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How Much Porn is Too Much?

How Much Porn is Too Much?For most people looking porn is a relatively benign activity, turned to as a quick and convenient form of sexual pleasure when a real-world partner is either not available or not desired. For some, however, porn use can become an emotionally crippling sexual compulsion. The question, of course, is how do you know if porn use has crossed the line from pleasurable distraction into addiction?

It would be nice if there was an easy and reliable mathematical formula we could rely on, such as X number of videos plus Y number of still images equals addiction, but there isn’t. As is the case with alcohol and drug addiction, the determining factor is subjective rather than objective. In other words, it’s not how much alcohol you drink, how much methamphetamine you smoke, or how much porn you look at, it’s how the booze, meth, or porn is affecting your life. If you’re worried about potential porn addiction (or any other potential addiction), the following questions may be helpful:

  • Does your usage feel out of control?
  • Have you tried to quit, and failed?
  • Are you keeping secrets about your behavior?
  • Do you feel badly about what you are doing?
  • Are you experiencing negative life consequences as a result of your usage?

If you find yourself answering yes to more than one of these questions then you may well have a problem.

Like other forms of addiction, porn addiction is less about experiencing pleasure and more about experiencing nothing at all. Porn addicts aren’t looking to feel better; they’re looking to feel less. In other words, porn addicts use pornography as a way to “numb out” and dissociate from emotional discomfort, life stressors, and the ongoing pain of underlying psychological conditions such as depression, severe anxiety, chronically low self-esteem, attachment deficit disorders, unresolved childhood or severe adult trauma, etc. Alcoholics and drug addicts drink and use for exactly the same reasons.

Studies indicate that porn addicts typically spend at least 11 or 12 hours per week looking at porn (with or without masturbation). Many porn addicts dedicate double or even triple that amount of time to porn use. They lose hours, sometimes even days or entire weekends to porn. Often they find themselves looking at progressively more extreme, intense, or bizarre sexual content. They lie and keep secrets about what they are doing, and they get angry if confronted. They lose interest in their partners, their kids, their jobs, their hobbies, and just about everything else that used to matter to them. Most of all, their porn use continues despite negative consequences and a desire to quit. This last point, the loss of choice over whether to look at porn, is the primary indicator of porn usage progressing to addiction.

Sadly, porn addiction is very much on the rise, mostly thanks to digital technology. In fact, clinicians in the field report that tech-driven porn addiction is now, by far, the most common form of sexual addiction. Unfortunately, porn addicts are often slow to ask for help. Usually this is because they are either too ashamed of their compulsive porn use to talk about it, or they don’t view their solo sexual behaviors as an underlying source of their ongoing life problems and unhappiness. And even when they do seek assistance, they often seek help with their addiction’s related issues – depression, anxiety, relationship troubles, isolation and loneliness, sexual dysfunction with real-life partners, and the like – instead of their addiction. Sometimes porn addicts visit many doctors and/or attend psychotherapy for extended periods without ever discussing or even being asked about their porn use, leaving their core problem unaddressed and unresolved.

 

The simple truth is that even though porn addiction is usually a symptom of underlying emotional and/or psychological issues that will eventually need to be addressed in a therapeutic setting, the addiction must be dealt with first (or, with certain underlying issues, simultaneously). Usually the best route to recovery is counseling with a trained and licensed sex addiction counselor, coupled with or followed by group therapy and a 12-step recovery program. For many porn addicts, inpatient residential treatment or an intensive outpatient program are needed to jump-start the process.

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