9 minute read

Help for Porn Addicts: Finding the Right Treatment

Last Updated: October 14, 2022

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. He has also served as a Bible teacher, pastoral assistant, and music director at his local church. He's now the editor of the Covenant Eyes blog and the author of Allied: Fighting Porn With Accountability, Faith, and Friends. He lives in Hendersonville, North Carolina with his wife Ruby and daughter Winslow.

What’s it like to be a porn addict? A Covenant Eyes member named Jeffrey described his experience with porn addiction:

“The most easily accessible door to an endless supply of images was always calling me. It was a temporary escape from all my problems that was very effective but only for a moment… I was dying a little more every time I gave in.”

Many people share this experience of “dying a little more every time” they watch porn. Yet data shows us that as many as 70% of men are regularly watching porn. But it’s not only men. Thirty percent or more women view porn as well. A woman named Chrystal shared with us recently:  

“I began looking at porn regularly when I was 13 years old, and would continue every day for the next 20 years. I knew it was wrong but was drawn to it in ways I can’t explain. I kept it a secret from everyone, including my husband.”

Someone caught in porn addiction needs help. Whether you’ve struggled with porn yourself or not, you may feel at a loss to assist someone else. Here’s an overview of how to help a porn addict.

Understanding Porn Addiction

To help someone, we need to understand them. Someone dealing with porn addiction may behave in ways that appear completely irrational. It can be challenging to know what to do.

Thankfully, recent years have produced a wealth of research on porn and porn addiction. This has greatly increased our understanding of pornography, how it affects people, and what is required to break free.

What do we mean by “porn addiction?”

Some have expressed concern that calling porn an addiction might be an excuse to avoid taking responsibility. From a Christian perspective, we might resist being called an addict since our identity is defined by Christ, not a particular sin struggle or temptation.

I appreciate these concerns and share them!

But the addiction label can be helpful for at least three reasons. First, it correctly indicates that porn is an unnatural super-stimulant for the human brain (i.e. a drug). See our article, Brain Chemicals and Porn. Second, it helps us understand the nature of the struggle—it’s like a drug or alcohol habit, causing emotional and even physical dependency. Third, it also points to the kind of drastic measures we may need to take to break free (more on this later).

Maybe you don’t like the addiction label—that’s OK! The main point is you need to approach someone’s porn struggle with grace and understanding.

Causes of Porn Addiction

To help a porn addict, we should try to understand the underlying causes that led to their addiction. Part of this is the nature of porn itself. Although our bodies were designed for sex and intimate relationships, porn hijacks this natural design with devastating effects. We’ve written about this in more detail, Why Is Porn So Addictive?: 4 Reasons It’s Tough to Resist. But people who identify as porn addicts also tend to share some common experiences.

Early Exposure

Most (though not all) porn addicts were first exposed to porn at a young age. Early exposure has paved the way for widespread porn addiction among Millennials and Gen-Z’ers alike as recovery expert John Fort notes:

“Several studies show that when people are exposed to sexually explicit content during childhood or adolescence, they have a significantly higher risk of developing problematic pornography use later on. Similarly, studies find the younger a child is when first exposed to pornography, the greater their consumption of pornography tends to be as adults.”

We have a whole generation that has been steeped in pornographic exposure from an early age, and many of these are struggling to find help!

Trauma

Sadly, another common experience shared by many self-identified porn addicts is trauma. At Covenant Eyes, we speak with many individuals who can point to a particular traumatic experience that triggered their long-term attachment to porn.

A member named Richard recently shared his story with us:

“I became enslaved to porn when I was 11 years old. I was introduced to sex at age 5. You see, I’m a survivor of sexual abuse from my biological father. He showed me everything of what not to be.”

Another member named Sarah described the horrific experiences that led her into addiction:

“I endured all kinds of abuse… Life was awful and horrible and I was starved and so many other things. I carried this hate in my heart and it was slowly killing me. To numb out I turned to pornography for comfort.”

Counselor and researcher Jay Stringer explores the role of trauma and shame in his book, Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing.

Isolation

Today, one of the biggest reasons we find for pornography addiction is the lack of real human connection. Pornography makes a tantalizing offer of easy, risk-free intimacy. But it’s a lie. The shame and secrecy of porn are part of what gives it power over so many people. Former porn addict Jessica Harris writes:

“Shame is a product of our secrets. Keeping my struggle a secret only made me feel isolated and, at times, inhuman. The longer I kept my secret, the more I believed I could never share it. The longer I kept silent, the darker and stronger my sin grew. The longer I kept silent, the more convinced I became that I would just have to live the rest of my life with this.”

