What Does Problematic Porn Use Look Like?

Robert Weiss PhD, LCSW, CSAT

Research suggests that most problematic porn users spend at least 11 or 12 hours per week looking at (and usually masturbating to) pornography – most often digital imagery accessed via their computer, laptop, tablet, smartphone, or some other Internet-enabled device. And this 11 or 12 hours per week number is the low end of the spectrum. Many users spend double or even triple that amount of time with pornography.

Common signs that porn use has escalated to a level that is problematic for the user include:

  • Continued porn use despite consequences.
  • Continued porn use despite promises made to self or others to stop.
  • Escalating amounts of time spent on porn use.
  • Hours, sometimes days, lost to searching for, viewing, and organizing pornography.
  • Masturbation to the point of abrasions or injury.
  • Viewing progressively more arousing, intense, or bizarre sexual content.
  • Lying about, keeping secrets about, and covering up the nature and extent of porn use.
  • Anger or irritability when unable to access porn.
  • Reduced or even nonexistent interest in real-world sex and intimacy.
  • Male sexual dysfunction (erectile dysfunction, delayed ejaculation, inability to reach orgasm) with real-world partners.
  • Deeply rooted feelings of loneliness and/or detachment.
  • Drug/alcohol abuse in combination with porn use.
  • Drug/alcohol addiction relapse related to porn use or feelings about porn use.
  • Increased objectification of other people, viewing them as body parts rather than people.
  • Escalation from pornography to webcams and other forms of digital sexuality.
  • Escalation from compulsive pixel sex to compulsive real-world sex.
  • Preferring pixel sex to real-world sex.

Individuals who are addicted to or conditioned to pornography feel compelled to look at porn. Over time, they organize their lives around their use of porn. Porn becomes an obsession, often to the point where important relationships, interests, and responsibilities are partially and sometimes completely ignored.

Problem porn users spend inordinate amounts of time searching for porn, viewing porn, and organizing their porn collection. Very often, feeling shameful or remorseful, they will tell themselves, “This is the last time that I am going to use pornography,” but in a few days or weeks they’re right back at it. Sometimes they delete their entire porn collection and feel great about doing that. But then, when their pink cloud dissipates, as inevitably occurs, they regret the deletion and scramble to reassemble their collection. Many problem porn users spin their way through this delete-reassemble cycle repeatedly.

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If you or someone you care about is struggling with pornography, help is available. Seeking Integrity offers inpatient treatment for sex and porn addicts, as well as low-cost online workgroups. At the same time, SexandRelationshipHealing.com offers a variety of free webinars and drop-in discussion groups, podcasts, and more.