Shame often accompanies compulsive pornography use, and this feeling can deter people from seeking porn addiction recovery. Many people who are addicted to porn fear opening up to people about their struggles and keep their porn use a heavily guarded secret. Others resist talking to intimate partners who know about it out of fear that conflicts will intensify.

The first insights into how to stop porn addiction can come from the same medium that made the addiction more prevalent — the internet. The privacy of an internet search can make people feel safe enough to reach out and seek help for the first time.

Despite social and clinical controversy about whether pornography addiction is a psychological disorder, there are many resources for porn addiction treatment. Popular interventions include types of therapy that are effective in treating a wide range of behavioral health conditions.

Therapy for Porn Addiction

The main form of treatment for compulsive pornography use is porn addiction therapy. Many therapies can help people achieve freedom from pornography use.

Like many behavioral addictions, porn addiction affects brain chemistry. Porn addiction treatment using antidepressants or other medications that regulate brain chemicals is rare. The physiological irregularities related to addictive behavior can nearly always be addressed by a reversal of the behavior that provoked them.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most widely researched and effective mental health interventions. Applicable to a wide range of disorders, CBT targets distressing symptoms and gives people practical methods they can use outside of the therapy room. Studies support the use of CBT to treat personality, anxiety, mood, eating and substance use disorders. Research also supports using CBT to treat internet addiction.

The purpose of cognitive behavioral therapy is to help people explore the connection between their thoughts, feelings and behaviors. When used to treat impulse control or compulsive disorders, CBT often focuses on identifying thoughts or environmental cues that trigger the behavior people want to change. The philosophy of CBT is that it is easier to identify and change distorted thoughts that drive unpleasant psychological states and reactive behavior patterns than to address behavior directly. Reframing negative thought patterns can help people shift how they feel and act.

Some CBT approaches are cognitive, such as challenging beliefs about sexuality that contribute to compulsive pornography use. Other strategies are behavioral, such as having a person go to a safe place where they are less likely to use porn at times they feel most at risk. A therapist who practices CBT may help people who are addicted to pornography develop alternative strategies to cope with triggers that previously drove them to use porn.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is a specific type of CBT that can be effective for people with pornography use disorders. Therapists who practice ACT encourage clients to identify triggering thoughts and then practice ways to accept those thoughts without reacting to them. This differs from CBT in that there is no pressure for people to change their thought patterns, only to change how they respond to them.

One study of people receiving treatment for porn addiction found that eight 1.5-hour ACT sessions reduced porn viewing by 85 percent. This change remained consistent over a three-month period.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is another variation of CBT that can be used to treat porn addiction. Originally developed for the treatment of borderline personality disorder, DBT is an effective treatment for several other disorders, including trauma-related and substance use disorders.

In DBT, people learn and practice skills that help them improve emotional regulation, interpersonal interaction and distress tolerance. These skills are rooted in both cognitive and mindfulness-based techniques. Like ACT, dialectical behavior therapy helps people learn how to recognize and accept distressing thoughts and emotions without acting on them. Grounding and relaxation techniques complement work to develop “wise mind,” or the ability to observe internal reactions without judgment.

These aspects of DBT make it particularly effective in treating conditions that evoke shame. By practicing “radical acceptance” and learning how to hold a non-judgmental attitude, people who participate in DBT can counter internal narratives that drive feelings of embarrassment or self-loathing.

Some people start to use porn in response to feelings of shame around their sexuality. By examining and doing work to release these feelings, people can be freed from the powerful forces that drive their compulsive porn use.

Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy is a traditional style of therapy based on concepts of drives and hidden motivations for behavior. There are many different kinds of psychodynamic therapy, but nearly all of them focus on exploring early childhood experiences that shaped adult behavior.

Psychodynamic therapy can be effective in treating conditions rooted in trauma. For people whose mental health conditions were shaped by childhood experiences, insight into powerful events in their early lives can help them understand why they feel a certain way and start releasing those negative feelings.

For some people, pornography use disorders derive from early experiences that made them feel ashamed about their sexuality or caused them to be drawn to sexual fantasies with harmful psychological effects. Connecting feelings of shame, guilt or anxiety to interactions with people no longer in a position of authority can help people question the beliefs that drive those feelings. Ultimately, this alleviates shame and diminishes its ability to drive a person’s behavior.

Couples Counseling

Pornography addiction can have negative effects on intimate partner relationships. Depending on whether one or both people in a relationship use it, porn can cause one or both partners to experience diminished sexual interest, reduced sexual responsiveness or even a complete loss of sexual desire. It can also foster attitudes or perceptions about sex that an intimate partner finds hurtful or alienating.

For these reasons, couples counseling can be a primary intervention for people who are addicted to pornography. Many couples counselors use approaches from family therapy like structural therapy, which focuses on illuminating the unspoken rules and dynamics that drive functional problems in families and couples. Case studies show that structural therapy can be useful for couples struggling with the effects of porn addiction.

