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How watching porn changes your life: a habit worth getting rid of

24.10.2019 Author: psiholog pavel horoshutin

“The first time I had sex was when I was 14. Only now do I realize how young it is, but at that time I felt lucky, since such a beautiful 16-year-old girl agreed to have sex with me. Of course, nothing went the way I thought it would. My partner wasn’t thrilled either.

For some reason, it occurred to me that I needed more theoretical knowledge on the subject. Because of a bad first experience, real sex scared me, but learning everything from porn in order to do a good job on a second time seemed like a smart idea. And then it became a habit. At 16-17 I was watching porn 6 times a day – fantasizing, masturbating. Enjoying myself, basically. And when I started earning some money, I got into virtual sex, which I had to pay for. By that time I had already forgotten that I only started watching porn to “train” the skills needed in bed with a girl.

I realized that I had become a porn addict when I was 25. By that time, my whole sexual experience was limited to only a few unsuccessful attempts to have sex with different girls. All of my salary was spent on cybersex with strangers and subscriptions to premium videos on websites. I had little contact with other people, because I needed privacy to watch porn. But the main negative impact of porn addiction that I have fully experienced is that I was no longer interested in “real” sex. I could only experience release by watching sex scenes on a screen or by talking to a stranger on the phone.

At some point, I decided to fight porn addiction and work out how to drop it. Now I’m trying to work on myself. I watch porno only 3-5 times a week.  It’s a lot by the standards of normal people, but visible progress for me. I can’t give up the habit completely yet, because without pornography I struggle with obsessive thoughts about sex and strong irritation.

— Igor, 27 y.o.

According to polls, about 70% of men and almost 30% of women periodically watch porn. [1] But “adult” videos do not always stay harmless. In some cases, it can turn into a dependency, that scientists equate to alcoholism and drug addiction. Doctors are in no hurry to classify porn addiction as a pathology – it is not present in official medical documentation. But they do not deny that uncontrolled viewing of intimate content causes discomfort to both the addict and his immediate circle. What is the danger of porn addiction and how could it destroy addicts’ life and affect his / her psyche? Let’s talk about it in our article.

Contents:

  1. Causes of porn addiction
  2. Psychological dependence on porn
  3. Physical dependence on porn
  4. Porn addiction in men
  5. Porn addiction in women
  6. Porn addiction in teenagers
  7. How to get rid of porn addiction: 5 recommendations from psychologists

Causes of porn addiction

Porn addiction is an obsession with watching, reading and thinking about pornography and sex. Many specialists are inclined to believe that this is a form of sexual disorder. Obsession with erotic films is turning into a peculiar epidemic of the 21st century – the number of men and women “hooked” on porn has increased 15 times in the last 10 years. [1]

Why are so many people replacing real sex with pornography? According to experts, the reasons may vary from personal problems originating in childhood to a proclivity for unconventional forms of sex. And it would be difficult to find a way to overcome porn addiction if one does not examine the factors that can trigger an unhealthy addiction to watching erotic films. 

  1. Bad sexual experience 

Not everyone’s first sexual experience was successful. The difference lies in one’s attitude towards that “failure”. One easily overcomes it, and the other is seized by fear.

It is the fear of failing at sex that often pushes a person into the web of porn addiction. And teenagers who started to be sexually active early are at risk. What they expect from sex is not what happens in real life. Disappointed teenagers can put thoughts of sex with real partners out of their minds for a long time after. The first sexual experience often brings not only disappointment in the process itself, but also deep insecurity. Mockery from the partner can cause a deep psychological trauma. And that’s how the following attitude is formed – “since sex with a real person is so ‘difficult’, I’ll just have to content myself with a hand-party.” After all, watching porn is something else entirely: a beautiful picture, perfectly shaped men and women and sometimes even an interesting narrative. [2]

Experienced sexual assault is a separate case entirely. Many victims cannot recover and start trusting people of the opposite sex years after the experience. Real sex for them equals the trauma they’ve been through. Watching porn for them is the safest way to get sexual satisfaction. Which, unfortunately, only means that in the future they’d have to search how to treat not only post-traumatic stress, but also porn addiction.

