In addition to our society becoming more sexualized, the internet has greatly contributed to the availability of pornography. Both these factors have led to a dramatic increase in pornography addiction. Online pornography is so pervasive that porn sites often appear on computers unsolicited.
In itself, looking at pornography only becomes dysfunctional and addictive when one is compelled to seek it out and then, once the search has begun, is unable to stop. Long unsatisfying hours may go by unnoticed as frustration builds and more time is lost. The object of porn addiction is not necessarily sex itself but rather images of sexual perfection, a perfection that becomes increasingly unattainable as the search progresses. Even with orgasm, the obsessive hunt may continue with satisfaction elusive.
The negative consequences of pornography addiction are insidious and harm one’s capacity for intimacy – particularly when the addiction is played out while the addict is in an intimate relationship. Since pornography deals in fantasy, sexual relationships with real people become dissatisfying. Compulsive pornography viewing desensitizes one’s lust and desire for the sexual partners in one’s life and, hence, leads to the need for more pornography to satisfy sexual desire.
Pornography addiction, much like sex addiction, ruptures one’s intimate relationships. In addition to negatively affecting the sexual desire for one’s partner, the addiction alienates the partner and causes painful feelings of rejection, insecurity, and jealousy. Relationships break down and recriminations abound.
It is vital when dealing with porn addiction to understand that the addiction is not about the partner or about sex. Rather it is a way for the addict to self-medicate unwanted feelings of intolerable pain. While porn addiction is often considered a weakness, the addictive behavior is an uncontrollable disease. A pornography addict needs to avoid even a casual look as this can initiate the addictive behavior.
It is also of primary importance not to demonize pornography or the compulsion to look at it, but rather to recognize that the addiction is beyond the person’s control. Outside support – from the partner, recovery groups, and counseling – is the key to dealing with addictive behavior. Given the difficulty for the partner to understand and not personalize pornography addiction, patience and understanding, for both the addict and the partner, are necessary to support the hard work that recovery will entail. Since addiction results in deception, secrecy and shame, an enormous amount of support is vital to help the person deal honestly with his or her compulsive behavior.