What Causes Porn Addiction?

Dr R. Y. Langham

Sep 24, 2021

In many cultures, pornography is a “hush-hush” term not to be uttered in polite society. However, the truth is, this “tabooish” adult pastime has always been around, lurking and waiting to enter someone’s life (home, church, relationship, etc.). Once it enters your life, it takes over, shifting your priorities to porn and changing who you are as a person.

Porn is powerful – a lot more powerful than you may think. And, once you develop a porn addiction it’s almost impossible to “quit it” without porn addiction treatment. In other words, defeating a porn addiction typically involves more than just removing pornographic downloads from your computer, laptop, tablet, television, or smartphone, or even shutting down your devices or trashing your porn magazines.

Although performing these actions may initially stop the behavior, this reprieve is only temporary. Without intervention, a porn addiction usually comes roaring back once an opportunity presents itself. Then, you are back at square one (a repeating cycle). Once this occurs, you are left with feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, shame, embarrassment, guilt, and a sense of failure.

Surprisingly, a dependency on porn is often dismissed by both doctors and society alike, primarily because this type of “habit” is not heavily influenced by chemical compounds like the ones found in drug and alcohol addictions. Porn addicts also do not experience the same withdrawal symptoms as drug and alcohol addicts.

But, even though a porn addiction presents somewhat differently than other chemical-based addictions, it can still produce a “high” sensation in the body. In other words, viewing sexually explicit or pornographic material on the web, television shows, movies, videos, or in magazines can cause you to become aroused. Once aroused, your brain tells your body to release “feel-good hormones.” Because the images produce a “high” in your body, you are more likely to return to them.

For people, who are vulnerable to addiction, repeatedly returning to porn can lead to a dependency on porn (porn addiction). Understand, however, that not everyone that views porn, even repeatedly, will develop a porn addiction. A dependency on porn involves a myriad of facets, such as biological, psychological, cultural, and environmental factors, along with a predisposition or vulnerability to addiction.

Thus, it is important that you seek porn addiction support if you struggling with an uncontrollable “porn habit.” The good news is you don’t have to deal with the addiction alone, in fact, with porn addiction treatment, you can be on your way to a healthier, happier, and more fulfilling life! Porn addiction help is on the way!

What is Porn Addiction?

According to Psych Central, people, who are addicted to online porn spend at least 11 hours a day, watching it on their computers, laptops, smartphones, and/or tablets. Cyber-porn addicts typically spend most of their free time watching porn on the web, thereby, neglecting work duties, household responsibilities, childrearing tasks, relationships, etc.

So, what is a porn addiction? Well, it’s a “fixation,” “obsession,” or “dependency” on porn. Porn addicts have little-to-no control over their porn-watching. They can’t just stop even if it causes undesirable consequences like job loss, breakups or divorces, the removal of children, homelessness, broken friendships, health issues, etc. Once a person enters the “addiction phase” merely looking at a pornographic image can trigger intense arousal and a sensation of being “high.” Because, the image causes pleasurable feelings, this person is more apt to continue the behavior.

Keep in mind, however, that porn addiction doesn’t just pop up overnight. The truth is it can take years before “viewing porn” (compulsion) turns into a “dependency on porn” (addiction). Typically, it is friends and family, rather than the addict, who first realizes there is a problem.

Is Porn Addiction a “Real Thing” And Can You Really Become Addicted to Porn?

Yes!

In fact, a 2002 survey revealed that approximately 9% of people with a “porn habit” have tried to stop viewing porn, but have been unsuccessful.

To date, mental health professionals are still deciding if porn addiction should be added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Mental Disorders (DSM), as a “compulsive sexual behavior.” At this time, however, porn addiction is not included in the DSM. Thus, it is not “officially” considered a mental illness or mental disorder.

But, even though, porn addiction is not included in the DSM, several studies have been conducted on how porn-watching affects its users. For instance, a 2020 study found that men seeking porn addiction treatment for a “porn habit” experienced increased brain activity (a heightened response) after viewing sexually explicit or pornographic material. As a result, researchers determined that the parts of the brain (i.e., reward, memory, pleasure, and motivation) that are activated with drugs and alcohol are the same ones triggered with porn use.

Researchers also found that compulsive porn-watching or porn addiction can wreak havoc on one’s relationship. In fact, a 2011 study found that men, who frequently view porn on the internet, tend to have a hard time sexually connecting with or being intimate with their real-life partners. However, researchers found that women, who frequently view porn on the internet, are likely to experience an increase in sexual intimacy.

Similarly, a 2012 study found that female college students, who find their partner’s porn use problematic, tend to have lower self-esteem, unsatisfactory relationships, and poorer sex lives. A 2013 study concurred with the previous studies and found that heterosexual married or cohabitating men tend to experience a lower level of sexual satisfaction with their real-life partners when they had a “porn habit.” However, women, who had a “porn habit” tend to experience an uptick in their sexual satisfaction.

