These are the 7 signs that you might be addicted to porn

Or does your boyfriend have a porn addiction?

At the height of Jack’s* porn addiction, he would lose up to six hours a day to watching porn. Scrolling from clip to clip on platforms such as YouPorn, or clicking through social media and streaming services, each video another girl, another kick. He drifted from vanilla scenes, to anal, to graphic group sex. And after every orgasm, he’d feel guilty and ashamed. ‘The final straw was when I woke up at 3am one morning with my pyjama bottoms around my ankles and an empty bottle of poppers on the floor [to accentuate orgasm],’ says Jack. ‘I sat there and cried.’ Unable to hide his habit any longer, he told his girlfriend. ‘She already knew and we both realised 
I needed help.’

Jack, 23, from, London is one of a growing number of Brits admitting to having a porn addiction. Last year, 64 million people worldwide watched porn every day – that’s the equivalent of the entire population of the UK. And it’s not just a male issue. One in three visitors to porn websites in 2017 were female. But when does watching porn go from something that people ‘just do’ to something more sinister?

We spoke to a representative from the Vice Chair of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity (ATSAC) about what to look out for if you think you, or your partner, may have a porn addiction. ‘When I started out as a sex therapist I thought porn addiction would be a niche, but now I see more than 20 people a week for porn addiction, and more than 90 per cent of them feature on the scale of what you might call problematic sexual behaviours, or sexual addiction.’

porn addiction

Porn addiction: what to look for

1. ‘The first question I ask when I meet a new client is “do you find yourself preoccupied, fantasising about, planning or recovering from sexual behaviours?” Lots of people are happy drinking and can do so recreationally, but for some, alcohol has a greater role to play, it becomes a form of self-soothing. It is the same with porn, although porn tends to have a greater shame attached to it than other addictions. The problem with porn, for addicts, is that you cannot abstain in the same way. You can stop going to bars or pubs, or remove yourself from situations where there will be alcohol, but you can’t remove yourself from your sensuality or sexuality.’

2. ‘Next I ask, “do your behaviours have a negative impact on your relationship or your ability to start a relationship?” Watching porn, even regularly, does not necessarily make you a porn addict. Equally, the impact of someone watching porn can be devastating to their partner, even if the person is not an addict, if it conflicts with their values on life. People have views on fox-hunting, porn, Brexit. What brings people together in a relationship is commonality.’

3. ‘Do your habits have a negative impact on your family, work, social life, relaxation time, finances or friends? In this job, I see people who are watching porn at 2am in order to hide it from people, and I also work with people who have been fired for watching porn at work. The research shows that use of porn for self-soothing only exacerbates the depression or anxiety that already exists.’

4. ‘Do your sexual behaviours leave you feeling isolated from friends or family? We often find with people who are addicted that they would rather be watching porn than be with friends. It is this, wanting and wanting something above everything else, that is a problem.’

5. ‘Do you engage in sexual behaviours in spite of risk of the emotional or physical harm to yourself or others? What happens roughly with porn addicts is that the wanting of this will overtake our ability to assess the risks involved. There is an actual cognitive distortion that changes the kaleidoscopic view that would otherwise alert us to the dangers in our behaviour.’

6. ‘Have you engaged in these behaviours to relieve low mood, depression, boredom, anger or rage? I steer clear of asking about shame, directly, because shame is hard to feel and describe. Instead, I start working with the guilt and that will in turn ease the shame.’

7. ‘How often have you engaged in porn to relive stress and stressful feelings? The problem with porn addiction is that it can be insidious. The best way to understand your behaviour is to talk it through. There is a self-assessment tool on the ATSAC website, which helps ask the right questions. We also have a list of qualified therapists who deal with porn addiction, and fellowships which offer 12-step programmes.

What to do if you have a porn addiction

‘The problem for porn addicts, is that you cannot abstain from your own sexual identity in the same way you can stop going to bars or pubs. You can remove yourself from situations where there will be alcohol, but you can’t remove yourself from your sensuality or sexuality. Thus abstinence without recovery leads to eventual relapses as willpower will lead to brain fatigue. Choices arise in recovery as in no porn, or no masturbation, or no orgasm. Masturbating to favourite porn scripts still maintains the addiction and inhibits the brains neuroplasticity working in your favour. You need oughly 90 days of abstinence for the pruning effect of porn on the brain to overcome what was wired together. So it may mean going back to old-school ‘brick’ phones, removing devices, changing environment and a lot more to deter you from accessing porn. This is discovered via therapy which will help identify triggers. At the end of the treatment, some can watch porn, others discover they cant.’

*Name has been changed

Additional words by Gareth May and Charlotte Philby

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