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Many people have concluded that addiction to drugs or alcohol is a disease. Because it is now becoming more acceptable in society to treat it as such, drug addiction itself generally has less stigma attached to it. In fact, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a person with a history of drug addiction seeking treatment for the disease is protected against workplace discrimination. This has been a wonderful advancement for people who struggle with such a debilitating and devastating disease.

However, despite the recent acceptance of drug addiction as an illness, many other addictions still face discrimination, embarrassment, and shame from the general public. Addictions to things such as pornography are still under major scrutiny from the public, causing many people with this addiction to suffer silently, afraid of being judged and shamed by others. Whereas a drug addict is required equal and fair treatment under the law, anyone who is open about being a reformed porn addict can be excluded from holding certain positions. Unfortunately, however, studies have proven that porn addiction has many characteristics of drug addiction. Measurable physical and anatomical changes occur in the brain, just as any other addiction causes. Furthermore, if one suffers from an untreated addiction to porn, their chances of using drugs to cope with the shame are greatly increased. Therefore, both addictions need to be treated to ensure successful long-term sobriety.

What is a Pornography Addiction, and is it Possible to Stop Using Porn and Recover?

According to Project Know, porn addiction is “a behavioral addiction characterized by an ever-growing compulsion to view pornographic content or material.” As with any addiction, pornography addiction becomes a problem when it interferes with other areas of someone’s everyday life.

Warning signs of a pornography addiction may include:

  • Being unable to stop engaging in the behaviors associated with porn, despite repeated attempts to try to stop
  • Experiencing cravings to watch porn
  • Becoming angry, hostile, or irritable if asked to stop watching porn. There may also be a denial that there is a problem with a porn addiction
  • Keeping porn use secret
  • Increasingly isolated from friends or family, possibly out of shame from watching porn
  • Need to watch more porn increasingly to feel the same satisfaction or thrill
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As you may have noticed, these warning signs mirror extremely closely the warning signs of a substance abuse disorder. It’s quite common for both to go hand-in-hand, coping with one addiction to relieve the pain or shame felt around the other addiction.

What Causes a Pornography Addiction?

There is no one, single cause that leads to an addiction to pornography. Instead, there are three main categories generally recognized as possible causes of this addiction, and they include: 1) biological causes, 2) psychological causes, and 3) social causes.

Biological Factors

The causes of pornography addiction include a person’s unique chemical makeup and genetics. Porn addiction can even run in families. This being said, sometimes, people with this addiction also have higher levels of sex hormones than someone who does not suffer from this addiction. Like drug or alcohol addiction, people with an addiction to pornography may naturally have a tendency to have more impulsive behavior traits or characteristics. This predisposition to impulsiveness can also make regulating emotions more difficult, creating a higher risk of anxiety or depression in the addicted person. Because one’s emotions may feel unstable and there is shame around having a porn addiction, some people turn to drugs to self-medicate from the often overwhelming feelings they associate with their addiction. 

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Psychological Factors

Examining psychological factors helps to understand why some people repeat certain activities, despite these activities resulting in harmful consequences. The reason for these repeated actions often lies in the fact that some people find benefits to their addiction. These benefits can include stress reduction, relief from boredom, coping from painful or negative feelings, pleasurable sensations, or even avoidance of withdrawal symptoms. In this way, just as a drug user may find drugs a powerful coping mechanism for unpleasant emotions or circumstances, so can someone look to porn to cope with painful emotions or experiences. Furthermore, someone sexually abused has a higher risk of becoming addicted to porn, especially when abused at an early age. Early exposure to inappropriate sexual conduct can also cause mental health conditions, such as:

  • Performance anxiety
  • Depressive disorder
  • Personality disorder
  • Poor impulse control
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder

All of these mental health disorders are heavily prevalent in drug and alcohol abuse, as well. It is therefore important that one does a comprehensive treatment plan to prevent any possible future drug abuse or relapse if drugs were already in the picture when treating porn addiction. 

Social Factors

Perhaps one of the greatest social influences is one’s family. This is usually where a child first learns about sex and sexuality. If a child is sexually abused growing up, their chances of developing not only this addiction but all addictions (drug or alcohol being common addictions for this type of abuse) is significantly increased. Furthermore, if someone often feels rejected in relationships or social circles, it is common for that person to try to find a “meaningful” connection outside of face-to-face interaction to avoid further rejection. This isolation can eventually exacerbate the painful feelings of rejection and lead to depression. Another common social factor that plays into pornography addiction is the type of group or friends one might be spending time with. If one’s friends are watching porn, it is common for that person to start watching porn to fit in.

How to Stop an Addiction to Pornography and Find Recovery

When someone is struggling with an addiction to pornography, they will often turn to other addictions to cope with the shameful emotions that rise from their addiction. In this case, and as previously mentioned, it is quite common for someone struggling with porn addiction also to use substances, such as drugs or alcohol, to lessen the pain of depression or isolation. Because of the commonality of these two addictions, one must seek a well-rounded, holistic approach to treatment. This means that BOTH addictions are clearly and directly addressed so that one possible relapse does not cause a relapse in another addiction. This often is a self-perpetuating cycle that causes someone to stay stuck in addiction.

Furthermore, because shame breeds addiction, one struggling with a porn addiction/substance abuse disorder must receive counseling from a professional specializing in addiction. Having someone get to the root of the reasons why addiction is being utilized as a coping mechanism in the first place is imperative to ensure successful long-term sobriety.

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If you are struggling with a porn addiction that has led to a substance abuse issue, the time to get help is now. You no longer need to feel the shame associated with such addictions. Reach out today. Compassionate and friendly people are waiting to help guide you on the path of long-term sobriety.

Infinite Recovery has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations for our references. We avoid using tertiary references as our sources. You can learn more about how we source our references by reading our editorial guidelines and medical review policy.

Amanda Stevens, BS

Medical Content Writer

Amanda Stevens, BS

Amanda is a prolific medical content writer specializing in eating disorders and addiction treatment. She graduated Magnum Cum Laude from Purdue University with a B.S. in Social Work. As a person in recovery from disordered eating, she is passionate about seeing people heal and transform. She writes for popular treatment centers such as Ocean Recovery, Ascendant NY, The Heights Treatment, Epiphany Wellness, New Waters Recovery and adolescent mental health treatment center BasePoint Academy. In her spare time she loves learning about health, nutrition, meditation, spiritual practices, and enjoys being the a mother of a beautiful daughter.

Last medically reviewed July 5, 2022

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