10 minute read

How Long Does It Take To Recover From Porn Addiction?

Last Updated: November 18, 2021

Keith Rose
Keith Rose

Keith Rose holds a Master of Divinity degree and BA in Sacred Music. Keith worked with the Covenant Eyes Member Care Team for 15 years. During that time, he also served as a worship leader, Bible teacher, and pastoral assistant. He's now an educational content creator at Covenant Eyes and the author of Allied: Fighting Porn With Accountability, Faith, and Friends. He lives in Rexford, Montana with his wife Ruby.

If you, a friend, spouse, or loved one is trying overcome porn, you’ve probably wondered how long it takes to recover from porn addiction. Is there a normal, predictable amount of time that needs to pass before they can say, “It’s behind me, I have quit”?

If you Google this, you’ll find some people say two weeks; others say 30 days. Recovery programs suggest 60 days or 90 days as an expected timeline for recovery.

So how long is it going to take to be absolutely positively free from porn? Here are some helpful guidelines based on expert research that will help you better understand the porn recovery process and accurately assess how much time recovery will take in different situations.

2 Perspectives on How Long It Takes to Recover From Porn

There are two different ways of answering the question “how long does it take to recover from porn addiction?” First, quitting porn takes a second. But also, porn recovery takes a lifetime. Both perspectives are equally true and equally important.

1. Quitting porn only takes a second.

“Quitting is easy; I’ve done it hundreds of times.” So goes the old joke. It might be painful more than funny for anyone trapped by an addiction like porn. But there’s a nugget of truth in it: quitting porn does only take a second.

Someone can quit porn as quickly as they can close the browser. Every time someone chooses not to look at porn, they’ve quit porn. It’s as simple as that. Quitting porn isn’t something that takes years, months, or even days—it’s a decision in a moment.

It may be obvious, but it’s nonetheless important to remember. Alcoholics Anonymous gives advice very pertinent for people recovering from porn:

“In most cases, we cannot anticipate every possible turn of events, and no matter how diligently we are prepared, we are eventually caught off guard. Meanwhile, we’ve expended so much time and energy trying to predict future events, soothe future hurts, and even prevent future consequences that we have missed out on today’s opportunities. And the magnitude of the task we have set for ourselves has left us drained, overwhelmed, and distraught.”

Don’t worry about never looking at porn again. Just quit for now.

2. Recovery from porn takes a lifetime.

If you’ve wondered how long it takes, your question is not about quitting as much as it’s about recovery. How much time does it take someone to fully recover from porn addiction? From this perspective, quitting takes a lifetime.

Sex addiction therapist Marnie Ferree says:

“Ultimately, recovery is about practicing a new way of living, not simply about avoiding the practice of an addiction. Recovery is a commitment to a different life, forever and ever. To stop recovery because you’ve been doing it a long time is like deciding to stop breathing—ludicrous. (And life-threatening.) Walking in recovery is a ‘forever’ journey.”¹

Understanding the journey is vital. Therapists Larry and Wendy Maltz agree, “…every former porn user will find him or herself having to make frequent choices to reaffirm the commitment to stay away from porn.” However, they contend that it’s worth the effort, “It’s a lifelong process, but the feeling of accomplishment you can get from being able to keep porn out of your life can be an amazingly powerful experience.”²

4 Questions to Help Determine How Long Porn Recovery Might Take

These two short answers are important to keep in mind, but we can get more precise than this.

Here are some more helpful questions you can ask to help answer, “How long will it take to recover from porn?”

1. What Circumstances Drive the Porn Addiction?

Ask ten different former porn users how long it took them to recover and you’ll likely get ten different answers. This is because the circumstances that shape someone’s porn habit can impact their recovery time.

If you understand the underlying circumstances of someone’s porn usage, you’ll have a better idea of how long it will take them to break free. Here are some of the common factors driving porn addiction.

  • When did they get hooked? When you got hooked on porn says a lot about how long it will take to change these patterns. Author and recovery expert John Fort says,“The sad reality for nearly every adult who struggles with porn is that their compulsive porn use started in childhood. In the more than two decades I that have been working with hundreds of men and women trying to overcome pornography addiction, I have met only one who did not first start using pornography as a child.”

What does this mean for recovery time? The earlier the exposure, the longer you can expect before the urges to look at porn go away.

Don’t be discouraged if you’re dealing with a porn addiction that was formed in childhood. While it creates challenges, it can be overcome! We recently heard from one of our members who signed for Covenant Eyes to get control of his addiction, “I’m 68 years old and for the first time in 58 years I’ve been porn-free for 35 days, praise God!”

