Although it’s estimated that 3%-6% of the population struggles with an addiction to pornography,1 pornography addiction is not currently listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) or recognized by the American Psychological Association (APA) as a mental health disorder.2 As such, there are no regulated or verified treatments for pornography addiction.1
Still, research has found that pornography addiction shares similar traits with substance abuse addiction.3 As such, many of the methods proposed for the treatment of pornography addiction lean on what we know about treating addiction in general, including psychotherapy, medication, lifestyle modification, and the use of addiction support groups.1
If you are experiencing a pornography addiction, you are not alone, and help is out there for you. Read on for what to know about treating pornography addiction.
Pornography addiction can have profound effects on your mental health, your ability to function at work or school, and your relationships—particularly your intimate, sexual relationships. Compulsive sexual behaviors are associated with guilt and shame, and they can impact a person’s productivity and finances. Pornography addiction can make it difficult to maintain sexual relationships and is often implicated in the breakups of marriages and other relationships.4
Compulsive sexual behaviors and porn addiction are often seen in people who struggle with psychological conditions like anxiety disorders, hypersexual disorders, mood disorders, and other addictions, including substance abuse addictions and gaming addictions.1
Types of therapy that are recommended for pornography addiction are similar to therapy used to treat compulsive sexual behaviors in general, and may include:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT is a type of behavioral modification therapy that helps you identify and manage the thought patterns that trigger different conditions and behaviors.
Sometimes referred to as psychoanalysis, psychodynamic therapy is a kind of talk therapy that helps you uncover any unconscious thoughts or memories that might be impacting your behavior.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
ACT is similar to CBT in that it helps you identify thought patterns that affect addictive behaviors, but ACT emphasizes acceptance as a way to manage negative thoughts.
Group therapy is also a helpful option for anyone who is dealing with compulsive sexual behavior. Research has found that connecting with others who are experiencing similar issues can make you feel less alone, and decrease shameful feelings.5
When pornography addiction is affecting intimate relationships, couples therapy or marriage therapy can be helpful. If pornography addiction is impacting your family unit, or contributing to the break up of your family, family therapy may be appropriate as well.5
There are no medications that are specifically approved to treat pornography addiction, and none approved for this purpose by the FDA.4 However, there are certain medications that are recommend to treat compulsive sexual behaviors that may be appropriate in the treatment of pornography addiction.1
Medications for pornography addiction may include:4
- Antidepressants, specifically selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
- Mood stabilizers
- Opioid antagonists
Here’s what we know so far about these pharmacological treatments:
People who experience other psychological conditions—including anxiety, depression, and obsessive compulsive disorder—along with a pornography addiction, may benefit from treatment with antidepressants.
There is no particular antidepressant associated with pornography addiction or compulsive sexual behaviors, but research indicates that SSRIs may decrease sexual urges associated with these addictions and behaviors.4
Again, there is no particular mood stabilizer that is recommended for pornography addiction, and these drugs may not be appropriate for everyone.
However, people who have bipolar disorder along with a compulsive sexual behavior have found a reduction in symptoms of their compulsive sexual behavior when they are treated with medications such as valproic acid and lithium.4
Naltrexone, a drug used to treat opioid addictions, has shown promise in the treatment of pornography addiction1 as well as compulsive sexual behaviors in general.4 The hypothesis is that treating pornography addictions with naltrexone decreases the feelings of euphoria associated with the compulsive behavior.4
If you are interested in using medication to treat your pornography addiction, you should talk to our healthcare provider or make an appointment with a psychiatrist.
Because these medication have not been approved for use for this issue, you may need to find a provider who specializes in compulsive sexual behaviors and understands the nuances of prescribing medications for pornography addiction.
How to Make Your Treatment Most Effective
Pornography addiction is a complicated condition and can be hard to manage because of how accessible pornography is these days. As such, therapy and medication alone usually aren’t enough to manage the addiction.
Besides therapy and medication, lifestyle changes can be vital in management of your pornography addiction. This may include decreasing your access to addictive material, and addressing the aspects of your life that trigger your addiction.
When it comes to pornography addiction, triggers may include stress, negative emotions, and boredom. Being intoxicated or having easy access to pornography can increase your chances of engaging in addictive behavior.1 Working with a therapist can help you understand what your triggers are, and help you decide what life changes you may need to make to keep your addiction in check.
Many people find that joining a support group geared toward sex addiction can help with pornography addiction. These groups may meet in person or online. Many of these groups are modeled after 12 step programs.4
Examples of support groups for pornography addiction include:
- Sexual Addicts Anonymous
- Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous
- Sexaholics Anonymous
- Porn Addicts Anonymous
These programs are free and provide you with friendship, support, accountability, and are often instrumental in keeping people on track with managing their addictions.
The bottom line is that if pornography addiction is having negative impacts on your life, your mental health, and your relationships, you are not alone, and help is out there. There is no shame in seeking support—many people struggle with pornography addiction.
Take heart in knowing that it’s possible to break free from your addiction, to have a healthier relationship to sex, and to live a full and joyous life.