Watching Porn: How normal is it? When is Porn an addiction?

romantic sex

“Sex really matters to men. The physiological drive in us is huge, and closely tied to it are our feelings of being  loved, worthwhile and desired. Most men, at some stage desperately struggle with “getting enough” sex. Steve Biddolph

During the last 10 years, the volume of porn available and the ease of accessing it on the internet has grown exponentially. It is now estimated that 1 in 8 on-line searches are to porn sites.

For many men, porn’s promise of easy, commitment free, sexual gratification can be just too hard to resist, when pornographic images, videos and chats  are available any time of the day or night.

And while very occasionally watching porn has no ill effects on relationships, many users of porn are often surprised at how easily porn use can change from an occasional diversion or fantasy to an habitual problem that has the potential to destroy almost every aspect of their real lives.

Over the last 2 years, in my Practice, I have seen a huge increase in the number of my relationship counselling clients citing Porn over-use as a key factor in their relationship problems and break down.

Many will be surprised to know that regular Porn use is a serious relationship issue, as it has serious effects on the user’s inner life, as well as his/her interaction with their partner and other family members. There’s nothing virtual about the damage pornography can do to a relationship.

A recent survey of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers has found that 56% of divorce cases involved one partner who had an obsessive interest in pornography websites.

 

While pornography is used by both men and women, there is little doubt that it is primarily men who become hooked on it. Men’s brains are wired in such a way that pornography hijacks the proper functioning of their brains and has a long lasting effect on their thoughts and lives.

Regularly using porn interferes with a person’s ability to maintain good self-esteem and have a mutually rewarding sexual intimacy with his partner.

Many people don’t realize they have a problem until there is either a consequence, like losing a job or embarrassment from someone catching them, or they try to stop it and find it more difficult to stop than they originally thought it would be.

It is very easy to  deceive yourself into minimising the extent of the problem.

Many men think they can keep their porn use separate from their relationship, but it is almost impossible to be a porn user without it having serious repercussions on their partner and on their relationship.

Unfortunately, rather than creating eroticism in their relationship, porn winds up creating an object that competes with their partner for erotic value.

 Does watching Porn help spice up your sex life?

While occasionally watching porn with your partner can help get you in the mood for sex, regularly watching porn on your own actually decreases your sexual satisfaction. Fantasising and masturbating to porn enables you to gratify yourself instead of finding fulfillment being intimate with another person.

Over time, real sex and lovemaking situations seem boring, and eventually many men can get to the point where they start suffering erection problems and delays and/or can’t perform without fantasising about a porn scene.

Do you confuse Sex with Intimacy?

When we are teenagers our society bombards us with many mixed messages about sex.

For a man, puberty is a time of discovering the stimulation and delights of the female form.  The natural progression  for a man is to grow from this stage to gradually discover that intimacy and true connection are superior to focusing solely on women as sexually consumable objects.

If, however, you continue to objectify the physical act of sex, you then can continue to make sex more about compulsive behaviour and bodies, rather than intimacy.

If you get stuck at this point, you can confuse sex with intimacy, which doesn’t allow you the possibility of a sexual connection that is so intimate, it can be both deep and spectacular. You can’t reach this ecstatic and rewarding state if you remain caught in the adolescent mindset interested only in body parts.

relationship counsleling for sex in relationships

You may be a mature man in most ways, but you may not understand intimacy and may have confused intimacy with sexual activity.

Julie Hart & Dr William Struthers - The 3 Pleasure Systems:

New study shows Porn use leads to cheating

A University of Central Florida study just released in March 2013 has found that people in committed relationships who view porn are more likely to cheat on their partners than those who don’t. The results indicate that porn offers the illusion of no-strings attached sexual gratification with multiple highly attractive partners. These erotic images program the user’s brain to assume that there are plenty of attractive and willing sexual partners available outside their current relationships, the researchers found.

