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Porn Addiction: Is It Ruining Your Relationship?

If your partners overuse of porn is ruining or damaging your relationship, you are not alone.  I can’t tell you how many women I’ve talked with over the last few years that have told me some version of “Porn is ruining our relationship,” or “porn caused our divorce.”  

Why is viewing internet porn so much more likely to lead to an addictive problem than say eating ice-cream, for example?

Internet porn is not the Playboy, Hustler or adult store of yesteryear. This stuff is live and action oriented and, for some, highly addictive. Mari Lee, a therapist who specializes in sex addiction in the Los Angeles area, said in a training I attended, that if cocaine creates a chemical high in the brain 100 times what a drink of alcohol does, porn creates an effect 1,000 times that of alcohol. Now we know why porn can be SO compelling and addictive.

The internet has made sexual images – which, in general, are more reinforcing to men than to women SO available. Not that women don’t develop porn problems, but statistically more women have relationship addiction issues.

What makes someone more vulnerable to porn addiction? As with developing any addictive problem, if you have a family member with an addictive history, have suffered trauma as a child (abuse, difficult divorces and child custody, neglect) there is more emotional vulnerability to seeking external comfort, calming or soothing. And, of course, there’s the pleasure aspect. Sex is pleasurable and for those with addictive tendencies, MORE is sometimes never enough. This rewires the pleasure reward centers of the brain.

How His Porn Addiction May Affect You as a Wife/Girlfriend:

You may experience:

* Rejection

* Betrayal

* Depression

* Abandonment

* Isolation

* Loneliness

* Humiliation

* Anger

All of these feelings are normal. I encourage journaling, talking to a safe friend, and counseling. Check out Alanon, a 12 Step Support group for those whose family or partner is addicted.

His porn problem isn’t just his problem because it affects you. As a spouse or girlfriend you may be the push your partner needs to get help. Talk with him, share how you feel calmly and clearly and how specifically his porn problem is affecting you.

When I have a couple come in for a first session and she says he has a problem and he says he doesn’t, I gently reply, “Well, if someone who loves you says there’s a problem, there’s a problem.” And, women, get help for yourselves, even if he’s not ready.

Stephanie Carnes, Ph.D, addiction specialist, states that “Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.”

Does Treatment Help?

Yes, it does. As with any addictive problem, recovery is a process and takes time and work. 

Treatment Options Include:

12 Step Sex Addiction groups. These are free and supportive of recovery similar to A.A. or Narcotics Anonymous. Google Sex Addiction groups in your city.

Private Counseling: Again Google therapists in your area that have experience with addiction and preferable sex addiction.  Contact your insurance provider to see if they have recommendations.

In-Patient Treatment: 

For some a safe, supportive 30-60 day treatment program is the best way to detox, heal and rebuild better habits. 

Here are two I recommend:

The Meadows: Arizona  https://www.themeadows.com/

Hazelden Betty Ford Clinic  Palm Springs https://www.themeadows.com/

As a Certified Drug and Alcohol Counselor for over 25 years I’ve seen how difficult this behavior can be to break because the brain gets rewired with the intense activity. Normal sex then feels lukewarm until brain and behavior have been retrained and re-sensitized to normal sexual sensitivity and sensuality. That takes time and practice.  Be patient.

However, porn addiction is treatable and recovery is definitely possible with help.

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Addiction Modesto

Modesto, California

I work with people in Modesto, Riverbank, Turlock, Oakldale, Stockton, Manteca and Tracy.

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