Pornography: An addiction

Overconsumption of anything is bad. Everything has to be taken of the right amount so it doesn’t lead to uncontrollable problematic situations in future. In today’s scenario, pornography has mostly been accepted in our society, though it is still strictly been prohibited in some parts of the world. Times back when a person who watches porn used to get accused of being immoral or dirty. Today, people are comparatively more open to watching porn videos, which even help when it comes to marital intimacy.

Addiction is a compulsive act that leads to changes in a person’s physiological and psychological wellbeing, through a typical habit that can make changes, disturb one’s day-to-day life activities, and is usually hard to switch back regardless of its negative impact.

One of the most difficult aspects of watching porn or indulging in any other addiction is that it rarely starts out this way. People who get addicted to porn often start out as casual users and over time increases the frequency and watches more compulsively. Often, people don’t realise that their habit is problematic or aren’t willing to realise this until things become particularly bad. Pornography addiction is something that most people will either just laugh at or judge and often isn’t being considered a real problem. The rate of people with porn addiction today is raising high and this is because of the ease of access to the Internet facility. Porn addiction can do serious damage to interpersonal relationships and also work life.

Porn addiction can have a devastating effect on many areas of our life. We might become socially isolated while prioritising it overseeing friends, family and loved ones. It can have an obvious effect on your sex and romantic life very often coming to replace or interfere with your desire for intimacy in the ‘real world’. Some people start to engage in risky behaviours too while watching porn at work or in public.

‘Porn addiction isn’t listed under clinical diagnosis but it surely falls under the definition of compulsive sexual behaviour disorder (CSBD); which was been introduced by the WHO in 2018. CSBD is characterised by “a persistent pattern of failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses or urges resulting in repetitive sexual behaviour”.

According to a 2015 study published in the journal Behavioral Science, an electroencephalogram (EEG) can detect characteristic changes in brain activity (specifically, a reactive event called P300) when porn is viewed. The response can occur within 300 milliseconds of viewing pornography.

The researchers argued that the same response occurs when a drug user views drug-related paraphernalia or images. While the association on its own is hardly conclusive, it does suggest that porn addiction has a physiological as well as a psychiatric component.

When looking porn or having intercourse dopamine is released, giving the viewer satisfaction and an experience of craving for more. Release of norepinephrine, oxytocin, and vasopressin makes a person alert and more focused while making a strong with the object of sexual satisfaction. The release of endorphins and natural opiates creates pleasure in the body. The levels of serotonin change after orgasm, bringing an experience of calm and relaxation. Of course, there’s more than just a few chemicals that play it’s the role when it comes to addiction.

Let’s discuss some of the causes that could lead to porn addiction.

  • Underlying mental health conditions: A person might use pornography to overcome/supress his/her psychological distress.
  • Biological causes: Including changes in brain functioning when a person watch out porn, may increase the risk of addiction.
  • Relationship problems: Pornography can be used to gratify the unsatisfactory needs among relationships.
  • Unhealthy cultural norms/thought/ideas: Ideas about how people should look and behave during sex, the ideal shape/figure/size of opposite partner, the types of intercourse that could bring more pleasure , and other things may incline people towards pornography.

If you are concerned about your time spent in porn viewing, and whether or not you’re addicted, there are some of the warning signs that could tell if you’re addicted and need help :

  • Preoccupied with thoughts of porn even when you are not actively watching it.
  • Watching porn at risk on your cell phone at work or in social situations.
  • Feeling ashamed, guilty, or self-disgust about your behaviour.
  • Continuing watching porn despite the harm it had, is having, or may have on your relationships, work, or home life.
  • Experiencing less sexual satisfaction with partners when pornography isn\’t involved.
  • Hiding/being dishonest about consumption/active hours of porn viewing from close ones.
  • Feeling upset/irritated/being attacked when asked to cut off.
  • Increased isolation or being away from family and friends.
  • Negative results in personal and interpersonal life.
  • Noticeable decrease or increase in sexual activity due to the consumption of porn.
  • Unable to control/manage consumption.
  • Forgoing formerly enjoyed activities/relationships to consume porn.

Researches don’t support any specific treatment for pornography addiction because they do not believe it as a real medical condition. But counsellors and psychologists believe people seeking treatment for pornography addiction might benefit by addressing other issues, like interpersonal relationship problems, sexual shame/desire, or any other mental wellbeing obstructer. Hence, when a person opts for therapeutic treatment, it is important to consider a therapist who would understand and can manage the related issues.

Some treatment strategies or pornography addiction may involve:

  • Lifestyle changes: Some people use pornography to overcome the boredom/exhaustion, so we could actually challenge and target those areas and fill it with leisure time activity that elicits equal amount of pleasure. We can make few changes in daily routine by adding some extra elements while subtracting other. It is believed that when you take out addiction/poor habit then it is necessary to get it replaced by something so there are less changes of relapse in future. Replacing odd behaviors can promote self-improvement. Finding something that’s worth more than watching porn can develop intrinsic motivation and potential upward mobility in life.
  • Psychotherapy: This can  used to help a person understand the underlying reasons that lead up to addiction. We can identify any psychological distress or unfulfilled desires in a relationship. If you think you behaviour is causing you a significant distress, deviating you or causing dysfunction in daily activities, then you should always consult a professional who could help you deal or overcome problems being faced. Be aware of the professionals who claim to have specialisation in diagnosing or treating porn addiction-which even lacks a professional agreed definition, or diagnosing criteria.
  • Group therapy/support groups : Connecting with people going through the same underlying issue that lead up to addiction can help a person realise and understand the things in a better constructive way.
  • Relationship/marital counselling: Partners who have a difficult relationship, lacks understanding, and couldn\’t resolve the issue on their own, they can always see a therapist/counsellor who can make them understand and discuss each other values, desires, expectations, to cultivate deeper trust, and understanding.
  • Medication: The widely used treatment for behavioural addiction involves CBT and other talk therapies that targets the underlying maladaptive cause. Pharmacologic interventions can treat co-existing psychiatric disorders and while targeting hypersexual or compulsive sexual behaviors with SSRIs that increases serotonin which helps in emotion regulation. A study on animals founded that, increase in serotonin decreases sexual behaviors, which turns into rationale for using SSRIs with porn addiction. In the absence of scientifically validated treatment and diagnostic criteria, most clinicians are striving to understand the maladaptive behavior and introduce prosocial, healthy alternatives to it. But therapy is still considered to be the better option, which shows relapse prevention.

Note: “All people are prone to addiction one way or another and it doesn’t classify you under a bad category. Wanting/thinking of overcoming an addiction is actually the former step to control it. Your will and desire can help you stop the addiction. Along with your family and friends, no addiction is too strong to conquer you”.

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