How can counseling help with pornography addiction?

Did you know that about 200,000 US citizens are addicted to pornography nowadays? Considering that this number is rapidly growing, pornography addiction is becoming a more and more significant threat to modern American society.

Even though pornography isn’t classified as a specific disorder by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the fact of the matter is that a lot of people are struggling with this condition in the world. And the symptoms these people are complaining about, including compulsively visiting porn websites, watching this type of content excessively, or having difficulties avoiding returning to pron even when it has negative consequences, are almost similar to other types of addictions, such as substance use or alcohol addiction.

Therefore, pornography addiction is a serious condition that might have a similar impact on the human brain as drugs or alcohol. Although it might not lead to physical dependency, this condition still significantly disturbs effective functioning, which is why it requires specific psychological treatment.

In this article, we’ll define pornography addiction, discuss its symptoms and preconditions, and explain how counseling can help to recover from this condition.

What is Pornography Addiction?

Pornography addiction can be defined as an emotional condition when psychological dependence on porn interferes with an individual’s everyday life, social relationships, or work and restricts their ability to function efficiently. It’s the compulsive use of pornography that leads to a less satisfying sex life, relationship issues, and most importantly, risky behaviors such as watching pornography at work or in public places instead of performing one’s own duties.

Interestingly, the American Psychological Association (APA) doesn’t recognize pornography addiction as a mental health disorder. Instead, they connect this condition with sexual pathologies or maladaptive sexual behaviors. The reason is that sometimes people think that they are addicted to porn due to the cultural taboo of regularly watching porn. In fact, in many countries, pornography is still considered a socially unacceptable type of content and is restricted. As a result, based on a 2020 study, people who consider themselves porn addicts don’t really perform compulsive behaviors, but their self-perfection is significantly impacted by cultural norms and values (Grubbs et al., 2020).

That’s why it’s important to point out that watching porn can be healthy. What’s more, not everyone gets addicted to porn even when they watch it regularly. However, watching pron can be unhealthy, and if you notice that it disrupts your daily life and makes you ignore your responsibilities to watch porn or you are unable to stop using pornography, then you might need to get some psychological assistance.

What Does Research Say About Pornography Addiction?

Since pornography addiction is a relatively new mental health problem, the scientific literature about it isn’t very diverse. However, several studies prove that porn addiction can be regarded as a type of behavioral addiction related to Internet use. In fact, a 2015 study about the neuroscience of Internet pornography addiction proves that this type of disorder is characterized by similar basic mechanisms, signs, and symptoms as substance use and, therefore, fits into the framework of addiction (Love et al., 2015).

Other studies show that the root cause of pornography addiction can be attributed to the fact that people who experience anxiety after watching porn often believe that they are addicted to it. And this often leads to disrupted functioning and psychological problems such as excessive stress and difficulty expressing emotions or focusing attention (e.g., Prause et al., 2015).

Nevertheless, pornography addiction exists, and the most common psychosocial aspects of this behavioral problem can be problems in social relationships, lower degrees of social interaction, depressive symptoms, anxiety, impulse-problem issues, or delinquent behaviors.

Besides, research has demonstrated that pornography addiction also changes the patterns of brain functioning. Specifically, people who often perform compulsive sexual activities, such as excessively viewing porn, have similar physiological and neurochemical changes in their brains that are linked to drug addiction. In fact, pornography addiction leads to the release of dopamine, which activates the brain’s reward system and stimulates addiction.

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Preconditions of Pornography Addiction

A family history of addiction, intense stimulation of the brain’s reward system, and compulsive behaviors are some of the major causes of addiction. Since psychologists and researchers haven’t yet agreed on whether to consider pornography addiction as a mental health disorder, there are different opinions about the factors that cause this condition. Still, some of the factors that can be regarded as preconditions of pornography addiction include:

  • Genetic or biological precondition – People whose family has a history of mental health disorders such as substance use, depression, anxiety disorders, or obsessive-compulsive disorder are in the risk group of developing porn addiction if they regularly watch pornography.
  • Social values that restrict porn use – Unhealthy attitudes about sex, such as perceiving watching pornography as inappropriate behavior or discussing intimate things out loud as culturally unacceptable, may lead to excessive porn use.
  • Problems in relationships – Porn addiction is often associated with sexual disorders. Therefore, if a couple has problems in their sexual life and can’t achieve satisfaction, turning to pornography might be a natural remedy. However, watching porn without boundaries may cause psychological dependency on it.

How Can Counseling Help?

Sometimes people feel ashamed or uncomfortable admitting that they’re struggling with pornography addiction. However, recovering from the disruptive symptoms of this problem is much easier with professional assistance. In fact, counselors who specialize in various types of behavioral or emotional problems and help people overcome drug, alcohol, or other types of addiction can help individuals who doubt being dependent on pornography.

Nowadays, there are several options available for those who find it hard to deal with porn addiction and want help from professional counselors in the process of recovering. Based on your specific problems, you may need to receive individual treatment or couple therapy where counselors will identify your maladaptive patterns of thoughts and behaviors and help you overcome addiction. Moreover, some people even prefer to take part in group therapy and receive support from others who also suffer from mental health disorders.

Therapists who help clients deal with pornography addiction usually specialize in sexual issues, relationship problems or addiction, and compulsive behavior. Usually, people suffering from pornography addiction positively respond to individual, couples, or group therapy. As a result of taking part in counseling, they learn how to identify potential triggers of the addiction and recover in the long term.

Types of Treatment for Pornography Addiction

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – CBT therapists help the clients to understand the connection between their irrational thoughts and maladaptive porn use and change their thought and behavior patterns in order to overcome an addiction.
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) – The purpose of this therapy is to help clients identify the triggers of their excessive pron use and accept their thoughts but change the ways they respond.
  • Psychodynamic Therapy – It’s a classic form of therapy during which a counselor tries to help the client identify the hidden motives of their maladaptive behavior and explore the reasons for their porn addiction in order to work on them.
  • Couples Counseling – If porn addiction is caused by problems in a romantic relationship or if the couple has trouble experiencing sexual satisfaction, it’s important to overcome these relationship-related problems first. In this case, couples’ counseling is the best possible option for treatment.

Get Help to Recover

If you notice signs of pornography addiction and realize that you find it hard to deal with it, remember that there’s nothing wrong with admitting your problem and seeking professional help. Just admit to yourself that you have a problem and let counselors at Health for Life Counseling Grand Rapids help you get back to normal life. Don’t forget that finding the right counselor who will help you cope with this disrupting behavior is easier than ever with our professional therapists in the West Michigan area and online.

Learn more about the Trauma-Informed Counseling Center of Grand Rapids

Learn more about Counseling and Therapy services at Health for Life Counseling Grand Rapids

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