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Six Reasons People Quit Using Porn

Let me begin this post by stating that I am neither anti-porn nor pro-porn. As a sexologist and addiction treatment specialist, it is not in my job description to judge any mutually consensual sexual behavior, including the appearance in and/or use of pornography. I support all adults in their right to engage in any solo or mutually consensual and legal sexual activity that provides satisfaction and fulfillment. I do not believe that anyone (not therapists, government officials, doctors, or even the clergy) has the right to judge what turns someone on or how a person pursues sexual arousal and satisfaction – provided they do not violate the intrinsic rights and safety of self or others and the sexual activity is mutually consensual.

That said, I find in the course of my work that some clients who use pornography regularly are seeking help because they want to either significantly cut back on or quit that usage. As I’m likely not the only licensed mental health professional running into these folks, I thought it might be useful to briefly list the reasons why some individuals are choosing to remove porn from their lives.

Below are six typical reasons clients give for seeking to eliminate porn use.

  1. Intimate Disconnection. Usually, these clients say their partner is unaware of their porn use because they’ve been lying, keeping secrets, and living a double-life to conceal their behavior. As a result of this secrecy, they feel less emotionally connected to their partner. Lying and keeping secrets about sexual and romantic behaviors creates emotional and sometimes even physical disconnection in their relationship, and they don’t like the way that feels. Essentially, they’ve withdrawn from their partner, a person they genuinely love and care about, because of porn, and they feel terrible about it. Such clients may also complain that they have lost sexual interest in their significant other over time, as they’ve continued to consume and masturbate to more new, fresh, idealized pornographic imagery.
  2. Angry Spouse. These clients’ partners may have general objections to porn based on personal values, religion, or previously agreed-upon relationship boundaries. If so, continued use of porn is a form of betrayal that will eventually create serious relationship problems. Or a client’s partner might be fine in a general way with porn but unaccepting of some aspect of the client’s porn viewing. Perhaps the client is looking at extreme imagery and the partner does not like that. Perhaps the client is looking at porn for many hours per day or engaging in live web-cam porn. Sadly, it is not unusual for partners to compare themselves to porn, which can leave them feeling “less than” – like they don’t measure up and are not as desirable to their mate as the imagery. Often, partners feel as if their significant other has chosen porn over them.
  3. Sexual and/or Romantic Relationship Dysfunction. These cases involve couples with open, acceptable access to porn, where one or both may view porn and neither partner is particularly disturbed by it. However, over time the couple notices:
  • They have no issues with porn itself, but initiating partner sexuality is avoided or dismissed.
  • They’re experiencing decreasing partner sexual intimacy, with one or both partners using pornography as a primary sexual outlet.
  • One or both of them can only climax with a real-world partner by replaying clips of porn in their mind.
  • One partner complains that the other seems disconnected during lovemaking.

It seems that many porn users grow conditioned to the neurochemical rush that the endless, constantly changing stream of porn provides. They get a fresh jolt of adrenaline and dopamine with every new image or video, and that unrelenting neurochemical rush is what they come to expect from all forms of romance and sexuality. Over time, they find that their real-world romantic and sexual partner simply cannot match that. Many of these individuals say that it doesn’t matter how physically attractive their real-world partner is or how much they care for that person, they still struggle with sexual arousal and a sense of intimate connection.

  1. Deep religious, cultural moral, feminist or other personal objections to porn. Some porn users want to quit because it creates a values conflict for them or for their spouse. Their religion, upbringing, and sense of morality tell them that using porn is wrong or harmful or sinful or otherwise a really bad thing to do. So, based on religion or feminism or concerns about human trafficking, they believe that porn is wrong. For such people, porn use creates profound conflict. It doesn’t matter to them what sexologists or their friends or anyone else says about porn being normal and OK because for them it’s problematic. Thus, they feel guilty and ashamed about using it. They don’t want pornography to be normalized in therapy, they want to stop using it.
  2. Sexual Addiction/Compulsivity. Now codified in the ICD-11 as Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder (CSBD), sex addiction/compulsivity is an increasingly common digital-era client behavioral concern (much like online gaming and gambling). In particular, we are seeing and documenting increasing numbers of men and women concerned with the ways that their sexual fantasy life and behaviors (including but not exclusively using porn) are negatively affecting their day-to-day and overall functioning.For some, porn can be an early “gateway” behavior opening the door to real-world sexually addictive/compulsive behaviors. For others, porn can escalate already existing patterns of sexually addictive/compulsive behavior. Either way, porn tends to reinforce the isolation and secrecy of addictive/compulsive sexual behavior.Clients who self-identify as sexually addicted/compulsive tend to report the following symptoms related to their general sexual functioning (which mirror the ICD-11 diagnostic criteria for CSBD):
  • Preoccupation to the point of obsession with sexual fantasy and behavior (including porn use).
  • Loss of control over sexual behavior (including porn use), typically evidenced by multiple failed attempts to cut back or quit.
  • Negative life consequences directly related to compulsive sexual behavior (including porn use), such as: trouble at work or in school, relationship losses or inability to form and maintain intimate relationships, depression, anxiety, social and emotional isolation, financial issues, legal problems, STD’s, anhedonia, etc.
  1. Porn Addiction/Compulsivity. This rapidly growing, mostly millennial population – about 90% young men between the ages of 16 and 30 – often seek out and join online communities like YourBrainOnPorn.com, NoFap.com, RebootNation.org, AddictedtoInternetPorn.com, and FighttheNewDrug.org. Typically, they report the following problems related to frequent, often daily porn use:
  • Preoccupation to the point of obsession with sexual fantasy and behavior (including porn
  • Lack of interest in adult intimacy or dating.
  • Lack of experience with romantic or sexual intimacy.
  • Inability to experience sexual arousal (erectile dysfunction) when attempting to be sexual with a peer/date.
  • Social isolation — lack of involvement and/or interest in peer social and recreational activities.
  • Lack of real-world sexual and romantic desire.
  • Anhedonia.

