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Quitting Porn: The 6 Biggest Mistakes

Most sex addicts who are trying to quit using internet pornography find it harder than they ever thought.  Some simply can’t face quitting.  A porn addict who has lost his job for using porn at work may feel “Quit porn? You’ve gotta be kidding.”  (See this excellent video from abc news.)

Another porn addict may feel desperate to escape the hold that porn has on him but still be unable to resist it.  Here are some of the most common mistakes to avoid in approaching porn addiction recovery.

Not building in accountability

For people struggling with porn addiction it is essential that they have an addiction support group or trusted adviser to whom they regularly report their days of abstinence from porn and admit their slips when they happen.  This should include the details of the slip.

Often knowing that they will have to talk about what they are doing a powerful deterrent for addicts.  Sex and porn addicts should be scrupulously honest with their spouses and partners but a significant other is not the same as an accountability partner.

Believing internet porn is not their real problem

Most sex addicts engage in more than one sexually addictive behavior.  If their other behaviors are more overtly visible, expensive, illegal or otherwise troublesome, the addict may feel “Well, it’s only porn.  At least I’m not out exposing myself” (or going to sexual massage parlors or prostitutes, or whatever the other behavior is).  They may feel that if they have a problem with extra-marital affairs and porn, it is only important to give up the affairs.  After all that’s what is most troublesome to their spouse.  All of this is mistaken thinking.  What they are not realizing is that all forms of sexual acting out have the ability to lead back to full on relapse.

Thinking that the internet in general is a safe space

There are a lot of non-porn ways to use the internet that can trigger a porn addict to relapse.  I have often seen porn addicts slip when they come across a sexual or suggestive photo or video on a social networking site.  Likewise, dating sites, chat rooms and other internet venues can be slippery.  Even the sight of the computer itself can be “conditioned” to bring up urges for pornography.  Different people will find different strategies for limiting how they use the internet.

Thinking that only porn is pornographic

There is so much “ambient porn” in our culture that it is almost impossible to completely get away from sexual imagery.  The porn addict has to understand that some of this imagery is potentially triggering for him or her.  The addict is often inclined to wishful thinking when it comes to movies, music videos, or TV shows with a lot of sexual content.  Choosing this kind of entertainment, at least until recovery is well established, can be an unconscious attempts to get a sexual “hit”.

Thinking porn exists only on a screen

Some porn addicts may use masturbation to fantasy as a substitute for porn use.  In this case the porn consists of a “data base” of imagery and scenarios from past porn use which can be called up from memory.  The idea here is that the addict may need a sexual release to help prevent porn addiction relapse per se.  But the use of pornographic fantasies along with masturbation can be a kind of “methadone maintenance” for sex addicts.  And it is likely to backfire and cause a slip instead of helping to avoid one.

Not agreeing to a program of consequences. 

For porn addicts with frequent slips and relapses it is necessary to agree on what they will do to “up” their program if they slip.  I often suggest that addicts agree ahead of time to increase their 12-step participation by going to more meetings if and when they slip up, or that they set up a daily phone call to check in with a sponsor or recovery partner.  If they are still struggling I suggest that the next step would be to commit to a one or two week outpatient intensive program and a stint of residential treatment if that doesn’t work.

All of this may seem very demanding and stringent.  Most of us would rather not have to be this compulsive and structured about our recovery program.  But porn addiction is so notoriously hard to quit and relapse so common that it is a special case.

Find Dr. Hatch on Facebook at Sex Addictions Counseling or Twitter @SAResource

Quitting Porn: The 6 Biggest Mistakes


Linda Hatch, PhD

Linda Hatch is a psychologist and certified sex addiction therapist specializing in the treatment of sex addicts and the partners and families of sex addicts. Linda also blogs on her own website at Sexaddictionscounseling.com


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APA Reference
Hatch, L. (2013). Quitting Porn: The 6 Biggest Mistakes. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 5, 2019, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/sex-addiction/2013/11/quitting-porn-the-6-biggest-mistakes/

 

Last updated: 24 Nov 2013
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