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Why You Keep Going Back to Porn After Promising to Quit

Instead of just fighting off porn, do whatever you can to fill your mind, heart, and life with all the good stuff—the stuff that makes your life truly worthwhile.

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This guest piece was written by Dr. Jacob Hess, the Research Director at JoinFortify.com, a porn addiction recovery platform and affiliate of Fight the New Drug. 5-minute read.

“I want to break free from this, so why do I keep going back to it?”

By Jacob Hess, Ph.D.

Imagine getting a knock on the door. When you open it, a beautiful stranger stands there—with an offer to remove their clothes right in front of you.

“What are you talking about?! I’m sorry…no thanks. I’m in a relationship—and that’s not something I feel right about. Please leave,” you might say in response.

The door closes, and you take a deep breath. An hour passes, and another stranger—different, but equally beautiful—makes the same knock, and the same offer but this time, inviting you to witness them having sex with someone else.

Related: How You Can Confront Setbacks While Quitting Porn

Over and over, day after day, the knocks continue—no matter how many times you say no. The invitations to witness an endless “sea of sex” right before you continue. All-access. Anytime.

Would that be difficult to face for most people? You bet it would, but especially for someone who is trying to break free from a compulsion to porn.

Just ask anyone living in the world today—because this is a lot like what they are facing. This thought experiment also invites more empathy for what men and women—young and old—are trying to break free from right now.

And hopefully, they’re quitting porn to turn toward something better. But should we really be confused why some people struggle to break free from porn?

“Why do I keep going back, when I know better?”

Dr. Mark Chamberlain has arguably worked with more people grappling with serious pornography addiction than virtually anyone alive.

In a recent interview, Mark helped explain why people keep getting dragged back into it, despite their better inclinations—centered in this powerful message pornography sends our bodies—quite independent of whatever someone believe in their heads.

Even when someone know all sorts of reasons they’d like to stay away, pornography registers a potent and visceral message at the level of their brain and body, namely this: “I see you…I want you…you’re lovable—in fact, I trust you so much I’ll be naked with you.

Related: How You Can Quit Watching Porn Today

All these messages, Mark explains, are potent physiologically— “To have another human being love us, want us, trust us, approve of us, just be delighted in us, that’s wired into our systems to help us connect with other human beings.”

So even if someone knows these messages are fake and counterfeit on a real level, “our brain doesn’t know it” he emphasized, and “the [urges] in our body don’t know it.”

That’s why the constant invitation of pornography can feel like a legitimate lift, distraction and relief from the pressures of real life around you. Simply put, the brain consuming porn can’t necessarily tell the difference between the alluring fantasy before it and an invitation from a real person.

So what does this all mean?

There are emotional reasons people keep going back to porn—reasons that are not crazy or deranged, reasons that don’t make them a “bad person.”

We all need connection. We all need to belong and feel loved. And a porn consumer’s body and brain have been tricked into believing porn is going to give them all that.

But the toughest part is that it doesn’t. It quite literally can’t—not even close.

Fast Facts

In fact, the more someone answers that knock—and welcomes porn into their home—the less connection and love they can end up feeling (even when others are trying to find it with them!).

That’s one big explanation for the significant mental health and psychological costs of pornography.

In fact, as documented on Gary Wilson’s Your Brain on Pornography, over 85 studies link porn use to poorer mental-emotional health & poorer cognitive outcomes—with another 80 studies linking porn use to less sexual and relationship satisfaction.

Don’t just take my word for it, just check out the studies for yourself and, if you struggle with porn, weigh them against your own experiences.

Related: Tips for Opening Up to a Loved One About Your Struggle with Porn

You won’t always miss porn

The good news, though, is that the influence runs both ways. If porn, in fact, corrodes someone’s mental health and relationship quality—growing freedom from pornography corresponds with boosts to all the above.

That’s why it feels so good to get some distance from this stuff.

Instead of just fighting off the challenging stuff, do whatever you can to fill your mind, heart, and life with all the good stuff, the stuff that makes your life worthwhile and feeds your mental, emotional, and physical health.

Related: 6 Things that Motivate People to Stop Watching Porn

Pretty soon, porn will become like that ex-lover—a nuisance you have to stay away from for your own mental health. And because life without porn is just so much better.

Then, when the next knock comes at the door—you’ll know what to say, and how to keep that door closed so you can stay ready for something way better.

Fortify

About the Author

Jacob Hess, Ph.D., is the director of research at Fortify and Impact Suite —with a focus on key differences between short-term and long-term healing for depression, anxiety, and addiction. He has taught teens and adults Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction for a number of years, and is the lead author for “The Power of Stillness.” He has published 14 peer-reviewed studies and several books. Jacob is a former board member of the National Coalition of Dialogue & Deliberation and a founding member of the Council for Sustainable Healing. He and his wife are raising four rambunctious boys and a baby girl alongside goats, chickens, ducks, and cats.

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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