Pornography Addiction: An Insidious Affliction Part 3 Recovery from Porn Addiction

Warning: this blog series is going to talk about sensitive material that may not be suitable for youth or adolescents without parental supervision.

Insidious: adjective; proceeding in a gradual, subtle way, but with harmful effects.

Affliction: noun; something that causes pain or suffering.

This is the final installment of a three-part blog series on pornography addiction (PA). I began writing these blog posts on the topic for several reasons. My first goal was to share the most up-to-date and accurate information our field has to offer on pornography, as it is being consumed more than ever before in history. This was accomplished in part one and two ,of the Insidious Affliction series, through which I defined PA, then outlined its causes and correlates. My second goal was to offer scientifically based and empirically sound mechanisms to help individuals recover from an addiction to pornography. This may be the most important task I undertake, as PA is gripping innumerable numbers of people across America in the same way substance addictions like heroin and process addictions like gambling cripple individuals. That will be my focus in this blog post. Healing from PA can be a short or long road, and recuperation begins with acknowledging that PA exists, manipulates the consumer, and requires external resources to overcome.

How bad is it?

As I mentioned in my last post, pornography is a “[behaviorally] conditioned addiction1,” which means that porn consumers rinse-and-repeat their behavior until their brain craves the stimuli from images and videos. From a recovery standpoint, that means when consumers stop using, they can re-condition themselves to life without porn. Neurologically, “brain alterations are somewhat reversible” when it comes to pornography addiction (PA)2. This is promising! In other words, some damage done to the brain during the course of PA may be undone due to brain plasticity. Now, the amount of energy and time required to undue neurochemical changes will likely be related to how engaged a consumer was with pornography prior to recovery. There are assessments or screening tools (i.e., questionnaires) available to aid in discovering how dependent an individual is on pornography. Therapists trained in addiction recovery are able to help clients with PA interpret their results from these questionnaires. However, some screening tools can be self-administered, meaning anyone can take them. The results are communicated to the user upon completion.

One example of a self-administered screen for PA is called the Problematic Porn Consumption Scale (PPCS), which has reliable and valid properties according to one recent Chinese study3. In psychological terms, that means that this screening tool was tested on a sample of people, and the results were statistically consistent and explainable. So, a consumer can click on the aforementioned link, answer the questions as honestly as possible, and immediately obtain feedback as to whether he or she is clinically struggling with PA. Another self-administrable screening tool is called the Internet Sex Screening Test (ISST), developed by Patrick Carnes, the founder of the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP). Questions within the ISST are similar to those in the PPCS. Some items are based on the diagnostic criteria for pornography addiction, while other items are focused on correlative or associated behaviors. Correlative behaviors are actions not known to cause PA, but they are often found in lifestyles of individuals struggling with porn addiction. To begin recovering from PA, a consumer would best benefit from taking one of these screens.

What next?

With screening data in hand, a consumer now has a few options moving forward. Many individuals will likely try to quit porn without specialists once they realize it is a problem; that is normal. There are lots of resources available for this endeavor. To be clear, most programs (self-guided or not) will encourage temporary abstinence from pornography and the behaviors that correlate with it. Digitally, consumers can head to any of the following websites to gain information, tools, and resources for overcoming pornography addiction (PA):

  • FightTheNewDrug.org
  • PornHelp.org
  • NoFap.com
  • YourBrainOnPorn.com
  • CureTheCraving.com

Outside of these websites, many fantastic literary resources are available to consumers battling PA. For instance, clinical books like Treating Pornography Addiction: The Essential Tools for Recovery by Dr. Kevin Skinner, as well as Your Brain on Porn by Gary Wilson, offer wonderful psychology and neurology-based tools for healing. Additionally, Christians enjoy manuscripts such as Every Man’s Battle by Stephen Arterburn, Fred Stoeker, and Mike Yorkey that take a non-clinical, experiential view of overcoming PA. Outside books, support groups and 12-step programs, such as Sexaholics Anonymous, are paramount for anyone wanting to work through porn addictions. These organizations provide a structured system for individuals to come together in encouragement and break free from addictive strongholds. Positively, many of these groups are free-of-charge. For Christians struggling with PA, there are faith-oriented support groups like Celebrate Recovery and Pure Desire Ministries available. 

If a consumer is struggling to the point where addictive pornography is holding him or her back from everyday joys and responsibilities, it may require the aid of a licensed therapist. It is important to note that licensed therapists are different from life coaches or 12-step sponsors; they are educated in the neuroscience and psychology of addiction, while also understanding best practices to help clients work through trauma, fear, and transformation. Some liscenced clinicians have certifications to help with problematic pornography use; for instance, IITAP has a database with Certified Sex Addiction Therapists (CSATs) located all over the globe. CSATs have gone through 120 or more hours of education to specifically facilitate healing for those stuck in PA, sexual addiction, or sexual anorexia. CSATs have an intimate knowledge of how trauma leads to addiction, and how mending from both must happen simultaneously. Non-CSAT therapists can be advantageous for recovering from PA, but they will have less focused training on these topics.

Recovery necessities

To reiterate, everyone’s recovery from pornography addiction (PA) might look slightly different. Nonetheless, a consumer hoping to get well will want to ensure his or her path includes some basic elements. First, get educated on options. Not everyone views pornography struggles the same way. If you believe that problematic pornography consumption is addictive (as I do), then your path toward healing should incorporate addiction-recovery fundamentals. Additionally, consumers in this category will want to align with supporters who understand and work with trauma and addiction. Second, don’t recover alone. Even without specialists, isolation will be the enemy and downfall of anyone’s attempt to overcome addiction. On the other hand, staying in a family system or toxic community that creates a need for an addictive outlet leads to frustration and stagnation. Third, stabilize as much as possible. In other words, to do the tremendously difficult work of overcoming PA, one must keep other aspects of his or her life relatively calm. This allows the consumer to put the rest of his or her energy into internal growth and behavioral change.

Conclusion

In summary, working through pornography addiction (PA) recovery will require significant effort and energy; the time needed is variable dependent on the person, as well as his or her history with pornography. Healing requires an understanding of how deeply ingrained in the addiction the consumer is, as well as engaging with the right people to help. The good news is there are many resources out there, including specialists like CSATs, who stand prepared to walk this journey alongside anyone who needs transformation and is willing to take the first step toward it.

References

  1. The NoFap Team. (2020, May). How long does it take to recover from porn addiction? NoFap.com. Retrieved from https://nofap.com/faq/how-long-does-it-take-to-recover-from-porn-addiction/
  2. de Alarcón, R., de la Iglesia, J. I., Casado, N. M., & Montejo, A. L. (2019). Online Porn Addiction: What We Know and What We Don’t – A Systematic Review. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 8(1), 91. https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm8010091
  3. Chen, L., & Jiang, X. (2020). The assessment of Problematic Internet Pornography Use: A comparison of three scales with mixed methods. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(2), 488. doi:10.3390/ijerph17020488

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