Internet Pornography: The new addiction?
Increasingly, we are seeing adults (and teens) who are spending vast amounts of time and money looking at pornography on the Internet. Whatever your views may be on the morality of this behavior, these individuals can’t turn off their computers. Is this an addiction? A compulsion? Or what?
The statistics are staggering. Every second, $3000 is spent on Internet pornography. Every second, there are 28,250 Internet users viewing porn. The revenues for the pornography industry are larger than Microsoft, Google, Amazon, EBay, Yahoo, Apple, and Netflix combined!
Those opposed to pornography believe that it can ruin marriages, destroy good relationships, lead to sexual addiction and sexual aggression. Proponents believe that erotica can improve sexual relationships and can be a harmless recreational outlet for adults. Whatever you believe, the pornographic industry is alive and well because vast numbers of adults are logging on.
The question—when does something become an addiction? The Kinsey Institute of Sexual Research found that 9% of porn viewers had tried to stop, but couldn’t. Psychologists tend to view this kind of behavior as a variant of obsessive thinking (can’t get something out of your head) and compulsive behavior (feel compelled to do something). While in many instances, there may not be a “physical dependence” as in narcotic use; some activities may foster a “psychological dependence” which can be extremely powerful.
What is the potential impact on adults of watching pornographic material?
One study found that males who watched pornography had less sexual intimacy with their real life partners. Women, however, reported more sexual intimacy, probably because they tended to view it with their partners as part of their sexual relationship.
Researchers wonder–Is this behavior prompted by relationship problems or is it a sign of an emotionally distant, disconnected adult? Sometimes when a relationship is going through a dry-spell of intimacy, husbands might fill this void with watching pornographic material. But their wives may be turned off by this behavior or threatened which results in less intimacy. This can create a downward spiral in a relationship.
Other research, based on brain imaging, suggests that pornography stimulates certain pleasure centers of the brain that are similar to areas that are stimulated with alcohol or drug use.
The jury is out on whether this kind of behavior is an addiction or a compulsion. One study found that individuals with pornography habits measured highly on compulsivity scales, similar to individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder. There is a lack of research on this subject—it is not a well-funded area of study.
But pornography addiction can disrupt relationships, work, and other areas of life. It can be a serious affliction for some individuals.
What can adults do if they do have a serious addiction to viewing pornography?
Sex Addicts Anonymous (http://www.saa-recovery.org/) is a 12-step program fashioned after Alcoholics Anonymous that focuses on a wide range of sexual addictive behavior. It is free, anonymous, and applies the principles of recovery of A.A. It provides group support, a sponsor (a member of the group that provides support to individuals), a variety of meetings held during the week, and other helpful resources. Just as with AA, an adult has to acknowledge that they have a problem and that they have been powerless to abstain from their addiction.
Consult a mental health professional. The first step to recovery is admitting to yourself that you have a problem that is disrupting your life. Consulting a therapist who works with individuals with sexual addictions can start the process of recovery. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, which focuses on the thoughts and emotions that lead to maladaptive behavior, can be helpful. Ask your doctor for a referral to a mental health therapist that has experience in this area.
What do you think?