Porn Addiction Recovery

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What is Porn Addiction?

Porn is controversial all by itself. This means that porn addiction is even more controversial. Some people love porn and others hate it. Some people think porn is inherently helpful and healthy. Others think it is inherently harmful and evil. Some people think porn is addictive and others think it’s not. Some want to make porn addiction a clinical issue only, and others want to make it a moral issue only.

We believe that porn is inherently harmful, evil, and addictive. Not all our clients agree, and that’s okay.

Our job is to:

  1. Help our clients clarify their own values around porn and many other topics.
  2. Help them find ways to live in line with those values in the least harmful way possible. Yes, even when the client’s values are different from our own.;
  3. Be prepaired to explain and defend our values if we’re asked about them.

Is Porn Addiction a Medical Issue or a Moral Issue?

Addiction to porn is a real addiction. It’s not something made up by anti-porn activists. There are three different levels of severity with porn addiction, including:

  1. Value incongruence.
  2. Compulsive porn use.
  3. Addictive porn use.

Porn addiction is not only a moral issue. It’s a medical and mental health condition. It falls in the broader category of behavioral addictions, also called process addiction. It’s a compulsive behavior that causes depression, anxiety, and sexual dysfunction. People overcoming porn addiction often have withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit. They may feel depressed, anxious, angry, guilty, ashamed, and frustrated. There is also risk that porn addiction escalates into sex addiction.

Addiction to pornography is not only a medical condition. It’s a moral issue. Every value system in the world, religious or not, has values about sex. Thus, every value system in the world also has values about pornography. Likewise, every value system in the world has values about the areas of life harmed by porn use.

For Christians working to overcome porn addiction, it is at its root an issue of idolatry. Meaning that you take more satisfaction from porn than you get from God. Like any stubborn weed in your garden, digging down to the root will get your hands dirty with other things.

Effective porn addiction therapy must addressboth the medical and the moral aspects.

Warning Signs of Porn Addiction

A common brief screening tool for sex addiction is the PATHOS survey. This is NOT a definitive diagnosis, but a signal that it may be wise to seek help. This is also not a full list of diagnostic criteria, but it is a good place to start. There are six yes or no questions on the PATHOS survey. If you answer, “yes,” to two or more, it may be wise to seek a further assessment.

  1. Do you often find yourself preoccupied with thoughts about porn or sex? [Preoccupied]
  2. Do you hide some of your sexual behavior from others (including porn use)? [Ashamed]
  3. Have you ever sought help for sexual behavior you did not like? [Treatment]
  4. Has anyone been hurt emotionally because of your sexual behavior (including porn use)? [Hurt others]
  5. Do you feel controlled by your sexual desire or drive to use porn? [Out of control]
  6. When you have sex or use porn, do you feel depressed afterward? [Sad]

There is a modified version of the PATHOS survey in our Personal Challenges Survey(PCS). The PCS includes brief screens for many challenges. This helps to understand each challenge in context. We recommend this wide-spectrum approach over a single-issue brief screening. It takes about 15 minutes to complete and is our recommendation for a;sex addiction survey.

Each challenge on the PCS uses a 0-5 scale. Challenges scoring 2 or higher show that seeking professional help may be wise. Three or more challenges in the 1-2 range show that seeking professional help may be wise. If you would like to work with us, visit our;Get Started;page and follow the instructions there.

Other Possible Symptoms of Porn Addiction

For the sake of the questions below, “porn-related activities” include:

  1. Thinking about porn.
  2. Planning for time to use porn.
  3. Masturbation
  4. Cleaning up.
  5. Hiding evidence of your porn use.

Many of these questions reflect the more severe negative effects of porn addiction.

Escalation or Acceleration

  1. Is the period of time spent on porn-related activities increasing?
  2. Is your frequency of porn-related activities increasing?
  3. Is the content of the porn you consume becoming more graphic or specific?
  4. Do you use compilation videos that focus on one specific act or moment?
  5. Is the content of the porn you consume becoming more degrading, shameful, or violent?
  6. Is the content of the porn you consume increasingly violating your own values?
  7. Have you started to become aroused in places where you use porn, even though you are not using or thinking about porn at the time?
  8. Have you combined porn-related activities with other addictive substances?
  9. Have you combined porn-related activities with other addictive behaviors? For example: gambling, shopping, or binge eating?
  10. Have you spent money on porn?
  11. Over time, have you spent increasing amounts of money on porn?

