The inability to have a normal sexual relationship. Needing more and more stimulation in order to feel pleasure. Withdrawal symptoms. Feeling trapped in one’s own body.
In the past, we’ve mentioned all of these as negative side effects of porn addiction. What we haven’t really talked about often is that these are also symptoms of sex addiction. While the term “sex addiction” is still being debated in the scientific community, there is no doubt that sexually compulsive behavior is very real. Frequent porn watching is one of many behaviors that fall into this category.
A new video visually depicts real confessions from the popular Whisper app, which allows users to anonymously post their secrets to the public. The video vocalizes the confessions of people truly struggling with their sexually compulsive behaviors, including one porn addict. They all express the inability to control their behavior and the majority talk about how it is directly impacting their romantic relationships.
Sex addiction, though debated, has been studied frequently. In a 1997 study, 53 self-identified sex addicts were interviewed. 98% reported three or more withdrawal symptoms, 94% had made unsuccessful attempts to control or reduce addictive sexual behaviors, and 92% reported that they engaged in longer or greater amounts of sexual behavior than they intended.[i]
In his 2009 summary paper of research on sexual addiction up to that point, Martin P. Kafka, MD, a member of the DSM-V Workgroup on Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders, found hypersexual disorder, which he says can lead to addiction, to be “a sexual desire disorder characterized by an increased frequency and intensity of sexually motivated fantasies, arousal, urges, and enacted behavior in association with an impulsivity component.”[ii] His summary of the available peer-reviewed research showed sex addicts to experience the same symptoms as other addicts.
Related: How Porn Twisted My Sexuality
In 2012, researchers at UCLA developed criteria for determining sexual addiction, which included a recurring pattern of sexual fantasies, urges and behaviors lasting a period of six months or longer that are not caused by other issues, such as substance abuse, another medical condition or manic episodes associated with bipolar disorder. Individuals who might be diagnosed with this disorder must also display a pattern of sexual activity in response to difficult mood states, such as feeling depressed, or a pattern of repeatedly using sex in order to deal with stress. Evidence of personal stress caused by the sexual behaviors that interferes with work, relationships, or other parts of life must be present as well, in keeping with the criteria for other addictions. The researchers tested and interviewed 207 patients in mental health clinics around the U.S., who were there to get help with out of control sexual behavior, drug addiction, or another mental health condition. The criteria correctly distinguished between those struggling with sexual behavior and those with other mental problems. The study also found that those who fit into the criteria for sexual addiction suffered greater consequences for their sexual activities.[iii]
Lastly, in a 2014 study conducted by Dr. Valerie Voon from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge, researchers found that when shown pornography, the brain activity of patients affected by compulsive sexual behavior mirrored that of drug addicts.[iv]
What these studies and many others show is that what the people in the video above are experiencing is real. Sex addiction, like porn addiction, is caused by changes in the brain and causes the person to become dependent on a behavior that turns harmful to themselves and to their relationships. While many assume that needing to have sex all the time sounds like a pleasurable problem to have, those who deeply struggle with it are showing what it’s really like.
“I’ve lied, stolen, and taken advantage of everything to get laid. I’m a sex addict and it’s ruining my life.”
“My sexual addiction has changed me as a person.”
“Most people feel like it’s not a big deal or a real condition. If only people could understand the hell it causes in my life.”
A number of programs have been developed for those dealing with sex addiction. One such program is Sex Addicts Anonymous, better known as SA, which seeks to help addicts find recovery through a twelve-step program at meetings throughout the country. There are even full treatment facilities for people who struggle with sexually compulsive behaviors and addiction, like Desert Solace in the red rock mountains of southern Utah and Recovery Ranch in Tennessee. All of these resources show that real people are struggling and need help. Sexually compulsive behavior, including viewing pornography, is a real condition and those suffering in silence because of shame or social stigma need to be supported.
People struggling with porn who sign up for Fortify—our interactive online recovery program—are witnessing huge success. We’ve spent countless hours developing the best tools to help teens (and adults) break free from the chains of pornography and we currently have over 60,000 users taking this step toward freedom.
Head over to fortifyprogram.org and sign up and then download the Fortify app for free. Creating an account is free for anyone under 21 years old and is a very inexpensive fee for adults.
What YOU Can Do
Show support for those struggling with sexually compulsive behaviors. SHARE this article to raise awareness on these harmful effects of porn and other behaviors.
[i] Wines, D. (1997). Exploring the applicability of criteria for substance dependence to sexual addiction. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 4, 195–220.
[ii] Kafka, Martin P (2009). Hypersexual Disorder: A Proposed Diagnosis for DSM-V. Arch Sex Behavior 39, 377-400.
[iii] Kor A., Fogel Y. A., Reid R. C., Potenza M. N. (2013). Should hypersexual disorder be classified as an addiction? Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 20(1–2), 27–47.
[iv] Voon V, Mole TB, Banca P, Porter L, Morris L, Mitchell S, et al. (2014) Neural Correlates of Sexual Cue Reactivity in Individuals with and without Compulsive Sexual Behaviours. PLoS ONE 9(7): e102419. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0102419