Porn induced Sexual dysfunction is a rapidly growing problem

Other recent studies are showing a new and worrying phenomenon emerging ; that of  a growing number of young men in their 20′s and 30′s who are pornography users who are complaining of sluggish erections, delayed ejaculation, and having difficulty being turned on by their real partners, even though they find them attractive.

Threads relating to these themes are springing up all over the web on sites relating to bodybuilding and medical help in countries all over the world.

Research by “Your brain on Porn” scientists have shown that heavy porn users are noticing:

- lack of spontaneous erections

- difficulty in becoming aroused with their real partner, or even previously watched porn

- difficulty maintaining an erection with a real partner

- decreased penile sensitivity

- delayed ejaculations and/or inability to orgasm during sex with a real partner

Most commonly these young men aren’t discussing these problems with each other, as it can be very difficult to admit to erectile dysfunction particularly in your 20′s.

Why watch porn?

Not only is porn and “fantasy solo sex” the easiest sex available, but by using porn you can fantasise that you are desired by eager, seductive and sexy women. It can give you the illusion of being powerful and in control – you can have control over the sexual action; you don’t have to beg for sex; you can have sex when you want; with the kind of person you want, and in exactly the way you want.

You don’t have to adjust your behaviour in any way. In your fantasy you can be the conquerer without doing anything.

If you have been exposed to porn early in life, this also raises the chances of you continuing to turn to porn when stressed or bored.

Julie Hart & Dr William Struthers - How's Your Sexual Performance?

How does porn viewing affect your partner (before she finds out)?

There are  2 very common symptoms a partner may notice in her relationship often before she really knows why.

Firstly she often notices a decrease in sexual desire for her. This is because much of your sexual attention and energy is being poured into fantasy images on the screen.

Secondly she may notice that when you do have sex, it  leaves her feeling more like a sex object than a lover, or even a person. She may feel pressured into more impersonal and ritualistic kinds of sex that she may not feel comfortable with. As a result, she may feel awkward and sometimes traumatized if complying with these expectations, or alienated and angry if she says no to these demands.

Additionally, as all orgasms result in the secretion of oxytocin, your orgasms during porn activity lead to bonding with these screen images rather than her. This leads to her often sensing an emotional distance and a general feeling of not being close.

Some partners are also criticized about their bodies, their appearance or sexual performance, as they often do not look like the  images on the screen, and this can seriously affect their self-esteem and reduce their interest in sex and lovemaking.

Because using porn usually involves high levels of secrecy, and dishonesty, a partner may also subtly feel that not all is as it seems, even if she can’t put her finger on it.

Increasingly over time, a partner will feel a decline in real sex and intimacy, as the porn  user is not available for the kind of intimate lovemaking that she desires.

How does the partner feel when she finds out?

One woman described it as this “It spread from a sick feeling in my stomach up to a choking heaviness in my chest, as I realised that my husband was, in his mind, having sex with the stranger on the screen. He was so engrossed in this that he hadn’t noticed my presence there. He was in another world and seemed a different man, one I didn’t even know”

If and when his porn use is discovered by his partner, it can feel like an emotional trauma inflicted on their relationship. She usually feels a combination of anger, helplessness and numbness.

She can feel she is not only reacting to the pornography but is also deeply affected by the secrecy, hiding and lying that accompanies the porn use.

This is deeply upsetting on a personal level, as she can feel that this has undermined her faith and trust in him and her relationship with him.

Partners can also be affected by then feeling insecure in their relationship, some who then feel they need to compete with the porn actresses in the screen. More commonly, some partners will pull away to protect themselves.

Unfortunately most men don’t understand the impact this has on their partner, and want their partner to accept it and not make an issue of it, without realizing that they have created a huge relationship problem.

Rationalisations you may use to keep your porn use going:

1. You may think you are entitled to it, because you work hard and as a result you deserve special treatment.

2. You may rationalise that your wife not liking it is just her trying to restrict your freedom.

3. You may think that if you keep it to yourself, no-one else will know or be hurt.

4. You may even deceive yourself  with respect to your motives, your frequency of use and the depth of problem you do in fact have.

