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Part 2 of 2
Are there common causes for developing an addiction to porn? Yes, there are 3 that everyone shares.
In the first article on this topic, Inside Look at Pornography Addiction, we discussed what addiction to porn can look like and how many people, men especially, struggle with it. Now let's see what we can learn about the causes for addiction to porn.
So why does watching porn become an addiction in the first place?
For men, three things drive addiction to porn more than anything else:
- Visual Stimulation
- Need to Relax, Feel Pleasure, and Escape
- Addictive Aspects of Porn
Reasons For Addiction To Porn
The following italicized excerpts are from the article Porn Addiction Destroys Relationships, Lives from the San Francisco Chronicle.
#1 -- Visual Stimulation
Probably not much of a surprise here for anyone who knows much about us men.
"For 90 percent of men, images are a big source of stimulation," he says, whereas women - an estimated 25 to 30 percent of online porn users - tend to prefer interactive chat rooms.
The way men's brains are wired sets us up for porn addiction being a huge problem for us.
It’s the perfect mixture for addiction — online porn is visual and we’re visually stimulated.
This means that the galleries of endless images and videos that are available on the internet are the perfect black hole for men to fall into.
The repetitive process of viewing these images releases powerful brain chemicals that reward and reinforce this behavior, which leads to an addiction to porn forming.
#2 -- Need to Relax, Feel Pleasure, and Escape
- Many of us struggle with turning off our brains.
- We often don't use good stress management techniques.
- Not any different from women, we can struggle with negative thoughts about ourselves and low self-esteem.
And we want a quick and easy solution to these problems.
Isn't there a pill I can take for this? Sure, look at a little porn.
If people want to escape feelings of low self-esteem, shame, isolation or the pressures of life, work or relationships, pornography is a place to get lost and feel wanted, imagining the perfect partners who always desires them - and whom they can always satisfy. "Like with any addiction, it's a predictable way to soothe," says San Francisco psychotherapist Gregory Rowe. "I've talked to soldiers back from Iraq who say the internet centers there are jammed with soldiers masturbating to porn. It's a way to manage their anxiety.
Porn is a quick, easy, and what appears to be a harmless way to escape and deal with stress.
However, while extremely common, it’s far from harmless. The brain chemicals released while watching soothe us in the moment, but for most people this secretive sexual behavior brings along with it a ton of embarrassment, guilt, shame, and relationship problems.
#3 -- Addictive Aspects of Porn
There are some unique aspects about porn that make it easily addictive.
- It's so readily available online.
- Sex is a wired in desire for all men and not one very easily done without.
- Internet porn sites are designed to get us to want more and more, which feeds a key ingredient of addictions.
Here’s what else makes porn so addictive:
San Francisco marriage and family therapist Julian Redwood, who specializes in treating patients with pornography addiction, says the biggest problem is that there is a physiologically addictive nature to porn and all sexually addictive behavior. People build up a tolerance and need more and more stimulation to achieve the same high. "So someone might start by looking at images of a normal heterosexual couple having sex and then move on to watching bestiality or sex with children. People push their edge."
"Online porn is so much about the hunt," Redwood adds, which is part of why people spend so many hours at it, at the expense of their jobs, family, social life and sleep. They keep searching for the image or video that is going to turn them on. It's similar to the drug addict going out to score the drug, or someone into prostitutes cruising the red-light district. "But there are lots of people who would never go to a prostitute who engage in internet porn."
Many people scoff at the idea that addiction to porn is a real problem. They believe porn isn’t like drugs or alcohol, which have a clear effect on the brain and can create dependence. The truth is that porn does have the same chemical effect on dopamine levels in the brain as these addictive substances.
Results Of Porn Addiction
Sadly, the majority of people don’t recognize porn for the drug that it is, as well as the addictive characteristics it possesses.
Culturally it’s typically considered normal and not hurting anyone. The fact that it’s everywhere now perpetuates this idea as well. One or two clicks on the phone in your pocket and you’re watching people doing things you’ve only fantasized about.
How can anything legal and so accessible really be that bad?
“Watching porn is just what guys do,” many people believe.
While it is what a lot of men do, most people are uninformed and blind to its negative effects.
Porn addiction is directly responsible for a myriad of personal and relationship problems. Some of the most profound effects of addiction to porn include:
- Limitations to connecting in an inmate way with a real partner.
- Unrealistic expectations of what a normal sex life that can result in the alienation of your partner.
- Inability to climax without the aid of porn.
- Disruptions in daily activities and productivity because porn is such a distraction.
- Loss of time as hours can be spent going down a rabbit hole chasing new images and videos.
- Erectile dysfunction that’s caused by porn viewing.
- Hurt, pain, and damage to the self-esteem of your partner (and for many users as well).
Sound fun? No. It sounds like a bucket of problems that are avoidable.
The biggest question for all men to answer is -- What we are going to do about our susceptibility to developing an addiction to porn?
If you don't have a plan to protect yourself from viewing porn, seriously consider meeting with an expert to get one.
Join the conversation and share your thoughts about what in your experience causes addiction to porn. There are more than 150 comments from other readers below — check them out and see what others have to say.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published July 25, 2012, updated on April 10, 2018 and has been updated again with new information for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Looking for More? Check Out These Articles
- Look Inside Pornography Addiction (Part 1)
- Are You Cheating When Watching Porn?
- Is It True That All Men Cheat On Their Partners?
- Get More Help with a Porn Addiction