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Porn Addiction and Relapse: Craving for Porn Can Return, Even After Years of Recovery

Relapse is generally associated with people going through recovery from drug or alcohol addiction, but the term also applies to people recovering from sex or pornography addiction.

Research continues to shed light on the ways pornography, for example, can change or impact the brain within the pleasure centers. Over time, the brain’s response becomes more conditioned toward seeing the images or videos to get a “high”, even though reaching this high requires more and more of the material or more intense forms. This means a trigger can set off a relapse, even after months of successful abstinence.

In a recent article, a recovering pornography addict explains that the urge to view pornography returned while his wife was away. After three years of recovery, he found himself caught up in online pornography and masturbation over the course of an entire night. Had a block or filter been in place to prohibit viewing the materials, he said, the relapse might not have occurred.

Experts recommend people recovering from pornography addiction have strategies in place to avoid relapse such as:

  • Set up a system of people who can serve as instant support.
  • Have people available to call or chat with honestly when the urge returns.
  • Establish web-based filters or blockers to prevent the temptation to view pornography from turning into a relapse.
  • Keep personal computers in open, shared spaces.
  • Remain aware of life stressors or potential triggers daily, so that the urge to return to pornography doesn’t seem to come out of nowhere and spur a relapse.

For most people with sexual addiction or pornography addiction, the material or behavior serves as a way to numb out, similar to other addictions. By keeping in close check with emotions and feelings, people with pornography addiction may offset a relapse.

However, a relapse doesn’t signal the end of recovery or recovery failure; rather a relapse in pornography addiction can mean a new look at recovery strategies is needed. A relapse can actually be a way for a person to learn more about their personal triggers toward porn, and can strengthen their long-term recovery.

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