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How to Stop a Porn Addiction: Treatment & Therapy Options

Dr R. Y. Langham

Aug 01, 2022

One study reported that 21 million people suffer from addiction in the United States alone. While substance abuse is the leading cause of addiction, people become dependent on a multitude of things from gambling and sex to video games and tobacco. With the massive influx of explicit adult content online, porn addiction is also on the rise. Thousands of people currently struggle with porn addiction – and those are just the ones that admit to it.

If you’re one of these people and need help to quit, this article is for you. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take a deep dive into what porn addiction is, what causes it, and how to break free from the hold it has over you and your life.

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What is Porn Addiction?

In short, porn addiction describes someone who can’t stop watching pornographic material despite trying. Even when viewing habits are negatively interfering with daily life and the ability to function, porn addicts feel compelled to watch. Many porn addicts report trouble at work, school, and in their personal relationships. Despite this breakdown of productive life, porn addicts continue on a destructive path of consuming explicit material and isolating themselves from the outside world.

What Makes Porn Addictive?

Over 2.5 million people visit porn sites every single second. But what about these racy videos and images are addicting? Scientists continue to study the chronic use of pornography and if it can cause addiction in the medical sense.

In 2018, the WHO (World Health Organization) added compulsive sexual behavior to its database as a recognized mental health disorder. It doesn’t, however, specify porn addiction. Instead, it refers to performing repetitive sexual behaviors and activities to the point that they become the central focus of a person’s life.

It also mentions that these behaviors cause individuals to neglect their “health and personal care or other interests, activities, and responsibilities.” Research also suggests that habitual use of pornographic material for sexual stimulation and pleasure could cause chemical changes in the brain that mimic those of drug and alcohol addicts.

What Causes Porn Addiction?

Outside of the science behind porn addiction, other factors have been associated with heavy porn use and may put certain people at greater risk of addiction than others. While there’s no definitive answer as to what causes porn addiction, certain indicators suggest potential triggers for compulsive sexual behavior. These include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Chemical imbalance
  • Certain brain diseases (Parkinson’s, dementia, epilepsy)
  • Changes in brain pathways
  • History of addiction, drug, or alcohol abuse
  • Underlying mental health disorders including mood disorders (most notably, depression and anxiety)
  • History of physical, mental, or sexual abuse
  • Extreme stress or family conflict
  • Financial troubles
  • Lack of social skills or the inability to intimately connect and interact with others
  • Easy access to explicit material 
  • Plenty of privacy (studies show that compulsive behaviors often thrive in secrecy)

It’s important to note, though, that plenty of people develop an addiction to porn without any of these risk factors at play. Your individual personality, needs, and lifestyle choices can all lead to an unhealthy reliance on porn.

Signs You’re Addicted to Porn

Viewing pornography online or even buying an adult magazine doesn’t automatically make you an addict. In fact, plenty of people lead healthy, productive lives and still watch or use pornographic materials in moderation. The biggest indicator that this innocent pastime has entered the danger zone of addiction is when it monopolizes your time, causing changes in your personality, and impacting your relationships and livelihood.

Have others accused you of being a porn addict but you’re still not convinced that you have a problem? Consider these warning signs that your porn habit may be getting out of hand.

  • The inability to stop viewing pornography despite trying
  • Mood swings
  • Impaired relationships
  • Poor performance at work or school
  • Financial instability 
  • Physical pain or discomfort (headaches, eye strain, neck and back pain)
  • Lack of intimacy 
  • Unrealistic beliefs about sex
  • An increased desire to watch more porn, more often

You can also check out this post for a more comprehensive look at porn addiction warning signs plus common withdrawal symptoms that many addicts experience.

How to Stop Porn Addiction – Your Treatment Options:

Once you determine that you have a porn addiction, the next logical step is figuring out how to treat it. The journey toward overcoming porn addiction looks different for everyone. There are also many factors at play from how severe your addiction is, how long you’ve been addicted, and how much of an impact it’s having on your life. If you’re in a committed relationship, you must also decide how involved your partner will be in the recovery process – if at all.

The road to porn addiction recovery starts with a deep understanding of what causes porn addiction and why people become dependent on it. We covered some of these facts already, but in this next section, you’ll find comprehensive advice on how to stop porn addiction while rewiring your brain.

Make the Decision to Change

They say admission is the first step to recovery. And they’re not wrong. Until you admit that your porn use is negatively affecting your life and that you want to change, you can’t begin the healing process.

