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15 Porn Addiction Problems, Signs, and Symptoms

Dr R. Y. Langham

Aug 01, 2022

The Internet is saturated with explicit content, most of which is free. Not only is pornographic material more readily available than ever before, but it’s becoming more extreme, intense, and controversial at every turn.

As the number of porn sites increases, so do addiction statistics. As of this writing, as much as 6% of adults admit to having a porn addiction, with 65% of men and 18% of women claiming they visit porn websites at least once a week.

Used in moderation, pornographic content can add excitement and variety to your sex life – both with a partner or alone. But when occasional viewing escalates to an addiction, you may need intervention.

In this article, we’ll uncover 10 porn addiction problems, signs, and symptoms, plus tips for recognizing and overcoming them.

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Warning Signs, Symptoms, and Problems Associated with Porn Addiction

Not all porn addicts will experience all of these symptoms or warning signs. And no single issue is a definitive indication that you’re addicted to porn. Ultimately, you need to be honest with yourself about how much your viewing habits are negatively impacting your life, but here are a few symptoms and problems to be aware of. 

1. The Inability to Stop Viewing Porn, Despite Trying

Do you want to stop viewing pornography but can’t? If you’ve tried to break your porn habit to no avail, it may be a sign that you’re addicted. Porn dependency happens when you start to rely on porn for stress relief, sexual gratification, and even happiness.

Many porn addicts report feeling emotionally connected to or intimately involved with their favorite on-screen actors and actresses, making it increasingly difficult to form healthy, in-person relationships. If you’re unable to stop viewing pornography, you may find yourself spending more time online and less time with those who care about you. 

2. An Increased Desire to View More Extreme Porn, More Often

More intense and more frequent cravings and urges to watch porn are also a sign that you may be addicted. Some addicts find themselves daydreaming about porn and unable to focus on anything else. When 10 or 15 minutes of viewing no longer satisfies your cravings, this can quickly increase to 20, 30, or even 60 minutes at a time.

The frequency of viewing isn’t the only thing that increases for addicts. Over time, you may find yourself needing more extreme and graphic videos to achieve the same level of satisfaction. That’s because heavy porn use causes many people to become desensitized to traditional, mainstream content. When basic pornographic material no longer does the trick, many addicts turn to other forms of content that are more intense or interactive like live chats and video streams.

Frequent porn use changes the way your brain responds to pleasurable stimuli. When you watch porn for the first time, it activates the brain’s reward system which releases dopamine and serotonin, increasing feelings of happiness and enjoyment. Over time, your brain becomes unable to produce these feelings naturally and you may find yourself craving new forms of stimulation. This is also how porn dependency develops, as your brain relies on pornographic material for pleasure and in many cases, nothing else will do.

3. Losing Large Blocks of Time

Despite their best intentions, some porn addicts find it difficult to watch just one video. Similar to YouTube and TikTok, porn websites like Pornhub and xHamster will show recommended videos based on your search queries and interests. After finishing one short video, it’s often too tempting not to click on another one and then another. Before long, you’ve spent much longer viewing pornography than you originally planned.

When you spend extended periods of time viewing pornography, other important responsibilities and obligations often suffer. If you find yourself missing meetings, deadlines, or other appointments because you’re too busy watching porn, it could be a sign that you’re addicted.

4. Compromised Intimate Relationships

Romantic relationships are often the first thing to suffer in the face of porn addiction. For starters, many addicts keep their porn habits a secret from their partners. Whether it’s out of embarrassment, shame, or guilt, you may not feel comfortable sharing this information with your significant other. You may also be convinced that your partner won’t understand, will lash out, or feel hurt or betrayed by your actions.

Fear of judgment forces many addicts to keep their behaviors a secret, creating distrust and deception. Lack of communication is another negative side effect of porn addiction and can slowly break down even the strongest relationships.

For some people, traditional sex usually isn’t as exciting or arousing as porn. The porn industry is skilled at bringing fantasies to life on screen. Increased exposure to intense adult content can make traditional sex and intimacy with your partner less enjoyable. Over time, you may find yourself less attracted to your partner and less interested in sex. You may even subconsciously compare them to your favorite film stars.

It’s important to remember, though, that most of these professionals are airbrushed or filmed using filters, strategic lighting, and flattering angles. Comparing your significant other to a film star is both unfair and hurtful. As you continue to lose interest in sex with your partner, they may feel self-conscious and withdrawn, causing your relationship to deteriorate.

5. Increased Isolation 

Isolation from romantic partners isn’t the only side effect of porn addiction. In an attempt to deal with their guilt and shame, many porn addicts withdraw from the outside world. This includes declining invitations to social events, not returning phone calls, and spending more time alone. By hiding from friends and family, porn addicts avoid explaining themselves and facing their addiction head-on.

