As I have written about in the past, any viewing of pornography is both harmful and gravely sinful. Thus, viewing porn does not become harmful and sinful only once a certain threshold of length of time or other measure is reached. Still, some people who view porn do not realize the degree to which they are ‘hooked’ on the stuff. What follows are 7 signs of addiction to be aware of. I will conclude with some advice for those who think they are addicted.
1. CONSUMING THOUGHTS
A porn addict soon has their thoughts wrapped up in erotic images. I once heard a stat that someone can view an image for less than a half-second and it can remain imprinted on their mind for up to 70 years! For seven decades it is possible someone can voluntarily or, more often, involuntarily recall a particular image. With the many millions of porn sites available by just the click of a mouse, a near-infinite supply of these x-rated images are available.
The human mind works a bit like a sponge, able to absorb a lot of material. It then can take a lot of time to process what it saw and to replay the images in the imagination. If you find yourself consumed by these erotic images, you may be addicted.
2. USING IT TO SELF-MEDICATE
Porn addicts often view pornography as a means to help regulate their emotional life. Stressful school expectations, work, or relationships become common causes for porn use to make use of pornography. The brain, being a large chemistry set, releases serotonin and other relaxing hormones during sexual activity. Viewing porn revs up these transmitters in the brain, bringing a momentarily sense of relief. Those who run to their laptops to find relaxation from emotional highs and lows by clicking on porn sites are “self-medicating” their emotional problems by feeding their addiction to porn.
3. A TOLERANCE HAS DEVELOPED
The third of our 7 signs of addiction to porn involves a phenomenon studied by scientists involving the brain. People can be addicted to all kinds of things, as we all know, such as alcohol, drugs, painkillers, etc., in addition to porn. The brain works generally the same way for all such addictions. Repeated use of these drugs causes the brain to create neurological pathways with the expectation that the behavior will reoccur.
Soon enough the amount of drug consumption that used to reach a climax no longer does so. Now the drug needs to be used for a longer period of time to cause the same effect to its addict. Over time many, if not most, porn addicts seek out novel, harder, and more deformed sexual imagery to reach the “high” they have become accustomed to feeling. The more depraved porn consumption, the deeper the addiction and spiritually effects.
4. DEPENDENCE SETS IN
Over time the tolerance that was created by repeated use of porn creates a dependence in its addict. Just to achieve a feeling of “normalcy” each day, the addict thinks he “needs” to consume the x-rated materials. Day-to-day function becomes difficult, if not impossible, without this literal, physical “need” being met. We need water to drink, food to eat, and air to breathe to survive each day as human beings. Once porn consumption becomes a daily, or near daily “need” just to get through the day, full-fledged addiction has surely arrived.
5. A WILLINGNESS TO TAKE RISKS
Porn users usually begin consuming porn alone, often late at night, because they know deep-down it is a shameful act. They want to hide their behavior in the beginning. Over time, however, as the addiction grows, the addict becomes more brazen in their consumption. Porn addicts may consume the x-rated materials at work, where they could get caught by co-workers or by a boss. They also begin viewing porn in the home, often during waking hours. Thus, they risk being discovered by their spouse or children.
6. DAMAGING CONSEQUENCES COME
Drawing out the prior point further, porn addicts often cause destructive consequences to follow their poor behavior. Classes may get skipped and grades may suffer for the student porn addict. Showing up late to work or skipping a shift altogether can happen for the working addict to pornography. For the married, family finances may get drained, marriages can be broken, and families split up all at the cost of feeding this growing addiction. Financial, emotional, spiritual, and physical ruin be damned, the porn addict needs his fix.
7. IT PROVIDES A FEELING OF POWER
The last of our 7 signs of addiction to pornography comes by way of one of its psychological effects. I am listing this one last becomes it has tremendous implications that many folks neutral or supportive to porn users do not realize.
Viewing porn is a difficult activity, obviously, than participating in sexual activity in person. Thus, to consume porn means to enter into a fantasy world. This alternate space is not reality itself but rather a place of seeming sexual fulfillment. As I discussed before, porn users have mirror neurons in their brains that make the user think the porn actress is performing just for him. He feels as though he is bringing her joy and he feels empowered. The porn addicts thinks he is in control.
Of course, this fantasy world does not exist in real life, and yet many (male) porn addicts extend this view of women into their everyday life. They view women as sexual objects available for their pleasure. Lust, infidelity, and even rape can become byproducts of this dearranged value of women. People are not to be objectified as pleasure sources. Pornography claims just the opposite.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
If you, or someone you know, are showing any or all of these signs, I have a few pieces of advice.
First, repent and get yourself right with God. Second, get yourself some help immediately, even professionally if needed. Third, download my free ebook I wrote just for those struggling with porn addiction. I call it, “Cold Showers: How Catholic Men Can Pummel Porn Addiction with Mortification.” It will cost you nothing, and it will help you to put into place measures you should be taking to overcome this vice.
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