Porn Addiction: Causes, Signs, And Treatment

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D on July 5, 2021

Porn addiction is a nonmedical term used to describe compulsive porn use. People who become addicted to porn may experience negative consequences as a result of their behavior, and may need professional treatment to help them overcome it.

Porn Addiction

Watching pornography is fairly common. Millions of people in the United States watch porn, with the vast majority being what are called recreational viewers—meaning they do so only occasionally.

Porn addiction affects an estimated 11.8 percent of people who use porn, according to some estimates. Because porn addiction is not an official disorder, tracking how often it occurs is not easy.

Porn addiction may be caused by a variety of factors and can have detrimental effects on a person’s relationships and way of life without therapeutic intervention.

Read more about the causes and treatment of behavioral addictions

What Is Porn Addiction?

Porn addiction is a nonmedical term used to describe the compulsive use of porn. People with this addiction may compulsively watch porn, despite the negative consequences of their behavior.

Porn addiction, like other types of addictions, is largely identified by an inability to reduce or stop a behavior. For people addicted, this may cause agitation and significant distress.

Is Porn Addiction A Real Addiction?

Many behaviors can become psychologically addictive. Watching porn is no different. The existence of compulsive porn use as a clinical disorder is controversial, however.

Some research shows that watching porn can become addictive by way of its effects on the brain. Watching porn may boost “feel good” chemicals in the brain like dopamine, which can reinforce repetitive, compulsive behaviors.

Even so, there is no clinical diagnosis for porn addiction in the current version of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V).

Signs And Symptoms Of Porn Addiction

Watching porn, even very often, is not a sign of addiction by itself. People who become addicted to porn may experience dramatic shifts in behavior and mood over time.

Signs and symptoms of porn addiction might include:

  • feeling guilty or embarrassed about porn use but being unable to stop
  • feeling euphoria, calmness, or relief after watching porn
  • watching more extreme porn over time
  • engaging in risky behaviors in order to watch porn (e.g. watching porn at work)
  • relationship issues occurring as a result of porn use
  • socializing less often in order to stay home and watch porn
  • experiencing less pleasure from sex
  • unsuccessful attempts to reduce porn use or stop
  • continuing to use porn despite negative consequences

Living with an addiction can be isolating. Compulsive behaviors can keep a person from their friends, family, and other loved ones.

Compulsive porn use may also cause depression, anxiety, or shame. This may cause a person to withdraw from others, or stay silent about their uncontrollable porn use.

Causes Of Porn Addiction

Addiction is generally influenced by multiple factors, including mental health history, environment, and a family history of addiction.

Currently, there is no clear consensus for what causes porn addiction. However, it’s believed to sometimes be linked in part to untreated mental health conditions and biological causes.

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Risk Factors For Porn Addiction

Through research, experts have identified several potential risk factors that could make a person more likely to develop an addiction to porn.

These risk factors include:

  • underlying mental health conditions
  • relationship issues
  • issues with intimacy
  • hypersexuality
  • history of addiction
  • weak social support system
  • social isolation

Porn Addiction And Co-Occurring Disorders

Porn addiction is commonly seen in people who have one or more mental health disorders, also known as co-occurring disorders or dual diagnosis.

Common co-occurring disorders include:

  • mood disorders
  • anxiety disorders
  • substance use disorders

Drug and alcohol abuse has a strong connection to porn addiction. People addicted to porn may use substances to self-medicate or to relieve distress, social anxiety, or feelings of shame.

Porn Addiction And Substance Abuse

Substance use disorders affect millions of people in the United States and frequently develop in people who have other types of addictions or mental health disorders.

Drugs, alcohol, and porn use can serve similar functions.

Watching porn, or the use of these substances, can become coping tools to deal with underlying issues, such as depression, an unsatisfying sex life, or anxiety.

What Are The Consequences Of Porn Addiction?

Becoming addicted to porn can have consequences. While not generally believed to be dangerous, it can become moderately to severely disruptive to a person’s life.

Effects and consequences of porn addiction might include:

  • relationship troubles
  • legal troubles (e.g. from watching porn in unsuitable settings)
  • poor mental health
  • erectile dysfunction
  • reduced sexual satisfaction
  • financial issues
  • disrupted work or academic performance

Porn addiction can be a progressive condition, by which it becomes worse over time, left untreated.

Without addressing the issue, this may cause negative consequences socially, financially, and emotionally.

Porn Addiction Rates In The United States

There is little definitive research on the phenomenon of porn addiction, but there is some information researchers know based on information gathered.

Porn addiction statistics include:

  • An estimated 40 million Americans visit porn websites regularly.
  • About 70 percent of men and 20 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 30 are estimated to watch porn weekly.
  • More than half of visitors to the website PornHub stayed on the website for less than five minutes in 2019. Only two out of every 1,000 viewers stayed for more than two hours at a time.
  • According to one survey, about 9 percent of people who watch porn say they’ve tried unsuccessfully to stop.

How Is Porn Addiction Treated?

Because porn addiction isn’t a recognized disorder, there is no evidence-based treatment for it.

However, there are reports of positive results from people who seek out therapy, support groups, relationship counseling, and medication for underlying mental health conditions.

For people with co-occurring disorders, such as substance abuse and porn addiction, a drug or alcohol rehab program that offers dual diagnosis treatment may be recommended.

Dual Diagnosis For Porn Addiction And Substance Abuse

Dual diagnosis treatment is a type of specialized treatment program that aims to address all mental health and substance use disorders a person may have.

People who become addicted to drugs or alcohol, for instance, will often need intensive treatment, such as an inpatient or residential rehab program in the early stages of the recovery process.

Many drug and alcohol rehab programs offer treatment that can also be helpful for behavioral addictions, such as behavioral therapy, support groups, and skills-based groups.

The type of treatment program best suited for a person will depend on their mental health history, current health status, and other personal factors.

Find Treatment For Porn Addiction Today

If you or a loved one is addicted to porn in addition to drugs or alcohol, you’re not alone. By calling our helpline, we can identify treatment options that may best suit your needs.

Call us today for more information about porn addiction and to find treatment for co-occurring porn addiction and substance misuse today.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D on July 5, 2021
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