The Signs & Symptoms That You May Have a Porn Addiction

Sandra Richardson

Jun 02, 2021

Denial is an addict’s worst enemy. It’s why the old saying goes, “Admission is the first step to recovery.” You can’t seek and accept the help you need without first admitting you have a problem.

Do you enjoy watching porn? You’re not alone. On average, 40 million people watch porn occasionally — and those are only the ones who admit it! Chances are, there are countless others who indulge in pornographic material but are too ashamed to say it. As with anything, moderation is key. If you can watch pornography alone or with a partner for enjoyment but don’t crave or miss it, you probably have a healthy relationship with yourself and sexually explicit materials. If, on the other hand, you can’t stop viewing porn, obsess about watching it, and use it as an emotional crutch, you may have an addiction.

 

Here we’ll explore signs that your casual viewing has morphed into something more serious — porn addiction.

Porn Addiction Warning Signs

It’s important to note that you don’t need to exhibit all of these warning signs to have an addiction. You may only experience one or two or all of them. Everyone’s addiction is unique and several factors determine its severity. This list isn’t all-inclusive but it provides a general overview for those unsure of whether or not their viewing habits constitute an addiction.

You’re Leading a Double Life

Most addicts go to great lengths to keep their addictions a secret. This is especially true of porn addicts who are ashamed of their behavior. In an effort to cover up your addiction, you may be lying to important people in your life including friends, coworkers, and even your partner.

Lying about where you are or what you’re searching online and sneaking around to watch pornography are signs that you’re becoming addicted. You may also adjust your daily activities and plans to accommodate your porn habit. Leading a secret life can be exhausting. In many cases, your addiction will eventually come to light. It may be best to clue your loved ones in now before they find out on their own. Not only will they be shocked by your addiction but also hurt by your betrayal.

You’re Distracted by Porn

Are you struggling to be “in the moment’ when doing things with friends and family? Does your mind wander off-task at work because you’re fantasizing about porn?

Being preoccupied with thoughts of porn, even when you’re not viewing it, is another sign that these materials are controlling your life. Searching online for pornographic videos while at work because you can’t think of anything else is risky behavior. Sneaking away to the bathroom or a private area to search it on your phone is just as bad! The fact that you can’t go several hours without viewing porn is a sign that you may be addicted.

You Feel Guilty and Ashamed

Addictions develop because people turn to substances or activities that distract them from their problems. Whether it’s stress, anxiety, or low self-esteem, a long list of mental illnesses and emotional conditions cause addictive behaviors. When it first starts, the substance of choice (in this case, porn) makes you feel better. You feel happy, relaxed, and satisfied when viewing pornography.

Over time, if these feelings are replaced with guilt, shame, and embarrassment, it’s probably a sign that you’ve become obsessed with porn. If it wasn’t a problem, why would you feel bad about it? These negative emotions are your body’s way of telling you that you may be relying on porn too much for your happiness. If you’re feeling guilty about viewing porn or your feelings of satisfaction are quickly replaced by feelings of shame, you may have an addiction.

You’re Feeling Isolated

Addiction is a very isolating experience. The more you lie and deceive those around you, the less often you’ll want to be around them. After all, if you don’t see them face-to-face, they can’t question you about your whereabouts and behavior. Sadly, this can quickly spiral into feeling isolated and removed from everyday life.

Those feelings of guilt and shame about viewing porn and lying to those you love most can also leave you feeling depressed. Your preoccupation with viewing pornography and being on the internet may also drive you behind closed doors and increase your feelings of isolation. Developing anti-social tendencies is another sign that porn is ruling your life.

You’re Experiencing Sexual Dysfunction

ED (erectile dysfunction) is a common condition that affects nearly 30 million men each year. While several factors can cause ED, new research is showing that excessive pornography use could be increasing mens’ risk of developing this sexual condition.

Signs that your ED is caused by porn include:

  • The ability to get an erection and orgasm when viewing porn but not during sex acts with a partner (or it takes much longer to achieve orgasm)
  • You prefer watching porn and masturbating to having real intercourse
  • You fantasize about pornographic images during the act of sex

ED normally affects men in their 50s, but research shows that teen boys are experiencing erectile dysfunction at an alarming rate — with most cases being linked back to pornography use. Viewing too much porn during this developmental phase can deform the pleasure centers in the brain and cause preemptive ED and other sexual complications.

