Is Pornography Addiction Real?

rbrb_2118Over the years, many observers have noted that some people consume various forms of pornography in a pattern that roughly mimics the pattern of substance intake in people addicted to drugs or alcohol. In line with these observations, many experts have debated whether or not you can actually get addicted to pornography. While porn addiction does not have an official definition like substance addiction, current evidence suggests that you can develop a relationship to pornography use that causes serious degrees of personal harm.

Official Definition of Addiction

In the U.S., official definitions for addiction come from an organization called the American Psychiatric Association (APA). The APA lists the specifics for these definitions in a publication called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, known widely as the DSM. Currently, the DSM includes definitions for many kinds of substance addiction. As of 2013, it also includes a category, called addictive disorders, for behavioral addictions not based on substance use.

No Definition for Pornography Addiction

Before publishing the latest version of the DSM in 2013, the American Psychiatric Association considered creating an official definition for porn addiction and other forms of sexual addiction, under the heading of a condition called hypersexual disorder. However, in the end, the organization chose not to include this definition, or any other definition of sex-related addiction. The main reasons for this decision were a lack of sufficient study of the issue and the absence of any agreement on what does and does not constitute a verifiable symptom of addictive pornography consumption or other sexual behavior.

Significant Evidence Does Exist

Despite the lack of an official definition for pornography addiction, significant evidence points to the real-world existence of the condition in at least some pornography consumers. For example, a 2014 study published in a well-respected medical journal (PLOS One) showed that some pornography users experience changes in normal brain function that are notably similar to the brain changes found in people affected by substance addiction.

Possible Signs of Addiction

Signs of pornography may closely mimic the signs of substance addiction. They may include an inability to control your intake of porn, a need to consume more and more porn over time, significant life disruption caused by your pornography use and feelings of withdrawal when you can’t consume pornography in accustomed amounts. Therapists have developed programs for people who may be involved in addictive pornography use.

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