Both research and anecdotal evidence indicate that porn use can distract users from real-world romance and sex. Even worse, heavy porn use can lead to sexual dysfunction, even in otherwise healthy young men. We actually have a term for this: Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction (PIED).

Sadly, those who identify as porn addicted/compulsive often report that heavy porn use during their teen and young adult years has escalated into a life filled with not much else. They report sitting home alone with porn – feeling lonely, disconnected, and ashamed of who they are and what they’re doing. They are often isolated from peers, avoiding age-appropriate social and dating activities. As a result, they feel stuck, depressed, and alone, often not piecing together their porn use with their related life problems.

Once again, as a sexologist and addiction treatment specialist, I do not judge any client’s decision to use pornography. Nor do I judge any client’s desire to quit using pornography. The reasons for quitting given above (and many other reasons) are all legitimate. My job is not to judge the “why” of quitting. My job is to help clients achieve their goals for happiness and a better life. If that involves quitting porn, so be it.

The good news is that when people choose to walk away from porn, even if they are a heavy or addicted/compulsive user and need help with quitting and staying quit, most of the negative consequences they’ve experienced will abate or disappear relatively quickly. Even issues like PIED tend to clear up within a few months to a year. It is also important to note that compulsive use of porn (or any pleasurable behavior) could also be a sign of an unresolved and related mental health condition like ADHD, Bipolar Disorder, or OCD. Thus, it is always recommended that individuals see a licensed mental health professional (as well as getting peer support) when starting to work on such issues.

If you think you are porn addicted/compulsive or that someone you know might be, free information and recommendations for professional treatment are available through the website SexandRelationshipHealing.com. You might also look at YourBrainOnPorn.com, NoFap.com, RebootNation.org, AddictedtoInternetPorn.com, and FighttheNewDrug.org.

Six Reasons People Quit Using Porn


Robert Weiss PhD, MSW

Robert Weiss PhD, MSW is an expert in the treatment of adult intimacy disorders and related addictions, most notably sex/porn/relationship addictions along with co-occurring drug/sex addiction. A clinical sexologist and practicing psychotherapist, Dr. Rob frequently serves as a subject matter expert for major media outlets including CNN, HLN, MSNBC, OWN, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and NPR, among others. Dr. Rob is the author of Prodependence: Moving Beyond Codependency, Out of the Doghouse, Sex Addiction 101, and Cruise Control, among other books. He blogs regularly for Psychology Today and Psych Central. His podcast, Sex, Love, & Addiction, is rated as a Top 10 Addiction Podcast for 2019. He also hosts a weekly live no cost Webinar with Q&A on SexandRelationshipHealing.com. A skilled clinical educator, Dr. Rob routinely provides training to therapists, hospitals, psychiatric organizations, and even the US military. Over the years, he has created and overseen nearly a dozen high-end addiction and mental health treatment facilities across the globe. For more information or to reach Dr. Rob, visit SeekingIntegrity.com. You can also follow him on Twitter (@RobWeissMSW), LinkedIn (Robert Weiss LCSW), and Facebook (Rob Weiss MSW).


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APA Reference
Weiss PhD, R. (2019). Six Reasons People Quit Using Porn. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 21, 2019, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/sex/2019/01/six-reasons-people-quit-using-porn/

 

Last updated: 31 Jan 2019
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network (blogs.psychcentral.com) prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.