Withdrawal

  1. When you are unable to engage in porn-related activities, do you feel sad, anxious, or irritable?
  2. When you are unable to engage in porn-related activities, do you feel tense or on edge?
  3. When you are unable to engage in porn-related activities, do you have more headaches?
  4. When you are unable to engage in porn-related activities, do you struggle to focus or stay on task?

Impairment

  1. Are you more interested in porn-related activities than other activities you enjoy?;
  2. Are you more interested in porn-related activities than sex with your partner?
  3. Are you unable to achieve arousal without viewing or thinking about porn?
  4. Are you unable to achieve orgasm without viewing or thinking about porn?

Consequences

  1. Have you used porn in places where there could be severe consequences (school, work, or in public)?
  2. Have you experienced consequences for your porn use and continued to use porn? For examble: loss of job, suspension or expulsion from school, arrest for indecency, etc.
  3. Have you continued to use porn even though your partner has asked you to stop?
  4. Do you hide your porn use from people you love, or who love you?

Using It to Cope With Other Problems

Sex involves a powerful cocktail of neurotransmitters and hormones. Healthy sex naturally has a small anti-depressant or anti-anxiety effect.;

Sex involves the dopamine system, the same system that meth and cocaine stimulate. The dopamine system is especially during foreplay and initial arousal. In porn the dopamine system is on while “on the hunt” for the perfect video or while anticipating orgasm.

Sex also involves the endorphin system, the same system that opiates stimulate. The endorphin system is most active after orgasm.;

So, it makes sense that porn use can self-medicate anxiety or depression. It can also self-medicate relationship issues or sexual dysfunctions. At the same time, it often adds to those same relationships issues.

This is very like other behavioral addictions. Any behavior in everyday life may become addictive when used to cope with other problems.

Broken Relationships From Porn Use

Sexual relationships or intimate relationships are not the only ones harmed by porn. Work relationships and social relationships get hurt, too. Porn teaches that most interactions have sexual potential or expectations built into them. When every interaction risks sexual rejection all one’s personal relationships are at risk.

Have any of your relationships been broken or hurt by your use of porn?

Why Do People Get Addicted to Pornography?

There are many reasons why someone might become addicted to pornography. These include:

  1. A lack of healthy sexual outlets.
  2. A lack of self-control.
  3. A history of trauma.
  4. Viewing sexual stimulation as a primary need.
  5. Porn may help cope with other problems, at least in the short term.
  6. Genetic predisposition to addiction.

Why is Porn so Addictive?

  1. It is accessible on every internet-connected device.
  2. It’s free.
  3. It can be used in secret without others knowing.
  4. It makes us feel like we have control over our sexual desires.
  5. It gives an illusion of permission to act out one’s fantasies without consequences.
  6. It allows one to avoid intimacy because it allows focusing on self rather than others.
  7. It gives an illusion of intimacy because of the sexual content.
  8. It acts on many (though not all) of the same neuropathways as sex.

How to Quit Porn?

It’s okay to try to quit without professional help. You can also make use of accountability or parental control apps with a safe person in your life. We recommend either Accountable2you or Bark, depending on your specific situation.;

You may also benefit from a support group.

If quitting by yourself or with the help of a support group does not work, therapy may be beneficial.;

First, you need to accurately diagnose whether you have an addiction. This will usually involve a narrative history and a survey of some kind. These are helpful to compare your level of symptoms to others. You can use our Personal Challenges Survey as a starting point. Accurate diagnosis may also involve a conversation about your history with a therapist. If you choose to work with a therapist, they should also conduct screening of other mental health challenges. For example, depression, anxiety, or trauma.

If you would like to work with us, visit our;Get Started;page and follow the instructions there.;

What’s the Difference Between a Healthy Relationship With Porn and an Addiction?

This is a values issue. At Restored Life, we come from the position that porn is inherently harmful. We do not believe that it is possible to have a “healthy” relationship with porn.

