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How do I know if my porn usage is a problem?

Using Porn

For many men and women, online porn is a tool for a ‘sexual release’ when a partner is not present, an opportunity to self pleasure with variety and visually stimulating entertainment or simply to indulge in personal sexual interests, and of course some integrate it into their relationship, watching it with their partner. However for an increasing number of people porn has become an addiction or a barrier for them.

When I talk to people in their teens and twenties I hear a similar story – ‘I first watched porn when I was around 12’, ‘Everyone watches it’, ‘We share it with friends’.
Interestingly when I talk to a young group of guys or girls about porn, they are engaged, this topic of porn and porn related problems is fascinating for them because they can relate to it.

It is important to remember that many people use porn in their lives for sexual pleasure and do not deem their usage of it as unhealthy nor do they feel it negatively affects themselves or their relationships. As a Sex and Relationship Therapist I work with those where it does become an issue and feel it is important for people to be able identify that there may be a problem.

 

Porn Addiction

When someone has a sexual desire or urgency they may use porn as a source of stimulation to release this. Once they have reached orgasm they may feel the need has been met and are able to carry on with other things. In the case of a porn addiction or problem they may not feel a sexual desire nor feel aroused before looking at the porn. They may look at the porn in order to get aroused and may masturbate or look at porn for long periods of time, sometimes for hours on end. They may look forward to looking at porn when they get home from work in the same way another person may look forward to meeting a friend. They may look at porn on their phone, at work, or spend a lot of time thinking about or craving it. For many, a sense of having a problem may come from a feeling of shame, feeling out of control or finding it is posing a difficulty in a relationship.

 

More Extreme Porn

It is common for those with a porn addiction to look for a wider variety or more extreme material over time. Dopamine receptors are believed to be desensitized, resulting in the need for increasingly stimulating material to achieve the feeling of pleasure/reward.

Many users find themselves venturing into sites or looking at material they may previously have had no interest in, they may develop fetishes or new sexual interests, some of which may be a source of shame, make them question themselves and their sexuality or cause difficulties in relationships. There are some dark sites out there, some manipulate and draw the user in, some render them into submission. Some may desire more immersive experiences such as interactive or virtual reality.

 

Porn Related Erectile Dysfunction

It is difficult to recreate the variety or extremity seen readily in porn within a relationship. For those who heavily use it or find themselves addicted, they may find it very difficult to find real life situations stimulating enough. Both men and women may be unable to maintain arousal. Men may feel they are unable to maintain an erection or that are only able to achieve orgasm in certain positions or only by masturbation alone with a ‘death grip’.

 

Self Image & Physical Attraction

Many men and women and particularly younger adults compare themselves to those that are in the porn. They have an adjusted image of what is attractive both in themselves and others and comparing genitals and body shape is common. It can be the case that the user does not feel sexually attracted to those with differing appearances.

 

Relationship Difficulties

Porn can present a number of problems in a relationship. People have different ideas on what is acceptable and while some feel very betrayed to discover a partner’s porn use, or indeed the nature of the porn that is accessed, others feel it is a perfectly fine. Inevitably where there are secrets or shame it is worth asking why, as this alone may be an indicator that you or your relationship is being affected by porn use.

 

What Can I Do As A Parent?

Be aware, understand that in this digital age everyone can easily access porn and adolescents have an increased curiosity about it as they hear about it from others, while high levels of hormone may drive interest and desire. Rather than deny, educate. Talk about it. When I talk to young adults they tell me it is ‘normal’ to look at porn. Understanding it happens and understanding when it is developing into a problem is key to supporting your children in this area. It is also important for parents of younger children to understand this and that in many cases of porn addiction I have found there has been also a history of gaming. Whilst these two may not always go hand in hand, it must be considered that the high levels of visual stimulation is present in both and some may feel from a younger age that their child spends hours on a computer, this is an area to be aware of.

 

What If This Is Ringing True For Me?

If you feel in reading this, you may have an addiction or that porn is affecting you, your relationship or life in some way, rest assured that you can overcome this. Seek help from sex therapists, sex addiction specialists or ask your GP to refer you. There is also a wide variety of help and resources online.