Pornography addiction affects men and women alike. Children are exposed to it at ages they are unable to process the act of sex. What is it and how does on become addicted to it?
If you don’t talk about it, it doesn’t exist, right?
This thought failure has been around for millenia.
I test it daily with my laundry.
Still, so many families fail to have those important conversations about sex. With a complete lack of education, many fall into unhealthy sexual behaviors that put themselves and others at risk. Ridden with shame from toxic programming since birth, they cannot talk about, learn, or seek help for healthy sexuality. Their silence seals their fate of suffering and wandering through relationships alone.
Stigmatization and judgment have long kept the lid on sex as a topic. This lid is slowly loosening, but not very fast. People face behavioral problems today that include addiction and psychological impact from pornographic videos and pictures that are freely and easily accessed on the internet.
Internet pornography usage is intensifying and contributing to increasing mental health decline.
You know what they say about abstinence, right?
It’s the best way to boost population.
That’s also not how human behavior works, whether you acknowledge it or not. The more you try to control it, the more out of hand it gets. Repression is the breeding ground for maladaptive coping patterns. That’s thanks to our animal instincts. We are unconsciously like caged animals.
80% of children are exposed to porn. Let that sit with you for a moment.
Pornographic material includes not just videos. Hustler, Playboy, strip clubs, male and female reviews- it’s everywhere. We’re desensitized to it, but so little talk about its impact on our health.
Patrick Carnes’s studies have validated such statistics. From his estimates, 87% of sex addicts come from disengaged and 77% rigid families of origin. Compulsive sexual behaviors are strongly linked to early childhood trauma and abuse, sexually repressive environments, and dysfunctional attitudes about sex and intimacy (Coleman, 1992).
For the purposes of this article, I refer to pornography and its impact in any form of videos or photos that replay sexually gratifying acts in any form that are accessible over the internet through sites like Pornhub and Xvideos. People of all ages, races, classes, values, religions, size, shape, sexual orientation, and voting preference are subject to its use.
Fun facts: Utah and other Bible Belt states are the biggest consumers of porn according to 2009 and 2015 statistics (Eldman, 2009; Wiles, J., 2022).
1/3 of women watch porn according to Dainis Graveris in the 2022 article Porn Statistics : How Many People REALLY Watch Porn? 60.2% of women report using porn within the last month. Women are more likely to read erotica than men.
Thunder from Down Under: still porn.
So, why is this so problematic? They are just pictures. Body parts, activities that people do daily-some may say.
But how is it addictive?
Some cannot stop its use despite severe consequences like job or relationship loss.
Lewczuk, C. et al. (2022) reports withdrawal and tolerance symptoms appeared in individuals with compulsive sexual behaviors related to problematic pornography use in a sample of men from Poland. Symptoms of irritation, heightened arousal, loss of sleep, preoccupation, and tolerance for sexual stimuli were observed. This makes the case for escalation in pornographic content.
Problem are abound. They include, but are not limited to:
- Sexual dysfunction such as impotence and premature ejaculation
- Sexual preoccupation
- Feelings of shame, guilt
- Anxiety, emptiness, loneliness
- Creating emotional attachment with technology
- Troubled relationships
- Unhealthy sexual engagement
- Sex without intimacy
- Legal and financial problems
The bolus of dopamine released after ejaculating is comparable to a hit of meth or cocaine. Dopamine, nature’s learning by rewards chemical, encourages this reproductive behavior. Natural rewards are comparable to drug rewards.
Pornography depicts every part of life through sexual content, with escalating trends. You can find cartoons, popular themes, altered mainstream media, all in lights that have added and exploitative sexual depiction. From this, children learn transactional ways to relate to others, an inability to develop emotional intimacy, anti-social behaviors (boundary violating), and aggression. They gain a propensity to objectify and to be harmful to others. Children also grow up with expectations about sex that are not realistic. Depending on the types of material they are exposed to, they form habits that are potentially severely boundary-violating like S&M (Mitra & Wrath, 2017).
Children’s first exposure typically occur at ages younger than they can comprehend the meaning of sex. They learn unhealthy and sometimes dangerous behaviors from these experiences (Mitra & Wrath, 2017). Mitra and Rath describe several psychological disturbances adolescents faced after viewing online pornography. Their sleep quality and quantity levels decreased, experienced heightened aggression, depression, and anxiety, to name a few.
More concerning, illegal content is on the rise. In an October 2021 report, from The US Sentencing Commission, which studied child sexual abuse image producers, found that online sexual exploitation and abuse of children has increased by 422% over the last fifteen years (Federal Sentencing of Child Pornography Production Offenses, 2021).
For note: Pornography is a term to refer to consensual sex. Children by definition cannot consent to sex with an adult under the age of 18. Therefore:
I refer to child porn as child sexual abuse imagery.
This is a hard line I do not move. Children are victims in these circumstances, and it is very easy for adults that have problems in these areas to justify and minimize these illegal sexual offending behaviors.
A select few have this element in their addiction. I often hear of their use of nudist colony sites to find these images of children and avoid getting caught.
