Defeat Lust & Pornography
Defeat Lust & Pornography 9 minute read

Why Can’t I Stop Watching Porn? 3 Reasons It’s Hard to Quit

Last Updated: February 15, 2024

I can’t stop watching porn.

No really, I want to.

I have made promises and tried fresh starts in the New Year. I have even gone forward in church, gotten down on my knees, and begged God to help me stop watching it.

But I can’t quit porn! What is the real problem? Will I ever be able to stop watching porn? Because based on my past it seems impossible.

Porn addiction is an extremely complex issue with no simple answers or cookie-cutter solutions. But most people I talk with fall into what I call the “Zap Trap”⁠—praying that God would just heal them or looking for some other instant solution. They want to stop watching porn without having to fight the fight for recovery.

However, in working with hundreds of men over the past ten years, I have learned that instant healing in this area is rare. So, let’s look at three main reasons why it is so hard to quit looking at porn.

How Hard Is It to Quit Porn?

Editor’s note:

As Dr. Alvin Cooper noted many years ago, the anonymity, affordability, and accessibility of digital porn make it much easier for people today to become addicted.

Not everyone experiences the pull of pornography in exactly the same way. However, some former drug addicts and alcoholics attest that pornography is more difficult to overcome. This is not everyone’s experience. Many factors contribute to the severity of an addiction, such as the age of first exposure and how many years they’ve been consuming pornography.

Additionally, pornography addiction often begins when porn is consumed out of a desire for genuine intimacy. As John Doyel notes below, isolation fuels addiction. Part of the challenge, however, is that pornography often feels like a substitute for real relationships.

3 Reasons It’s So Hard to Quit Porn

1. Porn is addictive.

Apart from the spiritual battle you are in by simply being a Christian, you are in a physical battle with a physical addiction that traps you into watching porn. You have literally become a drug addict. The drugs you are addicted to are those released in your brain when you become sexually aroused.

God designed those drugs as a wonderful part of His plan to bond a husband and wife as one during times of sexual intimacy. They all have a distinct purpose and are marvelously effective. However, your brain does not differentiate between having sex with your wife or having sex with porn. The same drugs are released with the same effect. Pleasure, focus, energy, release, and other things happen that make having an orgasm one of the most enjoyable things God has given to us.

We can’t quit porn because we like it. We like it a lot. So, we want it again and again. With that experience accessible in a five-minute trip to the bathroom with your smartphone, we start using it more frequently. When we get stressed. When we get angry. Or when we want to escape from problems, we can easily get a fix that does not fix anything.

Dopamine, testosterone, norepinephrine, oxytocin, and serotonin flood our brains, and we feel good for a while.1 Then shame and fear return, and it is not long before we want another escape. It’s hard to escape porn when porn is your escape. Scientific research shows that porn warps the brain like any other substance.2

Those who can’t stop watching porn do not like it when I tell them they are drug addicts, but that is the truth. The drugs are between their ears. They don’t need a pusher. Their drugs are basically free of charge and are extremely effective. We can now access whatever things we want to view and get a quick fix within a few seconds.

Also, we can walk out of wherever we just acted out and seem fine to everybody. No hangover. No trace of what you have done unless you forget to delete your history. Breaking free from this addiction takes a lot of work, and most men are not ready to fight that battle. Especially due to reason number two.

See Why Is Porn So Addictive?: 4 Reasons It’s Tough to Resist.

2. We remain in isolation.

How many people know about your secret struggle? You can’t quit without telling someone about it, but you feel like you can’t tell anyone. Telling means risking your job, your friendships, your wife, and your family. People will drop dead in shock because everyone thinks you have it all together, and so that pressure keeps the truth buried deep in your darkest places. You feel trapped because you are in a prison of your own making.

I know this from experience. As a pastor for 26 years who struggled with sexual addiction for eight long years, I hated myself. I committed many sexual sins, and there was no way I could just say to my wife and my board, “By the way, I am addicted to sex.”

However, God in His mercy revealed my secret life and my recovery began in September 2005. Talk about a train wreck and painfully injuring my wife and our four adult kids.

See Understanding the Shame Cycle.

Remaining in isolation makes it seem impossible to stop. Recovery demands confession, disclosure, coming clean, and genuine repentance. If I had been a better and braver man I would have stepped forward and asked for help. But I lived in denial and minimized my actions by telling myself I knew enough to be able to stop watching pornography.

We like to say that a lone sheep is a dead sheep. If you remain in isolation, you are a dead man and won’t be able to break free. Porn has its hooks in deep, and you will need a team of people to help you pull the hooks out and stop watching porn.

