4 minute read

Breaking the Cycle – Understanding Porn Addiction

Last Updated: April 20, 2015

Guest Author

Want to write for the Covenant Eyes blog? Share the story of your journey to freedom from pornography. Let us know how you overcame porn or how Covenant Eyes has made a difference in your life or the lives of those you love.

I must start off my first blog post for Covenant Eyes by saying how honored and humbled I am to be asked to contribute to such a worthwhile organization. Pornography is an issue which is impacting our society in all sectors.

Over the next few posts we are going to attempt to gain an understanding of how an individual can become so focused on pornography that they will risk their marriages, ministry, and reputation. In addition, we will explore some steps to help individuals who have found themselves caught in the cycle of compulsive sexuality. As we close off this first series of posts, we will also explore how to move forward, and stay in relationship, if a person that you love keeps choosing pornography over their relationships with others.

I think it is important to make one thing very clear to the individuals who are reading this who have a loved one who is currently struggling with pornography. Their struggle is not your fault and you are not the cause of their sexual problems. Again, I want to make this very clear; you are not the one with the problem, but you are being impacted by a problem that is beyond your control. The best way that you can help them is to ensure that you are staying healthy and focused on God, not the other person’s problem with pornography. During a difficult time like this it is important to remember that many individuals get through the storm of pornography addiction and move forward to become all that they were created to become.

Understanding Addiction

The term pornography or sexual addiction is a tough one for many individuals to understand. I find this especially true when working within the Christian community. The difficulty when working with a Christian population is the ability to accurately diagnose sexual addiction.

The difficulty arises because a secular clinical community may not view a Christian who is engaged in some behaviors as “sexually addictive.” The secular clinical community has multiple perspectives on what defines sexual addiction. Patrick Carnes defines sexual addiction as,

“. . . any sexually-related, compulsive behavior, which interferes with normal living and causes severe stress on family, friends, loved ones, and one’s work environment. Sexual addicts make sex a priority more important than family, friends, and work. Sex becomes the organizing principle of addicts’ lives. They are willing to sacrifice what they cherish most in order to preserve and continue their unhealthy behavior.”

This definition is further expanded by SA, a 12–step program that follows AA’s 12-step model, and expands this concept even further by stating, “The sexaholic has taken himself or herself out of the whole context of what is right or wrong. He or she has lost control, no longer has the power of choice, and is not free to stop.”

As you can see, it may be difficult to objectively define what a “sexual addiction” may actually look like. However, I think a few key points are important and I have found them useful in my work with clients.

1. The addictive behavior interferes with normal living, becomes a higher priority and forces them to begin to sacrifice what they cherish most of all.
2. Slowly, over time, they remove themselves from what matters most, and issues of what is right and wrong begin to slip away.
3. The individual simply surrenders the ability to choose. An individual’s struggle with issues of sexuality can be as simple as a “high sex drive,” or as complex and troubling as visits to prostitutes or massage parlors.

For many of my clients, struggling with pornography and grasping the ability to fully define and understand their struggle has been very difficult. Therefore, I have developed a model that I think is a very helpful tool for understanding a wider definition of addiction; I believe that it is one that works well with multiple forms of addiction and relies more on an understanding of what is going on internally rather then externally.

In my book, Breaking The Cycle and in my recovery workshops, I have developed the following paradigm for addiction: Addiction is an unhealthy attachment to objects, behaviors, or people. Attachment can be defined as a purposeful connection to gain long term comfort and develop security. A wounded person will find a way to have their need for connection fulfilled. In some individuals, if the wound is great enough, the person might find themselves developing an unhealthy attachment to the approval from others, or perhaps food and the feeling of being full.

In some cases, it can be an unhealthy attachment to work or obtaining possessions. Whatever the outside manifestation, the attachment is unhealthy and will create imbalance in the person’s life. The purpose of this unhealthy attachment is to bring temporary comfort or security during a period of emotional deprivation. Simply stated, emotional deprivation occurs when are current circumstances are causing us to experience extend sadness, worry, anger, or fear. In an effort to avoid internal pain, individuals will attach to unhealthy objects in order to avoid the pain of emotional deprivation.

