Pornography Addiction and Treatment

What is Pornography Addiction?

Compulsive Sexual Behaviour Disorder (CSBD) is an umbrella construct that includes various disorders and addictions that meets its broad definition. CSBD refers to the pattern of failure to control intense sexual impulses and resulting repetitive sexual behaviour, manifested over an extended period (e.g., six months or more).

This condition causes marked distress or significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. However, distress entirely related to moral judgments and disapproval about sexual impulses, urges, or behaviours is insufficient to meet the requirements of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) diagnostic manual.

There are multiple manifestations of CSBD, one of which is pornography addiction. Pornography addiction is an obsession with viewing pornography. Compulsive porn use may share many signs and symptoms that are similar to that of pornography addiction. What differentiates porn addiction from a vested interest in porn is that individuals with porn addiction experience a lack of self-control in addition to the urge that drives them to consume such content. Individuals addicted to porn also tend to spend excessive amounts of time consuming pornographic material at high costs to other domains of their lives.

The self-defeating behaviour arising from this addiction often results in other troubles such as depression, loneliness, and relationship issues. However, individuals struggling with pornography addiction may not necessarily identify their addiction as the underlying reason for these issues. Consequently, they may seek prolonged treatment for these woes without discussing their obsessive porn use. Individuals with pornography addiction in Singapore may also be reluctant to seek help due to social stigma, causing their core issue to remain untreated.

What Contributes to the Rise of Pornography Addiction?

  • The rise of the cybersex industry. This has exponentially increased the incidences of porn addiction. With technological advancements, anybody (including minors) can easily access sexually graphic material on multiple devices. Sex chat rooms, dating and hook-up apps enable people to find willing partners for sexual encounters. Instant and constant gratification feed into pornography addiction. The increasing objectification of persons in porn further changes how we perceive sex, relationships, and intimacy.
  • Online anonymity. With features like incognito mode, the internet can provide a shield of anonymity for persons indulging in unusual, harmful, or illegal sexual content.
  • Social stigma and cultural norms that hinder one from seeking help or treatment. Such behaviour disorders can cause a sense of shame and embarrassment. This is compounded by the (false) public view that pornography addiction is a prelude to sex offending. Therefore, these factors may deter individuals in Singapore from seeking help. It is important to keep in mind that porn addicts are not synonymous with sex offenders, and sex offenders may or may not have a pornography addiction.

Signs and Symptoms of a Pornography Addiction Requiring Treatment (‘Sex’ Here Includes Any Activity Done to Achieve an Orgasm or Sexual Pleasure)

  • Finding it difficult to stop viewing pornography even if your behaviour is risky or reckless
  • Unable to reduce the amount of porn material you consume and/ or consume with increasingly explicit content
  • Having your pre-occupation with pornography interfere with your work and/or education
  • Your pre-occupation with pornography has made sex less fulfilling
  • Neglecting important responsibilities/relationships due to your pornography addiction
  • Watching pornography has become the most important thing in your life, and you lose interest in everything else
  • Viewing pornography even when you do not enjoy it
  • Experience frustration or shame following porn use but keep up with the behaviour
  • Spending large amounts of money on porn material at the expense of necessities
  • Experience anger at being advised to reduce or seek treatment for porn consumption

Indicators of Additional Risk

  • Depression/isolation
  • Self-harm
  • Other addictions – alcohol or substance use
  • Illegal activities/sex offending activities

Pornography Addiction Treatment Process

Pornography addiction treatment at Visions by Promises typically starts with an intake assessment, 6 individual sessions for respective parties to the relationship, as well as 3 couple sessions in the first stage of recovery.

The Intake Assessment (Usually a One-hour Session)

The clinician will take a thorough history of the presenting issues and relevant relationship history. Depending on the state of the condition, the individual and significant partner may be interviewed separately or together. At the end of the assessment, the therapist will discuss the next steps with the individual/couple, with referrals if needed.

First Stage of Recovery (First 2 months)

At this stage, the therapist will work with the individual through a detailed formal assessment to confirm and identify the gravity of the pornography addiction. The treatment will then address underlying factors that have led to, are sustaining, and aggravating the condition. If additional risk factors are present, the therapist will work with the individual to address these risk factors with referrals as appropriate.

The discovery of porn addiction often causes highly charged emotional trauma. Thus, the partner of the addict is also strongly encouraged to receive individual treatment or help to reinforce the necessary coping skills. While the partner is not the person with the disease, the intimate nature of pornography addiction often means that the partner plays an important role in the porn addict’s recovery process.

Goals for this stage of recovery include stabilising the individual, the partner and, where relevant, the children. Preparations will also be made for the next stage of the couple’s treatment process.

Second Stage of Recovery (3rd month)

The couple will be supported through a structured three-step recovery process which is intended to mark the end of the secretive, active pornography addiction stage. A recovery plan will also be addressed.

Both the individual and the partner will discuss with their respective therapists to prepare for potential slips and relapses in the future, learn coping skills and build the necessary support systems to provide them with long-term support outside treatment. Reach out to our team today to book an appointment or request more information.

FAQs About Pornography Addiction Treatment in Singapore

1. How Does Pornography Affect the Mind?

Exposure to porn can cause the secretion of excessively high levels of dopamine that causes individuals to experience an immense pleasure. Over time, the brain develops tolerance and becomes unresponsive to natural sources of joy, setting the stage for sexual dysfunction. This may result in relationship issues and spur individuals with pornography addiction to seek out more explicit porn material to experience the same excitement. Without professional help or treatment, these issues stemming from pornography addiction tend to persist.

2. How Do I Cope Without Porn?

There are several ways for individuals with pornography addiction to learn to cope without porn:

  • Finding a new hobby: Engaging in activities you enjoy can keep you preoccupied and prevent you from seeking out porn. You can start by trying out new activities or see if you can revive your interest in old hobbies. Physical activities such as sports may be a good place to start as it keeps you away from the screen, which reduces the accessibility of porn materials.
  • Seek professional treatment or join a support group: A great weakness of individuals with pornography addiction is the lack of self-control. However, involving another party increases your accountability and reduces the likelihood that you will revert to your old practices.

3. How Does Pornography Cause Dopamine Addiction?

Pornography results in an overstimulation of dopamine, causing individuals to experience a rush of excitement. With prolonged exposure to an excessive amount of dopamine, individuals’ bodies develop tolerance and experience less pleasure from the same stimulus. As a result, individuals may experience a greater need to watch porn to recreate the same feelings of pleasure, resulting in dopamine and pornography addiction.

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#11-15/16, Novena Medical Center, 10 Sinaran Drive,
Singapore 307608