  1. Penchant for peeping 

Peeping at other people is like a forbidden fruit. And sex, which can be observed from the sidelines, excites many even more than direct participation in the process. Watching porn makes it possible. People understand that they are doing something wrong and forbidden, but they cannot stop. Masturbation with porn sooner or later becomes the only possible way of self-pleasure. [2]

  1. Complexes

It is difficult for unconfident individuals with numerous complexes to communicate with people and even more so to establish romantic relations. It’s much easier for them to find sexual fulfilment in pornography. This way you don’t have to go out of your comfort zone and struggle against insecurity.

  1. “Strange” sexual preferences

Even people who already have sexual partners may show signs of porn addiction. If a person has “special” preferences in bed, which he for one reason or another cannot talk about with a loved one, pornography becomes the only way for him to fulfil sexual fantasies. And it is not always something forbidden. Sometimes partners are so closeted and self-conscious that they can’t even tell their loved one that it’s time to change the classic missionary position in bed, which has become boring over the years, to something else.

  1. Prevalence and availability of porn content

Analysis of Internet traffic shows that a substantial part of it (over 50%) is made up of sexual and pornographic content. [1] Video, photos, sex chats, cyber-prostitution – anything can be found on the Web. Each and every bold fantasy will be satisfied. Which only contributes to the spread of the ‘epidemic’ of porn addiction. And teenagers who, due to their psychological immaturity, are unable to tell themselves “stop” are at risk all over again.

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Psychological dependence on porn

Porn addiction develops gradually. And if not addressed in time, it will manifest itself very soon.

Famous American sexologist and psychotherapist Kevin Skinner denotes the first stage of porn addiction as a common interest in sexual content. At first it’s watching pornography 2-4 times a week. People doing it don’t feel like they’re doing anything wrong. But the problem reaches a new level when viewing sexual content becomes a part of daily routine. [3]

Little by little, people could start wasting almost all their free time on porn, and this directly impacts their quality of life. Watching videos 2-8 times a day becomes automatic. The thirst for pleasure prevails over other areas of life. K. Skinner developed a way to test for porn addiction. According to his experience, a person who is addicted to watching erotic videos starts to behave in the following way:

  • becomes withdrawn and secretive because it’s important for him to keep his addiction quiet;
  • spends all his free time watching porn;
  • becomes frustrated if he can’t satisfy his urges;
  • tries more and more different forms of self-pleasure;
  • ceases to be interested in real sex;
  • loses the sense of time, because he can watch those videos for hours, moving from one site to another;
  • spends significant amounts of money on paid videos and virtual sex. [3]

Physical dependence on porn

Constant urge towards watching pornography is not merely a psychological problem. Addiction is also linked to the physiology of the person. When watching “adult” content, especially if the process is accompanied by masturbation, body releases the dopamine hormone. This triggers a corresponding reaction of the body on the reflex level – physical and psychological release, elation.

Addiction develops when the situation gets out of control and a person starts watching porn more and more often. The body demands another dose of dopamine over and over again. The problem is that other mechanisms that affect the release of feel-good chemicals stop working. In other words, person ceases to enjoy other activities – sports, good food, socializing with other people, hobbies, real sex.

Day-dreaming is the main symptom that fuels physical dependence on pornography. It is often accompanied by frequent masturbation. A person does not fantasize about sex itself, but about watching a video with sex in it instead.  Similar to alcoholism or drug addiction, if the addict does not get what he desperately wants, he starts exhibiting signs of withdrawal syndrome (abstinence) – fatigue, irritation, insomnia. It takes a lot of effort and energy to fend off lewd thoughts – physical symptoms only increase psychological addiction.

Porn addiction in men

According to sexologists, men are more susceptible to porn addiction. This can be attributed to nature itself in addition to generally accepted stereotypes. It is a common belief that a “real man” should be strong, confident and handsome. However, not everyone can easily attract a woman and invite her to their home. Many different complexes can provoke the development of porn addiction if a man is self-conscious and withdrawn to such an extent that it is difficult for him to connect with potential partners. “Adults” videos can serve as a way of asserting themselves for men with a lot of insecurities. [2]

Even if a man with porn addiction is not completely obsessed with watching erotic videos and at least occasionally remembers the existence of real sex, it is extremely difficult for him to find a partner. He already has an idea of what a perfect woman would look like in his head. She should look like the female lead of the porn movie – both in appearance and in sexual experience.

