What Are the Effects of Porn Addiction?

man watching looking porn on a computer

Porn addiction can cause various undesirable effects for individuals and their loved ones. Many might be surprised to learn about the physical and psychological damage caused by porn addiction and how it can impact a person across various life outcomes. 

This article will help you understand porn addiction, including its causes, symptoms, and associated effects.

What is porn addiction?

Like any addiction, porn addiction doesn’t just affect the individual. The widespread impact of excessive porn use can significantly impact a person’s intimate relationships, including family, friends, and broader society.

Porn addiction is not currently documented as an official diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

However, psychologists refer to pornography addiction as a subset of sex addiction, a mental health disorder that includes various impulses and behaviours that negatively affect an individual’s life.

Excessive porn use

Pornography has changed how society views sex and intimacy, particularly in recent years due to the increased accessibility of internet pornography.

Teenagers and young adults are especially susceptible to peer pressure from watching porn – various studies show that internet pornography may encourage a shift in sexual behaviours, interests, and relationships.

Michael Flood, associate professor at Queensland University of Technology, explains that:

”Pornography shapes ‘sexual scripts’, providing models of behaviour and guiding sexual expectations, with studies showing a significant link between watching pornography and dangerous or unsafe sex.” (Michael Flood, associate professor at the Queensland University of Technology)

Objectifying behaviours and attitudes

One of the biggest concerns of porn addiction is how it can instil objectifying behaviours and unhealthy sexual attitudes in those who watch porn frequently.

For instance, research shows that watching porn teaches sexist and sexual objectifying ideas and perceptions around sexuality and gender.

Unhealthy sexual attitudes and behaviours

Various studies show that excessive pornography use can lead to increased hostile sexism and unhealthy sexual attitudes toward women.

In addition, pornography can cultivate violent and aggressive behaviours and attitudes toward people of all ages and backgrounds.

So, does this mean that watching porn is unhealthy?

There is little evidence to suggest that watching porn is good for us. However, much research indicates that pornography use can cause numerous complications and adverse effects on a person’s life. Some of these effects are outlined below.

Physical, social, and interpersonal effects associated with porn addiction

Couple at home after having a fight. Sad depressed woman sitting on sofa

Although porn addiction does not cause the same physical damage as substance abuse, it does cause some physical symptoms, particularly for those who watch porn regularly.

Overall, the implications associated with porn addiction include the following:

  • Changes in sexual function – evidence shows that men who engage in regular porn use are more likely to develop erectile dysfunction due to porn addiction. This can cause significant relationship problems since men often cannot get an erection when present with their significant other. Equally,, women may experience arousal issues due to chronic porn addiction.
  • Physical injuries – people who are addicted to porn are at higher risk of getting injured due to excessive porn use. For instance, aggressive sexual behaviours may cause someone to develop a severe injury. In addition, a person may get injured when using sex toys for increased gratification.
  • Social effects of porn addiction – those with porn addictions tend to isolate themselves and avoid social activities to watch porn. Behavioural addiction can work similarly to substance addiction, where individuals withdraw from loved ones to engage in a particular behaviour. This can lead to damaged relationships as an addict misses valuable opportunities to be around family and friends and enjoy healthy social interactions.
  • Interpersonal problems – porn addiction can lead to severe problems in a person’s romantic relationships. Studies show that pornography addiction can lead to hyper-sexualising behaviours. This means that individuals will seek out romantic partners for shallow purposes, such as a person’s physical appearance or sexual prowess, rather than other vital characteristics, such as intelligence, kindness, and other factors that help build solid, lasting relationships.

What are the signs and symptoms of porn addiction?

There are various signs and symptoms of porn addiction.

How these symptoms present can vary depending on many factors, including your history, background, genetics and other conditions. However, typically, the symptoms of porn addiction include the following:

  • Excessively watching pornography.
  • Watching porn despite any negative consequences it may have on your life, including your relationships, work and health.
  • Developing a tolerance for pornography and needing to watch more porn or more stimulating types of pornography to achieve desired results.
  • Experiencing distress or withdrawal symptoms when not watching porn or when porn use is stopped.
  • Continuing porn use despite its negative impact on your life. For example, you may develop a sexually transmitted disease due to risky sexual behaviours or lose your job or relationship due to excessive pornography use.
  • Sexual dysfunction – for instance, you may have problems with premature ejaculation or erectile dysfunction.
  • Watching porn to distract yourself from unpleasant feelings and emotions or to help alter your mood. This is common in those with depression and anxiety (or other mental health issues).

If you think you have any of the above symptoms, our specialist team at Centres for Health and Healing can help.

We specialise in treating various addictions and mental health disorders and provide personalised treatment programs for individuals seeking recovery from porn addiction. Speak to a team member today for further information and support.

Risk factors and causes

Like any addiction, various risk factors can lead to porn addiction. Let’s look at some of these risk factors in more detail.

