Where We Stand in Late 2019 with Pornography Addiction Being Recognized As a Diagnosable Condition

I haven’t shared many pornography addiction statistics in the last 6-to-8 months because it’s really been a matter of waiting for science to present more information. I asked a few months ago for people to forward new links to me if they ran into anything, and I appreciate those of you who forwarded a few along. I’ll be pulling data from these sources to share as it appears there are a lot of new 2018 and 2019 studies being released.

I’ll start with an overview of where things stand with pornography addiction from a clinical, scientific standpoint, looking at the results of a catch-all survey of the situation from a team of Spanish researchers released earlier in 2019. I’ve included the actual abstract at the end of this post, but I’m translating it into everyday English for you here:

 

  • Scientists still can’t tell the exact moment that porn use becomes a problem, affecting someone on a deeper level than just a casual user. This isn’t that surprising as science still hasn’t been able to figure out when someone goes from being a liar to a pathological liar, despite knowing that condition has been around for more than 100 years. My guess is that it’s a little different in everyone and there will never be a specific black-and-white test to determine when one has crossed the line into problem use.

 

  • The only behavioral addiction accepted by the DSM-5 (the manual of diagnoses preferred by most North American mental health providers) is gambling addiction. While the World Health Organization has adopted Sexual Impulse Disorder as a diagnosis in its ICD-11, it has still not officially recognized pornography addiction as a diagnosable condition. Based on reading I’ve done, it sounds like video game addiction may be the next behavioral addiction to be formally recognized. While most seem to feel its inclusion one day is a given, most experts seem to believe it is still going to be a while until enough data supports its inclusion in the DSM-5.

 

  • There has been recent attention paid to pornography addiction in the world pre- and post-introduction of high-speed Internet. While I understand the Internet has provided the tools to make pornography addiction more prevalent, I still need to do more reading on it to understand what the difference between the actual addiction would be before and after. I got hooked a decade before high-speed internet was made available, but used that exclusively in my last decade of addiction. Aside from the startling ease by which to access copious amounts and exotic varieties and genres of pornography, I don’t know what the difference is. A new designation (POPU) appears to be a favorite among researchers, standing for “Problematic Use of Online Pornography). Yeah, the letters seem to be in the wrong order to me, too.

 

  • POPU may have adverse effects on young people’s sexual development. It seems like a given, but even up until a few years ago, there were many studies doubting this. Science often has to prove the obvious again and again until the vast majority agree it’s the best conclusion based on the provable data. It’s a slow process, but getting pornography addiction officially recognized is getting there.

 

The actual abstract from the survey overview:

“In the last few years, there has been a wave of articles related to behavioral addictions; some of them have a focus on online pornography addiction. However, despite all efforts, we are still unable to profile when engaging in this behavior becomes pathological. Common problems include: sample bias, the search for diagnostic instrumentals, opposing approximations to the matter, and the fact that this entity may be encompassed inside a greater pathology (i.e., sex addiction) that may present itself with very diverse symptomatology. Behavioral addictions form a largely unexplored field of study, and usually exhibit a problematic consumption model: loss of control, impairment, and risky use. Hypersexual disorder fits this model and may be composed of several sexual behaviors, like problematic use of online pornography (POPU). Online pornography use is on the rise, with a potential for addiction considering the “triple A” influence (accessibility, affordability, anonymity). This problematic use might have adverse effects in sexual development and sexual functioning, especially among the young population. We aim to gather existing knowledge on problematic online pornography use as a pathological entity. Here we try to summarize what we know about this entity and outline some areas worthy of further research.”

 

Spotting the Signs of Pornography Addiction, Updated

I’m putting a new introduction and conclusion on this blog entry, but the meat of it ran on December 11, 2017. It is the most frequently viewed article on this site and really speaks to the reason I put the site up in the first place.

Porn addiction is a very real thing. Since this blog first appeared, the World Health Organization finally included Sexual Impulse Disorder among its diagnosable conditions in its International Classification of Diseases (ICD) guidebook used by mental health clinicians worldwide. Hopefully the American Psychiatric Association will update their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Medical Disorders (DSM), which tends to be favored by American clinicians (and insurance companies) when it comes to this disease.

Porn addiction really is a disease, and like any disease, there are stages. Addiction.com came up with a list talking about the stages of porn addiction. Looking back, I can see my journey through all three stages clear as crystal.

Early Warning Signs

  • Lying about, keeping secrets about and covering up the nature and extent of porn use
  • Anger or irritability if confronted about the nature or extent of porn use
  • Sexual dysfunction with real-world partners, including erectile dysfunction, delayed ejaculation and an inability to reach orgasm

I had girlfriends who hated everything about porn and those who didn’t. It didn’t matter to me. I’d deny to both that I looked at the stuff. I had folders for my folders on my computer. As a young guy in my early 20s, when I was with a female sexually for the first time, I almost uniformly was never able to perform to completion, unless I did it myself. I was intimidated by the fact I didn’t have the full control of the situation as I did with pornography. It was scary to let myself go. I would have to think of porn and think of what we were doing in terms of porn to perform. By the second or third encounter, it was not like real-life porn anymore because with traditional porn, it’s one-and-done.

