Understanding Pornography Addiction

Cycle_of_AbuseIt’s easy to understand how alcohol or cocaine are addictive substances, but when it comes to pornography addiction understanding the issues involved can be more difficult for a variety of reasons. For starters, discovering a hidden pornography habit can result in significant feelings of betrayal for a wife and can make understanding the addiction component very difficult. In addition, pornography use carries some stigma, which clouds perspective and makes understanding the addiction more difficult. However, pornography addiction is a real illness, it’s diagnosable, and it’s treatable. Looking at pornography produces similar brain functions that take place with using cocaine. It is highly addictive for the same reasons as any other drug. This is not to excuse the betrayal of a spouse or anything of the sort. Rather, it is to say that an individual can develop an illness, which prevents them from quitting the behavior. Let there be no mistake, addicts cannot stop a behavior on their own. Denial, thinking errors, shame, and an out-of-control reward response system in their brains literally result in the addictive patterns becoming compulsive.

A behavior is an addiction, rather than just being a set of sinful decisions, if it features certain common qualities:
  1. Increased tolerance– Increased tolerance as it relates to pornography use involves getting into increasingly harder-core porn or much more of it in order to achieve the same results that were achieved with less before. Increased frequency of use can also be associated with increased tolerance.
  2. Withdrawal- Withdrawal from pornography use can involve cravings, restlessness, anxiety, depression, etc. Withdrawal doesn’t necessarily happen instantly. It can take as much as a week or more to fire up.
  3. Continued use despite harm- When an addict recognizes that their addiction is hurting them, they continue to use. They may get caught, feel shame, or other negative effects, but they do not stop, largely because they cannot.
  4. Using more or for longer periods than intended- This is essentially a loss of control. A pornography addict will struggle with limiting their use. They may intend to look for only a few minutes, but then spend hours using porn. Addicts often comment that they are never really sure how long their using episodes may last.
  5. Attempts to control use- Pornography addicts may swear over and over again that they will never use again, but they will inevitably find themselves using again. They may try to come up with ways to prevent themselves from looking at porn, but they will inevitably find ways around these measures.
  6. Excessive time spent acquiring pornography or thinking about using– People who become addicted to pornography find themselves spending more and more time thinking about using it or hunting for new and different porn. This is especially the case for those who are hiding their addiction from family members, which then requires them to spend enormous amounts of time protecting their addiction by hiding it.
  7. Reduced involvement in work, social, or family obligations- Pornography addiction becomes increasingly time consuming as the addiction advances in severity,  withdrawing from obligations as they get in the way of using.

In order to be diagnosed as an addiction, the individual must exhibit three or more of these criteria.

Dealing with the problem is uniquely difficult for pornography addiction for several reasons. For starters, hiding pornography use from a spouse is much easier than hiding substance abuse. As a result, treating the addiction can involve revealing some huge and hurtful secrets. In addition, pornography addiction is far less recognized and exists more in the shadows of our culture. Consequently, there are far fewer support group and treatment options. This is not to say that pornography addiction is a hopeless situation. Dealing with it begins with acknowledging that the problem has gotten out of control and turning control of your life over to God. Seeking help from an addictions counselor, a pastor, or a support group is a good next step. There are several terrific resources available as well. I highly recommend the book: Sampson and the Pirate Monks: Calling Men to Authentic Brotherhood by Nate Larkin. It is the best book I have read on the subject that is written for the average man.

Pornography addiction is treatable and there is hope. Further, as long as the addiction is out of control and untreated, the addict will live with a significant degree of fear and shame. There is also a constant danger of discovery, particularly by any children who live in the home. Early exposure to pornography by a parent is very common among addicts, largely because kids find their way into all sorts of things that you never intend for them to get into. Taking the first difficult steps toward dealing with addiction are difficult, but worthwhile once the painful early stages have been worked through.

For its part, the church needs to learn to look past the inclination to judge, protect the privacy of those seeking help, and learn to offer help to addicts who are seeking help. This may require specialized training and some uncomfortable topics being addressed from the pulpit at times, but its part of our calling to be salt and light to the world.
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13 thoughts on “Understanding Pornography Addiction

  1. This is a very good artcile that everyone should read. Addiction is a terrible thing to endure.

    Liked by 1 person

    • patchingcracks says:

      It is. The church needs to do more to reach out to folks chained by addiction. It’s a terrible thing.


  2. Sean Smith says:

    Addiction can be seen as a relationship break down between ourselves and our families and friend, or even internal breakdown in our own self understanding. Pornography shows this the most clearly of all the addictive behaviors. The gratification of pornography addiction is one of the worst things to overcome, and part of the prospect of overcoming it is recognizing the need to have healthy relationships and exploring what that looks like in a brutally honest way.

    You really put this need for authentic relationships in a great way, and I hope that men and women will get a chance to seek the healing that comes from the love of God poured through others in their lives.

    Liked by 1 person

    • patchingcracks says:

      Perhaps the biggest issue with addiction is that it becomes the central escape for the addict. They usually lack healthy coping skills, like leaning on authentic relationships in times of stress. As a result, recovery involves a great deal of learning to have these sorts of relationships. It’s a difficult process. Thanks for reading and commenting. Your comments are pretty insightful.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. iwork4him says:

    Good article I totally agree that we, as the church, need to get over the human temptation to judge. One sin is not worse than the other in God’s eye a sin is a sin. We need to remember this to be successful when helping others.

    Liked by 1 person

    • patchingcracks says:

      It’s so easy to judge, especially when it comes to this issue. Dealing with folks who are trapped in addiction involves a great deal of love patience and understanding. Thanks for reading and commenting.


  4. The Voice. says:

    Addictions are really controlling and sophocating. The guilt one has as a christian is even stronger. Usually local churches in Africa ignore these realities. We need to really reach out by any means possible to addicts. One major cause of this addiction is a way for a lot of young people to avoid sex as Christians.


    • patchingcracks says:

      The church in the U.S. doesn’t do a very good job of teaching the Biblical stance on sex and purity. This has resulted in a lot of problems with pornography and sex in the ranks of church attenders.


  5. cffighter04 says:

    I wish our churches could be more open to these topics. I think a lot of people would come out from hiding and the deep feelings of being ashamed. We then as a church community should wrap our arms around them in acceptance and pray for them just as Jesus would. Instead of being a community of judgement. Thanks for sharing this topic.


    • patchingcracks says:

      I agree. Churches need to open up to this sort of ministry work. I regularly talk about it in sermons, which has raised eyebrows at times, but has really provided opportunities to do ministry in this area. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

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