The Circle Line

Too Much Porn?

Every minute 207,000 people watch a video on PornHub. Which gets 42 billion visits a year. Porn sites get more visitors than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined.

It’s safe to say that as a species, we like porn.

And what’s wrong with that? Well, ethical issues within the industry aside – nothing.

Sex is great; enjoying porn is fine and normal. Neither need be problematic or dangerous at all.  Quite the opposite – sex and fantasy are healthy, normal and fun – and a great way to understand our selves, as we explore here.

Just like pretty much anything though – food, alcohol, thoughts etc – if there’s something about our use of porn (or sex) that’s causing us distress or internal conflict, whether morally, through unfounded shame, or a knock-on effect in another area of our life – it can be valuable to explore that. 

The real issue isn’t the thing being used; sex isn’t dangerous just like alcohol isn’t dangerous. It’s what’s going on inside us that matters.

Is Enjoying Porn Ok? Yes!

There is no shame in sex, fantasy and the sexual quirks we all have.

It’s only when perhaps you feel porn might be getting in the way, inhibiting you in some way or in some areas of your life, that you might want to consider it. Perhaps you get more turned on by porn than real-life sex, and yet you want real-life sex. Perhaps watching porn negatively influences the type of sex you want, or seek, in a way you or your partner(s) are not comfortable with.

When does watching too much porn get unhealthy? Just like anything, only when it is something we do compulsively, feeling that we can’t control our behaviour.

An addiction is when we do something compulsively (in the case of porn, with or without masturbating) with little feeling of control over whether or not we engage with it. We may do it in inappropriate places, times or situations, or with inappropriate people or frequency.

How Much is Too Much?

There is no right answer to that question.

1.6 million people a month Google “porn addiction”. That’s more than either “depression” or “anxiety”. It’s clear that we’re interested in this topic.

There could be many reasons for our great interest: perhaps we feel unwarranted shame around our sexual interests and habits, or perhaps we worry that we – or our partner – watches too much porn, and aren’t in fact attracted to us or don’t love us.

When any addiction gets serious it can have unwelcome consequences. For sex and porn issues these include:

Sometimes, we find ourselves aroused by material that goes against our moral values or that once didn’t interest us. Then, we may often experience great shame in watching porn; this in turn leads to highly stressful emotions and secretive behaviour. If this stress becomes extreme it can affect our physical and emotional health.

Why porn?

In the same way that sometimes we don’t have sex primarily for the pleasure of the act, when we’re addicted to the use of porn it’s usually not primarily for sexual enjoyment. Instead, it’s often a way to escape from stress and other forms of uncomfortable and distressing emotions or to fulfil deep emotional needs. It may well be related to other painful feelings like that of sadness and depression, anxiety and low self-esteem.

We use drink and drugs for exactly the same reasons. As with other addictions, in compulsively using porn we often aren’t looking to feel good; we may want to feel less, to control what we’re feeling.

Positive Feedback

As with other substances and drugs, sex/porn triggers a chemical response in the brain that feels pleasurable. This is fuelled mostly by the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, but also by other biochemicals, such as oxytocin, adrenaline, serotonin and endorphins.

Over time, intense over-use of porn can teach us to crave this naturally occurring reaction in the same way that we learn to abuse alcohol and drugs for the high we get; we intentionally trigger the pleasure response over and over.

In this way, we create and use that high as a way not to experience sadness, flatness, loneliness, anxiety. It creates a positive feedback loop of pleasure and avoidance.

It’s What’s Going on for you that matters

Knowing that you are normal and your sexual interests are normal is important. It’s what’s going on for you and how you feel that matters.

When we feel something has become a “bad” habit and that we’d like to stop or cut down, sometimes it’s not quite a simple as telling ourselves to “Stop it”. 

Addressing the underlying reasons behind why we overuse anything is immensely helpful – there may be deeper unresolved experiences at play from childhood – and this can be worked through by working with a professional counsellor.

Much unjustified shame can be attached to such sensitive issues, so talking to someone in private or seeking anonymous therapy online can be a good option – and a huge relief.

And remember, you’re not the only one – just look at those figures.

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