The first step in treating porn addiction is to stop watching and fantasizing about it. This is often easier said than done. Even if you install porn blockers on your computer and phone and take a vow not to view pornography in any form, your fantasies have a mind of their own. You may find your thoughts drifting to sex, porn, and the urge to view pornography. This is completely normal and expected. It’s how you react to these thoughts and urges that will determine how successful you are at stopping porn addiction.

While there’s nothing wrong with having sexual fantasies, if you’re spending extended periods of time reminiscing about your favorite pornographic videos, clips, or scenes, it’s time to shift your focus. There are a few things you can do to make this transition easier. Each time you’re faced with the desire to view pornography, remind yourself of the potential harm it may cause you both physically and mentally. Think of the relationships that have been damaged or stand to be.

The only way to “reboot” your brain is to remove the current trigger which, in this case, is porn. In time, your brain will heal itself and return to using more traditional and less harmful outlets for sexual arousal and pleasure. 

Do Your Research 

The more you know about porn addiction, the better equipped you’ll be to start porn addiction treatment. Do some research and find out exactly what you’re up against, what to expect, and what treatment methods work best.

Gather as much useful information as possible to avoid any delays in your progress. There are countless books, apps, and websites that offer well-founded and well-researched information on porn addiction, including statistics and techniques for overcoming porn addiction. You can also speak to a medical health professional for additional advice and insight.

Understand You’re Not Alone 

Porn addiction can be a very isolating experience. Many addicts feel ashamed, embarrassed, and alone in their struggle. When figuring out how to stop porn addiction it’s important to recognize that you’re not alone. With millions of people accessing Internet porn every day and an increasing number becoming reliant on it, you are far from alone.

You can’t start the healing process until you shed that ashamed, victim mentality. Everyone from public figures to actors has faced and overcome porn addiction. Hearing the success stories of other addicts can also act as motivation and a gentle reminder that you’re not alone. Remember, just because there aren’t many people talking about it doesn’t mean porn addiction is rare or nonexistent.

CBT & ACT

There are countless resources available for treating porn addiction, with most programs being offered online to allow for anonymity. Online therapy programs like Stop Together utilize techniques like CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) to help change the way you view and think about porn and the role it plays in your life. These therapy approaches can also help you understand the cause of your compulsions, which may be underlying issues you never knew existed.

CBT is a type of psychotherapy founded on the belief that your feelings, thoughts, and physical sensations are all connected. CBT teaches you that negative thoughts are what trigger negative feelings and, in turn, compel you to perform actions that may have negative consequences. Until you change your thoughts, you can’t change your feelings about sex and pornography or the actions that you take in response to these stimuli.

ACT is similar to CBT and teaches addicts to accept these thoughts and urges instead of rejecting or ignoring them. When you try to shut out the overwhelming urge to view pornography, you’re only giving it more power over you. Instead, acknowledge the urge, accept it, and move on. ACT also teaches you to adopt new, healthier behaviors that align with your core values and future goals. 

DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy)

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is similar to both CBT and ACT and was originally created to treat certain personality disorders. In recent years, DBT has proven effective at treating trauma-related disorders like PTSD as well as substance abuse in some patients.

DBT helps patients regulate their emotions, improve communication, and strengthen their tolerance. Therapists use mindfulness-based techniques and cognitive exercises to work through and address trauma, negative thoughts, and unhealthy behaviors. When used as a form of porn addiction treatment, DBT helps addicts identify and accept their negative thoughts and emotions without automatically reacting to them. Mindfulness is an important component of DBT because it helps strengthen your mind to the point where you can observe and acknowledge your emotions without judgment.

Letting go of shame is an important component of DBT for porn addiction. In DBT, patients learn radical acceptance which teaches them to release feelings of guilt, embarrassment, and judgment. In time, porn addicts also learn to purge feelings of shame and self-loathing, which is an important part of recovery.

Psychodynamic Therapy

Some porn addiction treatment programs also utilize psychodynamic therapy which taps into your unconscious thoughts and behaviors. Psychodynamic therapy works to uncover hidden motivators for certain behaviors, like watching porn. While there are different forms of psychodynamic therapy available, most approaches focus on childhood experiences and how those events shaped you into the person you are. It may also offer some insight into future behaviors and tendencies.

