Understanding P0rnography Addiction

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by RI Editors

This essay in our Peculiar Minds series is by Dr. Kevin Skinner.

Are they a couple or not?Do you have a loved one who might be stuck in p0rnography? Are you wondering what warning signs to look for if someone is trapped in p0rnography? How should you respond after you discover a loved one’s involvement in p0rnography?

Maybe you just want to know whether there is any hope for a recovery.  In this short essay, I will provide a few thoughts and ideas, based on my work.

Warning Signs

While there is no one thing that would indicate that a loved one has an addiction to p0rnography, there are specific signs for which you can look. These include:

  • Hiding Internet behaviors—Not allowing others to see or use the computer, using a password to protect the computer, and/or quickly changing screens when someone enters the room.
  • Spending significant alone time randomly surfing the Internet or watching excessive amounts of TV—It may seem harmless to randomly surf the Internet, but hours of useless surfing leads to trouble in many situations.
  • Emotional disconnection—Individuals trapped in p0rnography often disappear emotionally. Their loved ones will say things like, “When he is home, it is like is he is still gone.”
  • Change in sexual patterns or behaviors—One of the common warning signs is a change in the bedroom. Some individuals become more assertive, (e.g. want sex all the time, want to act the way they see it done) or they may be unable to perform in bed.
  • Mood swings—P0rnography alters moods. Individuals who are caught up in p0rnography report that their moods change before viewing (anticipating what they are going to do) and afterwards (more irritable and upset).
  • Multiple addictions—Many individuals trapped in p0rnography struggle with more than just p0rnography. Other common examples include: food, alcohol, drugs, gambling, and/or intense activities.

Individually these signs might not be that big of a red flag. However, if your loved one struggles with multiple bullet points above, you might have reason to be concerned.

How to Respond to a Loved One Addicted to P0rn

If your loved one suffers with an addiction to p0rnography, it is important first to look inside yourself. You may want to strangle him, but that isn’t a good option for his long-term recovery. You will want to begin by searching within your own heart. How is his behavior influencing you day-to-day? How are you dealing with your hurt, pain, or feelings of betrayal? Once you have answered these questions, you will be better prepared to help your loved one.

Here are four suggestions to help you better respond:

  1. Upon first discovery do not make important decisions. You really need to take some time to process the information your loved one has shared with you. Once you have a better understanding of his history of involvement and how he responds now that you know, you can then make a better, more informed decision.
  2. Listen to him and his story—It is important to truly understand and seek information. Most women are really good at this. However, discovering a partner’s involvement in p0rnography is a very difficult emotional experience.  Once you pull yourself out of the emotional pain, listen to what he is saying. Ask him about his history and how long he has been involved. Who has he told over the years?  What does he want to about his problem?
  3. Encourage with love—This is perhaps the most difficult way to respond to discovering a loved one’s involvement in p0rnography. P0rnography triggers powerful emotions in everyone, not just the individual caught up in it. Your challenge is to find a deeper love for him so that you can encourage him with love. One woman put it this way, “When I first discovered my husband’s actions, I yelled and screamed at him. However, as time went by I realized he had been living in his own nightmare. This realization helped me have more compassion on him, even though I hated what it did to him and his lies.” Loving words include: “I will be by your side as long as you are trying. I believe you can do this because I have seen you do hard things, and I love you and my desire is for us to be together as you work towards recovery.”
  4. Have expectations/establish boundaries—After discovering your loved one’s involvement in p0rn, you need to have expectations. These might include:  seeking professional treatment, attending a 12-step group, talking with a religious leader for extra support and guidance, reducing vulnerable times, cutting back on internet use, getting a filter or accountability program on the computer, and/or finding a sponsor.

Your response really does matter. Initially, your emotions may be all over the place both up and down. This is normal. However, as you step back and analyze the situation, you can establish clear expectations, demonstrate love, listen, and understand him, avoiding making a hasty decision about your relationship.

Is there hope?

Many women ask me whether there is hope for their loved one involved in p0rnography. My answer is always: YES! Over the years I have found that those trapped in p0rnography want out. Unfortunately, many of them don’t know where to start or how to get help. When they begin to take action and seek help they can make great progress. Here’s a list of seven things that people in recovery generally do in the recovery process:

  1. Learn about the recovery process
  2. Become accountable
  3. Develop a recovery game plan
  4. Create meaningful connections
  5. Learn how to regulate emotions
  6. Have a positive focus
  7. Develop healthy habits

Over the years I have witnessed many individuals and couples work through the recovery process. It requires much effort and there will be many painful days. However, the price of healing and recovery is worth it. When a couple sits down in my office and looks into each other’s eyes with love for each other after months of counseling and other recovery activities, I realize that there is hope — I have seen it firsthand. It is possible!

KSkinnerphotoDr. Kevin Skinner is the clinical director at Addo Recovery, a center that offers clinical treatment for pornography and sexual addiction. The center offers a unique online support for women dealing with their partner’s sexual addiction. Dr. Skinner is the author of Treating Pornography Addiction: The Essential Tools for Recovery. He has developed many other resources for individuals and couples seeking extra support in the recovery process. You can learn more about him and his work at www.treatingpornographyaddiction.com


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4 Responses to Understanding P0rnography Addiction

  1. Bonnie says:

    Kevin, this is a wonderful outline. Thank you for the concise overview. I think we must begin talking more openly about p0rnography because our world places it in front of everyone with such audacity. Our youth may struggle with this, and be frightened by the implications for their character. Women may struggle with it and feel especially degraded because it is so often men that we talk about suffering the addiction. I have three girls and three boys and we speak very openly about p0rnography. The Church’s counsel to have computers always in public rooms with screens facing everyone else helps, but in an age of handheld access to the internet, we provide a guardrail with the simple possibility that at any time your ipod could be requested and the viewing history revealed. I have filters on the computers but I KNOW it’s not enough. We have to talk openly and freely, without shame and with candor. Thanks for these important tools.

  2. Paul says:

    I think your observation about co-existing addictions is important; battling addiction is a long a difficult process, regardless of the object of the addiction. And it is not uncommon for an addict to move from one addiction to another.

    I recognize your outline is brief and is not meant to provide a one-size-fits-all solution, but I would caution against setting expectations. Most 12-step programs will teach that expectations when unmet are the source of resentments that will ultimately lead to more addictive or co-dependent behaviors. In the end, we can establish boundaries, but we cannot control the actions of others. Our boundaries can only establish what we will do when our boundaries are crossed; they cannot effectively dictate another’s behavior.

  3. “You will want to begin by searching within your own heart. How is his behavior influencing you day-to-day? How are you dealing with your hurt, pain, or feelings of betrayal? Once you have answered these questions, you will be better prepared to help your loved one.”

    Like Paul said, of course there is way too much to cover in one post, but I was very disappointed to see that there wasn’t more acknowledgement given in a post like this to the fact that for spouses, getting from ‘dealing with hurt, pain, or feelings of betrayal” to being “better prepared to help your loved one” is usually a *significant* recovery and healing process all its own, and it can take time. I’m glad to see that Dr. Skinner has an online support program for wives he is helping. I would have loved to hear more specifically about what he does to help them. Dr. Skinner, if you are reading, perhaps you could talk more to this?

  4. Bonnie says:

    Glad you checked in with us, Hope and Healing. Your forum is an important resource. Please feel free to tell our readers more about what you’re doing in comments. It stays here forever for others as a resource!

    Also there is a movie about these issues being produced at this point. It is called Shamed and it focuses on healing for those caught in addiction. You can like it on Facebook and receive updates. I believe they are in their fundraising process to support a wider distribution.

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