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The Consequences of Compulsive Porn Use


In a previous post to this site, I discussed how therapists can clinically define and diagnose porn compulsivity/addiction (as a form of Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder), and how problematic, compulsive porn use typically manifests in a person’s life. In this post, I am focused on the most common consequences of this type of porn use.

People who struggle with the compulsive use of pornography nearly always find themselves leading stressful, highly compartmentalized lives.  Because they feel so much personal, cultural, religious, and/or moral shame about their porn use, they hide this behavior from family, friends, and everyone else who matters to them. Often, their shame prevents them from seeking help for their problem. And when they do reach out, they tend to ask for help with anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem rather than directly addressing their underlying issue of pornography. Many heavy porn users spend months or even years in therapy without ever discussing (or even being asked about) their secret sexual life.

Of course, shame is hardly the only consequence that people experience related to heavy porn use.

Research tells us that compulsive porn users experience a wide variety of directly and indirectly related problems. For example, a survey of 350 self-identified sex and porn addicts conducted by UK therapist Paula Hall identified the following issues:

Shame                                                                              70.5%
Low Self-Esteem                                                            65.0%
Mental Health Issues                                                   49.8%
Loss of a Relationship                                                   46.5%
Sexual Dysfunction                                                       26.7%
Serious Suicidality                                                         19.4%
Sexually Transmitted Disease                                    19.4%
Other (Non-STD) Physical Health Problems            15.7%
Debt                                                                                 14.7%
Impaired Parenting                                                       14.7%
Legal Actions Against                                                   06.0%
Loss of Employment                                                     04.1%
Press Exposure                                                              00.9%

Regardless of the study and who conducted it, the primary consequences of compulsive porn use tend to boil down to shame, mental health issues, relationship woes, and sexual dysfunction. At the very least, these are the issues that seem to drive heavy porn users into treatment.

Shame and Low Self-Esteem

As stated above, compulsive porn users often feel personal, cultural, religious, and/or moral shame about their behavior. If an individual was raised in a home or a religion or a culture that frowns upon porn use, that person can’t help but feel defective and “less than” for using it. And even individuals who are not externally shamed for using pornography may feel internal shame about it, especially if pornography is their primary or only sexual outlet. In such cases, they may feel lonely and embarrassed about their “failure” to engage sexually in the real world, and, over time, this can eat away them, diminishing their self-esteem in all areas of life.

Mental Health Issues

The link between mental health issues and pornography will be discussed in detail in a future posting to this site. For now, I will simply state that common mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and even suicidality are often linked to compulsive porn use. The cause and effect relationship is not always clear, however. It appears mental health issues can result from compulsive porn use; it also appears that mental health issues can create emotional discomfort and a need to “numb out” through the compulsive use of pornography (or compulsive gambling, alcoholism, drug abuse, binge eating, etc.) Either way, there is an undeniable link between heavy porn use and a variety of mental health issues.

Relationship Woes

Individuals who are in committed, supposedly monogamous relationships may or may not be committing infidelity by using pornography, depending on how the couple has defined monogamy and the boundaries of their relationship. Either way, if porn use escalates to the level of compulsivity, the relationship can’t help but be negatively impacted. When porn use is compulsive, it starts to override everything else that’s important, including intimate connections. When porn is placed ahead of the user’s primary romantic relationship in this way, strife is inevitable.

Sexual Dysfunction

Depending on the research, anywhere from 17 percent to 58 percent of men who struggle with pornography report issues with erectile dysfunction (ED), delayed ejaculation (DE), or inability to reach orgasm (anorgasmia). Often, this is the most disturbing consequence of compulsive porn use, especially among younger male users. And without a doubt, this issue is increasingly common. Stated simply, growing numbers of physically healthy men, including men in their sexual prime, are suffering from sexual dysfunction related to their use of pornography.

And no, this issue is not linked to frequency of masturbation and orgasm (i.e., the need for a sexual refractory period in which males reload, so to speak). In actuality, the problem is tied to the fact that when a male spends the majority (or all) of his sexual life masturbating to online pornography – endless images of visually perfect (whatever that means to the user), constantly changing partners and experiences – he is, over time, likely to find a real-world partner or a simple sexual fantasy less than stimulating. For these individuals, online porn creates an emotional and psychological disconnect that manifests physically as sexual dysfunction.

Even worse, this sexual dysfunction affects not just male porn users but their romantic partners. If a guy can’t get it up, keep it up, or reach orgasm, then his partner’s sexual pleasure and self-esteem are also likely to be diminished. Many heavy porn users find themselves ending an existing relationship with someone they genuinely care about because of the shame they feel when they can’t perform sexually, or their partners end it for them because they don’t feel a healthy sexual and romantic connection and don’t know why.

If you or someone you know is struggling with compulsive or addictive porn use, please visit the free resource website SexandRelationshipHealing.com for assistance and guidance. To receive specialized treatment for porn compulsivity/addiction, contact Seeking Integrity.

The Consequences of Compulsive Porn Use


Robert Weiss PhD, LCSW

Robert Weiss PhD, LCSW is Chief Clinical Officer of Seeking Integrity Treatment Centers. He 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. (2020). The Consequences of Compulsive Porn Use. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 31, 2020, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/sex/2020/07/the-consequences-of-compulsive-porn-use/

 

Last updated: 6 Jul 2020
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