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What It’s Like to Be a Porn Addict? An Interview with Noah Church (Part 1)

Noah Church is a well-known speaker on issues related to porn addiction. He is also the author of Wack: Addicted to Internet Porn, an educational look at how internet porn affects its users. Additionally, he has created the website, Addicted to Internet Porn. On that site, he has compiled information learned from his own and others’ experiences with digital pornography. He also offers one-to-one coaching for those who are struggling. Recently, Noah was a guest on my Sex, Love, & Addiction 101 podcast. I found our discussion so fascinating that I wanted to present a Q&A with Noah here. This is Part 1 of our discussion, focusing on Noah’s addictive porn use and it’s consequences.

Can you tell me a little about your experience with porn use—when you started, what it did to you, how it affected your life?

I was, among the first generation to grow up in a time when it was common to have a computer in the home with internet access. And as a child, I always had a sex drive that was active. I was always interested in women and girls, and it wasn’t long before I had the bright idea to search for pictures of pretty women online. That was when I was about nine or ten years old.

I found what I was looking for and much, much more, as you can imagine. It didn’t take long before I was hooked on that and would seek it out whenever I could get time alone with the computer. At first, it was just pictures of women and heterosexual sex, but it escalated. Some of the things I saw initially disturbed me or went against what I was interested in, but as time went on I started to notice that the things I used to look at just didn’t excite me as much, and I would seek out those things that had at first disturbed me or repulsed me. Over time, I seemed to need them in order to get that same feeling of arousal, that same vibe.

When I was probably 13 or 14, I got a computer in my bedroom, so I didn’t have to worry so much about sneaking moments and I could spend more time online. And I did. I wouldn’t say it was every day, but most days, for anywhere from half an hour to several hours.

It wasn’t really until I was 18 and in my first real relationship that I discovered that I had a problem that went beyond just, you know, the time that I had invested and the escalation that I had experienced in my pornography use. We were in love and we wanted to have sex for the first time with each other, and for the first time, period. But when that moment came, I just didn’t have the sort of physical response that I was expecting. That was a shock to me. I was shocked that I wasn’t able to get an erection, that I wasn’t physically aroused, because this was something I’d been looking forward to my entire life. And I was very attracted to her.

I left that day and went home, and I think the first thing I did was search for answers online, to see what could be going on, what’s the problem here. But at that time, back in 2008, pretty much all I found was that if it’s not a physical problem, if you have no problem getting an erection by yourself, then it’s most likely psychological. Performance anxiety.

Yeah. I don’t think anyone was talking about porn-induced erectile dysfunction back then.

That term may have existed. Norman Doidge may have mentioned it in his book [The Brain That Changes Itself, 2007]. But I couldn’t find any information about it online. And so my girlfriend and I tried many more times. I thought it might just be that I needed to get more comfortable being intimate with someone else.

I also thought that maybe I just masturbate too much. So I would give it a break for a couple of weeks, but that didn’t seem to help. … At that time I didn’t realize that it could take months or even a year or more to recover from the long-term effects of consistent porn use and porn-induced sexual dysfunction.

Eventually I was just really broken about what was going on. I didn’t understand why I wasn’t a fully functional man. And I couldn’t really talk about it with anyone because I was too embarrassed and ashamed. Eventually I just felt so bad every time I was around my girlfriend, because it was all I could think about, that I broke off that relationship. I just rationalized to myself that “Well, maybe we’re not meant to be.”

After that, I went off to college, where I had many more similar relationships that always followed the same pattern. I was never able to have a satisfying real-world sexual experience in all that time. And it just got to where I was so sick of that cycle and of the relationships ending in the same way that I just gave up on dating.

It wasn’t until I was 24 years old and feeling fairly good about my life in other regards that I realized, “OK, I really have to come back to this problem and face it head-on. I have to figure out what is going on once and for all. Because I do want to have a satisfying sexual relationship in my life, and right now it’s not happening.”

So your consequences were just pretty much limited to relationships? You weren’t struggling in school or at work or any of that kind of stuff? 

Well, at that time I didn’t even realize that pornography was the problem of my sexual dysfunction. And I certainly didn’t see the other issues. But looking back I can see that pornography use affected almost every aspect of my life. My relationships, my ambition, everything. It wasn’t keeping me from doing well in school. I was able to get good grades, but it did sap my ambition and drive, and my motivation to pursue extra-curricular activities, to build skills, take risks, travel, and really figure out what I wanted to do with my life. These are all things that I only realized were effects of my porn use after I quit.

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This interview will continue, with Noah Church discussing his path to healing and recovering from porn addiction, in my next post to this site.

What It’s Like to Be a Porn Addict? An Interview with Noah Church (Part 1)

Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S

Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S is a digital-age intimacy and relationships expert specializing in infidelity and addictions—most notably sex, porn, and love addiction. An internationally acknowledged clinician, he frequently serves as a subject expert on human sexuality for multiple media outlets including CNN, HLN, MSNBC, The Oprah Winfrey Network, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and NPR, among others. He is the author of several highly regarded books, including “Out of the Doghouse: A Step-by-Step Relationship-Saving Guide for Men Caught Cheating,” “Sex Addiction 101: A Basic Guide to Healing from Sex, Porn, and Love Addiction,” “Sex Addiction 101: The Workbook,” and “Cruise Control: Understanding Sex Addiction in Gay Men.” He blogs regularly for Psychology Today, Huffington Post, and Psych Central. A skilled clinical educator, he routinely provides training to therapists, the US military, hospitals, and psychiatric centers in the US and abroad. Over the years, he has created and overseen more than a dozen high-end addiction and mental health treatment facilities. Currently, he is CEO of Seeking Integrity, LLC, being developed as an online resource for recovery from infidelity and sexual addiction. For more information or to reach Mr. Weiss, please visit his website, robertweissmsw.com, or follow him on Twitter, @RobWeissMSW.


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APA Reference
Weiss LCSW, R. (2018). What It’s Like to Be a Porn Addict? An Interview with Noah Church (Part 1). Psych Central. Retrieved on November 19, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/sex/2018/10/what-its-like-to-be-a-porn-addict-an-interview-with-noah-church-part-1/

 

Last updated: 17 Oct 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 17 Oct 2018
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.