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Why Doesn’t the Shame I Feel About My Porn Habit Help Me Stop Watching It?

“I hated what I was doing and was guilt-ridden most of the time. I lost confidence because I was sure someone would find and expose my secret. I lived in shame and embarrassment.”

By November 16, 2021No Comments
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Many people contact Fight the New Drug to share their personal stories about how porn has affected their life or the life of a loved one. We consider these personal accounts very valuable because, while the science and research is powerful within its own right, personal accounts from real people seem to really hit home about the damage that pornography does to real lives.

This guy's real story shows how shame, isolation, and self-hatred can fuel a struggle with porn and worsen an already toxic habit.

Trigger warning: The following post contains descriptions of an eating disorder that may be triggering to some.

Dear FTND,

My first exposure to pornography was when I was seven years old.

My family was on our first (and last) vacation in Las Vegas. I remember men standing along the sidewalk holding stacks of cards. These were porn cards; card-sized images of women that left very little to the imagination.

When I looked down, they were all over the ground, they were taped to the chain-link fence on the left, and stapled to the poles. As a child, I felt like they were falling out of the sky, simply appearing out of thin air and placing themselves so they couldn’t be avoided.

After going home, I became curious. I wanted to see more, and of course, it became a habit.

Related: It’s True That “Porn Kills Love,” And So Does Shame

It was difficult at first, as I was young enough that I wasn’t left alone all that often, so when I had the chance, I would take pictures of the computer images with my digital camera.

This carried on for years until I was finally caught by my father.

We talked about it and he blocked the websites that I frequented. However, as I got older and technology advanced, my issue became a more prevalent problem.

Bark

Telling the truth, but still struggling

A few years later, when I was in my mid-teen years, I built up the courage to tell my dad that I was still struggling with porn. Since he really couldn’t block every website, accountability became the way to deal with it. A few years later in my late teens, I was able to open up to my older brother and we have continued to be accountable to each other.

However, going back a bit; having a porn obsession in your life for more than a decade is challenging enough, especially when it is during puberty.

I began to resent myself for this thing I couldn’t get over, and I was told by peers and society that it was a “natural part of growing from a boy to a man.” I hated what I was doing and was guilt-ridden most of the time.

I lost confidence because I was sure someone would find and expose my secret. I lived in shame and embarrassment.

Having my body change at the same time made it extra difficult. I started putting on weight, like most pubescent boys, however, I never had a growth spurt like other boys, and my weight never left.

RelatedWhy You Should Stop Feeling Like A Bad Person For Watching Porn

I remember where I was standing during recess in sixth grade, I was 11 years old and around 4’9’’. I had weighed myself the night before and had just hit 120 lbs. I told my friend (who I honestly thought looked pretty chubby) how much I weighed and he said he weighed the same.

In that moment I thought, “Oh my gosh, I must be fat.” I was an extremely skinny child and this hit me like a brick wall. And it didn’t get any better.

Store - General

Throughout my teen years, I grew steadily but never had a growth spurt and was consistently putting on weight. I already hated myself for my porn habits, and I started hating my body, too. I didn’t look like the guys in these videos, which (to me) obviously meant I wasn’t attractive.

I couldn’t stand how I started looking at women, so I dabbled in gay porn as well, which then became a common search for me. I thought so little of guys, I didn’t see them as lovable people, but as sex-crazed animals.

RelatedTrue Story: Shame Kept Me From Quitting Porn

Disordered eating, disordered view of myself

I was so embarrassed to be male. Movies and TV shows portrayed boyfriends and husbands as having an insatiable sex drive and their girlfriends/wives constantly having to fight them off.

I wanted to be a man, a good man, not a stereotypical male. I started to channel my feminine side more because I felt more mature and I hated the title of “teen boy.”

I was (and still am) so hypersensitive to being seen as having too much of a sexual appetite.

I’ve become terrified of being in a relationship because I’m truly convinced myself that I’d make a terrible boyfriend/husband. My lack of much confidence has placed me in unhealthy friendships, and I’m terrified that will continue on to my romantic relationships.

I spent my first year of college hating myself, and not just the porn obsession, but all of me. I figured that if I could deprive myself of necessities, then I could begin to control my sexual urges.

Get The Facts

So, I stopped eating. I ate as little as I could, once going five days without eating anything. I attempted to make myself throw up when I felt I ate too much. The first meal I successfully threw up, was rice cakes with peanut butter and Nutella, I was so proud of myself when I finally managed to throw up; I honestly can’t think of another time when I was that proud of myself.

When my friends wanted me to eat with them, I spent the following hours trying to throw up as much as I could in the dorm showers so that the rushing water would mask the gagging sounds. This routine made me think I was the only guy who had this problem. I started to feel like I had a “woman” problem, and I couldn’t find any guys to reach out to, so I stayed quiet.

RelatedHow Shame Made My Struggle With Porn Worse, Not Better

I hope it gets better

This silence and shame allowed my porn struggle to convince me that I wasn’t a man.

That my self-hatred was a worse problem than my addiction. I started to feel secluded from men and extremely uncomfortable about my masculinity. Once, someone close to me asked how much I weighed and I didn’t answer. He then turned to my dad and said, “Wow, what kind of man are you raising?”

Everyone has said that now is the prime time of my life, to go enjoy people and date and discover relationships, but I always respond with, “I have too much stuff that I need to figure out first.”

I am 19 years old and I hesitate to call myself a man, because I honestly don’t feel like I deserve that title. I’ve been hooked to porn since I was seven, and have hated my body since I was 11. It’s a daily struggle, one that sits there and thrives on my boredom and solitude.