Anyone is, of course, free to disagree. If you are someone who disagrees with us, we recommend you check out Fight the New Drug, The Truth About Porn, and the Brain/Heart/World documentary.

What Does Withdrawal from Porn Look Like?

If you have not consumed porn for a while, you may experience any of the following:

  1. Feeling unusually sad, anxious, or irritable.
  2. Unusual headaches, tension, or physical craving to masturbate.
  3. Struggling to focus or stay on task.

When Should You Seek Treatment for Porn Addiction?

It’s okay to try to quit by yourself. You can also make use of accountability or parental control apps with a safe person in your life. We recommend either Accountable2you or Bark, depending on your specific situation.

There are also online support groups. Check out our group directory here.

If self-effort, accountability, or group support don’t work, therapy may be helpful.;

What Puts Someone at Risk for Becoming Addicted to Porn?

There are many factors that contribute to someone becoming addicted to pornography. These include:

  1. A lack of self-control
  2. An inability to regulate emotions
  3. A rigid and/or disengaged family system
  4. Early exposure to porn (especially before puberty starts)
  5. Exposure to sexualized media.

What About Teenagers Who are Addicted to Pornography?

Children and teenagers are becoming exposed to porn more often and earlier. We recommend that parents install the Bark app on all the family’s devices.

Parents are the best resource to help teens who have a challenge with porn use. Your own story is your best tool. If you or your relationships have been hurt by porn, you may need to filter parts of the story. But the broad strokes are usually enough.;

If your teen is unable to stop using porn even with your support, then counseling may be helpful.

To work with us, visit our;Get Started;page and follow the instructions there.;

But isn’t Pornography Harmless?

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about pornography. It’s not harmless. It’s not just a “bad habit.” It’s a form of sexual abuse. It causes harm to women and men alike. It can cause serious emotional, social, physiological, psychological, and even spiritual problems.

For anyone unconvinced that porn is inherently harmful, please take a look at these sites:

  1. Fight the New Drug;
  2. The Truth About Porn
  3. The Brain/Heart/World documentary.

How to Find the Right Support Groups for Pornography Addiction Recovery?

There are many different types of recovery groups out there. Check out our group directory here. Most of them focus on one specific aspect of the recovery process. For example, a group may focus on healing from trauma, emotional healing, faulty thinking, or spiritual healing.

We recommend that you try at least three different groups, for at least three meetings each. This will help you get a sense of how different groups function. Which will help you decide which style, curriculum, or format is best for you.

We also encourage everyone in the first 90 days of recovery to do 90 meetings in 90 days. This is the best way to get your first 90 days of sobriety and set yourself up for long-term success in recovery.

If you’re overcoming sexual addictions, your group should focus on sex addiction or porn addiction.;

There may not be enough s-groups in your local area to go to an s-group during your 90 in 90. It’s okay to visit groups for other behavioral addictions or alcohol addiction. General recovery principles apply to any addiction. So go to any available meeting during your 90 in 90.

Is Porn Addiction a Sign of Mental Health Problems?

Addiction to pornography may overlap with mental health problems. Yet, it’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg issue: which one came first? Which one is the cause and which one is the symptom?

Some people are struggling with a mental health disorder and use pornography to self-medicate. Some people develop depression or anxiety because of the shame and distortions that usually come as a result of porn consumption.

Relationship issues usually develop because porn use violates the expectations the relationship. They can also have a chicken-and-egg relationship with porn addiction or other mental health disorders.

Can Porn Addiction be Cured?

Individual porn addiction can be cured. It takes time, and you will need support (like any other type of addiction). Not everyone needs counseling. Some only need one safe friend to support them along the way – a person they see face to face, not only online. Some need a support group. Some need therapy.

What are My Options for Porn Addiction Treatment?

If you have been unable to quit porn on your own, or with support, professional treatment is wise to consider. An effective treatment process will start with screening for any co-occurring mental health disorders and other addictive behaviors. The screening for co-occurring disorders is important to get a full picture of your situation, and for differential diagnosis.

Treatment of adult porn addiction works differently than for teens (see the section on teens above). As an adult, you can choose between outpatient with a local therapist or inpatient treatment at a porn addiction treatment center.