We look at these and other causes of porn addiction in our post, Why People Watch Porn: 7 Reasons It’s Appealing.

Understanding the root causes of an addiction will help you help others. However, if you find the person you are helping has experienced trauma, we encourage you to seek help from a qualified counselor.

Identifying a Porn Addiction and Making a Plan

To help someone struggling with porn, it is useful to know the difference between occasional porn viewing and a full-blown addiction. So how do you know if someone is addicted to porn?

Here’s a list of symptoms from licensed clinical therapist, Dr. Peter Kleponis:

  • Pornography gives a “high” or euphoric feeling.
  • Open to more extreme types of porn.
  • Angry when deprived of porn.
  • Take risks to access porn.
  • Have all-consuming urges to watch porn.
  • Feel out of control and helpless.

For more details on how to identify a porn addiction, read Dr. Kleponis’s article, 6 Symptoms of Porn Addiction. When you find these symptoms, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help! Covenant Eyes is here to equip you with resources.

It’s also important to understand that different people may struggle with porn to different degrees. For a closer look at these nuances of addiction, see How Addicted Are They? Understanding Levels of Porn Addiction.

Once you understand the power of porn addiction and you’ve identified the symptoms and severity of the struggle, you’re well on your way to being an effective ally in the fight. But here’s where you start to get help for an addict, along with some more advanced treatment options.

Make a Plan That Involves Accountability

Regardless of the specific option someone pursues to get free of porn, they need a plan. Having a plan immediately increases the likelihood of accomplishing goals. The plan shouldn’t be complicated, but it needs enough detail to account for tempting situations (like what to do on the weekends and how to navigate mobile phone use). To help people get started, we have a blog post by world-renowned sex addiction therapist Dr. Doug Weiss, How to Quit Porn: 6 Essential Steps.

After 20 years of helping people quit porn, one thing is clear: In the absence of personal relationships and transparency, nobody overcomes porn!

At a minimum, whatever else goes into the plan, an addict needs to make sure it includes regular accountability meetings with a trusted ally. (See our article, Accountability Partners: How to Leverage Them for Growth.)

Do you need some relationship guidance for helping the porn addict in your life? Check out this post from counselor Mark Denison: 5 Tips to Remember When Helping Someone Quit Porn.

Porn Addiction Treatments and Resources

Lastly, here’s a list of six effective treatment options and resources you can recommend.

1. Join a Support Group

For many people struggling with addiction, a support group with like-minded individuals is the perfect place to start. Even if someone already has a supportive ally, being a part of a larger community of understanding people can provide tremendous benefits.

You can search for a local SAA (Sex Addicts Anonymous) group, or check out an online support group like the Samson Society or She Recovery.

2. Porn Addiction Books, Podcasts, and Sermons

One of the most helpful things for a porn addict is educational resources. Fortunately, you can find wonderful recovery resources just a few clicks away!

3. Find a Recovery Program

For many facing porn addiction, they feel the need for a structured approach to recovery and more in-depth resources. They want a curriculum for porn recovery. The great news is, there are LOTS of recovery programs and study materials now available for those looking to quit porn.

For men, we recommend STRIVE: 21-Day Porn Detox. We offer a video series for women. Covenant Eyes has also produced Overcome Porn: The 40 Day Challenge.

4. Encourage Qualified Counseling or Therapy

At Covenant Eyes, we encourage people to look for a qualified counselor or therapist to help them on their journey. A Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT) can help someone along the road to recovery and provide expert insights into the specific challenges that an individual may face.

5. Porn Addiction Intensives

For some, a recovery program or even counseling/therapy isn’t quite enough, especially in the beginning. They need a full-on addiction “boot camp” or intensive program. A porn addiction intensive helps someone kickstart their journey in a highly structured environment, away from the circumstances that can trigger a relapse.

There are a number of intensives available in different parts of the country. However, the availability, cost, and time investment all mean this requires a tremendous level of commitment.

6. Porn Addiction Apps

Lastly, there are GREAT porn addiction apps out there to help facilitate recovery. To help you, we’ve shared a helpful guide, 4 Key Features of Great Porn Addiction Apps. Take the time to look this over, so you’ll better understand the digital tools available to help with porn addiction recovery.