Sex addiction and porn addiction are becoming increasingly common today, though they are often misunderstood to be the same problem. Research shows that they are two distinctly different addictions, though neither of of them are currently labeled as “disorders” in the mental health system. For those whose lives are being negatively impacted in ways that prevent day-to-day functionality, treatment options are becoming more available and prevalent than ever before.
What is sex/porn addiction?
Sex addiction is commonly viewed as an intimacy disorder that produces sexual acts and/or thoughts that are compulsive in nature. (http://psychcentral.com/lib/what-is-sexual-addiction/) This can manifest itself in vastly different ways depending on the individual, though it has been linked to a phenomenon common in nearly all addiction disorders. Dopamine, or “pleasure transmitters”, is released during sexual activity, providing the participant with euphoric feelings that encourage the repeated behavior. Eventually, the dopamine levels released will decrease, leading the addicted individual to more compulsively seek out and engage in the activity. Over time, the addictive behavior impairs the user’s control in a way similar to that of substance abusers, evidenced by their increased isolation, impacted personal relationships, potential health or legal issues, compulsive fantasizing, and decreased ability to manage the cravings. Many individuals living with a sex addiction will find themselves engaging in risky behavior such as unprotected sex with strangers or paying for sex, while others may engage in phone sex and/or compulsive masturbation. (http://www.amhc.org/1408-addictions/article/48517-sexual-addiction-and-pornography-addiction)
Porn addiction is considered a subset of sex addiction. The two share similar traits, including increased isolation, relationship impairment, and compulsive fantasizing, though porn addiction includes compulsive masturbation, another form of sexual addiction. Porn addiction, however, is more likely to lead to sexual dysfunction, as the desensitization makes it more difficult to achieve or maintain an erection. Additionally, research has been, and continues to be, conducted to determine whether there exists a statistical correlation between pornography addiction and increased sexual violence, such as rape. Results have been inconclusive, though there is ample research showing significant negative impact towards intimate relationships. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effects_of_pornography)
Prevalence of sex and porn addictions
According to the Colorado Sexual Recovery Center, more than 12 million Americans struggle with a sexual addiction, with this figure rapidly on the rise. The American Society for Addictive Medicine stated in 2011 that sex addiction is real and physically alters the brain, causing changes both behaviorally and biologically. (http://www.cosexualrecovery.com/sex-addiction) Likewise, current statistics show over 40 million people in the United States alone visit pornographic sites on a regular basis, with nearly a quarter of a million individuals reporting they are addicted to pornography. The National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families found that 47% of those surveyed claimed pornography was a problem in their homes, with an increase in infidelity of over 300%. A quarter of all internet searches are pornographic, with more than 116,000 searches for child porn, daily. (http://www.webroot.com/us/en/home/resources/tips/digital-family-life/internet-pornography-by-the-numbers)
Identifying symptoms of a sex/porn addiction
When it comes to identifying signs of sex/porn addiction, it is important to remember that addiction is defined by its negative impact on social, personal, and/or work performance. A desire for sex or viewing pornography are not addictions in themselves but become addictions when they prevent an individual from maintaining healthy work or personal relationships. There are several indicators that will assist in determining whether you have an addiction or are managing your sex/porn participation on a healthy level. Common symptoms include:
- Excessive time spent engaging in sexual activity/watching pornography;
- Sexual dysfunction including premature ejaculation and impotence;
- Compulsive masturbation;
- Emotional distress or tension when not engaged in the addictive behavior;
- Interference in day-to-day functions;
- Negative impact on relationships;
- Altered moods including depression or anxiety;
- Continued use regardless of negative consequences, ie. contracting an STD;
- Increased time spent in activity due to higher tolerance;
- Decreased productivity at work;
- Preoccupation with sex;
Sex/porn addiction treatment options?
If you or someone you know has an addiction, it is important for the health of the relationship that you seek help. There are several forms of treatment options available today, including psychotherapy, couples counseling, antidepressant medications, inpatient treatment, group therapy,and self-help groups or forums. Talking to an experienced therapist can help you not only determine the root cause of the addiction, but also effectively get to where you want to be. Dr. Eric Levin in Center City, Philadelphia offers a unique approach to treatment that will help you reach your goal. Schedule your therapy consultation today to get started on your journey towards recovery.