What Causes a Porn Addiction?

The truth is determining the exact cause of porn addiction can be challenging, primarily because several factors may be involved in its development and progression. Nevertheless, researchers have gleaned that many porn addicts have experienced some degree of family dysfunction, domestic violence, and/or sexual or physical abuse at some point in their lives.

In fact, research suggests that approximately 70% of porn addicts experienced childhood physical abuse, approximately 80% experienced childhood sexual abuse, and almost 97% experienced emotional abuse at some point in their lives. Understand that this theory does not apply to all porn addicts. In other words, porn addiction could stem from other reasons that have nothing to do with maladjusted families or abuse.

As mentioned above, there appear to be several possible “causes” of porn addiction. These “causes” are typically grouped into four categories: biological, psychological, cultural, and environmental factors. Research suggests that these “causes” are interconnected and that each factor plays a significant role in the formation of a porn addiction.

Listed below are possible “causes” of porn addiction:

  • Biological Factors

    Research suggests that biology may play a significant role in the formation of porn addiction. This possible cause involves your brain chemistry and genetics. It is important to understand, however, that people perceive sexual enjoyment and satisfaction in different ways. For instance, some people may find joy in watching porn on the television, others experience sexual arousal and release through erotic books and magazines, while others may find that viewing porn online provides them with sexual fulfillment.

    Feelings of pleasure can entice people (some more than others) to keep returning to these activities to experience the “high” they originally received from them. Over time, some users develop a “porn habit” or porn addiction.

    In fact, according to a 2015 study, approximately 40% of porn addicts are genetically predisposed to addictions. Researchers also found that children of addicts have a 25% chance of also becoming addicts at some point in their lives. Perhaps, this is due to environmental factors (i.e., exposure) or maybe, it’s due to a genetic disposition.

    It is important to point out that not all people, who watch or view porn become porn addicts. Some people partake in porn use and never develop a dependency on it. It just depends on your brain chemistry and genetic predisposition to addiction.

    For instance, researchers have found that a brain chemical imbalance or elevated levels of norepinephrine, endorphins, and serotonin (“feel good” hormones/chemicals) can lead to porn addiction. The development of a porn addiction also depends on your ability to counter impulses (urges) with logical thoughts – this varies from person to person.

    Dopamine treatment for Parkinson’s disease, along with certain brain conditions like dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and epilepsy can also damage or destroy the regions of your brain responsible for sexual arousal and release, possibly leading to a dependency on porn. Thus, it can be challenging, if not impossible, to resist sexual impulses and urges when you are taking dopamine treatments or struggling with a brain condition. These individuals are at-risk of developing a porn addiction due to their genetic fragility.

    Understand that people, who have no known brain conditions and who are not taking dopamine treatments can still become addicted to porn. Because we are “trained” and encouraged from an early age to repeat behaviors that are “satisfying” or “enjoyable, such as eating, shopping, exercising, having sex, etc., even people with “normal” or healthy brain function and chemistry are at-risk of developing a porn addiction. Sadly, these “incentives” place healthy people at-risk of developing an unhealthy addiction to the thing(s) that provide them “satisfaction” and “joy” (i.e., porn).

    Gender also appears to play a role in the formation of porn addiction. Most addiction studies indicate that men have a higher risk of becoming an addict. However, similar to current substance abuse studies, research also suggests that women’s porn use tends to escalate more quickly than men, who tend to start off viewing porn more frequently than women. Researchers also found that women, in general, have a higher relapse rate than males, which may suggest a genetic vulnerability to addiction.

    Another biological component that can “cause” or contribute to porn addiction is withdrawal. More specifically, the fear of withdrawal and the side-effects associated with trying to “quit” a “porn habit” can prevent some porn addicts from following through with it. The fear of withdrawal “tricks” your body into believing that it needs the vice (i.e., porn) to function or even survive. This keeps you hooked on porn.

  • Psychological Factors

    Psychological factors also appear to be in play when it comes to developing a porn addiction. In fact, multiple studies have indicated that psychological disorders like mood disorders (i.e., depression and bipolar disorder) and anxiety can trigger a “porn fixation” in some women and men.

    These individuals typically turn to porn as a way to temporarily relieve boredom, ease depression or anxiety, satisfy sexual urges, and/or relieve sexual tension. Keep in mind, however, that boredom is one of the main reasons people turn to porn and one of the main reasons they become addicted to porn.

    For instance, a person becomes bored because of COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns. He or she is unable to work, socialize, or connect with others, so he or she develops a habit of turning to porn to pass the time. Well, this person’s “porn habit” becomes more and more frequent until it turns into a full-blown compulsion. Once it hits this stage, he or she is at-risk for a porn addiction (obsession).

