Problematic Pornography Use

Let’s face it, technology is an integral part of our lives, for good or for bad. In a society that is widely connected to the internet via digital devices, access to sexually explicit material is easier than ever. Pornography is media that is used or intended to increase sexual arousal. Some people view pornography to satisfy curiosity, for sexual pleasure, or for entertainment. Others turn to pornography to escape uncomfortable feelings such as loneliness, sadness, or hurt. Others find themselves using pornography to combat boredom or cope with stress. Because young adults experience many of these feelings, you may not be surprised that pornography use is common among college students. One study found that 87% of men and 31% of women in a university student sample viewed pornography. Some people can view pornography in moderation, without it overcoming their lives. For many people, however, viewing pornographic material brings on a life of secrecy, shame, helplessness, and loss of control. They find themselves unable to stop viewing porn. Problematic pornography use involves an ever-increasing compulsion or need to view pornographic material.

Effects of Problematic Pornography Use:

Porn can have significant negative effects on your mood, your brain, and your relationships. Effects of problematic pornography use have been found to include:

  • Depressed mood
  • Irritability
  • Loss of empathy and compassion for others
  • Objectification: Viewing people as sexual objects rather than human beings
  • Decrease in loving feelings toward one’s partner
  • Loss of trust in close relationships
  • Decreased interest in and satisfaction with real-life sexual relationships
  • Inability to become sexually aroused or maintain arousal during sex without porn
  • Tolerance: A need to view more explicit material in order to get the same pleasurable feelings
  • Neurological changes which make it more difficult to stop viewing porn

Signs and Symptoms of Problematic Pornography Use:

  • Inability to stop using porn, or the behaviors associated with porn, despite repeated attempts to do so
  • Strong emotional reactions if asked to stop using porn or if unable to access it:
    • Anger
    • Hostility
    • Stress/Anxiety
    • Irritability
  • Keeping all or part of your porn use secret from loved ones
  • Feeling as though you live a double or secret life because of your porn use
  • Viewing more and more explicit, intense, or violent pornographic material
  • Continuing to view porn despite negative consequences, such as a broken relationship, academic failure, or job loss
  • Losing track of large chunks of time when absorbed in porn use
  • Feeling powerless to resist the urge to view porn
  • Frequently spending more time or money on porn than initially intended
  • Spending a significant portion of time viewing porn, thinking about porn, or engaging in activities that will enable you to access porn
  • Acting contrary to one’s personal values
  • Neglecting family, social, school, or work obligations to view porn

Symptoms your partner may have a pornography problem:

Partners of those viewing porn are often the first to notice worrisome changes in their relationships. Some signs that may indicate pornography is becoming harmful to your relationship include:

  • Your partner has become more withdrawn.
  • Your partner spends an excessive amount of time online.
  • Your partner seems emotionally absent from the relationship.
  • Your partner has become increasingly critical of your body and overall appearance.
  • Your partner’s interest in sex has significantly dwindled.
  • Your partner’s sexual interests have changed.
  • Your partner lies or has become secretive or defensive.
  • Your partner has difficulty becoming sexually aroused or maintaining arousal in your sexual relationship without porn use.
  • Your partner has violated an agreement about the role of porn in your relationship.

What to do if you think you may have a problem with pornography:

Education

  • Become informed about how pornography or other sexual compulsions impact your brain, habits, mood, and relationships. Start by checking out the resources on this page.

Treatment

  • Individual and/or group therapy is essential for most people to overcome problematic pornography use. Treatment can help you identify triggers prompting your use, manage urges, and develop healthy coping strategies.
  • Treatment of sexual compulsions begins with taking an honest look at the impact of such behaviors on your life.
  • Recognize that abstaining from porn may involve a period of withdrawal during which you are likely to experience uneasiness and intense urges. The skills and support gained in therapy will be helpful in enduring these struggles.
  • Many 12-step programs and other support groups related to sexual compulsions are available in the community to provide assistance.
  • Online programs are also available to help you address problematic pornography use.

Behavioral Strategies

  • Pornography problems thrive in secrecy. Talk about your struggles in detail with a therapist or a friend that you trust.
  • Make a prevention plan so you are prepared for times when you feel the urge to view porn.
  • Install internet filters or accountability software on your computer and digital devices. Designate a trusted friend as your accountability partner to set and keep the password.
  • Become aware of personal triggers leading to porn use (boredom, loneliness, depression, frustration, stress, etc.).
  • Identify your cycle or pattern of use (when, where, what, how, and why). Identify points where you can disrupt your cycle.
  • Learn to ride/surf the wave of your urges to view porn. Urges don’t last forever; they dissipate with time. Rather than being frustrated that you have an urge, just notice it from a detached position and watch it dissipate.
  • When you feel an urge and decide to view porn, build in a 5-minute wait time until you access it. Lengthen the time gradually. This develops a sense of mastery, if only for a moment.
  • Get out of your normal routine. Plan other activities for times you usually use porn.
  • Connect with real people in real relationships.
  • Replace porn with naturally rewarding activities (e.g., exercising, spending time with people, going outside).

The Counseling and Psychological Services Center can help you. Talking about this topic may be uncomfortable, but we are trained to assist you in a caring, gentle, and professional way.

Call us at 801-626-6406
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