“Understanding your pornography use,” Help for Me (2021)
“Understanding your pornography use,” Help for Me
It can feel overwhelming and frightening to be involved with pornography. A helpful first step is to understand the extent of your pornography use and how it affects you. When you have a better understanding of where you are in the spectrum of pornography use, you have a better opportunity to overcome it.
President Dallin H. Oaks taught that there are four different levels of involvement with pornography1:
Inadvertent exposure: “I believe that everyone has been inadvertently exposed to pornography. There is no sin in this when we turn away and don’t pursue it.”
Occasional use: “The danger with any intentional use of pornography, no matter how casual or infrequent, is that it always invites more frequent exposure, which will inevitably increase preoccupation with sexual feelings and behavior.”
Intensive use: “Repeated intentional use of pornography can make its use a habit. … With habitual use, individuals experience a need for more stimulus to have the same reaction in order to be satisfied.”
Compulsive use (addiction): “A person’s behavior is addictive when it forms a ‘dependency’ (a medical term applied to the use of drugs, alcohol, compulsive gambling, etc.) amounting to an ‘irresistible compulsion’ that ‘takes priority over almost everything else in life.’”2
Many people who struggle with pornography may label themselves as addicted. This label can be harmful and misleading if it isn’t true. What does it really mean to be addicted to something? Addiction refers to behaviors that people feel compelled to repeat even when the consequences are negative. Such behaviors often lead to other problems, such as:
Problems in relationships.
Employment, academic, or other related problems.
A desire to isolate or hide.
Seeking out harsher and more graphic forms of pornography to meet your need for increased stimulation.
Feeling shame and low self-worth.
Here are some questions you might ask as you consider if you are addicted to 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.
If you’ve been unable to stop viewing pornography for a long period of time—such as several years—you may have more difficulty overcoming this than if you have been involved with pornography for a shorter period. If you’ve been viewing pornography since you were young, you may be more likely to develop an addiction over time.
If you are willing to take risks to view pornography, then your behavior may be more difficult to change. 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.
If you are addicted to pornography, you may struggle to perform routine daily tasks. Thoughts of pornography can consume an individual 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.
Even after you consider these questions, you may still not have a clear understanding of whether you are addicted to pornography. However, when you evaluate your behavior, you may begin to come to a better understanding of your pornography use. This may help you begin to make a plan for change.
If you find that your problem is more serious or if you’re struggling to make progress, you may need professional help. Learn more about finding professional help by reading “How do I find a mental health professional who is right for me?”
When you take the time and effort to understand your pornography use, you are taking the first step toward changing your behavior. Change is always possible.
Consider writing your responses to the questions in this article. Describe the extent of your pornography habit.
Identify individuals or a group that you can turn to. Family Services Pornography Addiction Support Groups (PASG), Sexaholics Anonymous (SA), Fortify, and other support groups can be helpful for many individuals. Spouses may also find it helpful to attend a support group. Other resources that can help include the Addiction Recovery Program, the Association of Latter-day Saint Counselors and Psychotherapists, Family Services, and the Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health.