From Enough is Enough:
“Suspects referred for the possession of child pornography (72 percent) accounted for the majority of all CSEC suspects, followed by those suspected of child sex trafficking (18 percent) and child pornography production (10 percent). Most suspects arrested for CSEC crimes were male (97 percent), were U.S. citizens (97 percent), were white (82 percent), had no prior felony convictions (79 percent) and were not married (70 percent). CSEC suspects had a median age of 39 years, and more than half (56 percent) had no more than a high school education. (Department of Justice, Oct. 2017)“
-1 in 10 children will be sexually abused.
-Child pornography trends have increased 200% in the last decade.
-98% of child sexual abuse material reports involved children under 13 years old
-30% of which involved children under 10 years old, including infants and toddlers. (Internet Watch Foundation Annual Report, 2022.
I have no words to describe the levels of disturbing this is.
Fortunately this problem is being more widely recognized and treated. I had no idea myself until I began training as a certified sexual addiction therapist (CSAT). Working with this population now has brought a deeper understanding of why people have such difficulty with pornography in general.
We are not taught how to be emotionally intimate. This is a modeled behavior. There is no intimacy 101 course in high school. And, often, our parents and their parents have been left to figure it out for themselves.
We practice what we are modeled.
We do what our caregivers did.
We dont talk about it. We don’t deal with our problems, rather we compartmentalize.
To make it more confusing, there is no one right way to be intimate on any level with another. We all bring our own sets of beliefs, values, and boundaries to the table. When there is an imbalance in any one of these areas, trouble begins.
Fear, shame, guilt, pain- these all have an effect on how we interact with other people. Everyone has a mask we present to the world. We want the public to see our best selves. We have an innate need to belong. Some masks are glued on, others loosely positioned. Few outright don’t give a shit and trample on throughout their day being their happy selves.
If you ask someone how they are doing or how they feel- chances are you’ll get “good,” “fine,” “okay,” as responses. This is because that is a general greeting that people. When asked about how they really are doing, most often their expressions, responses, affect, or all the above, will change. Or, they have no idea what feelings are.
Emotional intimacy includes the ability to tell someone the worse parts about you with a trust they will not devalue or shame. This type of safety in between people is rare and beautiful. Healthy coupleships and friendships are based on this simple understanding that it’s okay to be human around each other without fear of judgement.
Fear will stop this process dead in its tracks. For good reason. We have been stigmatizing, stereotyping, and dehumanizing since 10,000 BC. It’s in our genes. Evolution has developed ways to keep us safe, as I so often mention in my articles such as Sometimes, You’re the Asshole, Too.
If you let fear drive the bus, you will go out like Thelma and Louise.
It’s those darn maladaptive coping mechanisms we use to temper the intensely negative emotional states that get in the way.
Addiction, depression, anxiety, isolation, loneliness, personality disorders, and many others of the DSM-V are based on these underlying processes. General detachment from human connection leads to behavioral health problems.
You can feel completely alone in a room full of people, depending on the walls you have built.
But as hard as it may be, as long as you have been impacted, you can reverse the trend. That is what we as therapists are there for. Utilize the resources available. There are hundreds of free informational sites, practicing addiction therapists, and written texts on these subjects. Be patient and open. Trust the process and that you are capable of happiness and wholeness.
It takes education, implementation, willingness, and sometimes trauma therapy to grow as a person.
- Lewczuk, C., Wizla, M., Agnieszka G., et al. Journal of Behavioral Addictions. Withdrawal and tolerance as related to compulsive sexual behavior disorder and problematic pornography use – Preregistered study based on a nationally representative sample in Poland. Volume/Issue: Volume 11: Issue 4. Pages: 979–993. Publication Date: 27 Dec 2022: DOI: https://doi.org/10.1556/2006.2022.00076
- Edelman, B. “Red Light States: Who Buys Online Adult Entertainment?” Journal of Economic Perspectives 23, no. 1 (Winter 2009): 209–220.
- Wiles, J. and Peres, M. Which U.S. State Consumes The Most Porn? Sexual Purity: Conquer Series. Accessed 1/18/23 from: https://conquerseries.com/which-u-s-state-consumes-the-most-porn
- Coleman, E. (1992). Is your patient suffering from compulsive sexual behavior? Psychiatric Annals , 22(6), 320-325.
- Mitra M., Rath P. Effect of internet on the psychosomatic health of adolescent school children in Rourkela—A cross-sectional study. Indian J. Child Health. 2017;4:289–293.
- O’donnell, B. 2021. Rise in Online Enticement and Other Trends: NCMEC Releases 2020 Exploitation Stats. National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Accessed 1/28/23 from: https://www.missingkids.org/blog/2021/rise-in-online-enticement-and-other-trends–ncmec-releases-2020-
- Rawson, R. Meth and the Brain. Frontline: Accessed 1/19/23 from: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/meth/body/methbrainnoflash.html
- Natural and Drug Rewards Act on Common Neural Plasticity Mechanisms with ΔFosB as a Key Mediator
- Pitchers,K, Vialou,V, Nestler, E. et al., Natural and Drug Rewards Act on Common Neural Plasticity Mechanisms with ΔFosB as a Key Mediator. Neurosci. 2013 Feb 20; 33(8): 3434–3442. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4881-12.2013
- Thorn. (2015) Child Pornography Statistics. Thorn. [Online] [Accessed 29th December 2015] https://www.wearethorn.org/child-pornography-and-abuse-statistics/