Pornography addiction

Pornography addiction

Pornography addiction, or more broadly overuse of pornography, is excessive pornography use that interferes with daily life. There is no diagnosis of pornography addiction in the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), and as with the broader proposed diagnosis of sexual addiction, there is debate as to whether or not the behaviors indicate a behavioral addiction.[1]


Proposed definition

Pornography addiction is diagnosed when an individual engages in the overuse or abuse of pornography to the extent that they experience negative consequences. In 1990 Aviel Goodman proposed a general definition of all types of addictions in order to extend the specific disorders included in the DSM-III-R. While not explicitly in the context of pornography, Goodman explains his criteria for addiction as a "process whereby a behavior, that can function both to produce pleasure and to provide escape from internal discomfort, [and] is employed in a pattern characterized by (1) failure to control the behavior (powerlessness) and (2) continuation of the behavior despite significant negative consequences (unmanageability) ."[2]

Pornography addiction is defined, by those who argue that it exists, as a dependence upon pornography characterized by obsessive viewing, reading, and thinking about pornography and sexual themes to the detriment of other areas of life.

End of dispute about whether pornography addiction exists

On August 15, 2011 the American Society of Addiction Medicine issued a public statement defining all addiction (including sexual behavior addiction) in terms of brain changes. "Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry."[3]

The following excerpts are taken from the FAQs:

"The new ASAM definition makes a departure from equating addiction with just substance dependence, by describing how addiction is also related to behaviors that are rewarding. This the first time that ASAM has taken an official position that addiction is not solely "substance dependence." This definition says that addiction is about functioning and brain circuitry and how the structure and function of the brains of persons with addiction differ from the structure and function of the brains of persons who do not have addiction. It talks about reward circuitry in the brain and related circuitry, but the emphasis is not on the external rewards that act on the reward system. Food and sexual behaviors and gambling behaviors can be associated with the "pathological pursuit of rewards" described in this new definition of addiction." (Emphasis added)

"We all have the brain reward circuitry that makes food and sex rewarding. In fact, this is a survival mechanism. In a healthy brain, these rewards have feedback mechanisms for satiety or 'enough.' In someone with addiction, the circuitry becomes dysfunctional such that the message to the individual becomes ‘more’, which leads to the pathological pursuit of rewards and/or relief through the use of substances and behaviors. So, anyone who has addiction is vulnerable to food and sex addiction.[4]

In the past, others have argued porn addiction was not comparable to substance addiction and should not be classed as such.[5]

Stephen Andert, coauthor of Web Stalkers: Protect Yourself from Internet Criminals & Psychopaths, states "For many people, such as, pornography is a problem. Like alcohol, gambling or drugs, it can take control of a person's life and drag them kicking and screaming or voluntarily into the gutter. The addictive and progressive (or regressive) nature of pornography is well documented." However, Andert identified no source for the claimed documentation.[6]

Erick Janssen, a researcher at the Kinsey Institute, criticized the application of the term addiction to pornography overuse, arguing that while it describes addiction-like behaviour, treating the users as addicts may not help.[1] Another explanation offered is that some people "addicted" to pornography simply resort to it because they experience interpersonal difficulty in establishing real life relationships leading to sex, which is less predictable.[7]

Proposed stages of pornography addiction

Some psychologists and sex therapists (for example Kimberly Young, and Victor Cline) have proposed stages in pornography addiction.[8][9][10] [11] [12] [13] [14] Rory C. Reid and Dan Gray note that the stages need not be sequential and not all individuals experience all stages.[8]

Serial killer Ted Bundy stated that his pornography addiction went through stages. As a boy he reported seeing softcore pornography, and that he later viewed hardcore pornography and violent pornography. Ben Shapiro, in his book Porn Generation: How Social Liberalism Is Corrupting Our Future, claimed that this played an influencing role in Bundy's crimes.[15]

In November 2004, a panel of experts testified before a US Senate subcommittee. Proponents of the addiction model argued that exposure to kinky sexual practices by means of pornography lead the watchers to "cross over". Skeptics disagreed with that conclusion, pointing to the lack of scientific evidence.[1]

Online pornography

Psychologists who see pornography as addictive may consider online, often Internet, pornography more addictive than ordinary pornography because of its wide availability, explicit nature, and the privacy that online viewing offers. Some claim that addicts regularly spend extended periods of time searching the internet for new or increasingly hardcore pornography.[1]

Some clinicians and support organizations recommend voluntary Internet filter (content control) use, internet monitoring, or both, to manage online pornography use.[16][17][18][19][20][21][22]

Sex researcher Alvin Cooper and colleagues suggested several reasons for using filters as a therapeutic measure, including curbing accessibility that facilitates problematic behavior and encouraging clients to develop coping and relapse prevention strategies.[16] Cognitive therapist Mary Anne Layden suggested that filters may be useful in maintaining environmental control.[20] Internet behavior researcher David Delmonico noted that, despite their limitations, filters may serve as a "frontline of protection."[17]

Causes of Pornography Addiction

Dr. Patrick Carnes, a pioneer in sexual addiction research, has outlined four core beliefs common in most sexual addicts. They usually result from growing up in a dysfunctional family, especially one with rigid rules, little warmth and affirmation, abandonment, and sexual or emotional abuse. The core beliefs are the following: 1) I am basically a bad, unworthy person, 2) No one would love me as I am, 3) My needs are never going to be met if I have to depend upon others, 4) Sex is my most important need.[23] The root of sexual addiction usually begins in childhood. Carnes writes, "When a child's exploration of sexuality goes beyond discovery to routine self-comforting because of the lack of human care, there is potential for addiction. Sex becomes confused with comforting and nurturing." [24] For example, a lonely and abused 13-year-old finds comfort in masturbation and pornography. More and more, he or she uses that for solace. As years go by, the type of sexual acting out may change. It can involve promiscuity, affairs, visiting massage parlors or prostitutes, and even viewing child pornography (citation needed).


