To truly understand pornography addiction we must first define it. Note that pornography addiction is a type of sex addiction. Although there are many definitions for sex addiction, the one I like best was developed by Dr. Mark Laaser:
Sexual addiction is “any persistent and escalating unhealthy pattern of sexual behavior. It is compulsive in nature, and used to avoid or change feelings despite destructive consequences to self and others.”
According to Dr. Laaser there are eight characteristics of sexual addiction. These can also be applied to pornography users.
1. It is Unmanageable
In 12-step groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, the first step to recovery is admitting one has a problem and that one is powerless over it – that the addict’s life has become unmanageable. Many addicts will confess that they feel like their addiction has taken over their minds, bodies and free will. When they feel the “itch to use,” they believe they cannot help themselves, but to “scratch the itch.” This leads to a life that is totally out of control and unmanageable. This is also symptomatic of a lack of trust in God.
Whether they realize it or not, addicts struggle to place their trust in God, especially when times are tough. Instead of turning to God for help, they choose to self-medicate. This constant self-medicating leads to addiction and a life that is totally out of control – unmanageable.
2. It Creates a Neurochemical Tolerance.
Viewing pornography triggers several neurochemical reactions in the brain. This produces a high feeling, which is intensified with an orgasm. This neurochemical high is also experienced when using drugs, such as cocaine or heroin. As with any other drug, a tolerance soon develops. More is needed to get the same effect.
Thus, a man will spend increasing amounts of time online viewing pornography, and the type of pornography will become more extreme.
3. It is Degenerative and Progressive
Over time the addiction gets worse. As tolerance and dependence grow, the need for pornography grows. Instead of viewing soft porn, such as the Sports Illustrated swim suit issue or the Victoria’s Secret catalog, the man now needs to view more deviant, hard-core pornography that is often violent and can even be illegal.
In addition, instead of spending a few minutes once a week viewing pornography, he might now be viewing it for several hours every day. Ultimately the pursuit and use of pornography consumes the man’s life. More will be stated about tolerance and dependence below.
4. It has Negative, Destructive Consequences
The physical, emotional, spiritual and financial consequences of pornography addiction can be extensive. Physical consequences can include genital injury, loss of sleep, stress, fatigue, and even physical injury if the man engages in sexual acts that are sadomasochistic. If the addiction has gotten to the point where he is acting out with other people, he runs the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease or creating an unplanned pregnancy.
The emotional consequences of pornography addiction include isolation, loneliness, fear, guilt, shame, anger, depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. Many addicts experience the loss of their marriage, family, friends and careers. The financial consequences can also be great. Many addicts amass huge amounts of debt from all the pornography they have purchased and related sexual activity.
The most dangerous consequence of pornography addiction is the loss of one’s relationship with God. As stated earlier, most pornography users know that what they are doing is wrong and harmful to their relationship with God, yet they choose to use it anyway. This can lead to a deeper loneliness that even pornography cannot ease.
5. It is used to Escape Negative Feelings
Here is where we most often use the term “self-medicating.” Addicts often use pornography as a coping strategy to deal with deep emotional pain. Often they don’t even realize the pain is there. All they know is that pornography makes them feel really good and that they must go back to it over and over again.
The fact that they cannot feel good without pornography is an indication that there is a deep emotional wound that they are using pornography to anesthetize.
6. It is Justified by the Concept of “Entitlement.”
Many men who use pornography do so out of a sense of entitlement. This often stems from narcissism and/or anger. Narcissism is a great problem in our society today.
More and more, people are committed to focusing on their own wants and needs with little regard to how their actions affect others. Thus, the man who had a rough day at work might come home and feel entitled to view porn as a way to relax despite how it may hurt his wife. Addicts may also feel entitled to use pornography out of anger. Whether he is angry with his wife, boss, friends or God, the addict may feel entitled to view porn to “cool off.”
7. It is Used as a Reward.
Pornography addicts can also justify their pornography use by viewing it as a reward. Whether they have been working hard in their career or around the house, they justify their pornography use as a reward for “a job well done.”
8. It Provides a Feeling of Power
Like all addicts, pornography addicts feel they have little control in life. Their deep needs to be heard, loved, affirmed and blessed are not being met, resulting in a feeling of powerlessness. Using pornography, and more specifically the people in porn, gives them a sense of power. However, this is a false sense of power and it is short-lived. They don’t realize that to feel a sense of control in their lives, they need to acknowledge their powerlessness and turn to God as the one true source of power.
If any of these characteristics apply to your use of pornography, you might be addicted. However, don’t be discouraged. Freedom from pornography is possible. A trained counselor can help you develop a comprehensive recovery program that can help you finally break free from your addiction. God will also be with you every step of the way giving you the strength and grace needed to succeed!