5. You may play the victim and blame your spouse for not wanting to have sex as often you as you do as a legitimate reason for viewing porn.

6. It may be difficult to acknowledge that you are not right on this one, if being right is part of your identity.

7. You may rationalise that the porn actresses are just models and not human beings.

8. You can begin to believe that your life stress is a justifiable cause for your porn use.

Porn Over-use over time

Porn’s focus on power reinforces a self-centred approach to sex which can and does cause all kinds of problems in real life.

A relationship with porn can act like an affair. The more orgasms you have with porn, the more sexually and emotionally attached to it you become.

It takes time and energy away from your existing intimate relationship, and usually you need to be secretive about it.

Also the mental images and scenarios of porn can keep playing in your mind during sex with your partner which makes it difficult to feel connected and intimate with the real person that your partner is.

The Porn Addiction cycle – Porn can actually rewire your brain

Porn’s power comes from its ability to provide an experience of sexual stimulation coupled with immediate gratification.

It overloads the brain with the “feel good” chemicals of dopamine, adrenaline, endorphins and serotonin to give you a drug- like high, but unfortunately also reduces your body’s own ability to produce them under normal life circumstances.

This is one of the reasons a porn user may need higher levels of sexual stimulation and excitement to become aroused and satisfied.

Porn’s power to produce experiences of excitement, relaxation and escape from pain is why it can become so highly addictive.

Over time, you can come to depend on it to feel good, and then require it so you don’t feel bad. And then the addiction cycle has begun.

Cravings, pre-occupations, and out-of-control behavior with using it can become common.

Porn sex can become your greatest need. It can become your “significant other” who you turn to both emotionally and physically.

As a result of viewing porn regularly it is easy to become preoccupied with sex, develop problematic sexual desires and also experience sexual functioning problems.

The 9 Symptoms of porn Over- use:

As Porn becomes something you rely on more and more, you may experience 9 other symptoms:

  1. You may become easily irritated and depressed
  2. You become socially isolated from other people
  3. You find yourself seeing others only as sex objects
  4. You begin to neglect other important areas of your life
  5. You start having any number of problems with sex with a real person
  6. Your partner may be unhappy with your level of intimacy in your relationship and sex life
  7. You start to feel bad about yourself
  8. You begin to engage in risky or dangerous behavior

Here are some indicators that your partner may have a problem with porn:

  1. Excessive or late night computer use
  2. Absences or unaccounted time
  3. Demanding privacy when using the computer
  4. Change in going to bed times
  5. Withdrawing from social activities
  6. Maintaining a private email account or credit card
  7. Vague explanations for behavior that don’t make sense
  8. Defensiveness when asked about porn
  9. Secretive behavior
  10. Tiredness or irritability
  11. Increased concerns about his sexual desirability
  12. Decrease in his affection and non-sexual touching
  13. Insensitive sexual comments and unusual sexual language
  14. Becoming less emotionally close
  15. Lack of sexual interest in you
  16. Strong interest in unusual sexual practices
 Do I have a Porn addiction?

There are 10 Criteria for assessing whether you or your partner may have a porn addiction:

  1. Am I failing to resist impulses to view porn?
  2. Am I viewing porn longer than I intended?
  3. When I try to control or stop using porn do I ultimately fail?
  4. Do I spend an inordinate amount of time viewing porn, masturbating, having sex, or recovering from any of these?
  5. Do I feel preoccupied with fantasy or sexualised thoughts?
  6. Does my porn viewing take significant time away from my home, work, family or social obligations?
  7. Do I continue to use porn despite realising the consequences?
  8. Do I need more frequent or intense pornography over time to get the same result?
  9. Do I deliberately limit social, work or family occasions in order to keep time open for porn viewing?
  10. Do I feel distress, restless and irritability if I cant view porn?

The number of these criteria that you have answered yes to will determine your degree of addiction.