The symptoms of porn addiction can also appear in perfectly confident married men. It often happens because of dissatisfaction with their sex life in marriage. There are 2 main reasons for this – temperament differences and unsatisfied sexual fantasies. When a man does not consider cheating a suitable way to satisfy his urges and hesitates to honestly discuss his needs with his wife, he starts watching porn. Soon the wife begins to suspect that her husband has a porn addiction, because he loses almost all interested in sex with her. That’s how families could crumble.

Lack of interest in real sex is not the only negative consequence of porn addiction. Doctors are concerned about how often diseases associated with erectile dysfunction occur in much younger men. According to research, a big role in it can be attributed to the unhealthy addiction to intimate videos. Specialists believe that porn addiction can cause impotence. In some cases, men who “got hooked” on erotic videos can not get a sufficient erection without “doping” in the form of porn.

Porn addiction in women

Douglas Weiss, founder of the U.S. Association for Sex Addiction Therapy insists, that women’s addiction to pornography can develop much faster than men’s, as is the case with alcohol, and that the unhealthy addiction has a more devastating effect on the female psyche.

The specialist explains it like this: sex for a woman means emotional contact with a partner, and in the case of watching porn this contact is not present. And after some point she starts to like the fact that there is no need to waste time and energy on building relationships that may not lead to anything. Addiction forms and the negative consequences closely follow – woman begins to avoid “real” sex. She falls further into an addiction upon realization that she does not need a partner in order to achieve sexual release at all.

According to D. Weiss, single, insecure women are more vulnerable to addiction to pornography. Failure to take timely action threatens to result in the development of mental disorders in the addict. Moreover, the treatment of porn addiction in women is made more complicated by the fact that they are willing to hide the problem for a long time, so as not to be condemned by society. Also, other addictions, such as alcoholism, may develop in women alongside pornography addiction. It makes her feel acute guilt for the life she leads and she becomes more and more depressed. This case would require even longer period of psychological recovery after the porn addiction treatment.

Porn addiction in teenagers

According to a study, conducted in the U.S. in 2014, almost half of those surveyed aged 18-29 first encountered pornography when they were under 13. That’s why the primary group at risk, when it comes to porn addiction, is teenagers. Harmless mischief and the desire to learn more about sex between a man and a woman can develop into a serious addiction.

Why do children watch pornography? The main reason lies in their inability to lead a normal sexual life. Young boys and girls go through puberty, but due to the social and ethical boundaries they are not yet able to have sex. In a number of cases, the easiest solution is to watch porn.

Sexologists insist that we should not equate teenagers’ desire to watch erotic videos with porn addiction. Porn in “small doses” when there are no negative factors of mental development does not cause harmful effects. They are mostly caused by black-and-white thinking and negativism – teenagers want to partake of the forbidden fruit too and expand their horizons. [2] For many young men and women, getting intimate with a partner serves as a way to break free from porn addiction. This is a natural phase of growing up.

But if the teenage crisis in a child results in a lot of personal problems down the line, such as lack of initiative, low self-esteem, insecurities related to appearance, there is a great risk that even after entering adulthood it will be difficult for him to drop the habit of watching porn.

There is much debate about the relationship between the unhealthy porn addiction of teenagers and their predisposition to violence in the future. Some psychologists believe that “adult” content can increase a person’s predisposition to aggression and bring about a tendency towards violent sex. There is a certain amount of truth to this. Many convicted serial rapists and murderers developed a porn addiction in adolescence for various reasons. 

This is  also supported by Neil Malamuth, a renowned psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. He made extensive research and concluded that men who are aggressive by nature and who prefer hardcore pornography from adolescence are more likely to have such sexual intercourse in real life sooner or later. But the expert claims that pornography is not the main cause of violence. Porn consumption can be compared to alcohol consumption: it is not dangerous by nature, but it can become dangerous for those individuals whose lives are influenced by other risk factors.