Ongoing Signs

  • Escalating amounts of time spent on porn use, with hours and sometimes even days lost to pornography
  • An inability to form lasting social and intimate romantic relationships
  • Intense feelings of depression, shame and isolation
  • Disintegration of relationships with family, friends and romantic partners
  • Loss of interest in non-porn activities such as work, school, socializing, family and exercise

The pattern for my intimate relationships that lasted longer than a couple of months featured a dramatic drop in physical intimacy after the initial rush was gone. With porn, everything was new every time. After the 100th intimate encounter with a girlfriend, you know how the movie ends. I never allowed my physical relationships to become emotionally or spiritually intimate. I equated intercourse with only physical pleasure, because that’s all porn was to me.

Other signs were that I would look forward to people being out of the house so I could look at porn, or planning to watch later when I wasn’t at home yet. Watching regular TV was a trigger if I saw an actress and wondered if she’d done any nude scenes in the past. I couldn’t wait to do the research online to find out.

Critical Signs

  • Viewing progressively more intense or bizarre sexual content
  • Escalation from two-dimensional porn viewing to use of technology for casual, anonymous or paid-for sexual encounters, whether in-person or via Webcams
  • Trouble at work or in school (including reprimands and/or dismissal) related to poor performance, misuse of company/school equipment and/or public use of porn
  • Physical injury caused by compulsive masturbation
  • Financial issues
  • Legal issues (usually related to illegal porn use)

This is my crash. Ignoring a crumbling business, ignoring my psych meds, not getting any sleep, allowing my alcoholism to rule me, being up at 3 a.m. so I can talk to women in chatrooms…eventually leading to convincing a teenage girl to expose herself. I lost my job, I went to jail for six months and I’ll be on the sex offender registry for life.

The critical signs and that type of behavior lasted only a couple of months in a 25-year stretch of looking at porn, back to me being a kid. But as with most diseases, when it gets critical, things go downhill fast.

I look back on this article 13 months after I initially posted it and can even more recognize my life during those stages. The further I get down the recovery road, the more surprising it is that I didn’t recognize a problem sooner. I guess my alcoholism, mainly because of the attention it gets from the mainstream, grabbed my attention.

Well over 1,000 people looked at the first version of this article. I hope that they walked away with the two points I’ve consistently tried to make about pornography addiction: First, it can happen to anyone. There is not stereotypical addict. I could line 10 people up and tell you to pick the five addicts and it would be an exercise in futility. Second, if you have a problem, get some help. It’s OK to admit that you can’t do this on your own. The most important thing is you get up before things get to that critical point. If they can get critical for me, they can get critical for everyone.

Since this article went up, I’ve appeared on around 60 podcasts, radio and TV shows talking about pornography addiction, sharing many of these warning signs. Hopefully it’s done some good. If you’d like to check any of them out, visit HERE. As for seeking help, or simply to learn more about the addiction, check out the RESOURCES page and if that doesn’t do it for you, just contact me directly HERE.

 

Check out my most recent story about pornography addiction in Recovery Today Magazine

IMG_0591

IMG_0592

MAJOR NEWS: Compulsive Sexual Behavior will now be labeled as ‘Mental Health Condition’ by World Health Organization

Yes, it will probably take another decade of studies until the DSM (the Bible of Psychiatric Diagnostics), accepts it as a diagnosis, but the World Health Organization (WHO) has just released its latest literature, The ICD-11 (11th version of the International Classification of Diseases) and compulsive sexual behavior is now listed as a diagnosable mental health condition.

This is actually a super huge deal.

Why is this so important? Because health professionals around the world treat this as one of the most important guides to diagnose physical and mental health issues. It’s also used by government agencies around the globe. The WHO is a well-respected organization with no political agenda.

If you’re reading this from the US, you’ll get this analogy: It would be like NBC (WHO) going on the air 10 minutes before everyone and announcing there was an earthquake. Ten minutes later ABC and CBS (DSM) would catch up. It’s akin to breaking news and now it will take a long time to understand what the real fallout is.

Unfortunately, many insurance agencies side with the DSM when it comes to these kind of things. I had to be processed into rehab with an impulse control disorder to have insurance cover my treatment. Even gambling addiction, which is recognized by the DSM, is still scoffed at as a legitimate diagnoses by many insurance companies.

While WHO came just short of calling this compulsive sexual behavior and addiction, it does define it as preoccupation to the point of obsession with and loss of control over sexual fantasy and behavior.

So the next time somebody says to you “Sex addiction isn’t real” or “Porn addiction isn’t real” you can punch them in the stomach and say, “Well Joshua Shea and the World Health Organization says it is!”

We now return you to Wheel of Fortune, already in progress….

239744971090458eaf29c1f5ee778653.gif

Is Porn Addiction a “Real” Addiction? Duh.