  • Are they dealing with trauma? Many addictions are shaped by traumatic events, such as abuse or the loss of a loved one. Counselor and researcher Jay Stringer writes, “The heaviest consumers of pornography in my research had 8% higher rates of past sexual abuse compared to those who did not watch porn or moderately consumed it.”

When porn use is connected to trauma, it can make recovery much more challenging. Recovery means doing the hard work of honestly examining the painful circumstances of the past and how porn is being used to soothe old wounds or fulfill unmet needs.

  • What are their withdrawal symptoms? Many people recovering from porn addiction report withdrawal symptoms such as fogginess, anxiousness, or decreased sex drive. Dr. Kevin Skinner says most withdrawal symptoms last only two to eight weeks (Treating Pornography Addiction, 41). However, this depends on the symptoms being experienced and their severity. For severe and long-term addictions, expect withdrawal symptoms to last anywhere from one to eight months.

For the fastest possible recovery, you need a realistic plan for dealing with symptoms. If you or someone you know is currently suffering from porn withdrawal symptoms, don’t worry! They don’t have to derail the recovery process. Learn more about 10 Symptoms of Porn Addiction Withdrawal (And How to Manage Them).

2. What’s the Level of Involvement With Porn?

We’ve seen the circumstances that often drive porn addiction and are contributing factors to the severity of a person’s porn use. In addition to understanding the circumstances, it’s helpful to determine the level of involvement with porn.

Certified Sex Addiction Therapist Dr. Kevin Skinner helpfully describes seven levels you can use for evaluation. In his book, Treating Pornography Addiction, Dr. Skinner explains, “I believe it is much easier to view pornography involvement and addiction on a continuum rather than proclaiming a person addicted or not addicted.”²

Here’s a summary of the seven levels:

  1. Indifference. At this level, someone is not actively seeking out porn. They may have seen porn accidentally, but it hasn’t made much of an impression yet. (People rarely stay at this stage for long.)
  2. Growing curiosity. Dr. Skinner says, “The desire to view pornography does not dominate day-in and day-out thinking. Generally speaking, those who score at this level have recently had an increase in exposure to pornography and are questioning the growing curiosity they feel.”
  3. Occasional viewing. The desire to view pornography has become habitual at this point. The individual isn’t viewing porn every day but nonetheless finds themself returning to it even if they intend not to. At this stage, they start fantasizing about porn while they’re not looking at it.
  4. Regular consumption. Here’s where we start to see more serious problems. At this level, porn may start to have an impact on the person’s other priorities. They may begin to escalate their viewing to more extreme forms of porn. They may have attempted to quit multiple times without success. They can experience withdrawal symptoms when going extended periods of time without porn.
  5.  Increased obsession. In the fifth level, porn is not just a regular habit but almost a daily routine. Even if they don’t look at porn, they’re thinking about looking at porn. Dr. Skinner says, “What initially may have been a hobby or something that was done for entertainment is now a big part of this person’s life.” At this level, they are aware that porn has an outsized influence on their life and have probably experienced negative effects. Quitting is extremely difficult and is starting to feel hopeless.
  6. Domination. Here, pornography has moved to a central place in a person’s life. A day without porn is not a normal day. They feel out of control and unable to quit. Dr. Skinner says, “They are likely to have lost something in their life due to their involvement with pornography. Some people lose a job, others their spouse, others lose their desire for other passions. Still others lose their belief in God.”
  7.  Out of control. Most people don’t reach the final level of involvement with porn—this is where you see extreme examples of irrational behavior. Unfortunately, it does happen. Porn is not only central to their life, porn controls every decision they make. A woman reached out to us recently and told the story of her husband, a retired military veteran. His 40-year porn addiction eventually landed him in prison. “Porn is no joke,” she said. “[He] lost his job, his kids, and his wife.”

Try to understand how serious their involvement is before setting expectations for recovery.

As a general rule, the higher someone is on the scale, the longer it takes to completely break free. An individual at level two or three will likely recover much more quickly than someone at five or six.

On the other hand, people at the lower levels are less likely to be serious about their recovery. Former porn addict Nate Larkin says, “I’m told that four out of five guys who seek help for a sexually compulsive behavior only do so after receiving an ultimatum from a wife or a girlfriend. I’m one of the four.”

3. What Are They Willing to Do to Recover?

The length of time for recovery will vary depending on the circumstances and severity of the addiction, but it also depends on the intensity of their commitment to recovery and what sacrifices they’re willing to make.

Sex addiction therapist Jim Cress has said, “Things that were formed in intensity in my life will be changed through intensity in my recovery.” In other words, how quickly you can break free from porn will depend on the lengths you’re willing to go.