You Find Your Partner Less Desirable

Pornographic images are not realistic. The actors are often airbrushed, heavily made-up, petite, and muscular. Not everyone’s body looks this way and if your partners don’t, you may not find them as attractive as you once did. You may start to develop unreasonable expectations for how your partner should look or act during sex. This can create feelings of resent, frustration, and even low self-esteem for both of you.

This is particularly true among men who are aroused by petite, hairless, vocal porn stars with toned bodies and theatrical orgasms. Men become conditioned to crave this type of partner and when the real thing doesn’t measure up, it can be a major disappointment. This also causes your partner to feel inadequate. If you’re having a hard time getting aroused by your partner and are constantly comparing them to the porn stars you watch, it may be time to unplug and focus on where true beauty lies.

You Have a Distorted View of What Sex Should Be Like

This warning sign piggybacks off the last one. Porn distorts more than just your view of your partner’s appearance. You may start to lose touch with the reality of what sex and intimacy really are.

Remember, porn stars are actors following a script. The scenarios, behaviors, and interactions you see on the screen are all fictional. Expecting your sex life to play out like a scene from your favorite porno movie is unrealistic and will lead to disappointment. Some porn addicts project these expectations on their partners, expecting them to perform like a porn star instead of a normal person.

All of these factors together can quickly result in the breakdown of your relationship.

You’re Searching for Increasingly Explicit Materials

Porn addiction is similar to drug and alcohol addiction in several ways, including the increased need for more. Over time, drug and alcohol addicts require more of their substance of choice to achieve the same results. That’s because your body builds up immunity. One drink doesn’t have the same effect anymore, so you increase it to two and then three. Before you know it, it takes an entire bottle for you to feel relaxed and intoxicated.

The same is true for viewing pornographic material. At first, mild or even romantic videos and photos might be enough. But soon, you start to crave more graphic material. This may include fetishes, violence, or even illegal material depicting underage actors. A study by the American Osteopathic Association explains the reason why porn addicts increasingly crave these taboo images.

People who view porn regularly have a decreased amount of gray matter in the brain which is a major part of your central nervous system. There are fewer neuro connectivity and neurons in the pleasure centers of your brain, making it more difficult to achieve pleasure using the same, repetitive images. If you’re starting to watch videos with subject matter you never dreamed you’d watch, it could be a sign that the gray matter in your brain is decreasing and that your viewing habits are becoming an addiction.

You’re Spending Money You Don’t Have on Pornographic Material

The internet is chock full of free pornographic material from videos and images to stories. As your addiction increases, you may crave access to exclusive materials which come at a price. Are you spending your paychecks (or money you don’t have) on porn? Are you spending the money you normally use for rent, groceries, and gas on porn? Not only is this irresponsible, but it’s a red flag that your porn addiction is spiraling out of control. It’s also a warning sign that you’re willing to engage in risky behavior (like losing your job, pawning your belongings, or stealing) to maintain your habit.

You’re Physically Unwell

Porn addiction can negatively impact more than just your relationships and bank account. Too much time spent in front of a computer can cause a long list of physical ailments and health problems including:

  • Eyestrain
  • Headaches
  • Back and neck pain
  • Poor posture
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Disturbed sleep patterns
  • Poor personal hygiene

Some addicts also experience withdrawal symptoms when they’re away from the computer for too long. These include anxiety, panic attacks, irritability, and mood swings. If you’re noticing a change in your personality and physical health, you may be facing an evolving addiction.

Your Home- and Work-Life are Negatively Impacted

All of these warning signs together culminate to this one — a negative impact on your home- and work-life. Is your porn addiction damaging your relationships, both professionally and personally? If your relationship with porn has become more important than your real-life relationships and connections, you are likely addicted and need help to stop.

Does porn take top priority in your life? Are you sacrificing time with friends, work obligations, and activities you used to enjoy, all for the sake of watching porn? These are all indications that porn is taking precedence over the things in life that truly matter.

Keep a Watchful Eye for Signs You May Have a Porn Addiction

The best defense against porn addiction is a strong offense. Now that you know the most common signs of porn addiction, you can take a proactive approach to your health and recovery.

 

Be honest with yourself about which of these signs and symptoms apply to you. When you’re ready to accept the support you need for your porn addiction, the Stop Together program can help. This online resource lets you tackle your porn addiction from the privacy of your own home, with access to professionals in the field and other addicts just like you. The activities, resources, and tools are at your disposal for the duration of the program and beyond, helping prevent relapse.

The only thing left to do is take an objective look at these warning signs and decide which ones describe you and if you’re ready to break free from porn addiction once and for all.