This form of porn addiction treatment also explores the possibility of genetic connections to porn addiction including a history of trauma, low self-esteem, sexual abuse, or conflicting feelings about your own sexuality. Over time, you can start to uncover why you feel a certain way about sex and sexuality and slowly let go of the negative feelings and emotions you’ve been harboring all these years.

It’s not uncommon for porn addicts to feel embarrassed or ashamed about their sexuality as a result of traumatic childhood experiences. Certain events may have created an unexplainable attraction to very specific or taboo sexual scenarios and fantasies, which can trigger harmful behavior in adulthood.

Through psychodynamic therapy, a counselor will help connect these feelings of guilt and shame with specific individuals including parents, other adults, and authority figures. By relinquishing blame or guilt, porn addicts can start to disassociate with these negative emotions and attractions.

Individual Therapy

If you respond best to one-on-one attention then individual therapy might be the right fit for you. Individual therapy is especially common in porn addiction treatment thanks to its anonymity. Porn addicts can attend individual therapy and get the help they need without having to open up publicly about their addiction.

Individual therapy is held in a therapist’s office including psychologists, social workers, and other licensed counselors. Most counseling sessions last 60 minutes and may happen weekly or bi-weekly. At the start of porn addiction treatment, your therapist may ask to see you twice per week. It all depends on the therapist, your availability, and the severity of your addiction.

The ultimate goal of individual therapy is to open up about your feelings, concerns, goals, and whatever else is on your mind. A therapist can help you identify your triggers and uncover the potential cause of your porn addiction. Many therapists offer at-home techniques and suggestions for addressing temptation and resisting sexual urges.

Group Therapy

If you’re open to discussing your porn addiction with other people, group therapy can help. Support groups offer their own unique benefits in addition to those found in one-on-one therapy programs. While there are online group therapy programs available, attending an in-person meeting for porn addiction is usually more effective.

Group therapy sessions are usually hosted in a neutral location like a church, conference room, or other public building. A therapist or counselor will facilitate the session by asking questions or using prompts. Sometimes, participant stories and interactions drive the conversation.

While it may be difficult to discuss your addiction in public at first, in time, many porn addicts find comfort in meeting and speaking with individuals in the same position. Other porn addicts can relate to your questions, concerns, and experiences. They may even be able to offer first-hand advice based on their own past. 

Couples Therapy

Porn addiction doesn’t just affect the addict. It also has a profound impact on those around you including friends and family members. This is especially true if you’re currently in a committed relationship. Left untreated, porn addiction has been known to destroy relationships and marriages. Everything from lack of intimacy and resentment to distrust and loss of interest in sex can break down even the strongest relationships.

This is where couples therapy comes into play. A couples therapist can help address some of these issues and work to rebuild trust while mending broken relationships and learning forgiveness. A mix of family therapy and structural therapy can uncover certain family dynamics associated with addiction, as well as identify the unwritten rules of what triggers functional problems for couples.

Online Therapy 

Online therapy combines the community feel of group counseling with the anonymity of individual therapy. The Stop Together program is an all-inclusive online therapy program that offers tools, resources, information, and activities that help participants take control of their lives, learning how to stop porn addiction once and for all.

Here, you can chat with other addicts and gain the same sense of community that’s offered by group therapy and support groups. The program also lets users personalize their experience by catering to their specific needs, which is similar to the one-on-one attention received in individual therapy.

Residential and Inpatient Therapy Programs 

For some porn addicts, outpatient treatment options simply aren’t enough. Inpatient and residential therapy programs are designed for addicts struggling with other addictions, those with addictive tendencies, or addicts facing relapse. This is also a viable option for those who have tried other therapy programs without success.

Inpatient programs are more structured and offer 24/7 counseling services and support. Most facilities have counselors, therapists, medical professionals, and nurses on staff at all times. Most facilities allow patients to choose the duration of their stay. This can range from a few weeks or months to longer periods of time. The length of porn addiction treatment depends on the severity of your addiction and your individual needs. 

Hypnotherapy

Although an unconventional method, hypnotherapy (also referred to as hypnosis) is sometimes used to treat addiction and help replace negative thoughts and behaviors with healthier ones. This process may hold some benefits for porn addicts, too.

Using clinical hypnotherapy, a trained professional places patients in a trance-like state where they work to address deeper issues. By tapping into the subconscious mind, you can uncover the root cause or trigger of your addiction and learn techniques for resisting sexual urges in the future.

