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  • Writer's pictureGreg Miller

When Does Porn Use Become an Addiction?

As an addiction counselor, I’ve worked with sex addictions for over 20 years. One of the most common forms of sex addiction is porn addiction, and most experts believe that during and since the pandemic the frequency of this addiction has increased. But when does the use of porn, which is extremely common among men in this country, cross the line into addiction?



Man watching porn on laptop computer


The idea of sex addiction didn’t start being discussed until the 1970s, initially by members of Alcoholics Anonymous who noticed that their sexual behavior was out of control in much the same way their drinking was. I first learned about sexual addiction in graduate school in the late 90s when I read Patrick Carnes book Out of the Shadows, the first book ever written on sex addiction. Since then, there’s been a lot of research and writing done on the subject. Most experts believe anywhere between 3% and 6% of adults in the United States suffer from sex addictions of various kinds. In my practice, sex addiction very often takes the form of an addiction to porn.


Sex addiction is not considered an official mental health diagnosis… at least not yet. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association, the guide professionals use for diagnosing mental health conditions, does not include sexual addiction. But most of us in the field expect that future editions of the DSM, which is updated every 5-7 years, will include this diagnosis. The next DSM revision is expected no earlier than 2028.


What at the symptoms of porn addiction?


Sex addiction counselors and other mental health professionals use similar criteria to diagnose porn addiction as are used to diagnose substance addictions. Though not always the case, people with porn addictions usually will experience some or all of the following: repeated failed attempts to stop or reduce the frequency of porn use; over time the porn use is more frequent or more intense; more and more time spent thinking about porn or using porn; and the porn use creates problems in one or more area of their lives – financial problems, legal problems, relationship problems, or problems at work.



Couple hugging after porn addiction recovery

Along with the above, some of the things I frequently hear from my clients with porn addictions are: they lie to their wives or girlfriends about using porn; they are unable to masturbate without using porn; their porn use impacts their ability to be attracted to their real-life partners; porn impacts the type of sex they want to have with their partners; they find it difficult to be present during intimacy with their partners and may have to think about porn during sex in order to orgasm; and they find themselves objectifying women in the real world.


And almost always, if someone is asking themselves if they may be a porn addict, there’s a high likelihood that they are.


How the Pandemic Impacted Porn Addictions


In the last few years, I’ve been talking with more and more clients whose porn use crossed the line into addiction during and since the pandemic. The isolation and disconnection caused by working from home clearly led to some men developing porn addictions. Many of my clients are still struggling despite returning to the office.



COVID 19 mask



How to get help for a porn addiction?


The first step is to discuss this with a qualified professional, who can help you determine if this is, in fact, a porn addiction and what sort of help you or your loved one need. As with all addictions, the range of treatment options includes 12-Step meetings (like Sex Addicts Anonymous), therapy, and even residential treatment (“rehab”). For those who’ve never gotten any help for their porn addiction, often talking to a qualified therapist can be extremely helpful.


For more information, visit my Sex Addiction Counseling page.

Feel free to contact me with any questions.

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