I received the following message “I’m not sure if my problem would be in your areas of treatment. I am very addicted to masturbation/porn/adultery. I don’t have control of myself. I try to stop but whenever I am left alone at home or in my day off I am just wasting my time into such. I have positive approaches to life and I have many skills, but due to this addiction and feeling guilty about the energy wasted and leading to a waste of my day and weeks and months leaving the unproductive. I’m not sure that my problem is something you can deal with, but maybe you can help me come out and live life in a more productive way.”
Porn addiction has been in the news ever since the Internet made porn available to everyone. I have never been happy with the explanations I have read for porn addiction.
Is porn addictive? Most of the writing about porn addiction assumes that it is real. But can you actually be addicted to porn? And if so, how?
Theories of Porn Addiction
This is an important question, because the type of treatment to offer depends on your theory of why people watch porn. Most assume that because watching porn and masturbating is enjoyable, then it must be like substance abuse. This is a behavioral model. You enjoy porn, and therefore do it more, and build pleasure pathways in your brain. The more you do it, the more want to do it. And that is what your addiction is.
However, there are several models of addiction. I wanted to meet this man and find out why he felt addicted. He turned out to be a young married man with a good job and no obvious reasons to do this. I asked him about his life and quite quickly realized that he was showing signs of depression. He had low self esteem, lack of motivation, no goals, and felt no emotional connection to anyone.
Cause of addiction to porn
He had recently left university so was too young to recognize the cycles in his own behavior. But going over the symptoms showed clearly that he did have depression.
This actually explained his ‘porn addiction’. He wasn’t attracted to porn particularly. He was doing it because it was enjoyable, and took his mind off the depressive thoughts he was having. He was doing porn because he felt he was worthless, and empty and he had no goals in life. So why not? But then his critical voice started up for doing it, and made him feel bad again. Until he did more porn to get away from it.
So it wasn’t so much that he was attracted to porn. It more that he was self medicating with porn. He was trying to use porn to get temporary relief from his negative feelings.
In the session, I helped him see what was really going on. Then I gave him some guidance on how to manage his condition, and how hypnotize himself to reduce his anxiety. Once has learned to manage his depressive tendencies, he won't need the porn to feel better.