Why is Pornography Addictive?

Did you know that the world’s leading porn site1, PornHub, had an average of 115 million daily visits in 2019? So naturally, such easily accessible pornographic content2 makes people think they have a porn addiction.

But is porn addiction real? What is it, and how do you overcome it? Let us learn more. 

Is Pornography Addictive?

Porn addiction is a phenomenon of compulsive behavior3 of consuming pornographic material. This obsession is categorized as addiction when it starts to interfere with an individual’s personal and professional life. 

But porn addiction is not officially recognized by the American Psychological Association. However, pornography is highly prevalent in our society, with 8% of adults consuming graphic content regularly.

Porn addiction has various long-term effects that negatively impact a person’s life. From a higher infidelity rate to dissatisfaction with sex life, regular consumption of erotic material 4can cause significant problems. But is porn powerfully addictive? 

Porn Addiction

In 2018, the World Health Organisation recognized compulsive sexual behavior as a valid mental health disorder. But it does not single out the addiction to pornographic material. 5

However, it recognizes the repetitive need of a person to watch porn which becomes the central focus of life. As a result, a person with porn addiction starts neglecting their interests, responsibilities, and activities to view porn. Such a condition is termed problematic pornography use (PPU).6

According to a study, men looking for treatment for PPU had different brain activity and responses to erotic material. This study proved that porn addiction is similar to alcohol or substance addiction which circuits your brain with motivation and reward.

But porn addiction is not recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Therefore it is not a medically diagnosed disorder. 

Why Is Pornography Addictive?

Pornography is powerfully addictive because it induces changes in brain chemistry. Since a brain chemical imbalance is responsible for porn addiction, we could conclude that porn acts as a drug in our brain.

Some chemicals such as norepinephrine 7and serotonin control your mood. However, a high level of these chemicals can cause compulsive sexual behavior.

But anyone who drinks alcohol does not necessarily have an alcohol addiction. Similarly, people who consume pornographic material are not always addicted to graphic content.

The journey of addiction is similar to the patterns shown in drug addiction because when an individual has exposure to porn, they start experimenting with the content. The experimentation leads to progression, which further creates dependency.

The individual starts to view more violent and graphic content with time. When an individual tries to stop, they experience various psychological and physical withdrawal symptoms.

Besides this, many individuals experience addiction due to various environmental, psychological, and genetic factors. 

A review of several studies compiled the report on the neuroscience of internet porn. The report evaluated and examined the neuroimaging results of individuals who consume internet porn.

The results showed the activation of brain regions involved in craving and drug-related stimuli for nicotine, cocaine, and alcohol. 

People with compulsive sexual behavior had more reactivity in their brains than people identified as non-compulsive. Therefore, we can conclude that Internet pornography addiction fulfills the criteria of the addiction framework as it shares the basic mechanism of drug addiction.

Consequently, we can conclude that consistent and compulsive use of pornography is as powerful as substance use. 

When Is Porn Consumption Problematic? 

If porn is addictive, at what point is the pleasure of watching porn considered problematic? People who consume more pornographic material have an increased brain reaction when presented with porn.

Beyond this, porn addiction becomes problematic when it causes mental health disorders such as increased depression, generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, or narcissistic personality disorder.

If you think you are consuming a high level of erotic material, you can use a porn addiction test to check if your porn cravings have become problematic. 

Signs and Symptoms of Porn Addiction 

Whether you are addicted to porn or watch it out of boredom, you will eventually have intense cravings to view pornographic content.

Many people view porn to keep themselves distracted. But unfortunately, such individuals also tend to struggle at home and work when their intense urges start to interfere with their life.

Some experts believe that dissatisfaction in relationships and porn addiction have a connection. Or there is always an underlying problem associated with porn addiction, including anxiety, depression, or childhood trauma from sexual and emotional abuse.

Here are the various signs and symptoms of porn addiction. 

  • Feeling ashamed after watching porn 
  • Not being able to stop viewing porn
  • Engaging in risky behavior by watching porn 
  • Feeling emotionally unavailable
  • Extremely low sex drive 
  • Loss of interest in sex with your partner
  • Neglecting personal care 
  • Watching porn at workplaces or institutions 
  • Having intense urges to watch porn
  • Having intrusive thoughts and fantasies

How to Overcome Porn Addiction?

If you neglect your relationship, work, and responsibilities to watch porn, you might be addicted. Fortunately, you can take various steps to remedy this. For those grappling with excessive consumption of porn, help is available in psychotherapy, support groups, and medications. 

Trained therapists and counselors are incredibly helpful in treating the root cause behind compulsive behavior and porn addiction.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy where a mental health professional helps you identify the primary cause of the problem. Then, they help you make practical strategies to overcome porn addiction.

For example, if porn addiction stems from boredom, support groups and therapy can help you stay engaged in other activities.

Besides this, people who use porn as a distraction to cope with underlying conditions can also seek medical help. For example, FDA-approved medicines can help manage co-occurring disorders to treat porn addiction. 

Final Words

Porn is powerfully addictive. If you have recognized any signs and symptoms of excessive porn consumption or compulsive behaviors, it’s best to talk to a therapist and reach out for meaningful help.

Remember that the first step of the treatment is recognition. After that, you can continually develop healthier coping mechanisms to overcome porn addiction. Otherwise, it can create turmoil in your professional and personal life. 

  1. Tarrant, Shira. The pornography industry: What everyone needs to know. Oxford University Press, 2016. ↩︎
  2. Harmon, Denna, and Scot B. Boeringer. “A content analysis of Internet-accessible written pornographic depictions.” Electronic Journal of Sociology 3.1 (1997). ↩︎
  3. Ferrão, Ygor Arzeno, et al. “Sensory phenomena associated with repetitive behaviors in obsessive-compulsive disorder: an exploratory study of 1001 patients.” Psychiatry research 197.3 (2012): 253-258. ↩︎
  4. Wood, Rachel. “Sexual consumption within sexual labour: producing and consuming erotic texts and sexual commodities.” Porn Studies 2.2-3 (2015): 250-262. ↩︎
  5. Love, Todd, et al. “Neuroscience of internet pornography addiction: A review and update.” Behavioral sciences 5.3 (2015): 388-433. ↩︎
  6. Castro-Calvo, Jesús, et al. “Cognitive processes related to problematic pornography use (PPU): A systematic review of experimental studies.” Addictive Behaviors Reports 13 (2021): 100345. ↩︎
  7. Bunney, William E., and John M. Davis. “Norepinephrine in depressive reactions: A review.” Archives of General Psychiatry 13.6 (1965): 483-494. ↩︎

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Icy Health Editorial Team

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