Effective treatment for pornography addiction includes therapy, 12-step support groups such as Sex Addicts Anonymous or Porn Addicts Anonymous, education and medication when needed for co-occurring anxiety or depression.

InTurned On: intimacy in a pornized society, British therapist Duncan E. Stafford proposes a re-sensitization model for working with dependency on pornography.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Downs, Martin F.; Louise Chang, MD (reviewer) (August 30, 2005). "Is Pornography Addictive? Psychologists debate whether people can have an addiction to pornography.". WebMD. Retrieved 2007-03-22. 
  2. ^ Goodman, Aviel (1990). "Addiction: Definition And Implications". British Journal of Addiction 85 (11): 1403–1408. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.1990.tb01620.x. ISSN 0952-0481. PMID 2285834. Retrieved June 2009. 
  3. ^ American Society of Addiction Medicine. (2011). Public Policy Statement: Definition of Addiction.
  4. ^ American Society of Addiction Medicine." (2011). DEFINITION OF ADDICTION: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS.
  5. ^ Who, What, Why? (2008-04-30). "UK | Magazine | Does sex addiction exist?". BBC News. Retrieved 2009-08-09. 
  6. ^ Andert, Stephen; Donald K. Burleson (2005). Web Stalkers: Protect Yourself from Internet Criminals & Psychopaths. Rampant TechPress. p. 359,. ISBN 9780974599397. Retrieved June 2009. 
  7. ^ Marriott, Edward (2003-11-08). "Men and porn". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  8. ^ a b Rory C. Reid; Dan Gray (2006). "Assessing a Problem: Pornography Questionnaire". Confronting Your Spouse's Pornography Problem. Silverleaf Press. pp. 167–8. ISBN 9781933317434. 
  9. ^ Cline, Victor B.. "Treatment and Healing of Sexual and Pornographic Addictions". [dead link]
  10. ^ Cline, Victor B.. "Pornography's Effects on Adults and Children". 
  11. ^ Cline, Victor (PDF). Victor Cline, Ph.D. Witness Statement, Commission on Child Online Protection. "In the case of pedophiles; the overwhelming majority, in my clinical experience use child pornography and/or create it to stimulate and whet their sexual appetites which they masturbate to then later use as a model for their own sexual acting out with children.[...]Other related studies by D.R. Evens and B.T. Jackson support his thesis. They found that deviant masturbatory fantasy very significantly effected the habit strength of the subject’s sexual deviation" 
  12. ^ Cline, Victor B.. "Pornography's Effects on Adults and Children". "The sexual activity depicted in the pornography (no matter how anti-social or deviant) became legitimized. There was an increasing sense that "everybody does it" and this gave them permission to also do it, even though the activity was possibly illegal and contrary to their previous moral beliefs and personal standards." 
  13. ^ Cline, Victor B.. "Pornography's Effects on Adults and Children". "Being married or in a relationship with a willing sexual partner did not solve their problem. Their addiction and escalation were mainly due to the powerful sexual imagery in their minds, implanted there by the exposure to pornography." 
  14. ^ Cline, Victor B.. "Pornography's Effects on Adults and Children". "... an increasing tendency to act out sexually the behaviors viewed in the pornography, including compulsive promiscuity, exhibitionism, group sex, voyeurism, frequenting massage parlors, having sex with minor children, rape, and inflicting pain on themselves or a partner during sex. This behavior frequently grew into a sexual addiction which they found themselves locked into and unable to change or reverse, no matter what the negative consequences were in their life." 
  15. ^ Shapiro, Ben (2005). Porn Generation: How Social Liberalism Is Corrupting Our Future. Regnery Publishing. pp. 160. ISBN 978-0895260161. 
  16. ^ a b Cooper, Alvin; Putnam, Dana E., Planchon, Lynn A., & Boies, Sylvain C. (1999). "Online Sexual Compulsivity: Getting Tangled in the Net". Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity: the Journal of Treatment and Prevention 6 (2): 79–104. doi:10.1080/10720169908400182. 
  17. ^ a b Delmonico, D.L. (1997). "Cybersex: High Tech Sex Addiction". Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity: the Journal of Treatment and Prevention 4 (2): 159–167. doi:10.1080/10720169708400139. 
  18. ^ "AAMFT Consumer Update - Sexual Addiction". American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. Retrieved 2007-06-10. 
  19. ^ Corley, M. Deborah, Ph.D. (Winter 2002). "Cybersex Addiction" (PDF). Paradigm: 12, 22. 
  20. ^ a b Layden, Mary Anne, Ph.D. (September 2005). "Cyber Sex Addiction" (PDF). Advances in Cognitive Therapy: 1–2, 4–5. 
  21. ^ Bissette, David C., Psy.D. (February 2004). "Choosing an Internet Filter" (PDF). Retrieved 2007-06-10. 
  22. ^ "Recovery Resources". Recovery Path Counselling Services. Retrieved 2007-06-10. 
  23. ^ Patrick Carnes. 2001. Out of the shadows: understanding sexual addiction, Hazelden: Center City, Minnesota. p. 167-68
  24. ^ ibid p. 102

Further reading

External links

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