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The act of looking at pornography is not considered unacceptable behavior to many people. In fact, some may find it to be an enjoyable pastime that enriches their sexual relationships. However, like other possibly addictive behaviors such as gambling and sexual activity, pornography can cross the line from a form of entertainment to an addiction for some. When viewing pornography becomes hard to control and starts to have a negative impact on different aspects of your life, addiction may be at the root of the issue. Pornography use has risen exponentially with the ease and availability of the Internet, with as many as 40 million adults regularly visiting pornographic websites. Increased use may also be leading to higher addiction numbers as pornography has become exceedingly more accessible.

Causes and Risk Factors

The physiology behind pornography addiction is similar to that seen with other types of substance abuse disorders. When the individual views pornographic images, it triggers a chemical response in the brain that leads to feelings of pleasure or a “high.” A variety of substances are released into the body that creates this pleasure sensation, including dopamine, adrenaline and endorphins. When the high subsides, the individual may want to stimulate it again by looking at more pornography.

This pleasure response is typically used to escape negative feelings associated with disorders like depression or anxiety. Because those feelings tend to return when the euphoria is over, the individual will seek the trigger once again to maintain the pleasure sensation. People may find they need to look at more explicit or violent images over time to trigger the same response – a process known as tolerance.

Symptoms of a Pornography Addiction

It can be difficult to realize when pornography evolves into an addiction. Some of the warning signs might include:

  • Excessive viewing of pornography that interferes with aspects of your life
  • Spending more time looking at porn or looking for more stimulating images
  • Pornography viewing begins to take the place of daily responsibilities
  • Continued pornography use despite negative consequences or relationship problems
  • Using pornography to enhance your mood or escape negative feelings
  • You experience withdrawal signs such as emotional distress if pornography is stopped

If you are unsure whether you or a loved one has become addicted to pornography, the staff at the Center for Professional Recovery can assess your situation to determine if professional treatment might be the appropriate course of action.

Long-Term Repercussions

There can be significant consequences associated with pornography addiction. People that view pornography over an extended period may experience sexual dysfunction and a decline in sexual relations with their partners. Because shame is often associated with the pornographic viewing, a person that engages in this activity may struggle with depression and anxiety as a result. Some individuals may also find that they need to increase the level of aggression or violence in what they see to achieve the same level of stimulation. In rare cases, this could heighten the risk for impulsivity or aggression.

Pornography Addiction and Substance Abuse

Pornography addiction is frequently seen with substance abuse disorders, as some people may turn to drugs or alcohol to alleviate the pain and discomfort associated with pornography viewing. While it may seem the substances provide some relief at first, as use turns to abuse and possible dependency, it may create what is known as a co-occurring disorder. The challenges of treating a co-occurring disorder are much greater than those seen in addressing a single addiction, as both conditions must be treated simultaneously to produce the best possible result. Not all facilities will have the experience or expertise to manage co-occurring disorders adeptly.

Treatment Options

Professionals struggling with a pornography addiction may deal with even higher levels of guilt and shame over their behavior, due to their high-profile career. It can be difficult to admit there is a problem, but until you seek treatment for the addiction, it is not likely to improve. The Center for Professional Recovery works with individuals from industries like medicine, law and aviation, helping them work through addictions of all kinds in a secure, confidential environment. If you are seeking help for yourself or someone you care about, contact the Center for Professional Recovery today at 866.298.0056.

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