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Pornography is a complicated topic (at the very least) amongst mental health care professionals and in the world of psychology. Some argue that pornography addiction is not possible and not a real, diagnosable condition. Others say that pornography addiction is genuine and that it should be included in our diagnostic manuals for professional use. Regardless of the definition of ‘pornography addiction,’ pornography use has impacted many relationships and lives. I am not debating the morality of pornography use, nor do I believe every person who uses pornography is addicted. I want to bring awareness to what problematic use may look like regardless of an official ‘addicted’ condition.

Negative Consequences Without Diagnosis

There is no official diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) for either pornography or sex addiction. Since that’s so, people look at the criteria for similar disorders like Sexual Compulsivity, Hypersexuality, and Hypersexual Disorder as a guiding reference. Even though Pornography Addiction does not stand alone, various professional organizations already acknowledge this diagnosis, including the American Society for Addiction Medicine. Concerning those other sex-based diagnoses, there are three main criteria which all need to be met:

  1. A continued preoccupation to the point of obsession with sexual fantasies and behavior: Sex addicts spend hours, sometimes even days, fantasizing about sex, planning for sex, pursuing sex and engaging in sex. Their decision-making revolves around sex. This includes their choices in clothing, where they exercise, the car they drive, and maybe even the career path they choose.
  2. It can include the loss of control over sexual fantasies and behaviors: Sex addicts often try to quit or cut back on their behavior or fantasies, without success. They promise themselves and others that they will change, but without outside intervention (typically some form of therapy and 12-step support), they nearly always fail in these efforts — usually repeatedly.
  3. Negative consequences directly related to sexual behavior: Sex addicts eventually experience many of the same adverse effects that alcoholics, drug addicts, compulsive gamblers, compulsive spenders and other addicts experience.

While people who use pornography may not necessarily be addicted to sex, their use may be creating problems that are similar to this criteria: loss of control over viewing pornography, preoccupation with viewing pornography throughout the day, or being unable to stop or reduce use that is causing negative consequences.

Can’t Speak Up in Your Community Group?

Pornography has been an unfeigned and present issue within the Christian community. People are trying to stop and want to discontinue use, but they are struggling to do so. It is causing stress and hardship for many families and relationships. So, to deny that this problem exists or that merely conservative religion is the problem seems very lacking. I do not believe an entire category needs to be created for ‘Pornography Addiction,’ but I believe that some form of official diagnostic criteria can provide a path for people to seek professional help. Wading through the mire of emotions surrounding pornography use takes significant time and a concentrated effort for change to occur. I’ve known several people that have made it through relatively quickly. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many other people and professional help can accelerate that change. I believe one of the main reasons this is the case is because of the nature of the client-therapist relationship. Typically, the therapist’s goal is to create a safe and confidential space where the client can feel secure and not judged. When someone goes to talk to a friend or someone in ministry, it is hard to resist the feeling that the person is not judging them whenever he or she sees them at church or that people in the congregation may find out. With those barriers out of the way, usually, the process of unpacking the pornography use can follow through. Engaging in therapy also ‘forces’ the person to commit to working through their use or at least face it. It is a scheduled time when we address the issues we wish to hide from, and for many people (at least in the church) pornography use is an issue we all want to protect from.

Pursue Accountability & Seek Out Support

If you or someone you know is struggling with pornography use, please reach out! Options are certainly available. If not a trusted friend then a mentor or a counselor. Do not try to go through this battle alone! If a blind I is turned, change might never be experienced. My former colleague has given encouraging and hopeful words on this topic, and I hope it can be an inspiring push for you toward healing.

“Finally, I want you to know that there is great hope! I’ve seen God rescue people from the chains of pornography. Once in a great while, this freedom comes rapidly and miraculously, and it’s clear that the Holy Spirit has moved in power. Honestly, though, that is the exception rather than the rule. Most of the time, God uses your investment of hard work, the support of others, time, and a good counselor to bring about the healing. The Holy Spirit is still moving in power, but it just doesn’t look quite as spectacular until you’re able to look back on all your growth once you’re further down the road. Like other areas of our sanctification, God does the work, and it happens in His timing. However, know this for certain – you can be free from these chains!” – Rick Egbert

If some barrier stands in between you and matching with a professional counselor, please give me a call and we can have a conversation about your options. I’d be glad to speak to you and put you in touch with help so that you can easily sort out your needs as a consultation at no cost.

 

Written by therapist Daniel Pak

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