What Do I Do If Someone I Care About Has An Addiction To Pornography?
Knowing how to deal with someone that has an addiction to pornography can be a very difficult road for many. And most often those affected by this type of addiction happens between a husband and a wife. This behavior can leave one with a low self-esteem, feeling betrayed, alone, and end up with a shattered relationship. Even if the addiction is between friends, relationships will suffer, so the issue shouldn’t be ignored.
Once you have discovered that someone close to you has an addiction problem, talk with them and share your concern. This is probably one of the hardest steps to take emotionally, but can be the most rewarding long term.
Some of you may not know that pornography is a neuron changer. The reason for this is due to the way it floods the brain with dopamine‒ giving the body a rush that eventually rewires the brains reward center. Neuroplasticity is a word meaning brain and change. It works like this:
A neuron is a cell in the brain that is activated by smell, sight, sound, taste, or touch, etc. Every time something good happens, chemicals are released in the brain, telling you how wonderful you feel. Your brain builds pathways like this for everything including emotions, and it does the same for those that engage in pornography. The problem with pornography is that the brain gets overwhelmed by the constant overload of chemicals it’s experiencing, and starts to fight back… eventually taking away some of its dopamine receptors. This begins a numbing effect, causing a result in the brain to find more arousal from pornographic materials, and ultimately becoming addicted, and always looking for something bigger and better to satisfy the addiction. Now, the addict is constantly searching for that dopamine high that they first experienced, and the more they look at porn, the harder it is to find satisfaction, and more difficult to break free from the unhealthy behavior.
Addictions of any kind use these same neurons. Within the last decade, research has proven that addictions cause the brains frontal lobes to start shrinking. This is the part of the brain that controls our logical thinking and basic problem solving. It wasn’t just drugs and alcohol causing this type of trauma to the brain. It is all types of addictions and compulsive behaviors that cause the same damage.
Now that the brain is relying on this chemical response, it suddenly has a new sense of craving that cannot be satiated. Pornography short-circuits the brain since it remembers where the sexual high came from, turning the viewer into an addict.
With this information, there is hope for those you love. Often times you may wonder how you can you assist those you care for who are suffering from an addiction to pornography. This can be achieved with a 30 step task program that was designed by Dr. Patrick Carnes, who has pioneered treatment for sexual addiction. Without identifying the core issues that contribute to the addiction, the ability to overcome and maintain sobriety with an addiction to pornography would be nonexistent.
How Do I Know If I Have an Addiction to Pornography or Other Sexual Behaviors?
For most of us it’s difficult to admit we have an addiction. Our natural tendency is to push off the obvious signs and evidence that occur with compulsive behaviors. Often times, someone that develops an addiction to pornography or other sexual behaviors suffer with the unfortunate loss of loved ones, falls into financial woes, and then unintentionally develops uncharacteristic mood swings that eventually severs them from their normal activities.
If you feel that you have an addiction to pornography or other sexual behaviors, these are some signs to watch for:
- Severe mood changes related to pornography or sexual behaviors
- Unmanageable sexual patterns or behaviors
- Neglect of family, work, and other regular activities
- Obsessive behaviors
- Inability to stop compulsive behaviors resulting in negative consequences
- Becoming self-destructive or high-risk
- The need to have more sexual experiences
- Reoccurring failure to resist impulses related to addictive behaviors
If you relate to three or more behaviors listed in the above criteria, it is important to seek treatment. Pornography and sexual behaviors can be clearly defined as psychological or emotional addiction. Dependencies for these compulsive behaviors grow uncontrollable and quickly become detrimental to an individual’s life.
Getting to the root of sexual and porn addiction comes from years of study from Dr. Patrick Carnes, a pioneer in sexual addiction research and the treatment for it. He explains that an addiction to pornography contains four core beliefs. These are the results of most sexual addicts:
- I am basically a bad, unworthy person.
- No one would love me as I am.
- My needs are never going to be met if I have to depend on others.
- Sex is my most important need.
Dr. Carnes further explains that most addictions to sex or pornography start in childhood due to the lack of human care. Sexual addiction becomes confused with basic comforting and nurturing development and the subject will continue engaging in this negative behavior until it has grown into an addiction. As a result, they soon learn to depend on these feelings and develop compulsive sexual behaviors, acting on sexual impulses without regard to the consequences they create.
As more time passes, the person may develop other forms of sexual addiction. Some of those lead to substance abuse, dominance, control, or the abuse of a partner. Sexual activities can vary in a wide range‒ from very limited sexual activity all the way to a collection of sexual paraphernalia and encounters that includes high levels of fantasy.
Shame and secrecy most often accompanies the sex addict. These addictions cannot foster healthy relationships and have negative consequences. The ability to enjoy sex becomes impossible as the typical addict appears to have no control over these impulses. A sexual appetite grows exponentially until they will let nothing stand in the way of their sexual needs being fulfilled.
Like any compulsive behavior left untreated, it will continue to grow out of control. For those who feel like they have imprisoned their emotional power towards sexual behaviors, finding treatment to renew inner-beliefs and strengthen one’s ability to address the problem is just one step away.