What is Porn Addiction? A Comprehensive Guide

Sandra Richardson

Jun 02, 2021

Nearly 21 million Americans have at least one addiction. Of those, only 10% seek treatment. Some of the most common addictions are to substances like drugs and alcohol — but these aren’t the only addictions that exist. Sex and porn addiction are much more common than most people realize. Of the 40 million people that admit to watching porn regularly, 6 million are self-proclaimed addicts.

 

Identifying an addict isn’t as easy as you might think. Many people don’t consider themselves addicts but, instead, recreational users. Regardless of the substance (drugs, alcohol, or pornographic material), there’s a fine line between healthy consumption and developing an addiction. What does that line look and how do you know if you’ve crossed it?

Let’s take a closer look at exactly what porn addiction is, what classifies it as an addiction, and some tell-tale signs you might be addicted.

What is Porn Addiction

Pornography and pornographic material aren’t new concepts. Since the Enlightenment and the introduction of print technology, companies have been creating materials to appeal to a variety of sexual preferences and appetites. In the last several decades, pornography has become more graphic and more readily available than ever before. This is due mostly in part to the introduction of internet pornography.

Here are some shocking statistics to consider:

  • 12% of all websites are pornographic
  • In America, the internet porn industry is worth nearly $3 billion
  • 2.5 billion pornographic emails are sent daily
  • 25% of all internet searches are related to porn
  • 35% of all internet downloads are of pornographic materials

So, what exactly is porn addiction? Does casual browsing count? What if you watch porn for a few minutes every day? Do you enjoy reading pornographic stories? If you suspect you have an addiction to porn, you’re probably asking yourself all of these questions and more.

There’s no one answer to the question, “Am I addicted to porn?’. Identifying porn addiction is done on a case-by-case basis. Similar to other behavioral addictions, the obsessive compulsion to view pornography regardless of the negative impacts it has on your mental and physical health are some common signs of an addiction.

Addiction vs. Compulsion

Because porn addiction isn’t recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, there’s no set definition or diagnosis available. Instead, it’s about dissecting your behavior and understanding the difference between an addiction and a compulsion.

The line between these two behaviors is razor-thin. A compulsion is a repetitive behavior that has no identifiable motivation. These behaviors are performed in an effort to reduce stress and anxiety. Things like excessive cleaning, chanting, eating, and performing ritual behaviors are all classified as compulsions. Addictions, on the other hand, involve the inability to stop these behaviors despite their clear and obvious negative consequences. Both compulsions and addictions are characterized by a lack of control.

It’s this lack of control and the inability to stop that makes viewing pornography an addiction that needs addressing. It’s important to remember that viewing pornography in itself isn’t an addiction — in fact, it’s not even a problem that needs fixing. As long as you’re not engaging in illegal behavior or hurting those around you, occasionally viewing pornographic material for your own sexual satisfaction is completely normal. When that viewing becomes a compulsion that you’re unable to stop regardless of the negative effects, you’re skirting the line of addiction.

Warning Signs of Porn Addiction

Are you still unsure of exactly what porn addiction is or if you’re an addict? These warning signs can get you one step closer to identifying your addiction so you can seek help.

Increased Viewing Time

Do you normally view pornographic videos for 5 to 10 minutes before work? Has that increased to 20 minutes or even 30? Are you late for work because you’re engrossed in porn and lose track of time?

These are all signs that a casual porn habit is spiraling out of control. If you find yourself viewing porn more often and for longer periods of time, you may be developing an addiction.

Losing Track of Time

This porn addiction warning sign stems from the previous one. Losing track of time and neglecting responsibilities and obligations is a sign that your viewing habit is out of control.

Some porn addicts spend hours at a time online trying to find and access pornographic material. If you can’t close your browser or walk away, despite previous obligations or engagements, you’re probably losing control.

Inability to Sleep

Sleep is another thing many porn addicts compromise. Viewing pornography at night gives addicts a certain level of privacy that they may not be able to achieve during the day. Spending endless hours viewing pornography online and missing out on valuable sleep is another addiction warning sign.

Even after you shut down your computer or phone, do you find yourself lying in bed unable to fall asleep? Do thoughts of viewing pornography or graphic fantasies consume your mind? Mental distractions from porn aren’t the only things that may impact your sleep habits. Too much screen time right before bed reduces the amount of melatonin your brain produces, making it difficult to fall and stay asleep.

Feelings of Guilt and Remorse

Are you ashamed of how often and for how long you view pornography? Do you feel guilty about the consequences of your viewing? If watching porn is affecting your self-worth and confidence, you may be on the road to a serious addiction.

The good news is, having remorse about your viewing habits is the first sign that you need, and are ready to receive, help.

Loss of Interest in Sex

When used in moderation and with a partner, pornography can enhance a sexual encounter. Remember, this is only the case if both partners are willing, involved, and excited about using pornographic materials in the relationship. Forcing your partner to view pornography with you or reenact your fantasies is not only unfair and a form of abuse, but it’s a sign that your viewing habit is interfering with your relationships.

If you’re losing interest in sex or human-to-human contact because you prefer viewing pornography and masturbating, you may be addicted. Struggling to get aroused or interested in sex without first viewing pornography is another sign that you’ve become dependent on these materials for pleasure and satisfaction.

Porn Gets You “High”

No, we’re not suggesting that viewing pornography will get you high in the same way that illegal drugs or alcohol do. However, studies show that viewing pornography does create a chemical reaction in the brain similar to using these substances. When you view pornography, your brain releases endorphins that create feelings of happiness and relaxation. Over time, your brain and body rely on these stimulants.

Do you find yourself using pornography as a fix for other emotional issues like stress or anxiety? Turning to porn as your “fix”, the way an alcoholic turns to booze is a sign that your viewing habit has turned into something much more serious.

Inability to Stop Despite Trying

As we mentioned earlier, this is the biggest difference between compulsion and addiction. If you simply can’t stop watching porn, regardless of how negatively it’s affecting your life, you most likely have an addiction.

Have you lost your job, gained or lost weight, or ended relationships all because of your porn habit? Are you in debt over purchasing exclusive pornographic content? If you’re still viewing pornography despite having damaged your personal and professional life, you’re addicted. If you’ve tried to quit but can’t, you probably need intervention from a program like Stop Together.

Overcoming Your Porn Addiction

Now that you know what porn addiction is and the warning signs that you may be an addict, you can take the necessary steps to free yourself from the hold porn has taken on your life. If you’ve tried other programs, support groups, or therapists but failed, we can help. If you want to tackle your porn addiction in private, we can help with that too.

 

The Stop Together program is an online resource that provides the tools, resources, guidance, and support that you need to kick your porn addiction once and for all.