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Is This Porn-Addiction Thing for Real?

Last Updated: April 15, 2015

Luke Gilkerson

Luke Gilkerson has a BA in Philosophy and Religious Studies and an MA in Religion. He is the author of Coming Clean: Overcoming Lust Through Biblical Accountability and The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality. Luke and his wife Trisha blog at IntoxicatedOnLife.com

Recently we received a comment from someone who wanted to know if there were any credible peer-reviewed journals that were dealing squarely with the subject of pornography addiction. Because porn addiction is not officially classified in the DSM, we get questions from time to time about how widespread this issue is.

Below is the bulk of my reply . . .

Danny,

Thanks for your question. I’d love to pass along the peer-reviewed journals that we have consulted for our information about the effects of habitual pornography use.

The Journal of Adolescent Health is an excellent source of data. When you get some time read through Dolf Zillmann’s article, “Influence of unrestrained access to erotica on adolescents’ and young adults’ dispositions toward sexuality” (Volume 27, Issue 2, Supplement 1). You might also like the article from February 2007, “Trends in youth: Reports of sexual solicitations, harassment and unwanted exposure to pornography on the Internet” (Volume 40, Issue 2).

Some great advice is given to parents concern about overexposure of pornography with their children in The Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology: “Internet: Implications of peer-to-peer file-sharing networks for child development and families” (Volume 25, Issue 6).

I would also refer you to The Journal of Sex Research. In 1993, Brosius, Weaver, and Stabb presented, “Exploiting the social and sexual ‘reality’ of contemporary pornography.”

You also might like Joseph Shepher’s “Pornography: A sociobiological attempt at understanding,” from Ethology and Sociobiology (Volume 6, Issue 2).

If you are more interested in effects of pornography on women, volume 13, issue 1 of Women’s Health Issues presented the paper, “Does pornography influence young women’s sexual behavior?” Very interesting research based on surveys done in Stockholm.

You also might like Bryant Zillmann’s contribution in the Encyclopedia of Criminology and Deviant Behavior: “Pornography: Models of effects on sexual deviancy.”

Beyond these there have been other studies done that are interesting reads. For instance, Youth, Pornography, and the Internet (National Academies Press) does a great job talking about the specifics of the adult entertainment industry and a summary of many empirical studies. You also might like reading some of the work of Normal Doidge, MD, a researcher at Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training. He’s written about some fascinating research on neuroplasticity and its relationship to pornography. Mary Anne Layden, Ph.D., who works at the Center for Cognitive Therapy (co-directing the sexual trauma program) at the University of Pennsylvania, has spoken quite a bit to this issue of sex addiction and its relationship to pornography.

We’ve always tried to dialogue as much as we can on this blog about such matters. Just last week I interviewed Dr. Samir Parikh, chief of the Department of Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences at Max Healthcare, about this issue. He talks about the term computer scatalogia, “the addiction to Internet related pornography wherein Internet pornography becomes a potent form of an addiction like any other and causes significant harm to the self and relationships.”

Now, all of this said, I agree with you that “addiction” can be an overused or undefined term. In most social contexts outside of psychology the term generally refers to the surrender of oneself to something habitual or obsessive. When we use that term on this blog we most certainly refer to this broad definition, not a narrow clinical definition. While many psychologists and psychiatrists recognize the need for therapy around habitual porn use, this does not mean that those described as “addicted” are in need of clinical treatment.

Our concern here is not specifically about the number or percentage of people who are actually diagnosed with sexual addiction problems but the ubiquity of pornography and its sociological effects, the increased risk in our culture for compulsive and addictive behavior. We are also concerned about the great volume of requests we receive from pastors, counselors, educators, parents, and teens who are struggling with these issues.

Thanks again, Danny. Please let me know if you have any other questions for us.

  • Comments on: Is This Porn-Addiction Thing for Real?
    1. D on

      Is porn addiction for real…. Where do I start?