The Porn Addiction continuum:

Dr Kevin Skinner has identified a continuum which helps you place yourself in terms of the seriousness of your porn use and addiction:

Level 1: View porn once of twice a year, as a random act or an accident. Your thoughts and everyday actions are not focused on porn. (Not an addiction)

Level 2:  View porn up to 6 times a year, with a growing curiosity. Minimal fantasies. Time spent thinking about porn is minimal. (Not an addiction)

Level 3: View porn approximately once a month. Start to fantasize often. Will feel some withdrawal if you don’t give in. (Borderline addiction)

Level 4: View porn a few times a month and more hard core porn. This is impacting your work focus, relationship, family life. Fantasizing has increased. There are an increase in withdrawal symptoms (restlessness, irritability, insomnia etc). Usually feel more involved in porn than you want to be. Usually have tried to stop many times without success. (Addiction)

Level 5: View porn 3 to 5 times a week. Porn and sex are among the top things you think about every day. Significant amount of time spent fantasizing about porn. Often feeling consumed and overwhelmed  and suffer intense withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop. Feel more involved than you want but don’t know how to stop on your own. Feeling hopeless.(Intense addiction)

Level 6: View  almost every day. Porn dominatesyour life. It is a compulsive addiction and you feel out of control. By this stage you have generally suffered loss in your life due to porn use, and have either completely given up, or have a strong desire to stop viewing. Often feel hopeless, which creates sadness and depression which leads to further porn viewing. (Serious Addiction)

Level 7: View every day compulsively and acting out sexually. Porn images are often hardcore and filled with violence, rape, incest, bestiality and other extreme hardcore material. Feeling completely out of control. Work, relationships, families and every aspect of your life has been adversely affected. Many have been court ordered to seek help. (Very serious Addiction)

If you find yourself or your partner at Level 4 or above, then I encourage you to seek help in resolving your addiction. It is certainly the case that the sooner you can gain help, the easier the process is.

Unfortunately the most common response to the discovery of the problems associated with porn use is denial that it exists at all, or avoidance, and pretending that it is not really a problem at all.

Some may refuse to talk about it, or promise never to do it again. Others may go on the defensive and verbally attack the partner who has called his attention to it.

Some choose to take a break for a while, thinking that this will make the problem go away. Others may change how they access porn and what type of porn they use.

However, any of these strategies never work for long, and in time, the serious consequences eventually grow, multiply and exacerbate each other.

Julie Hart & Dr William Struthers - Porn Addiction:

Bob’s story

“In many ways, Bob was considered a good father and what many people thought was as a nice guy. But he was caught by his compulsion. The internet had him by the balls. He just could not stop.

Bob got up from the couch, excused himself from his family, and walked down the hall into his oak panelled office. Already lost in his addiction, his mind was cluttered with images of what he was going to see on the computer screen.

Bob was in such a hurry that he quickly shut the door behind him, neglecting to turn the lock.

He rushed to his large desk, sat in his luxury office chair, and flipped on the monitor. Out the window was an incredible view of the mountains, but Bob didn’t see it. His eyes saw only the computer screen as his fingers quickly reached the website he wanted. Having been there so many times, he was able to quickly sign in and navigate to a specific video.

Bob pulled down his sweatpants so his genitals were exposed. He moved into just the right position in the chair and began his very familiar ritual of masturbating to these types of images and videos.

He had seen hundreds over the years. His wife had caught him 3 times, and the last time she had said that the next time wold be “it” for their marriage. Bob had tried to stop, but didn’t. So here he was again, thinking of nothing else but the images on the screen.

On his monitor was a video of a young woman being forcefully held down and sodomized by three men in masks. Although Bob had never done this in real life (and lost likely never would) watching domination is what got him the most turned on. His right hand in motion, Bob got more and more excited. He was lost. Gone. And he didn’t hear the door start to open.

Just as Bob began to climax, his 10 year old daughter opened the door and stood there, motionless, shocked and terrified at the sight of her father ejaculating to the horrendous images on the computer monitor. She rang screaming to her mother.

