When does porn become a problem? When you can't stop looking at it? When it interferes with your ability to function? When it serves as a gateway to high risk behaviors? What constitutes an addiction is controversial among researchers and scientists. There is no consensus that porn is an addiction. Porn addiction did not make the latest addition of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), The bible of mental disorders. However, for the purpose of this article let’s define addiction as any activity or behavior that is mood-altering, habit-forming, with negative consequences. Addiction is also progressive, incurable and can be fatal. In this case, watching porn is not fatal but when it serves as a primer for high risk behaviors, like using prostitutes, it can lead to a fatal outcome.
Until recently drugs were commonly believed to be the only source of addiction. However, researchers continue to expand the list of addictions to include both substances and activities, such as video games, food, and sex. The latter are considered process addictions, and vigorous debate rages among scientists about whether or not they actually constitute addictions at all.
Addiction results primarily from disconnection from significant people in our lives. We are social animals, hardwired to connect, with nervous systems designed to grow in close proximity to others. If anything interferes with our ability to remain connected we experience discomfort which signals to us that something is wrong and connection needs to be re-established. Basically we feel anxiety, depression and loneliness. Learn more here.
When connection to others is either not possible or poor, drug and process addictions are often substituted for relationships. Compulsive behaviors serve as repair attempts that fail. Obsessions and compulsions become self-soothing rituals that most people later refer to as addictions. One becomes aware of them when they begin to interfere with their finances, occupation, relationships, and self-esteem.
The question whether porn is an addiction is not relevant here because the more important question is: how is porn affecting your life? Men have begun talking about the problems they have experienced from watching pron. Recently, ex-football player and actor Terry Crews began discussing his porn addiction and recovery. Bottom line: He admitted porn was a problem for him. Here is Ran Gavrieli discussing why he stopped watching porn.
Here are some important steps you can take if you believe you have a porn problem or any addiction. Talk to someone knowledgeable about your concerns who can help you create a relapse prevention plan. Educate yourself about addiction. Develop safe coping skills. You will need two kinds when you feel triggered: cognitive and behavioral (soothing self-talk is cognitive, going for a walk is behavioral). Remove all paraphernalia and reminders from your environment. Imagine that you have already stopped looking at porn, what feeling, or situation would trigger you start looking at porn again? Prepare for cravings by answering that question and shoring up your support in those areas. Set a "quit date" no more than two weeks away. If you make your quit date farther out than two weeks, you may be procrastinating. On your quit date stop watching porn and avoid starting again by using your support system, coping skills, and relapse prevention plan.
Remember quitting is easy. Staying stopped is the challenge. If you start again, stop again as quickly as possible. It may take several tries. Getting unhooked is worth it.