Quite simply, the individual who is struggling with pornography is using it more for comfort, than sexual enjoyment. In many cases, pornography is used to manage anxiety or feelings of insecurity. In addition, the person who is struggling with pornography is out of control in other areas of their life. In no way does this excuse the behaviors, quite the contrary; it demonstrates that this is a long term restoration project rather than a quick fix. The person who is actively struggling with pornography has allowed a very destructive force to take a foothold in their life. The use of the pornography has become an idol that will not be satisfied until all that matters to the individual has been lost. As we move forward in the next blog I will define a few key steps that will assist the individual caught in the trap of pornography use to move from the bondage of addiction to the freedom of surrender.

. . . .

mavrogeorgepictureThis is a guest post by Paul Mavrogeorge. Paul is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who works at Link Care Center, a counseling program in Fresno, California. Paul has a wide variety of experience with families, married couples, and individuals, and spends a good deal of his clinical time working with issues such as co-dependency, addiction disorders and sexual addiction. In addition to his clinical practice, Paul and his wife Julie run Mavrogeorge Consulting, a business that provides executive coaching, recovery workshops, various life improvement trainings, and team development for a number of organizations. Paul hosts a weekly newscast with Fresno’s KMPH entitled “Mavrogeorge Mondays,” a practical solution oriented segment. Paul lives in Fresno with his wife and his two sons, Jordan (12), and Jeremiah (11).

  • Comments on: Breaking the Cycle – Understanding Porn Addiction
    1. Kevin on

      In some cases, it can be an unhealthy attachment to work or obtaining possessions. Whatever the outside manifestation, the attachment is unhealthy and will create imbalance in the person’s life. The purpose of this unhealthy attachment is to bring temporary comfort or security during a period of emotional deprivation. Simply stated, emotional deprivation occurs when are current circumstances are causing us to experience extend sadness, worry, anger, or fear.

      Reply
    2. Joe Henika on

      I have worked with men caught up in sexual idolatry and want them to know, they can find freedom.

      For more info contact Joe @ http://www.dunamai.org

      Reply
    3. Matthew on

      Dear Covenanteyes,

      Alright I get it, porn is bad, don’t watch, be good. Yea, but why is the program blocking all the other stuff that I like to do on the net too? Like Face Book and Naruto Manga. both those items are non-lethal and not even close to porn. Whats the deal?

      Reply
    4. Luke Gilkerson on

      Our scoring system for both our accountability software and our filter is the same: we base the sensitivity level on what would be appropriate for an eight-year-old to see/read. This, of course, could include sites other than pornography. For most of our filter users this isn’t an issue, because they are monitoring and filtering their children at home. For an older filter user, this could be frustrating. If you are being blocked on a site that you want to visit, you can adjust the sensitivity settings on the filter to a broader range of sites, and if you want to be able to always visit a particular site, you can create a “whitelist” of sites that the filter will always allow.

      Thanks for your question, and if you want any more info about the settings on the filter, look at our video tutorials: https://www.covenanteyes.com/blog/2008/07/01/covenant-eye-filter-video-tutorials/

      Any more questions let me know.

      Reply
    5. Phil on

      Excellent article– what really struck me was the point of pornography addiction being more than just about comfort and sex, but the greater and deeper issues that are present. In my own life, it has become a red flag for the disconnectedness in my own life.

      Reply
    6. Gordon B on

      Reply to both Phil & the author of article –
      Quite simply, the individual who is struggling with pornography is using it more for comfort, than sexual enjoyment.

      I fully agree. It has taken years for me to realize the core of my addiction is a profound sense of inadequacy and shame, particularly feeling inadequate in my masculinity. And the comfort that I sought was the numbness that I found by setting aside reality with all of its messy feelings and consequences. I fled to porn to find beautiful women who would think and do what I wanted them to do — all while they continued to smile at me. In my “Land of Numb” (acknowledgement to Mark Laaser) everything happened specifically for me, and allowed me to feel that at least these picture women liked me. Later I moved on to other forms of porn that simply took me to a numb place, and it took progressively worse things for me to be adequately separated from the pain of seeing myself.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Thanks for sharing, Gordon. I can totally identify with the numbness factor: that is exactly where porn took me as well.

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