What is addiction?

An addiction is more than just an intense interest in something. It is a medical condition that changes the brain and the body and causes the person to feel compelled to continue using a substance or partaking in an activity, even when doing so may cause harm.

Most research into addiction suggests that it activates regions in the brain associated with motivation and reward. Specifically, addiction alters the body’s dopamine system.

When a person with addiction initially uses the substance or engages in the behavior, they receive an intense rush of dopamine, causing feelings of pleasure and reward. Over time, their body may produce less dopamine and rely on the substance or behavior to feel the dopamine rush.

Sex can be a highly rewarding behavior, in terms of dopamine. Using pornography may also activate the dopamine system, potentially leading to addiction.

Addiction affects other aspects of the brain as well, steadily changing it, and making it increasingly difficult for the person to avoid the addictive substance or behavior.

The diagnosis of pornography addiction is controversial, and not all therapists will acknowledge it. Moreover, researchers have presented various different models of the signs.

Some healthcare professionals and counselors believe that pornography in itself is not problematic, but that it has the potential to become so, depending on the person’s viewpoint or their partner’s.

Some indications that pornography may be causing a problem include:

  • A person’s sex life becomes less satisfying.
  • Pornography causes relationship issues or makes a person feel less satisfied with their partner.
  • A person engages in risky behavior to view pornography, such as doing so at work.

Some other signs that a person may be developing an unhealthy relationship with porn include:

  • They ignore other responsibilities to view pornography.
  • They view progressively more extreme pornography to get the same release that less extreme porn once offered.
  • They feel frustrated or ashamed after viewing porn but continue to do so.
  • They want to stop using pornography but feel unable to do so.
  • They spend large sums of money on pornography, possibly at the expense of daily or family necessities.
  • They use pornography to cope with sadness, anxiety, insomnia, or other mental health issues.