    Thus, porn users have been psychologically trained to turn to porn because it provides them with the “release,” “escape,” and/or “satisfaction” they are seeking. In other words, viewing porn provides these individuals with some type of benefit (i.e., stress relief, enjoyable sensations or sexual arousal, sexual release or orgasms, escape from overwhelming or difficult situations, sexual or emotional stimulation, an avoidance of withdrawal symptoms, etc., so they continue to engage in the behavior – even if it’s damaging, dangerous, or destructive.

    It is also important to understand that coping skills vary from person to person. In other words, one person may be able to cope with upsetting or challenging situations more effectively than another person. Researchers have found that people, who have unhealthy or ineffective coping skills have a higher risk of developing a porn addiction.

    When challenging, distressing, or upsetting emotions and situations arise, these individuals tend to turn to what they know – porn. But, although viewing porn may ease sexual urges, distress, or boredom, it is only a temporary reprieve. The impulses return in full force once the “high” from the porn wears off. Moreover, according to studies, people, who experience elevated or chronic stress – and lack the proper stress management skills, are prone to becoming an addict. The main culprit – motivation.

    If a porn addict lacks the motivation to stop the unhealthy behavior, it will continue. In this person’s mind, the behavior is serving a purpose – one that is beneficial for him or her. The truth is without a strong motivation, it is nearly impossible to alter your behavior – even if these actions have the power to destroy your life.

    Furthermore, it is common for society to believe that all that is needed to “cure” a “porn habit” is to become aware of it. However, that is simply not the case. In truth, awareness is rarely enough to motivate addicts to stop their unhealthy behaviors.

  • Cultural Factors

    Studies suggest that cultural factors may contribute to the development and progression of porn addiction. Culture is defined as learned and shared beliefs, patterns, practices, behaviors, values, and traditions amongst members of a group, familial and non-familial. For instance, some cultures may “accept” porn use, while other cultures, may “reject” it. Thus, the perception of porn use is largely dependent on the culture in which it is being used.

    However, your biggest cultural influence is your family (i.e., biological, adoptive, foster, etc.) – whether you want to be or not. Culture is transferred from generation to generation. Thus, children learn about sexual identity, sex, and sexuality from people in their environment, especially their family, but also their friends and society.

  • Environmental Factors

    Researchers suggest that a possible “cause” of addiction is one’s environment. In other words, if porn is frequently viewed in your home, it’s easier for others to accept and engage in it. For example, if a child grows up in a home where the adults watch online porn regularly, he or she is at-risk of also watching online porn once he or she becomes a teen or adult.

    Why? Because that is the environment this child grew up in. In other words, this individual learned early on to equate pornography with happiness, joy, having fun, routine, traditions, “family,” etc., causing him or her to want to continue those emotions, behaviors, activities, and “traditions.”

    Thus, viewing porn became “natural” to this individual, because he or she was constantly around it as a child. Therefore, when a person has repeatedly been exposed to something, eventually they become desensitized to it – even if that “thing” is porn.

Are There Any Risk Factors for Porn Addiction?

Listed below are risk factors that could contribute to or “cause” a porn addiction:

  • Accessibility – Because internet use has become a part of life for most people, it is easier than ever to access porn on the web. All that is needed is Wi-Fi and an electronic device.
  • Seclusion – A “porn habit” thrives in secrecy, so if your electronic device is located in a secluded place (i.e., bedroom, garage, basement) or if you typically view porn once your family has gone to bed, it is easier to indulge in this “habit.”
  • Substance abuse – A little-known side-effect of substance abuse (drug and alcohol abuse or addiction) is hypersexuality and porn-watching. Note: Researchers have found that alcohol and drugs can aggravate porn use and porn use can trigger or increase drug and alcohol abuse.
  • Mental health conditionsStudies indicate that people, who struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), have a higher risk of becoming dependent on porn, than those, who do not suffer from these mental health conditions.
  • Escape – Some people turn to porn as a way to “escape” from distressing or upsetting emotions and situations. Pornography allows them to escape to a “fantasy world” for a little while. During this time, they do not think about or even care about their problems. The problem is these emotions and situations return once the “high” of pornography leaves. Because porn offers these individuals a temporary reprieve, they are more apt to return to it over and over again until it becomes an addiction.
  • Loneliness – Some people turn to porn because they are lonely and want to feel connected to someone – even indirectly (i.e., on a screen or in a magazine). A 2005 study found that women and men, who view porn are lonelier than those, who do not view porn.

Is There Help for a Porn Addiction?

Yes!

The good news is there are a variety of porn addiction treatments, such as books, apps, articles, porn addiction therapy, self-help exercises, support programs, lifestyle changes, and online porn addiction programs, like “Stop Together.” “Stop Together” can help you defeat your “porn habit.” One of the best things about this porn cessation program is that it is affordable! It also respects your privacy – never divulging your participation to others.

The “Stop Together” program can provide you with some much-needed porn addiction support, so you can regain control of your life. It can also boost your self-confidence, hold you accountable for your actions, and teach you how to cope with your sexual urges in healthy ways.

This program can provide you with a new lease on life, so what are you waiting for?! Let’s go!