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Addiction or Just Habit?

What is porn addiction? Is there a difference between frequent use of pornography and addiction? You may be reading this and wondering if you or someone you love is addicted to pornography; you may be reading this and thinking, “Pornography is the only way my partner and I experience intimacy together, we need it.” Zarzand understands. You may be a loved one affected by the behavior of a pornography user; you may be using pornography and completely unaware of how it affects your family, spouse, children or siblings. Zarzand understands. You may be completely aware of your dependency on pornography and how it interrupts major areas of our life. Zarzand understands. We understand that you never intended for it to go this far, to become a habit, let alone an addiction; we understand that you never meant to view, what you view now to get the same rush, as when you first began. We are here to meet you where you are at with compassion and understanding. We are here to inspire you to think of this issue from multiple perspectives. We are here to offer alternate ways to meet your needs in relationship and experience true intimacy.

There is quite the debate on whether excessive pornography usage is an addiction or not. Here are a few of the points being made:

Addiction or habit?

“Not every porn user is an addict, so it can be difficult to draw a clear distinction between simple, frequent porn use and a true addiction. One excellent way to test for addiction is to determine whether a behavior is interfering with a person’s life. People who get in trouble at work for viewing porn, who experience difficulties with arousal without pornography, or who find themselves lying about their porn usage may have a problem. Also associated with porn addiction:

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) does not list pornography as an addiction, although mental health practitioners may diagnose someone with a porn-related addictive disorder. Some mental health experts argue that pornography is not properly construed as an addiction; instead, it functions as a conditioned habit, akin to biting your nails or picking your nose. Pornography users aren’t ingesting mind-altering chemicals, and there’s no physical dependency on porn, making it distinct from alcohol and drug addictions. However, pornography does alter brain chemistry. Dopamine, a brain chemical correlated with feelings of pleasure, floods the brain when users view pornography. Frequent use of pornography may cause so many dopamine rushes that users have to use increasingly graphic porn on a more frequent basis to get the same rush they experienced when they first started using pornography. This phenomenon closely mimics the effects addictive chemicals have on the brain, and there’s been a strong push to classify habitual pornography use as an addiction in recent years (Zawn Villines, Pornography Addiction: What is it? And how serious is it?).”

Does pornography have value?

Some sex experts argue that pornography helps people better understand their sexuality, while others argue that pornography is inherently degrading and problematic. Addiction specialist, on the other hand, are concerned about the ways in which pornography addictions have coincided with increased accessibility from internet usage and viewing of pornography has been normalized in relationship and for individuals.

Is there such a thing as, “Enjoying a little pornography?”

Susan Shapiro, co-author of Unhooked: How to quite anything, states, “…we define an addiction as a compulsive reliance on ANY SUBSTANCE OR ACTIVITY that harms or deters your ability to function in a major area of your life…There is a big difference between enjoying a little pornography to enhance sex with your partner, or rushing home to turn on adult DVDS or open XXX websites when you're alone. Overeating at a family dinner is healthier than sneaking junk food by yourself at three in the morning, then rushing to hide the wrappers so nobody will know. Addicts depend on substances, not people. Anti-social habits that keep you isolated are a sign it might be time to quit and join the world….On a psychological level, secrets can be poison. Whether your habit is overeating, gambling, smoking or shopping, if you hide it and lie about it when someone asks, that implies that you think what you're doing is bad or shameful. That's the mark your habit has become an addiction you need to break.”

Is pornography a way of coping?

Some researchers argue that porn addiction functions as a form of obsessive compulsion. People with other symptoms of OCD may benefit from treatment for that issue rather than treatment targeted directly to the pornography addiction.

Is it an addiction or simply a need to lessen the pain of PTSD or other trauma related disorders?

Some people dealing with PTSD have stated that, pornography usage is a “common attempt to satisfy the demands and symptoms caused by the PTSD-Identity. One makes small and then longer and more frequent dips into the available pool of pornography. We hope it will numb the physical pain, the emotional pain, and maybe just help us not feel for a while.” As stated above, you may be effected by a frequent pornography user or unaware of the effects that it has on the ones you love. Check out our Pornography section for further information and thoughts.

Zarzand cares deeply about this issue and everyone involved. Check back with us as we expand our knowledge and resources in this area.