How to get rid of porn addiction: 5 recommendations from psychologists

how to get rid of porn addiction

The sensitive nature of the problem contributes to the fact that porn addicts try to deal with it on their own. Not everyone is able to honestly confess even to a loved one that they are only aroused by on-screen erotica, and not by sex in real life. The addict is left to face to the problem one-on-one. 

Total rejection of pornography won’t work against porn addiction. Instead it would lead to withdrawal syndrome, which can negatively affect the addict mentally and even physically. There has to be a more gradual transition to a life in which erotica is not at the top of the priority list. And it is better if during that transition a person undergoing it can feel the support of his loved ones. 

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Psychologists give the following recommendations to the addicts themselves and their loved ones in order to effectively fight against addiction to pornography:

  1. Avoid shaming and blaming

For many people, pornography is linked to something perverse and dirty. This is precisely what attracts many addicts to watching pornography. But this situation often surprises/disturbs/ frightens/disgusts a family member who lives with an addict.

Unfortunately, negative emotions will not do any good in the fight against porn addiction! It is important for both the addict and his partner to approach the issue with cool minds. A wife who wants to understand how to deal with her husband’s porn addiction should not blame or shame him.  He needs support and understanding instead of quarrels and ultimatums. And the addict needs to recognize the problem, forgive himself for his weakness, and move on, doing his best to change his life for the better.

  1. Looking for other sources of pleasure

With this kind of addiction, porn becomes the only source of physical and emotional pleasure. It became a habit. In order to break it off, one needs to change the usual pattern of behaviour. Try to gradually replace watching pornography with activities that you also enjoy. Yes, it won’t be the same kind pleasure as pornography evokes, but it will be a start.

Find a hobby – sports, reading, walking, anything that may interest you. The main goal is to diversify the grey everyday life.

A course of psychotherapy based on 7Spsy behaviour modification technique shows high efficiency in combating harmful habits. By leaving negative attitudes behind, a person can manage his addiction and start his “new life”. By incorporating a healthy pattern of behaviour, one can forget about the poisonous addiction.

  1. Develop a self-control system

Self-control is the best tool against bad habits.

Control yourself by changing your daily routine and removing temptations from your immediate vicinity. Stick to your daily routine – go to bed earlier and get up earlier, remove porn sites from the bookmarks in your browser or even better – block them entirely. It can be useful to keep a diary in which you can note successes and failures on the way to the goal.

It’s helpful if the addict has someone he trusts. A partner can help keep the situation under control.

  1. Socialize more

If the addict is always out in the open, he won’t be able to get any privacy for watching porn. That’s why it’s important to communicate more with people. This is also crucial for another reason – for an addict who has spent most of his time alone in the past to start regaining his communication skills.

  1. Get sexual relationship with a partner on the right track or start a new romantic relationship

The addict must recognize that porn and masturbation will never replace sexual intercourse and that it’s time to return to the traditional intimacy with a partner. The relationship with a loved one was probably on the verge of falling apart because of that habit. Sexologists advise already established couples to bring something new into their sex lives. It will help to mend ties and regain trust. And if there is no permanent partner, it’s time to start a new romantic relationship, no matter how scary it is.

Remember, if you are unable to cope with your porn addiction yourself, you can always contact a sexologist or psychotherapist who specializes in this subject. Do not let addiction rob you of the real life joys.

References:

  1. «Kiberseksualnaya addikciya: ot onlajnovoj seksualnoj aktivnosti k seksu s robotami» (zhurnal «Medicinskaya psihologiya v Rossii», 2017 g., №6), N. D. Uzlov (http://mprj.ru/archiv_global/2017_6_47/nomer10.php).
  2. «Seks. Ot nejrobiologii libido do virtualnogo porno. Nauchno-populyarnyj gid», 2018 g., D. Varlamova.
  3. Treating Pornography Addiction: The Essential Tools for Recovery, 2017 г., Kevin B. Skinner.