Related: 3 Ways Facing Shame Can Take Away Its Power & Help You Quit Porn

I don’t want now to be the prime of my life, because I’m still struggling daily with unhealthy thoughts and addictions. I want to win this battle because I’m done being exhausted and defeated.

I’m ready to cast this agonizing struggle aside and live my life to the fullest.

– T.

BHW - General

Far from alone

This Fighter’s story is heartbreaking, but is far from unique.

Studies have found that when people engage in an ongoing pattern of “self-concealment,” which is when they do things they’re not proud of and keep them a secret, it can not only hurt their relationships and leave them feeling lonely, but can also make them more vulnerable to mental health issues.Laird, R. D., Marrero, M. D., Melching, J. A., and Kuhn, E. S. (2013). Information Management Strategies in Early Adolescence: Developmental Change in Use and Transactional Associations with Psychological Adjustment. Developmental Psychology, 49(5), 928–937. doi:10.1037/a0028845COPY Luoma, J. B., et. al. (2013). Self-Stigma in Substance Abuse: Development of a New Measure. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 35, 223–234. doi:10.1007/s10862-012-9323-4COPY Rotenberg, K. J., Bharathi, C., Davies, H., and Finch, T. (2013). Bulimic Symptoms and the Social Withdrawal Syndrome. Eating Behaviors, 14, 281–284. doi:10.1016/j.eatbeh.2013.05.003COPY 

In fact, a number of peer-reviewed studies have found a link between pornography consumption and mental health outcomes like depression,Harper, C., & Hodgins, D. C. (2016). Examining Correlates of Problematic Internet Pornography Use Among University Students. Journal of behavioral addictions, 5(2), 179–191. https://doi.org/10.1556/2006.5.2016.022COPY  anxiety,Wordecha, M., Wilk, M., Kowalewska, E., Skorko, M., Łapiński, A., & Gola, M. (2018). 'Pornographic binges' as a key characteristic of males seeking treatment for compulsive sexual behaviors: Qualitative and quantitative 10-week-long diary assessment. Journal of behavioral addictions, 7(2), 433–444. https://doi.org/10.1556/2006.7.2018.33COPY  loneliness,Butler, M. H., Pereyra, S. A., Draper, T. W., Leonhardt, N. D., & Skinner, K. B. (2018). Pornography Use and Loneliness: A Bidirectional Recursive Model and Pilot Investigation. Journal of sex & marital therapy, 44(2), 127–137. https://doi.org/10.1080/0092623X.2017.1321601COPY  lower life satisfaction,Willoughby, B. J., Young-Petersen, B., & Leonhardt, N. D. (2018). Exploring trajectories of pornography use through adolescence and emerging adulthood.55(3), 297-309. doi:10.1080/00224499.2017.1368977COPY  and poorer self-esteem and overall mental health.Koletić G. (2017). Longitudinal associations between the use of sexually explicit material and adolescents' attitudes and behaviors: A narrative review of studies. Journal of adolescence, 57, 119–133. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2017.04.006COPY  These studies have found that these links are particularly strong when pornography is consumed to try to escape negative emotions, and also when pornography consumption becomes heavy and compulsive.Levin, M. E., Lillis, J., & Hayes, S. C. (2012). When is online pornography viewing problematic among college males? Examining the moderating role of experiential avoidance.19(3), 168-180. doi:10.1080/10720162.2012.657150COPY 

Related: This Study Shows Feeling Shame Fuels Hypersexual Behavior While Feeling Guilt Fuels Change

And in yet another study, researchers at Columbia University, Yale University, and UCLA, found a link between compulsive pornography consumption and poorer mental health, low self-esteem, and poor attachment in relationships. The authors concluded,

“In this paper, we propose that pornography use has the potential to become addictive and might be conceptualized as a behavioral addiction… individuals who scored higher on the Problematic Pornography Use Scale reported poorer mental health and self-esteem, and more insecure close relationships than those who scored lower, illustrating the negative emotional correlates of problematic pornography use.”Kor, A., Zilcha-Mano, S., Fogel, Y. A., Mikulincer, M., Reid, R. C., & Potenza, M. N. (2014). Psychometric development of the Problematic Pornography Use Scale. Addictive behaviors, 39(5), 861–868. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2014.01.027COPY 

While research shows that consuming porn can fuel the cycle of loneliness, research also shows that it is possible to overcome a porn habit and its negative effects.Young K. S. (2013). Treatment outcomes using CBT-IA with Internet-addicted patients. Journal of behavioral addictions, 2(4), 209–215. https://doi.org/10.1556/JBA.2.2013.4.3COPY Nathanson, A. (2021). Psychotherapy with young people addicted to internet pornography. Psychoanal.Study Child, 74(1), 160-173. doi:10.1080/00797308.2020.1859286COPY  According to one study of individuals trying to quit porn, researchers found that shame actually predicted increased pornography consumption while guilt predicted sustainable change.Gilliland, R., South, M., Carpenter, B. N., & Hardy, S. A. (2011). The roles of shame and guilt in hypersexual behavior. 18(1), 12-29. doi:10.1080/10720162.2011.551182COPY 

So if you’re trying to give up porn, be kind to yourself and be patient with your progress. Like anything, it takes time for the brain to recover, but daily efforts make a big difference in the long run.

Fortify

Need help?

For those reading this who feel they are struggling with pornography, you are not alone. Check out Fortify, a science-based recovery platform dedicated to helping you find lasting freedom from pornography. Fortify now offers a free experience for both teens and adults. Connect with others, learn about your unwanted porn habit, and track your recovery journey. There is hope—sign up today.

Fortify

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