Problematic Pornography Use
Do you have a secret sexual life that brings you guilt?
Do you find yourself spending too much time thinking about sex or looking at pornography?
It’s late at night and you find yourself online. You promised yourself you wouldn’t look again, but you’re tired and want an escape. Something just for you, far away from the daily grind. It’s a familiar struggle that leaves you wanting more and liking yourself less.
Over time, you spend more time online, viewing more intense videos. You find yourself doing things that you thought you would never do, like going on dating websites. You love your partner, but you are curious about who is out there. You start to converse with someone and you feel the excitement of being wanted. You don't want to leave you partner, but you find it difficult to stop. You gradually find yourself withdrawing from your family, spending more and more time in a fantasy world.
The secrecy and lies takes their toll. You feel so ashamed, but don’t know how to get out of this mess. You start to wonder: what is wrong with me? Sometimes it feels like you’re going crazy. You have always prided yourself on being a good person, and now you are living a double life. You tell yourself that what your spouse doesn’t know won’t hurt her, but something in your gut still doesn’t feel right. No matter what you tell yourself, that little voice doesn’t seem to be going away. You’ve let everyone down, and gotten away from your faith.
Or perhaps you never thought you had a problem with porn until your partner found out. You thought that all men looked at pornography. Men have a higher sex drive than women, and you were satisfying your sexual needs. She’s so busy and doesn’t seem that interested in sex anyway. Then your partner finds out, and you are shocked at how upset she is. You thought she had some idea you looked at porn, but another part of you knew she didn't know the whole truth. Now you are just hoping that you can repair the damage and make all of this go away.
As a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist, I help people break the grip of addictive pornography so they don’t have to hide anymore. My clients report that they feel a sense of relief and peace to no longer have to live with the pain and shame of their secrets.
Questions for Reflection:
- Do you find yourself spending more and more time viewing pornography?
- Do you find that the types of sites you are viewing are escalating in intensity or nature (e.g., going from videos to chat rooms)
- Do you feel irritable and moody if you cannot look at pornography?
- Do you find yourself obsessed with sex throughout the day?
- Are you keeping secrets about your behaviour from those you love?
- Do you experience feelings of shame, guilt, depression, and hopelessness around your sexual behaviour?
- Have you experienced decreased sex drive in your intimate relationships?
- Have you encountered difficulty maintaining an erection during intercourse with your partner?
- Would you rather spend time in a sexual fantasy world than real life?
- Have you tried to change your behaviours unsuccessfully?
If you have selected 2 or more of the above items, you may have issues with problematic sexual behaviour.
Here are some of the sexual behaviours associated with problematic sexual behaviour that I work with:
- Internet pornography addiction
- Sexual preoccupation / obsession
- Excessive amount of time spent in sexual fantasy
- Compulsive masturbation
- Visiting massage parlours
- Visiting escorts or texting them regularly
Can You Really Be Addicted to Pornography?
We live in a world where we have instant access to many indulgences, including food, online shopping, television, and pornography. Many people engage in these behaviours in ways that do not cause them significant harm. For example, in Canada, 80% of adults consumed alcohol in the past year. Researchers estimate that 20% of those people drink in a way that is considered harmful. Although there are certain factors that can increase our risk for alcoholism, the majority of people who consume alcohol are not addicted to it.
With online pornography, researchers estimate that 66% of men view pornography once per month. There are varied estimates, but approximately 3-6% report that their sexual behaviour is addictive. Because sex stimulates the reward pathway of the brain, it is possible to become addicted to it, according to recent research.
Whether you are addicted to pornography or not, your partner may not be comfortable with it. Often keeping online pornography use secret from a spouse can feel like a sexual betrayal similar to cheating.
The diagnosis of sexual addiction has been controversial to say the least. Some people view sexual addiction as an excuse for poor life choices. Others have criticized the field of sexual addiction treatment of having a narrow view of sexuality and being shaming and moralistic. In my work, I am not overly concerned with labeling my clients, but want to provide effective treatment to help them reach their self-identified goals. One of the simplest ways to determine if you may need help is to ask: Is this behaviour causing me problems? Am I having difficulties making changes on my own?
In 2018, the International Classification of Disease (ICD-11) included "Compulsive Sexual Behavioural Disorder" under the category of impulse disorders. This ICD-11 is a classification system for health issues that is used by physicians and other healthcare providers created by the World Health Organization. This development is a historic step in validating the struggles of many men and women, and also helping to legitimize the issue of sexual compulsivity. In my work, I do not use the ICD-11, but I conduct a thorough assessment based on my training as a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist. For a summary of the search on sexual compulsivity and the brain, please view the website of professor Gary Wilson.
First of all, it takes immense courage to reach out for help. There is so much shame and stigma with pornography addiction that many people live in secrecy and shame for many years. Please know that with some hard work and the right kind of support, you can be successful. As a psychologist, I am bound to keep your information confidential, and take this responsibility very seriously.
My therapeutic approach combines Patrick Carnes’ task-based model for sex addiction recovery with neuroscience, mindfulness, and relapse prevention approaches. I also draw on my extensive experience working with drug, alcohol, and gambling addictions.
I can help you to:
- Develop tools and strategies to stop viewing pornography
- Discover how your addiction developed
- Repair the trust with your partner
My clients share that they find recovery challenging, but worth the effort. They report increased mental clarity, happiness, improved relationships, and the peace of mind to not be living in secrecy.
What's the Next Step?
- Take your free sex addiction test
- Check out my free sex addiction recovery kit
- Please contact me if you have any questions or would like to set up an appointment
Getting started involves in-person and online assessments, which typically takes one to two sessions to complete. Based on your results, we will design an individualized treatment plan to suit your needs.
To learn more about how sex addiction impacts a relationship, view my radio podcast interview with Carol the Coach.
Treating Sexual Addiction
What is Sex Addiction?
The Science of Pornography Addiction
Sex Addiction (Partners)
Have you been devastated by your partner’s sexual behaviour?
Do you find yourself on an emotional rollercoaster because of your partner’s sexual behaviour?
When your partner has been unfaithful, it’s like a bomb has gone off: the world as you knew it is shattered, and you’re left to pick up the pieces. There is a lot of anger, fear, and confusion. It becomes difficult—if not impossible—to trust, and many wonder if the relationship is worth saving. Partners, in turn, may blame themselves, or develop self-image issues because they wonder if their partner finds them sexually attractive.
Although partners do not cause their loved-one’s sexual behaviour, it can be helpful to have individualized support to deal with the overwhelming impacts. As a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist, I work with partners from a trauma model, which helps partners to understand sex addiction, while learning to establish boundaries and engage in self-care.
Getting started typically involves getting connected to complete an assessment and treatment plan. If your spouse is in treatment, we will work collaboratively with other counsellors to create a solid plan.
I also provide couples therapy to couples who are recovering from sex addiction.
For further assessment: Partner Sexuality Survey ($6.50 US)