It can be overwhelming and frightening to be involved with pornography. Pornography is harmful to ourselves and others and is inappropriate. But it's important that we understand the extent of our use and how pornography affects us.
Many people who struggle with pornography may label themselves as addicted. This label can be harmful if it is not true. The words “addiction” and “addicted” are used freely and often inaccurately. When we understand where we are in the spectrum of pornography use, we can begin to overcome it.
What does it really mean to be addicted to something? Typically, addiction refers to behaviors that are done in an uncontrolled way that undermines personal happiness. Addiction causes us to repeat these behaviors even when the consequences are negative. (See “Addiction,” Gospel Topics.) These behaviors often lead to other problems in our lives, such as:
- Feelings of guilt and shame.
- Difficulty going about daily tasks.
- Problems in relationships.
- Problems related to employment or academic performance.
- Additional inappropriate sexual behaviors.
- A desire to isolate or hide.
- Lack of interest in spiritual development.
Before we label ourselves as addicted, there are some questions we might ask ourselves.
Frequency: How often do I view pornography?
Pornography use can range from inadvertent exposure to occasional use to intensive use to compulsive use. Part of assessing where we are on this spectrum includes evaluating our frequency of use, or how often we engage in viewing pornography. The more frequently an individual views pornography, the more serious the problem. Occasional viewing of pornography usually indicates a milder problem and is less likely to be an addiction, although the conduct is still inappropriate and harmful. For more information, see President Dallin H. Oaks, “Recovering from the Trap of Pornography” (Ensign, Oct. 2015, 32–38).
Duration: How long have I been involved with pornography?
If we have been unable to stop viewing pornography for a long period of time—such as several years—we may have more difficulty overcoming this than if we have been involved with pornography for a shorter period. If we’ve been viewing pornography since we were young, we may be more likely to develop an addiction over time.
Risk-taking: How willing am I to take risks so I can view pornography?
If we are willing to take risks to view pornography, then our behavior may be more difficult to change. For children, these risks may include neglecting schoolwork, lying, or withdrawing from social situations. As an adult, risk-taking might include attempting to hide pornography use, lying to a spouse, or viewing pornography at work. This behavior could lead to divorce, family problems, loss of employment, or criminal activity.
Daily struggles: Is pornography making my daily tasks more difficult?
If we are addicted to pornography, we may struggle to perform routine daily tasks in our lives. Thoughts of pornography can consume us to the point where sleeping, working, or other chores become difficult. Even family conversations or activities may seem challenging. This obsessive thinking may have an unhealthy influence on friendships, family relationships, responsibilities, and activities that we previously enjoyed.
Understanding Our Behavior
Even after we consider these questions, we still may not have a clear understanding of whether we are addicted. However, when we evaluate our behavior, we may begin to come to a better understanding of our pornography use. This may help us begin to make a plan for change. We have the power to change, and it is our responsibility to do so.
If we find that our problem is serious or if we are struggling to make progress, we may need professional help. Learn more about finding a professional by reading “How do I find a mental health professional who is right for me?”
When we take the time and effort to understand our pornography use, we are taking the first steps toward changing our behavior. No matter how severe our pornography problem is, change is possible.
- Consider writing your responses to the questions in this article. Describe the extent of your pornography problem.
- Make a plan to stop viewing pornography. To learn more about making a plan, see “What do I need to focus on to overcome my pornography habit?”
- Find support. Identify individuals or a group that you can turn to for support. Read “How can I find the support I need?” for more information.