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Don’t get worked up: you can beat your porn addiction … if you want to

There are several myths regarding what constitutes “porn addiction”. Some argue that, like alcohol problems, porn addiction is a disease. Once trapped, the consumer of porn will hit rock bottom with no…

Matter of fact, I got it now… porn is more accessible than ever. K. Kendall/flickr

There are several myths regarding what constitutes “porn addiction”.

Some argue that, like alcohol problems, porn addiction is a disease. Once trapped, the consumer of porn will hit rock bottom with no recourse but to aim for abstinence and engage in treatment programs based on the 12-step model.

Others have simply substituted some prominent signs of severe alcohol dependence (e.g. having an alcoholic drink first thing in the morning, engaging in drinking despite knowledge of harmful consequences, etc), to porn addiction. They’ve opened shop and go on lecture tours armed with powerpoint presentations. Anecdotal reports are provided to support the notion of porn addiction of how someone’s life spiralled out of control.

On the other side, advocates from the porn industry, as one would expect, generally deny any negative consequence of excessive viewing.

It is essential we take a balanced view, supported by good evidence, rather than making assumptions.

For porn, the three main contributing factors are availability, anonymity, and affordability.

Gone are the days when you had to go to a shop, pay for the merchandise, and come out with brown paper bag.

You can now download anything onto your PC, laptop, iPad or mobile phone. You can do this in your bedroom, your car, your office or even a park thanks to superfast wireless broadband.

Let’s face it, porn is here to stay. Trying to ban it will not work (look what happened to prohibition in USA). Moral crusades and scaremongering will hardly leave a dent.

There is no doubt that for some people, excessive viewing of porn can lead to a series of negative consequences.

And yes, for some, viewing certain themes may lead them to act out their fantasies and land them in trouble with the law.

But not all viewers get hooked on porn to the extent that their viewing becomes detrimental to themselves and impacts others.

In our view, engaging in any “excessive” behaviour is a learned habit and can be unlearned. In other words, all bad habits can sometimes cause us grief, but we can change them.

We recently conducted a study of porn use in Australia.

Based on our preliminary findings from 722 participants, 85% of males and 15% of females view pornographic materials on the internet regularly.

The average age of the participants was 32.5 years, and over half of the participants were married or in de facto relationships.

71% were in paid employment and 43% were first introduced to porn between the ages of 11 and 13 years.

Parents often ask us what signs might be indicative of someone experiencing a problem with porn addiction.

Spending more and more time in front of the PC, getting defensive when questioned, absconding for long periods of time with the new laptop, marked reduction in other activities, being reasonably secretive about spending habits, skipping school or university, low mood, social isolation, sleep issues, looking tired, in extreme cases skipping meals can all point to this.

We can technically get “addicted” to anything: drinking excessive alcohol, gambling, playing video games, spending a lot of money on shoes, and so on.

For porn, we need more epidemiological and clinical data before we can have some confidence in how widespread porn is in Australia and its impact.

As the saying goes, in data we trust.

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2 Comments sorted by

  1. Marnia Robinson

    logged in via Twitter

    With all due respect, the authors are discounting the many problems users are already reporting. See for example, "Italian men suffer 'sexual anorexia' after Internet porn use." It's time for the healthcare profession to stop its irresponsible delaying tactics and act. See "DSM-5 Attempts to Sweep Porn Addiction Under the Rug" or visit "Your Brain On Porn."

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