Skip to content

Addicted to porn?

One hand on keyboard

“Pornography is definitely one of the pervasive issues because of the three ‘As’: the anonymity, affordability, and access[ibility],”said Samuel Platts, R.Psych, CSAT.

In November 2017, Florida’s houses of legislature declared pornography a public health crisis in the belief it’s connected to human trafficking, domestic violence and other societal ills. It became the fourth state in just over a year to do so, joining Utah, Virginia and South Dakota.

Recently, Canada conducted its first porn study in 30 years. The results, published last year, concluded it wasn’t obvious what constituted a health crisis, or what could be deemed “violent” or “degrading” pornography. However, the idea of porn being addictive and influencing the culture is still being debated.

Like other addictions

Currently, Alberta Health Services does not recognize porn addiction as a separate issue. David Lillico, an addictions counsellor and certified sex addiction therapist with Alberta Health Services (AHS), said “sex addiction” has a lot in common with other addictions.

“People having continued attempts to stop: loss of control, preoccupation, interruption of family, work, shame, and guilt,” said Lillico.

Samuel Platts runs the only government funded sex addiction group in Alberta and is a certified sex addiction therapist . He noted how repeated, long-term exposure to porn can lead to changes in a human’s neural pathways or “porn induced erectile dysfunction.

“Your arousal template, which is a fancy term for what turns you on, becomes geared towards watching exclusively and self-stimulating,” said Platts.

Platts referenced a study performed by Valerie Voon at Cambridge University where participants were exposed to “sexually explicit videos,” while their brain activity was monitored. The active parts of the brain for people who watched more pornography were the same regions that are activated in drug addicts.

“It’s getting away from that whole idea the addiction exists in separate silos,” Platts said. “Alcoholics over there, cocaine addicts over there, cigarette smokers are over there. But really, when you look at it, they’re all part of the same mechanism that goes on. It’s really a compulsive need to escape negative affect and negative feelings.”

This is what he referred to as “addiction interaction.” It also means if someone is suffering from one type of addiction, they could have other vices.

“For example, a person will wake up in the morning and they feel depressed. They start drinking, the drinking leads to going online, looking at pornography … Then they might masturbate and they need to come up again. Then there’s cigarette smoking, and then there’s the hangover. So now they’re taking Tylenol 3s, then back to pornography.”
These are also types of behaviour that can swell from a troubled past.

“[With] nearly 100 per cent of people there’s trauma and neglect in the background. They’ve never had the skills to deal with problems in their life.”

The main difference between an addict and a non-addict, Platts says, is how they organize their lives.

‘Lonely and empty inside’

“They might have friends, they might be married, but they’re always lonely and empty inside … There’s a mask they wear and project to the world that, ‘everything’s okay’ and then secretly they’re doing things that are incongruent with who they’re trying to project.”

An addict compartmentalizes and keeps some behaviours secret. They may have one personality when they’re around friends, family, or a partner, but another personality when they’re alone.

NAIT students who think they could be addicted can visit the NAIT Counselling Centre and speak with Alycia Chung, a certified sex addiction therapist. Chung thinks that porn use can degenerate quickly to more subversive types of content if used to medicate.

“With any sort of addiction, often times if it is shame and guilt, you feel so crummy but you don’t want to feel it,” said Chung. “So you self-medicate with whatever is going to numb it out, and it might even be more pornography.”

Treatment for porn addiction begins with abstinence.

“Ninety days is how much time you actually need to reset some of those brain pathways that have been super high-jacked by the addiction. So at least with a 90-day moratorium on pornography, hopefully we can be in a stable spot to be able to implement more strategies and kind of work through.”

While there are no demographics concerning addiction in Alberta, two of the therapists mentioned that they haven’t treated any women with porn addiction. That’s because women are more likely to have other types of sex addiction, such as love addiction, or trauma repetition, said Chung. It’s an attempt to hold on to their “Prince Charming” who may not share the same level of devotion to the relationship.

“They fall in love with the guy who is totally love avoidant … and then the cracks start to show,” she said. “They just went through this honeymoon period of being high intensity of everything is wonderful, to a really strong period of negative intensity … Despair and emptiness afterwards leads to preoccupation with another man who is going to invariably repeat the cycle.”

Nofap

One online community that’s gained traction while this is happening is Nofap. The Reddit and YouTube based group encourages men and women to quit masturbating and watching pornography. They’re known for their popularity among young people, particularly young males. Many of these videos are former porn users who now talk about the benefits of staying away.

Whether porn is an addiction or a public health crisis, three key factors highlight pornography’s potential for danger: it’s accessible, affordable and anonymous.

If you think you need help there are mental health professionals specializing in sex addiction available through AHS, NAIT Counselling, and the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP) website.

Pornography Addiction Screening Tool (PAST)

– Arielle Trischuk

Share this article:

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on pinterest
Pinterest

Related Articles