Clinical Psychology (Registrar), Psychotherapist
Watching pornography (or porn) accesses a natural human drive - that is, the instinctual drive for sex that we have as human beings which is enjoyable. For some, it may start out as sexual curiosity whilst for others it may be to aid in sexual arousal for masturbation or other sexual activity. Research has shown that men and women report different reasons for accessing pornography, and with advances in technology, many adolescents are also accessing pornography via the Internet and using technology as part of their sexual behavior1 & 2.
Obtaining accurate and up-to-date statistics on the viewing of pornography is difficult because the Internet ensures that the amount of pornographic material available is continually growing, images and movies are able to be uploaded faster and more easily, and new porn-specific chat rooms are popping up regularly. This being said, a study published in 20083 reported that 33% of Australians were viewing some sort of pornographic material on occasion, 82% of adult Australian viewers were male, and approximately 2.5% of Australian males were viewing pornography for 5 or more hours per week.
However, the viewing of pornographic material becomes a problem when this behaviour is done to excess, or compulsively, and starts to interfere negatively in daily life. Have a look at the following list and see how many apply to you.
- Excessive viewing;
- Feeling unable to control your viewing;
- Your viewing is having an impact on either your own life, or someone else close to you;
- Your day to day activities and living is interfered with due to viewing porn;
- Your tolerance for viewing porn increases and you start looking for more exciting or arousing material;
- Feelings of withdrawal or distress when porn use is decreased, restricted or stopped;
- Continued viewing in spite of negative impact on yourself or those around you (intimate relationships, social relationships, family relationships, work relationships;
- Compulsive masturbation;
- Interference with normal sexual function - impotence, premature ejaculation);
- Your intimate relationship with your partner changes as a result of your porn viewing - more aggressive, more demanding, less emotional connection;
- You are using porn to escape or avoid uncomfortable or unbearable feelings such as anxiety, depression, feeling inadequate...) or to satisfy sensation seeking urges.
Problematic pornography viewing can have an impact on the family, social relationships, and intimate relationships as the behaviour takes control.
As a family, the unit as a whole suffers; as the parent disconnects physically and emotionally, children lose time with that parent. Also, the children may be unintentionally exposed to pornographic material, which they may find distressing or confusing.
As the time spent online increases, the time spent in the real world with real people decreases. As the individual starts to withdraw socially, relationships and activities become less important as the Internet pornography takes a higher priority.
Intimate relationships also struggle. There may be unrealistic expectations relating to sex; issues may emerge relating to trust and honesty; the partner may feel betrayed, confused, angry, not enough; the partner may also feel frustrated as their loved one disconnects emotionally, withdraws, or perhaps starts to display increased aggression or domestic violence.
At work (or school/university) there may be increased absenteeism due to fatigue or poor time management, as well as decreased productivity.
Some types of pornographic material are illegal (such as sexual images involving children) and are classified as a criminal offence.
Physical and emotional health and wellbeing are also affected as the pornographic viewing takes over.
Pornography and other Mental Health Issues
There are often other mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, substance use/addictions and personality disorders that co-exist with problematic Internet pornographic use.
If pornography is used as a mechanism to cope with other uncomfortable feelings, such as depression, anxiety, guilt etc., then it makes sense to also address these as part of your treatment plan. If you do not treat other mental health issues, managing your porn problem is likely to be more difficult. A psychologist will be able to assess you and then tailor treatment that is specific to you as an individual.
Types of Treatment Available
Everyone has different reasons for seeking treatment. For some, there is an internal struggle with their behaviour because it is the opposite of their values and morals; for others, there is external pressure from perhaps a partner (or others) because it if affecting their relationship, or legal issues arising from their behaviour relating to Internet porn.
It takes a lot of courage to realize that you have a problem and then actively decide to do something about it. You may be dealing with shame and possibly even feel like you are leading a double life, and that the Internet has taken control over you and you are powerless to stop.
There are a number of different options available for treatment.
Individual: working with a counsellor or psychologist directly on your individual issues. Learning about your thoughts, feelings, triggers, impulses, urges, and behaviour so that you are able to identify and manage them in a different way. Individual therapy will teach you a variety of strategies to deal with triggers, urges, thoughts, and feelings when they come up so that you feel empowered to act when required.
Couples counselling: helps to address the issues with your partner so that you can work towards a common goal together. This also allows the person with the problem to learn how their behaviour is affecting their partner. Therapy may also address communication as well as establishing a more healthy sexual relationship between partners again.
Group: support from others with similar experiences and struggling with the same types of behaviours.
12-step type programs: such as Sex Addicts Anonymous Australia.
Do some research on the type of treatment offered before starting treatment. If you decide to see a private psychologist, don't be afraid to ask questions about their approach to this problem. See if it fits for you. You must find someone you are comfortable talking to, and someone whom you feel confident will be there to guide and support you through this. Remember, a therapist is not there to provide a solution for you, tempting as that may be, rather to work alongside you in your journey to recovery.
Relapse is common. This is a tough problem to beat, but it is definitely something you can overcome. Therapy can only provide you with strategies and increased understanding about your problem, the responsibility lies with the individual to practice strategies regularly between sessions so that they can get the most out of treatment.
If you would like to learn more, please contact Jeannie on 0406 033 644 or email email@example.com
Clinical Psychology (Registrar), Registered Psychologist, Psychotherapist
Mt Lawley Counselling Centre
13 Alvan Street
Mount Lawley, WA 6050
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- Family Safe Media. (2015). Pornography statistics. Retrieved March 8, 2015 from http://www.familysafemedia.com/pornography_statistics.html
- Mitchell, A., Patrick, K., Heywood, W., Blackman, P., & Pitts M. (2014). 5th National Survey of Australian Secondary Students and Sexual Health 2013 (ARCSHS Monograph Series No. 97), Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, Melbourne, Australia: La Trobe University.
- The Porn Report McGee, Aubrey and Lumbrey (Melbourne University Press) 2008.
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