Porn Addiction: How Much Porn is Too Much?

porn addiction man looking at the phone in the darkl

Over the last 20 years, the amount of readily-available, free pornography and the ease of accessing it via the internet has grown exponentially. 

Pornhub, one of the world’s leading porn sites, now registers an average of 115 million visits per day, and 1 in 5 internet searches on mobile devices are specifically for pornography.

With pornography use on the rise and continuing to diversify, many people are asking themselves: How much porn is too much? 

How much porn is too much?

Currently, the answer to this question doesn’t really exist. What’s considered ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’ will vary from person to person, which makes it difficult for researchers to identify where to draw the line.

However, research does tell us that moral, cultural, and religious beliefs can lead people to worry that they’re watching too much porn and are at risk of becoming addicted, even if they don’t actually spend that much time watching porn at all. 

This conflict of personal values and accepted societal norms around sexual behaviours can often be the root cause of any concern, rather than the amount of porn use itself.

Can I get addicted to porn?

Studies conducted on porn addiction to date, haven’t provided enough empirical evidence to answer this question. So the jury is still out on this hot debate!

What we do know is that while watching porn can activate pleasure/reward circuits in the brain in a similar way as, for example, marijuana and alcohol, a person can’t actually become addicted to watching porn in the same way. It doesn’t appear to change brain chemistry as drug and alcohol use can.

As a result, the American Psychological Association (APA) offers no official diagnosis for porn addiction in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

What people refer to as ‘porn addiction’, seems to be more closely related to obsessive-compulsive behaviours, especially when porn is used to relieve symptoms of mental health disorders like anxiety or depression.

According to research, 17% of pornography users are compulsive and experience distress, dysfunction, and destruction in their lives as a result.

Ten signs that you might need help

If you’re worried that you or a loved one are watching too much porn or that it’s having a negative impact on your daily life, help and support are available.

Here are ten signs to watch out for that signal you might need help:

1. Your porn use is increasing

porn addiction couple fighting in bed man looking at phone

One key sign that your porn use is becoming problematic is when you spend progressively more time watching it or searching for more explicit content to achieve the same results. 

Porn use can also escalate into more risky behaviours, such as watching porn at work or engaging in real-world porn by visiting sex workers and/or sex shows.

This rise in consumption can indicate that you’re developing tolerance and your porn use is becoming increasingly influential and controlling in your life.

2. You’re unable to stop watching porn

Continuing to engage with pornography despite wanting to stop clearly shows that you are losing control and developing unhealthy, problem behaviour. 

If you can’t stop watching porn – or can’t reduce the amount of time/money you spend on it – despite it having negative consequences in your life, you need to seek professional help.

3. You’re using porn to escape/numb unpleasant feelings 

Studies have shown that many people who struggle with their porn use may lack healthy social and sexual connections. In addition, they almost always have an underlying, untreated mental health condition – most commonly depression.

If you’re using porn to alter your mood and numb unpleasant feelings like loneliness, anxiety, or depression, help is available to treat these underlying causes and learn more effective coping strategies.

4. You’re experiencing sexual dysfunction in real life

Engaging with pornography can begin to affect the brain’s reward systems. As a result, some people find it negatively affects previously healthy sex life. They may find they can only get sexually aroused by the stimulus of porn, develop unrealistic expectations of sex with a real person, and/or lose the ability to become aroused by their sexual partner. 

It can also lead to sexual dysfunction, such as premature ejaculation or impotence.

While many couples use porn as part of a healthy sex life, if it’s causing emotional distress for you or your partner, or you’re experiencing sexual dysfunction, then it is time to seek help.

5. You have feelings of guilt and shame

porn addiction guilt and shame

Many people enjoy using porn as a temporary way to escape the pressures of everyday life and indulge in sexual fantasies – regularly removing themselves from the realities of the real world. However, problems can develop when they then have to reengage with real people in the real world.

If you experience guilt, shame, or remorse about the content you watch and how it makes you feel, it can indicate an unhealthy relationship with porn. Unfortunately, this can also lead to secrecy around your porn use and stop you from seeking the help you need.

6. You’re feeling anger and irritation more frequently

It‘s important to notice when you feel anger and irritation connected to your porn use – directed towards yourself or others – as this can signal that you have a problem. 

Perhaps you feel angry and defensive when your partner raises concerns about how much porn you’re watching or about your increasingly secretive behaviours. Or you’re becoming frustrated with yourself because you want to reduce how much porn you watch – or how much time it consumes your thoughts – but find you just can’t stop. 

Feeling angry and irritated when you’re prevented from viewing porn for any length of time is also a clear sign that you’re developing an unhealthy dependency on porn.

7. Your work and home life are suffering

porn addiction fighting couple

In some cases, watching pornography interferes with a person’s normal daily routines and behaviour, negatively impacting their personal and professional life.

It can cause a significant strain on relationships with partners, family and friends and lead to problems at work due to lack of focus or poor performance.

You need help with your porn use if you prioritize it over family/work/social responsibilities and continue to use porn despite the serious consequences, for example, loss of job, relationship difficulties, financial issues, or contracting a sexually transmitted disease.

8. You’re spending increased amounts of money on porn

While plenty of free porn material is available online, some people spend increasing amounts of money to access more diverse/explicit content to sustain the pleasure/reward payoff. 

Financial issues can quickly spiral if you find yourself paying for subscriptions to porn sites, cam girl subscriptions, or engaging in real-world porn, such as sex shows or sex workers. This is clearly a problem if you’re spending money on porn at the expense of family or daily necessities and/or feel the need to hide the nature of your escalating spending.

9. You’ve lost interest in activities that were once important to you

In some instances, people who use porn frequently to feel pleasure find they are less able to feel pleasure from other stimuli that they once enjoyed, such as hobbies, social events, exercising or spending time in nature. This is because the brain can become hyper-focused on just one type of rewarding stimulus – porn.

The condition is called anhedonia and is a warning sign that you’ve become overly dependent on a specific behaviour – in this instance, watching porn – to feel good. 

10. You hide your habit from others

A common indicator of a person developing an unhealthy habit around a particular behaviour, like watching porn, is when they become reclusive or secretive about it.

There are many reasons why you might hide your porn habit, including feelings of guilt, embarrassment, or fear of being harshly judged by others. 

An even more worrying sign is when you begin to deny the extent of your porn use and its negative consequences to yourself, making excuses and minimizing the problem.

Treatment

Behavioural therapy - Centres for Health and Healing

Addiction and compulsive behaviours are incredibly difficult to live with – but both can be successfully treated with the right professional help and support.

If you’re concerned about your porn use or if it’s creating problems in your life, please contact us to find out how we can help. We are here 24/7 and ready to listen.

Lisa Davies - Program Director of Vaughan Recovery and Kirby Estate

About Lisa Davies

Lisa is the Program Director at Centres for Health and Healing. She lived for most of her life in the Durham region, before moving to Peel five years ago.

Lisa is a Master Hypnotist and is certified in Hypnotherapy (2008), Self-Hypnosis and in 5-phase Advanced Therapeutic Healing. As a Member of National Guild of Hypnotists, she is also specialized in hypnosis training in pediatrics, pain management, neuro-linguistic and stage programming.

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