and training in pornography addiction, and you can find the nearest CSAT (Certified Sex Addiction Therapist) counselor in your area by visiting sexhelp.com. There are also numerous groups available to help you along your journey (SA, SAA, SLAA, Facing the Shadow, L.I.F.E. group, Pure Desire, and reGROUP, to name a few).

It can be quite embarrassing for an addict to admit that there is a problem, so finding a good support system to help deal with the underlying shame and core issues that drive the problematic behaviors are essential. And remember, seeking help now far outweighs the possibility of the potential future consequences of continuing to live in addiction. Hope, healing, and recovery is available to all who are willing to walk the gentle path!

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