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Robert Weiss PhD, LCSW, CSAT

One of the first questions most porn addicts ask is: Why am I so thoroughly hooked on porn? In terms of quitting, the answer really doesn’t matter. But porn users still want to know why. So…

There are two primary risk factors for addiction (all types, including porn addiction).

  • Nature (Genetics)
  • Nurture (Environment)

For the most part, it appears that nature (genetics) can be trumped by nurture (environment), particularly when one’s upbringing includes traumatic experiences. In fact, research reveals a direct causal link between unresolved early-life trauma and later-life psychological and behavioral issues, including problem porn use.

For this reason, addiction therapists, when working with new clients, typically ask about childhood abuse, neglect, and family dysfunction. Generally, we look for ten forms of childhood trauma – five personal, five familial.

Personal Traumas

  • Physical abuse
  • Verbal abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Physical neglect
  • Emotional neglect

Familial Traumas

  • Addiction
  • Domestic violence
  • Incarcerated family member
  • Mental illness
  • Divorce or abandonment

As stated above, research links early-life trauma to adult-life issues. And the more trauma a child experiences, the more likely those adult-life issues become. One oft-cited study tells us that people with four or more significant childhood traumas are:

  • 1.8 times as likely to smoke cigarettes
  • 1.9 times as likely to become obese
  • 2.4 times as likely to experience ongoing anxiety
  • 2.5 times as likely to experience panic reactions
  • 3.6 times as likely to be depressed
  • 3.6 times as likely to qualify as promiscuous
  • 6.6 times as likely to engage in early-life sexual intercourse
  • 7.2 times as likely to become alcoholic
  • 11.1 times as likely to become intravenous drug users

Thus, we see an undeniable link between early-life neglect, abuse, and family dysfunction and a wide array of adult-life physical and psychological disorders, including porn addiction. Once again, knowing why you struggle with porn will not initially help you change your behavior. Nevertheless, looking at your life history can uncover the trauma that you need to work on as recovery progresses, and that is the work that can help you avoid relapse.

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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, offers a variety of free webinars and drop-in discussion groups, podcasts, and more.