Sex and Pornography Addiction

A sex addiction may include compulsive use of pornography although an addiction to pornography may well be a problem in its own right.  The word “problem” is important. If the behaviour is not causing significant personal difficulty or harm in some area of life, can it really justify designation as an addiction or disorder? 

Behaviours on their own are not the issue

Sex addiction may encompass a number of different activities, such as visiting sex workers, cruising, fetishistic behaviours, use of web cams, consumption of pornography (on or offline), excessive masturbation, or engaging in multiple short-term sexual encounters.  In themselves the sex-related behaviours are not the concerning issue. The possibility of an addictive disorder is relevant when the behaviour becomes compulsively repetitive and a range of negative consequences arise.

Facilitated by the internet 

The internet and related technology has increased the range of opportunities to consume pornography and to engage in such activities as cybersex. There are three factors that help facilitate such behaviours: accessibility, anonymity and affordability.

Harmful consequences

The consequences of sex (including porn) addiction may include deterioration in a relationship to the point of losing it altogether. Because so much time is consumed in the compulsive pursuit of short-term gratification, other areas of life become neglected, often resulting in important opportunities being missed. Shame, guilt and low self-esteem are common and can lead to depression, frequently compounded by increasing isolation. Desensitisation and sexual dysfunction may feature among the problems experienced.  Harm can also come from high-risk situations surrounding the sexual activity or from disease.

Am I a sex or porn addict?

Assessing whether you are addicted to sex or porn may require assessment by someone with the appropriate expertise.  The list of signs below does not constitute a formal diagnostic exercise but answering positively to a majority of the questions would suggest it is time to seek help.

  • Is your sexual behaviour having a negative impact on other areas of your life such as work, study, finances, health and/or personal relationships? 
  • Does obsession with sexual activity get in the way of other things you want to do in your life?
  • Do you spend increasing amounts of time thinking about sex and planning sex-related activity?
  • Do you feel you have become disconnected from those close to you and more secretive?
  • Have you tried to stop the behaviour(s) or cut back but found yourself unable to do so? 
  • Does your sexual behaviour conflict with your personal values and result in feelings of guilt and shame?
  • Do you feel you cannot do without your sexual behaviour(s). Have you experienced significant psychological and even physical discomfort when not engaging in the behaviour(s)?
  • Do you find that you need increasingly powerful stimuli or degrees of risk in order to achieve the same level of arousal and excitement? 
  • Have you ever experienced a similarly compulsive relationship with work, alcohol, other drugs, food, exercise, shopping or gaming?
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