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What Past Issues Are You Trying to Escape From When You Watch Porn?

If you’re suffering with compulsive porn use, it’s potentially a sign something isn’t right in the environment around you—or in your past.

This guest piece was written by Holley Jeppson, a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor, and Clinical Director and Director of Coaching for Fortify. 5-minute read.

What Are You Soothing or Distracting Yourself From?

By Holley Jeppson, LMHC

In 1985, a 28-year-old woman in an obesity program lost 276 pounds within a year, down from her starting weight of 408 pounds.

After maintaining that for a few weeks, however, she proceeded to gain all the weight back in a short amount of time.

After interviewing this woman, Dr. Vincent Felliti discovered she had been sexually abused by a grandfather over a long period as a child. This same researcher kept seeing severe trauma in the background of other people who relapsed as well.

Related: Want to Quit Porn? Focus on It Less, Experts Say

Was it possible that early abuse like this could predispose health problems and addiction many years later?

You bet it can—including with unwanted pornography struggles.

Trauma backgrounds feed into addiction

A landmark 2001 study of 17,000 people found high rates of early trauma and “adverse experiences” in their lives—defined as physical, emotional or sexual abuse, physical or emotional neglect, exposure to domestic violence, parental mental illness or substance abuse, and parental separation, divorce or incarceration.

For instance, 1 out of 4 people reported growing up with alcoholic parents or being physically abused, with 1 in 5 reporting sexual abuse of some kind.

The bigger surprise, however, came as these researchers discovered how much these early traumas rippled out “powerfully and proportionately” in later outcomes. For instance, compared to those without early adverse experiences, those with four traumatic experiences early-on had a 700% increase in alcoholism, and a doubling of risk of being diagnosed with cancer.

Related: Watching Porn May Be Negatively Impacting Your Mental Health

And those who had six traumatic events as a child were 4,600% more likely to abuse drugs, and approximately 4,000% more likely to die by suicide—with rates of serious mental illness also showing a direct relationship to early trauma.

Think of it: when a study comes out claiming that something we eat raises the risk of serious illness by even 40%, there’s a public outcry. How about 4,000%?

Why people struggle with porn

It couldn’t be more painfully clear how much early trauma sets people up for later problems—and that includes struggles with pornography.

Although much of the research on pornography has focused on the rippling effects that come from such a habit—there are other rippling influences that lead up to it. And other studies have confirmed a higher incidence of early trauma in the lives of people who struggle with pornography.

Related: The Evolution of Porn: Who Invented Porn as We Know It Today?

This is only one possible contributor to pornography struggles, but it’s a serious one—and one we shouldn’t ignore. So as Eleanor Longden once suggested, rather than fixating on “What’s wrong with you?” we ought to more frequently ask, “What’s happened to you?”

Given what we know about the profound impact of trauma, it’s surprising how little we ask people facing physical or mental conditions, “What’s been happening in your life? Is there any other reason you might be in so much pain right now? Is there any way you’ve been hurt now or in the past—that we can help you with?”

Thankfully, that’s starting to change. As Dr. Toby Watson put it, “We’re starting to come back to recognizing that when people suffer, it’s a sign that something is not right in our environment…there’s been some sort of injury to their humanity.”

Maybe that’s true for you, too. Maybe, if you’re suffering with compulsive pornography use, it’s potentially a sign something isn’t right in the environment around you—or in your past.

Related: How You Can Take the First Step to Finding Lasting Freedom from Porn

This goes beyond childhood trauma alone to all sorts of relationship heartache and difficult loss that can happen as adults too. For instance, one in three couples have engaged in physical violence, many parents have lost children, and many soldiers face traumatic memories from war.

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Show yourself compassion

If there’s a hurt from earlier in your life that is still hurting, then show yourself the same compassion you would show someone else.

Could this be another reason you are turning to something online to soothe and distract and run interference?

Related: Porn Consumers Tend to Have Diminished Quality of Life

If so, that’s good news. Because there are lots of other—better—ways to soothe and heal that pain. And as long as you’re open to doing the work to learn about those ways and bring them into your life—you can start to get at another one of the roots of your compulsive habits.

Start today by reaching out to someone you trust, and talking with them about what you’ve been through. Trust me, it will help!

About the Author

Holley Jeppson is a Clinical Mental Health Counselor and has worked supporting people facing depression, addiction, and betrayal trauma for 25+ years. Holley has worked on several teams developing online science-based coaching, education, and training programs used worldwide to help individuals overcome mental health and behavioral challenges. She is currently the Clinical Director and Director of Coaching for Fortify and Impact Suite Holley’s passion is people—especially watching people grow and overcome challenges.

Fight the New Drug collaborates with a variety of qualified organizations and individuals with varying personal beliefs, affiliations, and political persuasions. As FTND is a non-religious and non-legislative organization, the personal beliefs, affiliations, and persuasions of any of our team members or of those we collaborate with do not reflect or impact the mission of Fight the New Drug.

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