Am I Addicted to Porn?

Am I Addicted to Porn?
Photo Credit: GigabiTz / iStockphoto.com
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The question, “Am I addicted to porn?” may seem simple and straightforward after a superficial glance, but it goes much deeper than the fleeting, outside glimpse.

There are a few problems with this question. Firstly, the subject is open to a number of differing opinions and perspectives based on the beliefs of the observer. Beyond the subject matter is the second problem: the use of the word “addicted.” This word carries a powerful connotation. One that is often misunderstood and misconstrued.

To answer a difficult question, we have to break down the components to inspect them separately. Once a better understanding of the facets is achieved, you have an improved ability to answer the question for yourself.

What is Pornography?

Let’s begin by answering this question with a question. What is pornography? This question needs to be considered because you will be hard pressed to find one definition that results in a consensus.

There are multiple factors influencing this view including legal issues, morality connected and apart from religious views, and ethical principles. Even dictionary definitions of pornography are vague and limited.

They usually read something like: “Pornography is material that depicts or describes nudity, sexual behavior, or the act of intercourse with intentions of promoting sexual excitement from the audience.”

This definition is so broad it could be applied to a primetime network television program as easily as it would be applied to an adult video that shows graphic sex. This means that it is your task to arrive at a definition that makes sense to you and the people in your life.

Considering the points of view of those around you is essential, since conflict is prone to arise if you have one definition of pornography while your wife, mother, or children have another. Maybe you only consider explicit videos to be pornography, but they consider late-night movies on cable TV to be pornography. Maybe you consider steamy written material to be pornography while she thinks pornography has to be visual.

When building your definition, you can benefit from thinking about why you believe the acceptable things to be acceptable and the unacceptable things to be unacceptable. Are you making excuses for yourself? Are you making situations more difficult for others? By understanding your motivations, you arrive in a place better able to make appropriate choices.

What is Addiction?

With your improved understanding of what pornography means to you and the important people in your life, you can divert attention towards learning more about addiction to understand its power and influence. Addiction can be characterized as an overwhelming urge to engage in a behavior that is known to be problematic or dangerous.

To determine if you have a pornography addiction, or any addiction, answer the following questions:

  • Have I made efforts to stop this set of behaviors only to return to old patterns or habits? People with addictions often make good attempts to modify or eliminate this behavior, and can have good success for some amount of time before restarting. Usually, the return of the behavior is explained away with some type of rationalization as to why this behavior is now acceptable.
  • How many hours, minutes, and seconds do you spend thinking about the addiction? If something is consuming the thoughts of your day while you let other, more important, issues left unresolved, you could be addicted to it. Along with the duration of time spent thinking about it, consider the intensity and frequency with which you think about it.
  • How do I feel after completing the act? People with addictions may obsess about the behavior idealizing the results or the positive feelings it will bring, but the actual feelings after the behavior may differ. Routinely, people will feel guilty, shameful, or embarrassed of their addictive behaviors. Surprisingly, these feelings help perpetuate the addiction since the addictive behaviors will be seen as a way to end the unwanted feelings.
  • How has the behavior impacted your life? Some people may be addicted to sugar, to chocolate, or even addicted to exercise, but how have these addictions really changed your life? Maybe the food addictions led to a few unwanted pounds. Maybe the exercise addiction has led to some stinky clothes, but these consequences are mild, relatively. Being addicted to crystal meth can lead to terrible changes to your mental and physical health. If the behavior has resulted in conflict in your relationships, problems at work, or financial strain, indicators point towards it being an addiction.
  • What measures do you take to cover your addiction? If you have not faced negative repercussions of your behavior, is it because you are good at hiding it? Are you sneaking around? Are you lying, omitting information, or avoiding your loved ones because of this situation? People usually do not broadcast their addictive behaviors to a wide audience due to fears of judgment and criticism, but if you are actively hiding the information for fear of how others will react, you may have an addiction. Just because you don’t get caught doesn’t mean it’s not a problem.
  • Is the behavior illegal? This one is actually quite easy. If you are routinely engaging in a behavior or series of behaviors that has or could land you in trouble with the law, it is most likely an addiction. Again, this might be a situation where someone attempts to explain or validate their actions, but if it is illegal, it is a bad idea.

Another factor to keep in mind is that if you are asking yourself the question, “Am I addicted to pornography?” there is a fair chance that you are having some issues with it. Seeking treatment early, before a full addiction has formed, will aid in your ability to manage it.

So, you know what your definition of pornography is, and you know what makes something an addiction. When you put the pieces together, what do you see? Is it a “yes,” or is it a “no?”