To make it through a withdrawal period of about 90 days, you need people available to you on a constant basis. You need to learn how to reach out to them when the whole temptation process to watch porn begins. We like to say reach out before you reach in. Reach out to your team before you reach into your pants.

The opposite of isolation is community. Scripture has a lot to say about community and our ministry was founded on this passage in 1 John 1:

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”

Secular research conducted outside the Church likewise underscores the vital importance of accountability:

  • One study found that having an accountability partner can make you 95% more likely to accomplish your goal.
  • Gallup Business found that accountability is a key component in employee engagement. Businesses with highly engaged—and highly accountable—employees reported up to 17% higher productivity, 21% higher profits, 10% higher customer satisfaction, and 59% lower turnover rates for employees.
  • One study suggests that accountability can even help people treat one another more fairly.

Fellowship is community. It is being daily connected to other men to help you fight the battle. How many armies send their troops out alone to fight the enemy alone? None. Stupid question. So why are you trying to fight it alone? Lone sheep are dead sheep.

3. We don’t take it seriously.

It is so easy to say to yourself that everybody is doing it. It is not such a big deal. Are you kidding me? Porn use is destroying families and marriages at an alarming rate.

God says sexual sin is a big deal. He calls us to purity and holiness. He has started a good work in us and plans to finish that work, but if we are walking in sexual sin like porn, we grieve and stifle the Spirit within us and will continue to be pulled into deeper areas of sin.

Every Monday night, about 100 men gather at our church because their sexual sin has been and is ruining their lives. They cannot stop and are heading into very dangerous and dark waters. We lie to ourselves when we think that we can handle it. If you could handle it on your own, why are you reading this article?

Not only should we take it seriously because God does, but we should take it seriously because of the effects porn has on us and society.

Did you see the cover of Time on March 31, 2016? They found that Millennials who have used porn over the years are experiencing erectile dysfunction because they have trained their brains to see sex as something you do online. So, when it comes time to have a real relationship, they fail to answer the call.

Are you aware of the rise and prevalence of sex trafficking around the world?

We Need Daily Encouragement to Stop Watching Porn

I believe with all my heart that God’s Word holds the path to stop watching porn. He calls us to community with no condemnation. He wants all of us to be connected and truthful with one another (and Covenant Eyes can help with this). We need to do as James says. We need to confess our sins to one another and pray for each other, and then healing can begin to come. Lastly, we need encouragement. Look at this passage in Hebrews 3:

“See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

We need encouragement every day or we will be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. To start your journey, check out How to Quit Porn: 6 Essential Steps.


1 William Struthers, Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain (Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2009).

2 Frederick Toates, “A motivation model of sex addiction – Relevance to the controversy over the concept,” Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 142 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2022.104872.

  1. Kev

    I have a problem. And desperately need someone’s help, but no one to turn to.

    • Keith Rose

      Hi Kev, thanks for reaching out. One of the most important things in overcoming porn is finding people to talk to that you can trust. Finding someone can be hard, but it’s worth the effort! I encourage you to start with the people you know—think through your current acquaintances, family members, the church you attend, your friends. Is there anyone you can talk to? It might be hard to think about having this discussion, but talking to a trustworthy friend is SO IMPORTANT. If you can’t find someone, I recommend checking out the Samson Society. It’s an accountability group for men and they have online meetings.

      It can seem hard to find people if this is the first time you’ve reached out for help, but you are not alone! There are many people out there who share your desires and want to help.
      Blessings,
      Keith

  2. hmmm even if I try after some time I will now do it again pls pray for me

  3. Daniel

    But thanks be to God that, though you once were slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were committed. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to escalating wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness For when you were slaves to sin, you were free of obligation to righteousness. What fruit did you reap at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The outcome of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the fruit you reap leads to holiness, and the outcome is eternal life Romans 6:19-22

  4. Frederick

    Hello, I have a porn addiction problem since I was a kid. I had pray, cried, even read the Bible more often, and after months I fall in the same sin and hate myself for that. There are times I go out and share the gospel, then I stop because I feel ashamed, guilt, embarrassed for who I am or become. How could I share or spread the good word when I can’t even live a holiness life. Need help, need prayers

    • Keith Rose

      Hi Frederick,

      God bless you for reaching out to us! Do you have an accountability partner you can talk to about your struggles? One of the ways God equips people to deal with temptation is through accountability. Here’s an article that gives 6 steps you’ll need to take in order to quit.

      Keep fighting!

      Keith

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