Dr. Doug Weiss says, “You have to be willing to do things you haven’t done before. Seriously, if you keep trying to quit porn the same way, you’re likely to fail again. To stop watching porn for good, you have to give up what you’ve been doing and do what you have to do.”

4. Do They Have Supportive Allies?

Addictions thrive in isolation. Some medical experts have called addiction “a disease of isolation.”4 Porn, in particular, thrives on feelings of loneliness and shame. Because all people need secure relationships, someone without these relationships is especially vulnerable to a relationship with porn.

One of the most important factors in a person’s recovery is the allies they have to support them. Nobody overcomes porn without understanding friends and loved ones to encourage them on the journey.

Speaking to allies, sex addiction therapist Dr. Peter Kleponis says, “You need to be totally committed to your friend by being a constant source of support and accountability.” Without people who love unconditionally and support them, recovery is just too difficult to continue.

A Realistic Timeline for Porn Recovery

As we’ve seen, there are all different levels of porn addiction. All these variables make absolute predictions about recovery time impossible. However, there is research that can help us see how long it takes someone to break free from a serious porn addiction when they’re committed to the process.

Sex addiction expert Patrick Carnes conducted a study that covered five years of addiction recovery. Carnes suggests a timeline for six stages of recovery.5

  1. The Development Stage: This is the stage prior to acknowledging there’s a problem. Some are here only briefly. For others, it takes years. Some people never recognize there’s a problem with porn. The timeline won’t start until someone is past this stage.
  2. The Crisis/Decision Stage (0-3 months): This stage lasts anywhere from one day to three months. “At some point, the addict crosses a line where there is a fundamental commitment to change.” For many, it’s a life-shaking crisis, such as being caught looking at porn at work or a spouse threatening to leave. For others, it’s simply a decisive moment when they choose to no longer be controlled by porn.
  3. The Shock Stage (1-8 months): This stage may be the most difficult for individuals in recovery. Carnes advises, “Disbelief and numbness alternate with anger and feelings of separation.
    Addicts describe physical symptoms of withdrawal that are at times agonizing. They also report disorientation, confusion, numbness, and inability to focus or concentrate. Feelings of hopelessness and despair become more intense as their sense of reality grows.”
  4. The Grief Stage (6 months): This is where someone begins to deal with the pain caused by porn. They also dig into the underlying causes of their porn use, which can result in a period of deep grieving and emotional turmoil as these issues are unearthed and dealt with.
  5. The Repair Stage (18-36 months): Once the grief stage is complete, the person in recovery focuses on learning balance, self-care, and positive habits that can replace porn. This is an exciting and positive time for people in recovery. Based on Carnes’s timeline, this period can last up to three years.
  6. The Growth Stage (2+ years): This is the final stage of recovery. It marks a mature outlook on life and one’s relationship to porn. They can look back on the addiction to porn with gratitude for what they’ve learned. Dr. Carnes says, “Relationships with partners, friends, children, and family go through a period of renewal. Here, too, is where life-satisfaction measures showed improvement in the study.”

Dr. Carnes found that most slip-ups occur six to twelve months into recovery, but those who persisted experienced increasing success after this.

Celebrate Every Victory on the Journey!

Wherever your friend or loved one is in recovery, it’s important to celebrate each victory. Too many people feel daunted by the long-term aspects of recovery and fail to appreciate how much progress is happening.

Every moment someone chooses to quit porn is worth celebrating. That’s why in 2021, Covenant Eyes started Victory Week—to highlight the small successes in the bigger journey towards freedom. Here are some important milestones you should honor:

  • The decision to ask for help quitting porn. Admitting you have a problem is a big deal! If someone reaches out for help, honor and celebrate that decision.
  • Learning from slip-ups. A slip-up isn’t a reason to celebrate. However, there’s priceless wisdom to be gained from honestly examining mistakes. Learning your triggers and how to avoid them is a reason to celebrate!
  • Thirty porn-free days. Going a whole month without porn is an INCREDIBLE milestone.
  • Every 24 hours of porn-free life. Every day without porn is a day you’re choosing to live a better life. Don’t worry about tomorrow—enjoy the success you’ve had today.

These are just the beginning, but you get the idea. Recovery from porn can be a long journey, but it’s an exciting one!


¹ Marnie Ferree, No Stones, 252-253.

² Wendy and Larry Maltz, The Porn Trap, 258.

³ Kevin Skinner, Treating Pornography Addiction, 24-30.

4 https://khn.org/news/addiction-is-a-disease-of-isolation-so-pandemic-puts-recovery-at-risk/

5 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17632453/