Bob no longer lives at that house.

His wife had warned him that he was down to his last chance, and her lawyer showed no mercy toward Bob, not after what his daughter had seen.

4 years later, his daughter was still in therapy and Bob only had supervised visits with her. His ex-wife was still so angry that she communicated with him only through her lawyer.”

You cant get enough of what won’t satisfy you.

When you objectify and sexualise people, it ends up being a negative process that yields only a few minutes of excitement, and a brief orgasm, but then follows hours, days and weeks of fear, shame, self doubt and criticism.

Such is the nature of an addiction. Over time, it feel less and less truly satisfying.

What would it take for you to reach Rock Bottom?

George Collins, an ex porn addict, and now a Director of a Pornography Addictions clinic, suggests that sooner or later all porn addicts hit rock bottom. He suggests that there is a “High” rock bottom and a “Low” rock bottom. The “Low” rock bottom is when you get caught; get arrested,  or found out by your wife or workplace and your life is in ruins.

A “High” rock bottom is when you have the forethought and the courage to choose to get help before the inevitable happens.

How do I quit porn?

When you decide to quit porn, it is usually because you have made an active decision to have something better in your life; a deeper relationship with your partner, a sense of personal integrity and a desire to be respected by your family and the community.

The decision to quit porn is a positive life affirming milestone in a person’s life. It represents a new level of self-responsibility and maturity.

But, it is not an easy process and does require commitment and professional help, as it is almost impossible to change and maintain the changes over time on your own.

With the help of a Psychologist, there are 9 stages or strategies that are essential to your quitting the porn habit:

  1. Acknowledging how porn has caused you problems
  2. Identifying what matters to you most
  3. Facing your fears
  4. Taking responsibility for your own recovery.
  5. Creating a porn free environment
  6. Resolving underlying wounds and unresolved issues
  7. Establish support and accountability
  8. Taking care of your physical and emotional health
  9. Start healing your sexuality and rebuild your sexual relationship with your partner
Healing your relationship

Porn use can have profound consequences on a relationship and so it takes time to heal the damage to your intimacy caused by it. This can only happen when both partners take steps to re-establish honesty, trust, communication and affection in the relationship.

There are 4 important steps that you need to take to heal the damage to your relationship:

  1. Restore the trust between you
  2. Understand your partner’s experience
  3. Express your emotions and move from anger to forgiveness
  4. Improve communication to build intimacy
Learning a new approach to Sex

Almost all men experience sexual despair and a deep loneliness at some time in their lives.  We all yearn to experience deep physical love.

One of the greatest rewards of overcoming a porn habit is the chance to develop a rich authentic sexual intimacy with your partner; to replace junk sex with real sex.

You will be able to grow towards seeing a deeper level of beauty in your partner which is immensely more satisfying than a surface experience. It is a beauty that you can get enough of, that truly satisfies you.

Intimacy oriented sex allows you to explore dimensions of sexual experience that are not possible with porn, such as whole-body sensuality, self- respect, trust, warmth, playfulness, laughter, nurturing touch and profound and real love; the ultimate in passion and sexiness.

By taking the time to know and like your partner, your sexual experience comes from genuine feelings of affection and appreciation. Sex and sexual encounters are fun, pleasurable and mutually satisfying, and are integrated into your relationship as a whole.

If you would like help in quitting your porn habit, healing your relationship and building a newer better more rewarding sexual relationship with your partner, please give us a ring.

Confidential Relationship and Individual Counselling and Sex Therapy is available by our trained Psychologists

60 locations Australia wide, either In-house, by Phone or Skype Sessions – 50 mins

Private Health Insurance Rebates and Medicare Rebates apply (please check for details)

To Check which of our Psychologists are closest to you, please use our Find our Psychologist Search box on the right hand side of the page.

 Phone 1300 830 552 to enquire or make an appointment.

Julie Hart

(adapted from “The Porn Trap”. Wendy and Larry Maltz, and  ”Breaking the Cycle” by George Collins)

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