Isolation also provides porn addicts with a safe, private place to indulge in their behaviors. Viewing pornography, even in healthy situations, is often a private act. The less exposed a porn addict is to the outside world, the more easily they can satisfy their needs without interruption, explanation, or judgment. 

6. Mood Swings

Mood swings affect porn addicts in various ways and for different reasons. Some addicts experience mood swings including irritability, frustration, and even anxiety when they’re unable to view pornography. This is especially true for those who use porn and masturbation as a form of stress relief. Without it, you may find yourself getting increasingly angry and lashing out at others. Personal feelings of guilt and disgust can also manifest as anger that you take out on those around you. 

7. Depression or Anxiety 

In addition to irritability and increased aggression toward others, some porn addicts succumb to depression and anxiety symptoms. Depression is common among addicts that feel alone in their struggles. Increased isolation and disgust with yourself can negatively impact your self-esteem. As your self-worth diminishes, so do your hopes and motivation in recovering from your addiction. If your porn addiction has negatively impacted your relationship, friendships, or work life, you may also find yourself feeling hopeless and discouraged.

Anxiety is a common withdrawal symptom of porn addiction. The inability to view pornography when you want or as often as you’d like to can cause both anxious thoughts and feelings of paranoia. You may also feel increasingly worried that someone will discover your secret.

8. Unrealistic Expectations About Sex

As previously mentioned, the porn industry is worth billions of dollars for a reason. Film producers and even independent and amateur film stars know how to put on a good show. They’re paid actors for a reason. The sex acts, reactions, body types, and scenarios depicted in porn clips and videos are often over-emphasized, fabricated, and unrealistic. Unfortunately, the line between reality and fantasy is often blurred in the mind of a porn addict.

Many addicts develop an unrealistic expectation of what sex is and should be. This can cause feelings of resentment between you and your partner. You may feel disappointed by them or become more demanding about the type of sex acts you crave. Having unrealistic expectations about true intimacy can be devastating for your relationship and both your and your partner’s self-esteem.

9. Inability to Perform at Work or School 

Porn can be extremely distracting. Even when you’re not actively watching it, it’s far too easy to close your eyes or let your mind wander back to that steamy clip you watched this morning before work. Or that thumbnail you saw and are dying to click on when you get home. When porn starts to consume your mind and distract you from everyday life, chances are, your work or schooling will suffer.

The inability to focus on the job can have a myriad of negative consequences and may even be dangerous if your job requires your undivided attention. The more distracted you are at work, the more likely you are to make careless errors that may compromise your position. If you’re currently in school, you may find yourself missing assignments, showing up late for class, or unable to concentrate on a big test. When porn consumes your mind, it’s difficult to accomplish much else. 

10. Financial Trouble

Even with the amount of free porn available online, some addicts still find themselves going into debt over their habit. When free videos no longer excite you, you may be tempted to pay for exclusive content. Website subscriptions and paid services can add up quickly. Live streaming cam websites are another popular way for porn addicts to take their addiction to another level. By interacting in real-time with cam models, addicts feel even more connected to their favorite on-screen stars and have no qualms about paying top dollar for a personalized experience.

Financial troubles also stem from a lack of motivation. Too many missed days or errors in the workplace could result in you losing your job. Without a steady stream of income, your addiction could cost you your livelihood. 

11. Physical Pain or Discomfort 

Most people don’t realize that porn addiction can impact more than just your mental well-being. Some porn addicts experience physical symptoms as well. If you’re using porn while masturbating, repetitive motions and movements can cause pain and cramping in your arms and hands. Constantly looking down at a smartphone or screen may aggravate your neck, shoulders, or back. You may also experience eye strain from excessive computer use. Headaches are another common side effect of heavy porn use.

But the physical side effects don’t end there. If you’re having anxiety due to lack of porn use or worry over your secret being exposed, you may experience increased heart rate, shallow breathing, sweats, dry mouth, and more. Men may also experience erectile dysfunction (ED) as normal sexual interactions and stimuli are no longer effective. 

12. Feelings of Guilt or Shame

It doesn’t feel good to keep secrets from those you love. This is especially true when your secret is porn addiction. Historically, sexual gratification, the use of pornographic materials, and masturbation are frowned upon, creating feelings of guilt and shame. If you’re living with porn addiction, you’re likely ashamed of it. You may feel weak or incapable of stopping, causing decreased confidence and self-worth.

Guilt over keeping your addiction a secret can eat at you like a virus. Some addicts report feeling pleasure while viewing porn and masturbating only to experience instant regret and guilt afterward.