Make Certain Lifestyle Changes

There are countless lifestyle changes you can make that support a life free from porn. In addition to vowing to stop watching porn and putting blockers on your computer and smartphone, it’s about making a conscious effort to change.

For some porn addicts, viewing has become a habit more than anything else. Have you established a routine that includes viewing porn every morning before you shower and again at night before you go to bed? If so, your brain and body now view porn as a trigger for starting and ending your day. Without realizing it, your body will feel restless and uneasy if you don’t view pornography at these predetermined times – even if you’re not consciously thinking about or craving porn.

One way to change this unhealthy habit is to find new and healthier replacement behaviors. In the morning, start your day with a cup of coffee, short meditation, or a brisk walk. End your day with a soothing bath, a hot cup of tea, or writing in your journal. Perform these behaviors at the same time every day and night and before long, your body will start responding to these cues. You’ll look forward to your morning meditation and nighttime bath. An important step in removing porn from your life is to find alternative activities that are equally rewarding. Granted, a run or cup of tea won’t provide sexual gratification but it will ease your stress in different ways. You’ll also feel empowered when you take control of your life and start making meaningful changes.

Get Active

Exercise can help recovering porn addicts in several ways. Whether it’s lifting weights, running on a treadmill, or taking up a new sport, physical activity works wonders for both your physical and mental well-being. It also most closely resembles the same rush of endorphins that you experience when watching pornographic material.

One reason is that porn impairs your brain’s natural reward system. Similar to addictive substances like drugs or alcohol, unnatural levels of dopamine and serotonin can damage your brain’s reward system, leaving it unresponsive to normal stimuli and other natural sources of pleasure. That means that simple things that bring others joy will have virtually no effect on a porn addict. Addicts need intense stimulation and the more hardcore porn you watch, the less impactful it becomes.

When you engage in physical activity, your brain releases serotonin and dopamine, creating feelings of happiness and relaxation. It’s also proven effective at reducing stress and anxiety with improving mental focus. Incorporating regular exercise into your daily routine may just deliver the confidence boost you need to stay the course and stop a porn addiction in its tracks. 

Find Other Alternative Activities

People use porn for a variety of reasons from sexual arousal to stress relief. Over time, addicts become dependent on porn for happiness and find it difficult to achieve pleasure or reduce stress without it. One way to combat this is by finding new and different activities that deliver the same level of dopamine to your brain that porn normally does. Another is to find experiences and activities that are equally rewarding on a deeper, more emotional level.

Create a list of topics, hobbies, and activities that make you feel alive and give your life meaning. By finding new forms of intrinsic motivation, you may also uncover the strength and discipline needed to overcome porn addiction. A therapist can help with this process. And when the going gets tough or you’re faced with a sexual urge, try falling back on this list of alternative activities that offer a different (and more rewarding) sense of satisfaction.

When an addict feels the urge to view pornography, they can fall back on a list of alternative activities and potentially avoid relapse. This starts by finding alternatives that are worth your while, make you feel alive, and that you’re passionate about. A therapist can help you uncover what topics and activities you’re passionate about and give your life meaning. 

Consider Medication 

When all else fails, some porn addicts turn to medication to help jump-start the recovery process. While there’s no specific pill designed to stop porn addiction, certain antidepressants and mood stabilizers can help control brain chemicals that are linked to obsessive thoughts and behaviors. Keep in mind that many of these medications are prescription-only and are used as a last resort.

Antidepressants that treat depression, anxiety, and OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) are proven to help reduce urges and the frequency of compulsive behaviors and thoughts associated with addiction. Naltrexone (Vivitrol) is commonly used to treat alcohol and opiate dependency. This medication works by blocking the parts of your brain that get satisfaction and pleasure from addictive behaviors. Anti-androgens work to lessen the effects of the male sex hormone, androgens, and in turn, reduce sexual urges. This can make it easier to stop watching porn and stay strong in the face of temptation.

Find a Treatment Plan that Works for You

Most porn addicts need outside intervention to overcome their addiction. In a world saturated with sexually explicit images and content, it can feel impossible to hide from temptation. You may also consider your porn use healthy, normal, and natural. And while this may be true, if you’re exhibiting signs of porn addiction, now is the perfect time to stop and regain control of your life. 

This comprehensive guide on how to stop a porn addiction should help steer you in the right direction. If you need more support, click here to discover how Stop Together can help.

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