      I’ve been secretly looking at pornography since I was about 13. Before I heard a song about masturbation I didn’t know what it or porn was. It started with clothing catalogs, continued from there to trying to catch a peak at my older sisters friends when they would spend the night. I would try to sneak into her friends over night bags and see if I could find their underwear, and eventually would try them on. I started having dream of when I was little and would be abused late at night while I was sleeping. “YEARS LATER” I shared these dreams with my oldest sister and found out that she had been going to counseling for months because it really had happened to her and my other sister as well, they had confided in each other. She told me that what I described was what happened to her, down to the description of the room and the shadow of the figure. “YEARS PRIOR TO THAT CONVERSATION” I was fourteen years old and my family was having a big gathering at our house, my younger nephew and nease were put to bed in my room. I molested my nease, and this is the first that I have ever told anyone.I would touch her and fondle her in her sleep. It was the first time, but about 9 years later was the last. She was always asleep, and I always felt like I deserved to burn in hell for it. I began to have sex with girls when I was sixteen years old. I’m in my late twenties now and have has sex with about thirty girls/women. I have never raped or forced any sexual activities on any one. I’m married now, and have cheated on my wife countless times, with many different women. I’m in the military and have been deployed numerous times. I cheated on her my last deployment and when I got home I broke down and told her. We have worked that out, she knows that I “was” looking at porn and a few times caught me. We went to counseling, but I’m deathly afraid to being up me molesting that girl. I spoke to the Dr. about my molestation, cheating, porn addiction, and so on. My wife thinks today that I’m doing so much better, not looking at porn, and haven’t cheated on her again. I’m a hollow shell of a man. If I were to die today I would go to hell, typing those words didn’t even make me wince. I want to cry and can’t. I don’t want to look any more, I don’t want to cheat, but I can’t control myself. I have kids, and want only to be with, and continue to stay married to my wife. I want to be faithful, I want to be true, I have covenant eyes on my computer but I will once a month or so remove it, and lie to my accountability partner about computer issues and say that it was interfering and had to quickly remove it, update my computer, and re install it. I will look at porn, get gratification, and add it again.

      I don’t want to live this life, I don’t know who I am, but I can’t stand him. I lie to all those around me and talk about how I don’t want anything to do with porn, R rated movies, all the sex talk, and so on. When I’m alone I’m everything those people are, and ten times more. I’m living a lie, not even really living.

      I know I need help, I need to talk to a professional, but I’m sure I never will. I want to die for what I did to her. I want to make sure that it never happens to anyone else again. There is sssoooo much more that I didn’t cover on here or get into and yet it’s a rap sheet. I know everything I need to do, and I’m not doing it. I want help but am too ashamed, and scared to do anything but live this lie day in and day out. Satan has me right where he wants me, and is just waiting for me to take my final breath so that he can claim me. I grew up in church, I go to church and participate regularly in functions, give to missions, tithe, and love to sing worship music. I play an instrument. I know that I have gifts and talents that God can and wants to use, I just want to forget my past, change and move on, but I just can’t. This is the only section that I could find on this web sight to cry out for help and or encouragement. It is relevant, but I know that it’s trailing off. I just want someone to read this and pray for my soul.

      I’m a porn addict, and it’s has completely consumed, taken control of, reshaped my life, and left me with nothing to be proud of.

      Reply
      • gm on

        hey man i read what you wrote and can relate to everything you said so to don’t feel you are alone. I will pray you and you the same. God is good and we can get through this.
        God bless gm

    2. James on

      I can only speak for myself. I was addicted to porn about 5 years ago. I would stay up late at night, and view the most lewd materials on the internet I could find. My wife at the time knew about it. And I thought that it wouldn’t hurt me, because I was just “looking”.

      But it did hurt me. The more I justified looking at “hardcore” porn, the easier it was to justify searching for illegal porn, i.e. child pornagraphy (which is actually better labeled as “crime scene photos.”).

      I combined this with alcohol and drugs.

      And one night I made the choice to molest my step-daughter. Now she has to pay for my choices.

      I went to prison, and was recently released, and am now spending the rest of my life as a registered sex offender.

      In prison I got help, and went through some painful experiences – and the victim? I can only imagine how I have affected her life. I could only hope that she has turned out ok, but it is possible she could have self-esteem issues, anger issues with men, promiscuity issues, drug and alcohol, the list goes on and on. Not to mention also how embarassing it must be to have to go to a “rape” clinic to be examined by strangers. I cannot even imagine the long term results of how this young girl will view her own body, all because I became aroused and attracted to minor females.

      It affected not only her, but my wife at the time, my parents, my children, relatives, law enforcement, the public who paid for my incarceration and treatement, and health care professionals.

      I cannot say that porn alone did this. I made the choice to commit the crime, me alone. Blaming porn in my book is an excuse. I believe a careful self-examination of your entire life will help, but also a real desire to be held accountable.

      If you so desire to be rid of this type of life – turn yourself into the authorities. Then spend a few years in prison paying for your crime. Get clean and sober, and then thank God everyday that He is Merciful to us all.

      Also, asking forgiveness from God, and repenting, are two different things. Go study and learn this.

      I’ll pray for you brother. Sorry so long winded.

      James

      Reply
    3. Alec on

      Everybody knows the fact that porn creates physical, mental, and emotional
      negative effects on your life.

      There’s No sense in denying it.

      Reply

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