13. Lying to Friends and Family 

Deception and addiction often go hand-in-hand. Whether it’s a drug or alcohol addiction or an addiction to porn, many addicts aren’t willing to admit their shortcomings to others. Even if your loved ones confront you face-to-face about their suspicions, you may find yourself lying about the severity of your addiction or the fact that you even have one. Deception is especially common among porn addicts who feel embarassed by the situation. The more you lie, the less you can be trusted, and the worse you’ll feel about yourself. You may even push people away and avoid social interactions as a way of also avoiding accusations and confrontation. 

14. Denial 

It’s not uncommon for addicts to be in denial. You may view your porn habit as totally normal and healthy. Although it’s perfectly natural to view and become sexually aroused by pornographic material, it’s the impact it has on your daily life and personality that is called into question. Lying, sneaking around, and going into debt to satisfy your urges are all signs that your habit is spiraling into addiction.

When confronted by others about your addiction, you’ll likely deny or downplay it. You may do this so often that you start to believe your own lies. Porn addicts often convince themselves that their porn use isn’t “that bad” or that it’s not a big deal. Denial can also manifest into blame, with some porn addicts placing blame on others for their increased reliance on porn for pleasure. 

15. Loss of Pleasure in Everyday Things 

Speaking of pleasure, many porn addicts find it difficult, if not impossible, to find pleasure in everyday activities they used to enjoy. If the activity in question doesn’t deliver the same level of satisfaction and stimulation as porn, many addicts become disinterested. This includes everything from your favorite hobbies and pastimes to travel, sports, and exercise. It can even be something as simple as a delicious meal or beautiful sunset.

Anhedonia is the medical term for when someone loses the ability to feel pleasure in the things they once did. This condition is common among addicts and those with substance abuse disorders.

As mentioned before, heavy porn use reprograms the brain to only experience pleasure from one source – pornographic material. Without these specific stimuli, the brain is unable to produce adequate amounts of feel-good chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. Soon, addicts become completely dependent on their substance or behavior of choice to feel any sense of happiness, joy, or normalcy. The more reliant you become on porn for pleasure, the more you neglect other areas of your life.

What is Porn Addiction Withdrawal?

In addition to the above-mentioned issues caused by porn addiction, many addicts will also experience withdrawal symptoms as part of the recovery process. While most symptoms are psychological, some addicts experience physical side effects as well. These include, but aren’t limited to increased stress and anxiety, irritability, mood swings, headaches, and eye strain. Check out this article for a comprehensive look at porn addiction withdrawal symptoms and how to combat them.

How to Treat Porn Addiction

There’s no one size fits all treatment for porn addiction. Every person has unique needs, struggles, triggers, and temptations to face. Addicts involved in romantic relationships have their partners to consider, whereas single addicts living alone may struggle more with depression and isolation. Regardless of your current situation, consider these methods and approaches for overcoming porn addiction.

CBT and ACT

Both cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) are proven effective at treating some forms of porn addiction. Both methods focus on changing your thoughts and beliefs about a certain topic (in this case, pornography), in order to adopt a healthier mindset and behaviors. 

Support Groups 

Joining a support group for porn addiction can be difficult, especially if you’re ashamed or embarrassed about your situation. Not everyone is willing to expose themselves publicly, but for those who are, support groups offer a sense of hope and belonging. Here, you’ll meet addicts that share similar struggles, doubts, fears, and triggers. You’ll also get advice and recommendations based on other members’ experiences, triumphs, and pitfalls. Support groups help addicts feel less alone in their struggles and offer a sense of belonging and hope for the future. 

Therapy Programs

If you’re looking for a treatment program that offers both support and anonymity, consider an online porn addiction therapy program like Stop Together. Online courses offer a variety of resources, tools, and expert advice for facing and overcoming porn addiction. And the best part is, it’s all done in the comfort and privacy of your own home.

You can also complete the program at your own pace, depending on your needs and availability. Once complete, you can also refer back to previous courses, videos, and recommendations that you found most useful. For those still craving the benefits of a support group, check out online forums and discussion boards that offer help and advice to recovering porn addicts. 

Medication 

In some extreme cases, therapy for porn addiction is combined with medication. While there’s no single pill or medicine designed to treat porn addiction, certain antidepressants and mood stabilizers can make it easier to fight your urges and combat negative feelings of hopelessness and defeat.

These include, but aren’t limited to:

  • SSRIs
  • Opiate antagonists
  • Anti-androgens
  • Mood stabilizers

Check out this article on porn addiction treatment for a closer look at these medications and more.

Recognizing and Recovering from Porn Addiction

The first step to porn addiction recovery is recognizing that you have a problem. Now that you know the warning signs, symptoms, and problems associated with this form of addiction, you can address your addiction before it spirals out of control.

It’s also important to remember that you’re not alone. At Stop Together, we’re committed to helping you beat your habit and reclaim your life. Be sure to check out the rest of our blog for more helpful and informative articles to support your recovery efforts and answer those questions you’ve been too afraid to ask.

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