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Defeat Lust & Pornography 4 minute read

8 Characteristics of Porn Addiction

Last Updated: September 30, 2019

To truly understand pornography addiction, we must first define it and realize it is actually a type of sex addiction. Although there are many definitions for sex addiction, the one I like best was developed by Dr. Mark Laaser:

Sexual addiction is “any persistent and escalating unhealthy pattern of sexual behavior. It is compulsive in nature, and used to avoid or change feelings despite destructive consequences to self and others.”  

According to Dr. Laaser, there are eight characteristics or warning signs of sexual addiction, which can also be applied to pornography addiction.

If you or someone you know uses pornography, these porn addiction signs can help reveal if the porn use has become an addiction.

1. It is unmanageable.

In 12-step groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, the first step to recovery is admitting one has a problem and is powerless over it–that the addict’s life has become unmanageable. Many addicts will confess they feel like their addiction has taken over their minds, bodies, and free will. When they feel the “itch to use,” they believe they cannot help themselves, but to “scratch the itch.” This leads to a life that is totally out of control and unmanageable.

This is also symptomatic of a lack of trust in God. Whether they realize it or not, addicts struggle to place their trust in God, especially when times are tough. Instead of turning to God for help, they choose to self-medicate. This constant self-medicating leads to addiction and a life that is totally out of control–unmanageable.

2. It creates a neurochemical tolerance.

Viewing pornography triggers several neurochemical reactions in the brain. This produces a high feeling, which is intensified with an orgasm. This neurochemical high is also experienced when using drugs, such as cocaine or heroin. As with any other drug, a tolerance soon develops. More is needed to get the same effect. Thus, a man will spend increasing amounts of time online viewing pornography, and the type of pornography will become more extreme.

Related: Brain Chemicals and Porn Addiction–Science Shows Us How Porn Harms

3. It is degenerative and progressive.

Over time the addiction gets worse. As tolerance and dependence grow, the need for pornography grows. Instead of viewing soft porn, such as the Sports Illustrated Swim Suit Issue or the Victoria’s Secret Catalog, the man now needs to view more deviant, hardcore pornography that is often violent and can even be illegal. Instead of spending a few minutes a week viewing pornography, he may now be viewing it for several hours every day. Ultimately the pursuit and use of pornography consumes the man’s life.

4. It has negative, destructive consequences.

The consequences of pornography extend to the physical, emotional, financial and spiritual realms. Physical consequences can include genital injury, loss of sleep, stress, fatigue, and even physical injury if the man engages in sexual acts that are sadomasochistic. If he is acting it out with other people, he runs the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease or creating an unplanned pregnancy.

The emotional consequences of pornography addiction include isolation, loneliness, fear, guilt, shame, anger, depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Many addicts experience the loss of their marriage, family, friends, and careers.

The financial consequences can also be great, as huge amounts of debt can be amassed from purchasing porn and any related sexual activity.

The most dangerous consequence of pornography addiction is the impact on one’s relationship with God. Most pornography users know what they are doing is wrong and harmful to their relationship with God, yet they choose to use it anyway. This can lead to a deeper loneliness even pornography cannot ease.

5. It is used to escape negative feelings.

Here is where we most often use the term “self-medicating.” Addicts often use pornography as a coping strategy to deal with deep emotional pain. Often they don’t even realize the pain is there.  All they know is pornography makes them feel really good and they must go back to it over and over again. The fact that they cannot feel good without pornography indicates a deep emotional wound that they are using pornography to anesthetize.

6. It is justified by the concept of “entitlement.”

Many people who use pornography do so out of a sense of entitlement, which often stems from narcissism or anger. Narcissism is a great problem in our society today. People often focus on their own wants and needs with little regard to how their actions affect others. Thus, the man who had a rough day at work might come home and feel entitled to view porn as a way to relax despite how it may hurt his wife.

Addicts may also feel entitled to use pornography out of anger. Whether he is angry with his wife, boss, friends or God, the addict may feel entitled to view porn to “cool off.”

Related: 19 Possible Motives Triggering Your Porn Consumption

7. It is used as a reward.

Pornography addicts can also justify their pornography use by viewing it as a reward. Whether they have been working hard in their career or around the house, they justify their pornography use as a reward for “a job well done.”

8. It provides a feeling of power.

Like all addicts, pornography addicts often feel they have little control in life. Their deep needs to be heard, loved, affirmed and blessed are not being met, resulting in a feeling of powerlessness. Using pornography, and the people in porn, gives them a sense of power. However, this false sense of power is short-lived. They don’t realize that to feel a sense of control in their lives, they need to acknowledge their powerlessness and turn to God as the one true source of power.

If any of these characteristics of porn addiction apply to your porn use, you might be addicted. However, don’t be discouraged. Freedom from pornography is possible. A trained counselor can help you develop a comprehensive recovery program that can help you finally break free from your addiction. God will also be with you every step of the way giving you the strength and grace needed to succeed!

  1. Maryann

    I left my first husband who was addicted to porn (a big reason the marriage dissolved)we had two boys and have been married to my new husband for 6 years, he had a previous marriage and 2 boys as well. He and I now have 3 boys and 1 girl together. I am struggling with the discovery that he is also addicted to porn (though does not think so) He always promised that it would never be an issue with him, that he never looks at porn. I fear that I can not handle this again, I fear for all our children that they will be sucked into the world of porn as well. I am reading some of these comments and crying because I know how it has destroyed so many people’s lives in my presence as well as myself.
    My family needs serious prayers, there are so many children in this family that will be affected by this. And I will pray for others on this site who struggle with this addiction.

