Where is the line between “healthy” pornography consumption and a dangerous obsession?
This question is controversial. Some experts say any consumption of pornography can be damaging to one’s sexual health in that it creates unrealistic expectations for sexual encounters. Further, porn often involves themes of aggression or even abuse, and some experts worry that watching porn could have detrimental effects on relationships, as it might alter one’s attitude toward their sexual partner, influencing them to feel aggression instead of intimacy with them. On the other hand, some experts say watching porn can be harmless if it is done so in moderation and does not interfere with the person’s life.
Despite some disagreement on the topic, there does seem to be a consensus in the field that the following signs of issues with sex/pornography help determine whether the habit has become problematic. The signs include:
- Viewing of pornography to the point where it starts to have a negative impact on some aspect of the person’s life.
- A tolerance to pornography has developed, i.e., the person searches for more stimulating types of pornography or spends more time watching pornography to become aroused.
- Daily responsibilities are neglected for watching pornography.
- If the person goes without porn, a sense of emotional distress or withdrawal emerges.
- Despite consequences (e.g., problems in relationships or at work), the person continues to watch pornography.
- Sexual dysfunction during sexual encounters (e.g., premature ejaculation, impotence).
- Pornography is used as a coping mechanism, to avoid unpleasant feelings, or as a way to alter mood (e.g., obtain a “high”).
How does someone become obsessed with pornography?
One of the most fundamental tenets of human behavior can help us understand this. When a behavior is reinforced, or rewarded, the person is more likely to do it again. Given pornography is connected to the innate human drive for sex, watching it and/or achieving orgasm while watching it can be a very rewarding and pleasurable experience that is likely to be reinforcing, and thus drive the person to do it again.
So, what separates those who watch porn but do not become obsessed from those who do become obsessed? This is complicated and there is no clear answer. However, preliminary research on the topic points to things like genetic predispositions for impulsivity and sensation seeking, biological differences like higher levels of sex-related hormones, and environmental influences such as early-life exposure to sexual content, social rejection or isolation, and peer influence.
Is porn obsession treatable?
Yes. There are various types of evidence-based treatment for abusing pornography. If you suspect you or your partner is obsessed to porn and you are concerned about its impact on your/their life, experts at Great Lakes Psychology Group can help. Make an appointment with a specialist today.