Addiction to pornography isn’t just an inconvenience that can waste time and interfere with your financial well-being. It can also wreck relationships with spouses and children, destroy your ability to enjoy sexual relationships, cause trouble on the job and cause an assortment of malicious software to end up on your computer. Like any other addiction, pornography can be tough to shake, and often requires several failed attempts before you’re able to break free. But with dedication and, when necessary, intervention from a qualified professional, you can eliminate this beast from your life.
Why Pornography is Addictive
Pornography, like other drugs, produces an immediate high. Sexual arousal releases powerful endorphins in the brain, and the release provided by pornography can help to temporarily alleviate stress, depression and anger. But this relief is short-lived and the more people use pornography, the shorter the relief lasts. This can create a vicious cycle requiring a person to use more and more pornography. Oftentimes, a desire for increasingly violent or graphic pornography occurs alongside the need for more porn. While it might seem like pornography use is a simple behavioral choice, pornography addiction brings about powerful changes in the brain that can be extremely challenging to overcome. Pornography often serves as a crutch that helps people avoid the complexities of intimacy, and the result of this use can be an increasingly isolated and frustrating intimate life.
Breaking the Cycle
The first step in ending a pornography addiction requires that users completely eliminate pornography from their lives. This is the only way to stop the cycle of a rush of endorphins followed by a crash. As with other addictions, users can experience withdrawal, anger, frustration and depression in the weeks after ceasing use, but these feelings gradually abate as the brain learns to readjust itself. Compulsive users of pornography often find that they need to institute coping strategies to help them stay away from porn, especially internet porn. Some excellent options include:
• Staying busy with friends and family
• Scheduling other gratifying activities such as vacations or fun outings
• Exercising regularly. Exercise produces the same endorphins as pornography and can help the post-porn crash feel less overwhelming.
• Enlisting the assistance of a friend, family member or partner to maintain accountability
Many people find that they are simply unable to quit porn cold turkey or that, when they do, the consequences of porn to their intimate lives, relationships and sexual performance are too high to manage on their own. There are several excellent treatment options available for people struggling with both compulsive use of pornography and its aftereffects. These include therapy, medication, 12-step programs and sexual education. If you’re not sure that you can kick the porn habit on your own, don’t waste time suffering in silence. Seek help immediately.
Maltz, W., & Maltz, L. (2009). The porn trap: A guide to healing from porn addiction, for sufferers and their loved ones. New York, NY: Collins.
Watts, C., & Hilton, D. (2011). Pornography addiction: A neuroscience perspective. Surgical Neurology International, 2(1), 19. doi: 10.4103/2152-7806.76977