Updated: Jul 29, 2019
This article may not be suitable for everyone, especially children. It may make you squeamish. It may seem dark and seedy. The negative connotations run wild at the mere thought of the words, “pornography” and “addiction.”
But let’s face it—pornography addiction is a massive problem amongst men, particularly married men. You would think material would be abundant on the subject. You would think there would be more people talking about it.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Pornography is a massive problem in the United States, yet it’s something no one wants to talk about. I want to help change that, to help kick off a dialogue centered around understanding the problem better as well as look at some ways to address it. It’s ruining too many marriages to ignore.
Part One of the blog series introduces the problem of pornography addiction and begins the self-reflection phase. In Part Two, we’ll investigate the self-treatment phase more thoroughly, focusing on the addict’s perspective. In Part Three, we wrap things up and look at the female’s perspective.
Women whose husbands suffer from pornography addiction experience an array of emotions ranging from sadness to anger to feelings of inadequacy and often the desire to overcompensate in unhealthy ways, potentially leading to a list of whole new problems.
This is not a definitive medical approach; but it can be a companion to a broader, more comprehensive approach to combat pornography addiction and alleviate the strain pornography addiction has on marriage and each individual in the union. However, consulting a medical or therapeutic professional is highly encouraged.
What is pornography addiction?
Pornography addiction is characterized by an excessive, poorly controlled preoccupation with pornographic imagery, occurring typically online. It is associated with a pathological predisposition toward sex and sexual imagery.The unusual fantasies typically co-occur and mask other mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
Unhealthy behavioral patterns develop, including deep sorrow and shame and the belief that any sexual thought or behavior is necessarily bad or inherently wrong. The pornography addict’s entire thoughts around sex are skewed when he is steeped in addiction, and there is no longer a healthy sexual relationship with his partner. It takes a toll on the marriage, chiefly as he distances himself from those around him and puts everything else on the backburner (like his wife, his job, his family, or his mental health).
Pornography and sexual addiction are destroying millions of Americans lives and shattering thousands of marriages each year in the process. Estimates vary wildly, but some suggest that as many as 30% or more of American men view pornography online regularly. Some men spend hours each day staring at pornographic imagery.
This is where things get tricky.
Pornography addiction is controversial amongst mental health professionals, and it is not listed in the DSM—the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the taxonomic and diagnostic tool published by the American Psychological Association.
Churches stray far from the subject, as well, and as a result, men suffering from pornography addiction find it hard to find good information on the topic, much less meaningful help.
We don’t talk about it. It’s wrecking marriages. It’s destroying lives. “It” has not even been adequately defined. Meanwhile, the pornography industry thrives. The pornography industry is a multi-billion dollar industry that—you might say—is designed to ruin marriages; at the very least, it flourishes the more marriages it destroys.
Technologies, such as the internet and social media, are, mostly, positive tools that are wielded for the betterment of all our lives. If you have a gambling addiction, there are millions of gambling sites online, making matters much worse.
The same thing goes for pornography addiction. Everywhere we look, we are bombarded with sexual imagery. Look even harder, and our most unusual and, or darkest desires find a home where they can flourish.
Somewhere in the darkest, seediest corners of the internet, we can find an array of pornographic imagery from a variety of categories, including women being bound and raped. As the adage goes, our demons come out and play—if we allow them.
If you’re the one suffering from addiction, this must seem quite daunting, and it is true—you face an uphill climb. Recovery will not be easy.
I, too, suffered from addiction—of another kind. I suffered from a debilitating addiction that, at one point, wrecked my life, setting me back several years in the process. At first, it was hard to find a way out. I could hardly breathe from all the anxiety and negative emotions due to the addiction and the repercussions of the addiction. There was no way I could strategize a clear and effective plan for recovery.
Like many others who overcame their addictions, I did, however, have what’s described as a “moment of clarity.”
The proverbial “moment of clarity” is tantamount to seeing two things loud and clear, all at once—first, all of the side effects of the addiction come into sharp focus, and we also catch a fleeting glimpse of who it is that we were destined to become had we not ventured down the wrong path.
Then, reality sets back in. We feel stuck. It feels like there's no way out.
Nevertheless, there is hope. We are not born with addiction. Addiction is not a disease.
Addiction is a cheap suit tattered to its core, weighing us down, and destroying our lives. We must discard it in order to reveal a more accurate version of ourselves buried somewhere inside.
Some characteristics and side effects include: being distracted all of the time, bitterness, hopelessness, feeling unsatisfied, you can’t “get enough,” loss of interest in your spouse or family, loss of money, loss of sleep, disinterest from milestones at work, you want help but you can’t find help, loss of hope, and in some circumstances, erectile dysfunction.
Does any of that sound familiar? I know. Sometimes we don’t want to admit it. We make excuses. We ignore it. But when we’re steeped in addiction, it’s the single most important priority in our lives. Change comes hard.
Every single decision we make, from the moment we roll out of bed, is made with our addiction in mind. Removing that addiction is incredibly hard—and when we do, it can leave a vacuum where other unhealthy habits flourish.Part Two.
Imagine a little box next to each characteristic and side effect.
Did you check any of them? Are you suffering from addiction to pornography or some other addiction? Are you losing hope? Is your marriage crumbling? Do one or more of those symptoms apply to you or someone you know?
If so, do not feel ashamed. One in about three American men share an addiction to pornography. Unlike you, however, most of them will never admit it much less do anything about it.
If you happen to be the one who’s suffering from addiction, bear with me for a moment; this article is especially for you, although it is not a definitive and comprehensive medical plan (please consider professional help, as well).
Walk over to the mirror.
Stare into your reflection for one minute—sixty full seconds of looking right back at yourself. Think about your wife, your kids, your job, your other priorities.
Are they priorities? Or, is the addiction the priority?
If you don’t know, think back to the characteristics and side effects. The hope is not to make you feel shame. It’s just that self-reflection is the first step toward healing.
You may feel uncomfortable checking the boxes or staring into the mirror and pondering your life's priorities. That’s understandable. Addiction is deeply personal, but I want you to at least take some mental notes as you read along.
Pornography addiction has such overwhelmingly negative connotations and is so seldom talked about that you may be feeling uncomfortable just reading this. Staring down our inner demons is uncomfortable and wrought with emotion.
Maybe your spouse doesn’t know you’re addicted to porn. Maybe, you’re on the verge of divorce or losing everything. Maybe, you have already lost everything. The key here is that it’s never too late.
There is still hope for you, even if addiction has already cost you everything. While I cannot guarantee you’ll get those things back, I can guarantee you there are brighter days ahead if you make the right decisions moving forward.
There is a better version of yourself. It is within reach. It is time to make the breakthrough you’ve been praying for.
Addiction is the condition of being dependent to a particular thing due to a series of really poor choices. Those choices become habitual, and they have devastating side effects, both internally and externally. The key to breaking the habit is to change the decisions that went into making those things a habit in the first place.
Once you acknowledge there is a problem and that those problems can be reduced to a series of decisions, then you can go about changing those decisions in the future and start the process of healing.
You've already began self-treatment by simply confronting your demons, which is never easy.
But this is about healing. It's also about wholeness, hope, and finding a new you, the one you were always destined to be. So, that's right where we'll be picking up in the next part.
We continue to focus on the man’s perspective plus look at the concepts of conceptualization, affirmation, and humility--three things that helped me overcome my own addiction.
Then, in Part Three, we acknowledge the toll pornography addiction has on the people in our lives by viewing it through the lens of our spouses.
If we knew how bad we were hurting our wives, would we still be behaving the same way?
The typical answer is no, but how do we get to that point?
To be continued.