When I first meet a man struggling with porn addiction, he often uses the following introduction: “Hi, I am Ted Smith, and I am a porn addict.”
First adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous, addiction groups universally utilize the fill-in-the-blank addict label.
I hate it.
The “Porn Addict” Label and Shame
There are two reasons for my disgust with this name tag. The first concerns the stigma it places on an individual. Like a black mark, a stigma can crush self-esteem, causing shame and embarrassment. And shame often perpetuates addictive behaviors.
Counselor and researcher Jay Stringer says: “According to the data from my research, men were almost 300 times more likely to seek out pornography for every unit of shame they felt about such behavior. For women, the numbers were almost double, with those in my sample being 546 times as likely to do so. It must be said that shame, not pleasure, drives pornography use.”
The “addict” label also can hinder someone from seeking treatment.
The “Porn Addict” Label and Neuroscience
The second reason is the label Porn Addict is inaccurate. The central problem facing anyone with an addiction problem is they have an addictive brain. Dr. Daniel Amen is a world-renowned psychologist who specializes in brain health. He has this to say about the addictive brain.
“The brain’s reward system is an intricate network of brain circuits and neurotransmitters that work together to drive you to seek out rewarding things (such as food and sex) while regulating self-control, so you don’t overdo it,” says Dr. Amen, who is a 12-time NY Times best-selling author. “In people with addictions, however, the brain’s drive circuits dominate, and the self-control circuit doesn’t work hard enough. The result is a lack of self-restraint and, for some people, addictive behaviors.”
With all this said, should individuals who struggle with porn addiction ignore their condition to avoid the label? Of course not. They must be responsible for their poor choices and learn to develop impulse control to manage their addictive behaviors.
They also need to recognize their identity is not based on the disorder, but that is what the label porn addict does – reinforces a negative identity.
From Addiction to Identity
In his best-selling book, Atomic Habits, James Clear writes if you want to achieve lasting behavioral changes, such as removing addictive behaviors, what is required is a true change in your identity.
After being sexually abused as a child, Richard felt trapped by pornography addiction. But he refused to let it define him. “What defined me was the day I held my first-born child. I realized I had the chance to get it right and to undo the damage I had received as a child,” he said. “That defines me.”
Therefore, instead of labeling yourself as a porn addict, your new identity could be one of the following:
- I have an addictive brain
- I don’t view porn
- I am a child of God
- I seek to be an individual with integrity
- I am like everyone else, a broken individual
- I strive to do the right thing
Sometimes minor changes such as stating your true identity can help you succeed in managing pornography addiction.