The world has changed a lot in the last 70 years. We’ve seen incredible inventions that make life easier and amazing technological advances that have changed the way we communicate. We’ve also seen the development of a new addiction that is having a significant, negative impact on individuals, marriages and families. Some would argue that pornography addiction–more than any other addiction–is impacting society as a whole. It is not uncommon for us to be asked how to stop watching porn. Pornography use has become such a problem that even socially liberal websites are cautioning readers about its negative effects. When HopeQuest began in the 90s, most of our clients were seeking treatment for drug or alcohol addiction. These days, an average of 40-50 percent of our clients are being treated for pornography addiction and/or sexual addiction.
Those of us who have a Christian worldview understand that using pornography falls outside of the loving boundaries God has placed around our sexuality to protect us. Using pornography is both morally wrong and dangerous to our minds and our hearts. However, not all people who look at pornography become addicted. At HopeQuest, we are often asked how individuals can know when their pornography use has become a problem. Common to all addictions, the symptom we look for in diagnosing porn addiction is the continued use of pornography in spite of harmful or negative consequences. Many who have come to HopeQuest have lost their jobs because of their addiction and have significantly damaged their relationships with others.
Porn addiction has extremely negative impacts on an individual’s brain, belief system, sexuality and ability to connect with others in relationship. Like other addictions, pornography addiction changes the brain’s neural pathways. This results in an increased desire to use pornography, which causes the behavior to continue, in spite of negative consequences. Perceptions and beliefs about sexuality become paired with what is depicted in the porn being viewed, often resulting in unrealistic expectations about sex and depersonalization/objectification of others. Men who are addicted to porn may experience sexual dysfunction. This is especially true for adolescents and young men who become addicted to porn before becoming sexually active.
Perhaps most damaging is the harm pornography does to marriages. Spouses feel betrayed, unloved and inadequate. Trust is damaged significantly–often leading to separation or divorce. We cannot forget the unseen victims of pornography addiction: men, women and children who are used, and often injured, in the making of pornography in an industry which cares more about money than people. You can read more about the harmful effects of porn addiction here.
One of the great advantages of choosing residential treatment at HopeQuest for help with pornography addiction is our long-term approach. Research supports that a 90-day period of abstinence, the length of our program, is optimum for detoxifying and resetting brain neurochemistry. Additionally, our holistic approach that seeks to understand the underlying emotional, spiritual and physiological issues creates an opportunity for personal healing and growth, all while the client is in a safe place with no access to pornography. Many of our clients express the relief they feel at not having to manage their addiction alone. For the first time in their lives, they are able to experience sobriety in the context of safe and connected relationships in which they are fully known and accepted.