A local pornography addiction treatment program should come from someone with specialized training. General practice therapists or mental health treatment programs are rarely informed of the evidence-based treatments for porn addiction. It’s not their fault, there’s just too much information to keep up with. If you want to incorporate your faith or religion into your treatment, it is still important that the pastor/rabbi/imam or other clergy member helping you has some specialized training.

Most behavioral addiction treatment plans are influenced by harm reduction theory and will provide a general template for you to customize over time, as your treatment progresses.

Why Our Approach Works

Our approach to counseling integrates the best research with the best practices in a clear way. (Often, you get either the best practices or the best research, rarely both).

    Thorough Intake Assessment

    You are a unique individual, not a formula. You are also not the first, only, or last person with your experiences and emotions. We integrate your story with your survey responses to get the most accurate diagnosis possible.

    A Clear Plan, Personally Applied

    We know what research says works to help people get better. We also know where to adjust the plan for personal fit and the best long-term results.

    Outcome Tracking (optional, but highly recommended)

    Tracking the results from your efforts helps you feel better, faster. We value your healing over our revenue. We want you out there in the world making your mark, not stuck with us forever.

    Next Steps

    If you're ready, you can get started with counseling at Restored Life. Or, if we're full, not in your area, or just not the right fit, you can get matched with a great therapist for you at Mental Health Match.
    Get Started With UsGet Matched (Mental Health Match)

    Challenges We Help With

    Restored.Life, Counseling, Therapy, Marriage Counseling, Couples Counseling, Relationship Counseling, Marriage Therapy, Couples Therapy, Relationship Therapy, Sex Addiction Counseling, Sex Addiction Therapy, Sex Addiction Treatment, Porn Addiction Counseling, Porn Addiction Therapy, Porn Addiction Treatment, Betrayal Trauma, Anxiety Counseling, Anxiety Therapy, Anxiety Treatment, Depression Counseling, Depression Therapy, Depression Treatment

    Anxiety

    Reduce Time And Energy Wasted On Worry. Regain Control Of Your Life. Achieve Your Potential.

    Depression

    Regain Your Sense Of Hope, Motivation, And Purpose. Increase Energy And Vitality. Enjoy Life Again.

    Couples Counseling

    Reduce Conflict. Improve Communication. Increase Intimacy And Connection. Dream Together.

    Porn or Sex Addiction

    Increase Integrity. Reduce Shame, Depression, And Anxiety From Porn or Sex Addiction. Don’t Stay Trapped.

    Infidelity & Betrayal Trauma

    Restore Trust And Commitment. Process The Pain Without Shame. Regain Your Footing. Believe In Yourself And Your Relationship Again.

    Try Our Free Resources

    We offer these resources to the community for free. No email or identifying information is required to access these tools that can help you overcome your challenges.

    Personal Challenges Survey

    A free survey with brief screening scales for eight of the most common personal challenges that people face. Also provides suggestions for overcoming your challenges.

    The Seeds Cycle

    A tool for understanding personal and relationship patterns.

    Things to Try to Improve Mood

    A menu of small habits that can make big changes for depression, anxiety, or anger.

    Things to Try to Improve Relationships

    A menu of small habits that can make big changes in your relationships.

    Things to Try to Overcome Chaos

    A menu of small habits that make big changes for addiction or trauma.

    Signs You've Found the Right Therapist

    80% of the benefit from therapy comes from being matched to the right therapist. Here are seven signs of a good match.

    How to Get the Help You Need on ANY Budget

    Maximize your budget for therapy and your benefit FROM therapy.

    Recommended Reading and Podcasts

    A list of books and podcasts we most often recommend to our clients.

    Recovery Groups

    Support and accountability groups are a critical part of recovery. Here is a list of groups we recommend.

    How To Get The Most Out Of Your Health Insurance Coverage

    Strategies You Can Use Right Now - And At Your Next Enrollment

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    The General Fund is allocated at the board's discretion, on a monthly basis.

    The Scholarship Fund helps pay for therapy for uninsured people who cannot afford therapy.

    The Strategic Plan fund helps us expand our service capacity and publish new resources. The Strategic Plan is set on an annual basis by the board of directors. Our current strategic plan is always available on our about page.