    • T

      Listen here yea I might sound a little embellished however I also struggle and honestly the only thing that made me think any different is a place called the STAR PROGRAM AKA DRUG FARM a boot camp for individuals like ourselves however I still struggle but am searching for a way thrgh it good luck w ur battles I have been fighting g my own for years originally w opiates but now more w lustful temptations Stay strong

  2. Michael

    Hello my name is Michael
    I am 18 and struggling with porn. I absolutely hate it and know that it will hurt my future. I come clean for a month and then fall and fall and would love some help. Thanks.

    • Chris McKenna

      Hello, Michael – I’m so sorry that you’re struggling. What have you tried? Unless you’re all in, you’ll keep on stumbling. Like literally smashing the devices that give you the access you can’t handle, going to counseling to talk about why you can’t stop, and coming completely clean with another human being. This blog post explains further.

      Regards, Chris

  3. Tedric

    I’m 26 years old and got exposed to pornography at the age of 8. I wasn’t looking for it, it found me due to an older brother viewing porn on the computer. I’ve known of Jesus since I was a child being raised in Church but didn’t receive him as my savior until I was 12. My parents divorced when I was 5, I didn’t do well in school, I was over weight and was bullied in school until 9th grade. Over the course of 6 years I’ve read the Bible in search of who God is, my relationship with him and growing to know who I am in Christ. But I’ve come to a place in my life where I am convinced that no matter how much I plead through prayer and try my hardest to obey God’s word by fleeing fornication(sex outside of marriage via porn) but the consequences of double digit years of viewing porn has taken a toll on my brain. These are not spiritual things that can be prayed away. I am married and have been for a year and 4 months. My wife and I have been together for 5 years before marriage. But after every year up until 2015 I have gotten more angry with the fact if I can’t get myself out of this and rid of myself of it, and God won’t do it then I might as well give up trying and accept the fact I will fall sometimes and other times I’m want. Your organization is good but I’ve tried Jesus and he isn’t working. Maybe he will work for someone else. But until then I’m waiting for death to be free and that’s all I have to hope for.

    • Chris McKenna

      Hello, Tedric – I’m so sorry that you’re struggling. I can sense the hopelessness in your words. Will you allow me to ask some direct questions? What have you tried? Have you tried therapy? There seem to be deep-seeded, formative experiences that might be driving your adult behaviors. The early porn experience, coupled with divorce, image, bullying – that’s a messy mix that most definitely impacts your behaviors today. No amount of prayer will fix that. Covenant Eyes can’t fix that. You’ll have to open up old, messy, difficult, and painful closets, rip out what’s in there, rewire daily how you view yourself…..these are hard steps. Porn is just the symptom of the mess. You might stop porn for a little while, but until the closets are dealt with, it sounds like you’ll fall back into coping behaviors that aren’t healthy.

      In the meantime, get open and honest with an accountability partner. Close as many doors to porn as possible. Set up healthy consequences. Decide right now that you’ve had enough. I’m serious when I say that YOU can do this. Don’t give up. Make the decision that your life, your wife, and your future is worth it. I’m telling you that it is.

      Regards,
      Chris

  4. At first, I was tempted to disagree with the first point of this post which stated that porn is unmanageable. However, after going through the point you were trying to make, I realized that it is actually the height of pride to claim that one can manage or deal with porn addiction, exclusive of the power of God.

    I have been there.

    I have been scalded and burnt.

    But all glory to God for His strength and grace to walk free from every shackle of porn and masturbation that delimited me and prevented me from attaining the fullness of purpose.

    Great write-up and thank you for being a continual blessing in an area that not many Christians are willing to talk about in public.

    I’m Christian and I am going to talk about this in public.

    Here is a list of 14 other things I think people could choose to do instead of wasting time in porn or masturbation:

    http://youtoocanbefree.com/14-things-stop-masturbation-addiction-porn/

  5. Angie

    After reading this article and some of the comments I’ve been brought to tears.

    I have been struggling so much with my boyfriend, not because of porn but because we’re addicted to pleasing each other. I’m a ferverant catholic while he is as he says “borderline catholic” so our views on propriety in premarital affection are very different. (However we strongly agree premarital sex is out of the question) we both say we’ll try much harder to behave the next time we meet, but it never changes and I know I’m the one to blame despite being the “holier one” because I’ll tempt him and ask for things of him I know I shouldn’t and he obliges because he loves me and wants to make me happy and relieve my sexual frustration

    I’m so depressed and frustrated with myself to be in this vicious cycle because I sometimes feel utter despair like “oh what’s the point in going to confession? I’m just gonna do it again anyways and make a bad cofession of it”

    My boyfried is a good man and honestly wants to do anything to make me happy and we’ve talked about this issue multiple times, he wants to help me and gaurd my reputation and God bless him, he has far stronger self control than me. The problem is we love each other so much for all the right reasons (life choices, religion, lifestyle, etc) to us showing affection and wanting to give ourselves to each other is natural, but we have to wait to get married because of his current means.

    I try so hard to pray about this and ask for grace, but it’s so hard for me because when I’m in this hole the spiritual dryness is unbearable & I’m terrified to talk openly about this with my family because of my “exemplary catholic” reputation.

    My boyfriend wants to become a better catholic and we both dearly want to stay together and we’re trying to work through this trial together. But I feel that there’s more i should or could do to strenghten my self control.

    If anyone here has a word of advice or kindess, I’d appreciate it.

    And God bless you for posting this article, it gave me the courage to open up about my own struggles.

  6. Victor

    I agree with every advise given here, but most of all, an addict needs the willpower to take a decision of not going back to pornography. There lies the biggest and final battle. Once you’re passed that stage, then you’re free from the shackles of pornography. Take that decision today and live happily and fruitful in every area of your life.

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