Psychological factors

Depression treatment at Centre for Health and Healing

All addictions tend to have one thing in common.

Whether your addiction is ‘behavioural’ (i.e., you are addicted to porn, gambling, or shopping) or you have an addiction to a specific substance like alcohol or drugs, certain psychological factors are likely to play a role. These factors include:

  • Early childhood trauma or abuse. If you were exposed to neglect, physical, emotional or sexual abuse, or other adverse childhood experiences, you are more likely to develop an addiction in later life.
  • Having a personality disorder.
  • Being diagnosed with anxiety or depression.
  • A lack of impulse control.
  • Additional mental health disorders that may contribute to porn addiction.

Biological factors

As well as the psychological aspects, people may be at higher risk of porn addiction due to biological factors, including:

  • Being genetically predisposed to specific conditions, such as emotional dysregulation, reward-seeking behaviours, or high impulsivity.
  • A family history of mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression (some research suggests a link between these two mental health conditions and porn addiction).
  • Increased levels of testosterone and oestrogen (sex hormones) in your body can lead to impulsive behaviour and excessive porn use.

Seeking treatment for porn addiction

If you think you may be struggling with porn addiction, you must seek treatment from a mental health professional before your condition worsens.

Various treatment options are available to those with porn addiction, and you do not need to suffer in silence. 

Instead, contact a specialist today to kick-start your recovery.

What are the effects of porn addiction?

Internet and social media addiction

Porn addiction can impact many areas of your life. However, your addiction may consume you to the extent that you struggle to see how your behaviour or actions might affect your life and those you love.

The research literature illustrates several ways porn addiction can affect a person’s life; these primarily involve psychological, social and physical complications.

Psychological complications

An individual with a porn addiction may exhibit the following psychological symptoms:

  • Impulsive or reward-seeking behaviours.
  • A preoccupation with sexual thoughts or fantasies that last throughout the day.
  • Experiencing symptoms of anxiety, depression, or other concurrent disorders.
  • Feeling angry, guilty, or ashamed about porn use.

Social complications

If you have a porn addiction, you may prefer to stay at home and watch porn than socialise with friends or loved ones.

It’s also common for you to experience problems in your sex life, including:

  • Wanting to experiment with various sexual behaviours that may involve aggression or dominance.
  • Being emotionally distant or disconnected from your partner.
  • Having trouble getting aroused without porn.

Physical complications

As mentioned, those with porn addiction are at higher risk of premature ejaculation issues and trouble getting or maintaining an erection. They are also at higher risk of getting physically injured due to excessive porn use. 

How can porn addiction be treated?

Fortunately, there are various treatment options available for porn addiction.

Porn addiction recovery will differ for each individual, but various treatment approaches have proven effective. 

These approaches include:

Rehabilitation

man-and-woman-counseling

A common misconception is that rehab is only for those with alcohol or drug addiction problems. This couldn’t be any further from the truth.

Rehab facilities like Centres for Health and Healing diagnose and treat various addiction and mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, personality disorders and behavioural addictions such as gambling and porn addiction.

If you are struggling with porn addiction, various inpatient and outpatient programs can help you manage and overcome your addiction. These include:

Treatment programs are designed to help you connect with others who share similar challenges. In addition, individual counselling can help you understand your porn addiction and triggers. These programs teach you healthy coping mechanisms that you can use during and after treatment.

Other ways to treat porn addiction include:

Mindfulness-based therapies 

This involves increasing awareness of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. You will eventually gain control over any cravings or urges you get to watch porn through the techniques learned. In addition, you will learn to observe bodily sensations, allowing them to pass instead of controlling you.

Psychodynamic therapy 

This involves understanding and exploring unconscious motivations, desires, and conflicts. Treatment involves unpacking childhood events that may have led to addictive behaviours or unhealthy habits. Therapy aims to help break unhealthy cycles that keep you ‘stuck’ in destructive patterns, such as porn addiction.

Porn addiction treatment at Centres for Health and Healing, Ontario, Canada

At Centres for Health and Healing, we diagnose and treat various addictions and mental health conditions.

Our multidisciplinary team provides trauma-informed, personalised treatment programs for porn addiction. We also treat other addictions and mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, gambling, shopping and substance addictions, to name just a few.

Our tailored programs include individualised therapy, family therapy and support groups to help you overcome addiction and achieve lasting sobriety and wellness.

In addition, we offer a range of behavioural therapies that can help you understand your addiction and triggers, allowing you to manage any cravings or urges that may come up.

Our comprehensive aftercare support programs are designed to support you after you leave rehab, meaning that you can continue receiving treatment and support from our staff which can help prevent future relapse.

Please speak to our friendly team today for more information and support.

Additional resources

  1. Pornography Addiction Symptoms, Treatment Options and Therapy, Psychguides.com
  2. What Are the Real Effects of Porn Addiction? Brainbuddy
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