Since I’ve started doing media for my book, I’ve been faced with the same question a few times: “What do you say to people who claim sex and/or porn addiction is not an addiction?” So, just to clear things up…porn addiction is an addiction. I promise. You don’t need to learn for yourself.

I have a couple of schools of thought on this question and its answer. First, is the part of it being an addiction. In all truth, I have no idea if it meets the standards of the mental health powers in the world. I believe I heard recently that despite a big debate, sexual addiction was not included in the latest DSM (it’s the like the Bible of the psychiatric ward in describing, diagnosing and treating mental health conditions) and is still considered an impulse disorder.

When I went to rehab for porn addiction, they had to diagnose me with an impulse disorder to get insurance to cover part of my stay. Despite the fact the vast majority of therapists and counselors I’ve talk to believe sex/porn addiction is a thing, people who suffer and can only get help if their insurance aids them will still be unable. That’s just a shame.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this site, to me, an addiction is a pattern of repeated behavior that has negative consequences on one’s health and life that despite great pain, shame and despair cannot be stopped by willpower alone.

My introduction to porn and the feelings it gave me were similar to that of my introduction to alcohol. I felt a sense of excitement and danger, since I knew I could get in trouble for utilizing either. It felt like I discovered something special and could use to help me through life. My ongoing use patterns were similar when it came to anxiety reducing and self-soothing and when it got to a critical point, I was making dangerous decisions with both vices. If my alcoholism is an addiction, I don’t understand how my porn use isn’t because they largely served the same purpose and caused the same internal reactions in my body.

 

Porn addiction can be bad for business

When somebody suggests that pornography addiction is not a “real” addiction, take a step back and view their situation and how pornography addiction becoming a thing could hurt their narrative.

I did a quick plug for my book on a podcast that boasts it’s about healthy sexuality. It’s just really about celebrating one’s sexuality and taking shame away from the subject. I agree with that and think it’s good. Whatever two consenting adults want to do is fine with me, even if that’s looking at porn….although I don’t advise it.

If sex and porn addiction are real conditions, then suddenly this host now has to tip-toe around these negative consequences of what may start from completely healthy behavior. Suddenly, it’s like a craft brew beer show having to deal with the pink elephant in the room of alcoholism.

I’m on a mailing list for people who may be good “professional” guests for radio shows or to provide comments for journalists’ articles. I got one this morning that said:

Statistics suggest our porn tastes are getting less kinky. According to this xHamster trend report, interest in some of the kinkier stuff is dissipating. There’s been a real cultural shaming around porn this past year with legislatures across the country declaring porn a public health crisis. This has been echoed by conservative groups and religious groups. I’m looking for sex experts to weigh in on this topic. If you have insights to share, please send them my way.

A year ago, I would have written to the reporter who submitted this query and tried to chew them out, but my initial rage is now tempered with an understanding of why the reality of porn addiction would scare someone…especially someone writing for a website or magazine called “Kinkly” where this request came from.

I’m probably more liberal than 90% of you reading this. I’m neither conservative and while I have a spiritual side, I’m not at all religious. Has there been a real cultural “shaming” or has there been a real cultural awareness? Is attaching the labels of “conservative” and “religious” supposed to turn all progressive liberals away from the truth? Porn tastes getting less kinky could be good news in addiction circles. Since the use of bizarre, non-mainstream and illegal pornography often arises in the critical phase of addiction, less people requesting this stuff could suggest that the skyrocketing numbers of people self-reporting porn addiction could be leveling. That’s a good thing, unless you’re making money off of it.

Any curtailing of pornography, even if it is an overall positive for public health is never going to be seen as a positive for a company producing a product called Kinkly. By their very name, less kink is bad for business.

I doubt that the podcaster who interviewed me or that Kinkly journalist wants anybody to have an addiction, but I think that they are looking at this through the eyes of their bank account. A narrative where porn addiction is a real thing does not help their bottom line so it’s better to argue against it. There’s good money to be made in enabling addiction. Socially, the problem with that stance is that it encourages people who may need help to believe their behavior is not outside the norm and that it is healthy. By telling people who may have a problem that they don’t, they’re doing far more harm than good.

 

A final perspective

Finally, I reach my bottom line with this…who cares what it’s labeled? I know it’s important for insurance companies and people who need to put others into little boxes, but it is just a label. If a person goes to two psychologists and one diagnoses the person with addiction and the other professional doesn’t…does the person have an addiction? It actually doesn’t matter what those two psychologists said. That person is leaving the office in the same condition that they arrived, addict or not.

Call it a compulsion. Call it an obsession. It’s a habit. It’s an addiction. These are all just labels that don’t change the fact that I have a problem. What does splitting hairs actually do except waste time on a debate where the answer isn’t important?

When that podcast host gave her dissertation about porn addiction not being real, she then asked what I thought. I told her that it didn’t matter to me what she called it. I’m the same person after she finished her thought as when she started it. I told her to walk a mile in my shoes and tell me it’s not an addiction. And I told her that I didn’t actually care what her stance was on the concept of the addiction because I live with it and it was all the proof I need to know that pornography addiction is an actual addiction.

She ended the interview at that point.