Faith-Based Treatment

The greatest source of discomfort for many people who use pornography on a regular basis is the conflict between their behavior and their faith. They may be drawn to depictions of sexual behavior that are specifically troubling or may consider any use of porn to be a violation of the tenets of their faith. This conflict can increase feelings of anxiety, fear and shame. For people struggling with these issues, faith-based porn addiction treatment is an important option. Many individual and couples counselors use a faith-based approach. There are also programs and facilities that offer integrated faith-based treatment programs.

Porn Addiction Support Groups

People who have pornography addictions are often afraid of public exposure of their addiction and of others judging them. This anxiety can keep them from reaching out to a counselor. Talking to peers who have struggled with the same issues can counter stigma and inspire people to embrace the hope of recovery.

Finding a porn addiction support group or a sexual addiction recovery meeting can help people build healing relationships while taking steps to improve their lives and achieve recovery. Some 12-step groups that can help people with pornography addictions include:

In these groups, people can find accountability and guidance as well as a sense of connection with others that bolsters recovery.

Porn Addiction Hotline

Going to a support group can be daunting. The deep anxieties that swirl around sexual addictions can make it difficult for people to reach out in ways that risk social exposure.

Fortunately, it is possible to talk anonymously with someone about pornography addiction. Many treatment providers offer porn addiction hotlines, and other national hotlines are a good resource. Some numbers people can call include:

These hotlines typically operate 24 hours a day and can provide everything from immediate counseling and support to information about local treatment programs and support groups.

Treating Porn Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders

Both substance and behavioral addictions frequently co-occur with other disorders. Sometimes one condition drives the development of another, while at other times, multiple conditions can derive from a single cause, such as a traumatic experience or a period of elevated stress.

Depressive and anxiety disorders are the most common mental health conditions in the United States. Unlike conditions primarily driven by genetics and biochemistry, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression can be caused by changes in cognitive processes alone. In other words, while stressful or demoralizing circumstances can’t make people bipolar or schizophrenic, they can make people depressed or anxious. When people do not already have one of these conditions, the stress, stigma and neurochemical effects of porn addiction can cause them to develop.

Unfortunately, despite their prevalence, many people are never diagnosed or treated for anxiety or depressive disorders. When untreated, co-occurring mental health conditions, substance use and addictive disorders can heighten the risk of several negative outcomes, including medical, legal, occupational, financial and interpersonal problems. People with comorbid conditions also have a higher risk of hospitalization and suicide.

Fortunately, there is hope. Research shows that people who receive integrated treatment, or simultaneous linked interventions for multiple conditions, have better treatment outcomes overall. Many facilities have moved away from older models of separate treatment for mental health and addictive disorders and now offer integrated treatment programs for people with co-occurring disorders.

People with porn addiction and co-occurring disorders may work on developing relapse prevention strategies while receiving therapy or medication to treat an underlying mental health condition. Addressing symptoms of anxiety and depression can make it easier for people to stick to a treatment plan and can reduce psychological triggers to resume porn use.

Porn Addiction Recovery

Many factors can make recovery from porn addiction seem daunting. Pornography is increasingly accessible and frequently advertised. Porn addiction can be easier to hide than other addictions that have more obvious effects. Lack of clinical and social consensus about the nature and impact of using porn creates a confusing atmosphere and sends mixed messages to people who are thinking about quitting.

However, hope lies in the powerful recovery community that has been established by people seeking to leave porn addiction behind. Connecting with other people who have determined that they want to be free of the effects of pornography can inspire a commitment to recovery.

Stories of Hope

There are many places where people seeking recovery from porn addiction can connect to others’ stories of hope. Both secular and faith-based support groups and online communities give people spaces where they can tell their stories to others who will understand and who won’t reflexively judge them for the sexual nature of their addiction. The story of KJ Nivin is one of many examples of personal narratives that reveal how pornography can damage a life and how a person can recover from addiction to it after getting help for porn addiction.

Porn Addiction Outlook

The range of views about pornography addiction, and the lack of a consistent or accepted psychiatric diagnosis for it, have made it hard to formulate a clear clinical picture of porn addiction recovery. However, studies of related conditions and anecdotal evidence provide a hopeful outlook for people who maintain a connection with a recovery community and commit to treatment and relapse prevention plans.

If you are struggling with substance use and also looking for porn addiction help, there is hope. The Recovery Village operates facilities across the United States that provide integrated treatment for people with co-occurring substance and behavioral addictions. If you need help with substance use and other disorders, contact a representative from The Recovery Village today to learn about treatment options that can help you on your path to recovery.

Hofmann, Stefan G., Asnaani, Anu, Vonk, Imke, Sawyer, Alice, and Fang, Angela. “The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Review of Meta-analyses.” Cognitive Therapy and Research, Vol. 36, No. 5: 427-440. Published July 31, 2012. Retrieved January 10, 2019.

Young, Kimberley. “Cognitive Behavior Therapy with Internet Addicts: Treatment Outcomes and Implications.” CyberPsychology and Behavior, Vol. 10, No. 5. Published October 10, 2007. Retrieved January 10, 2019.

Twohig, Michael, and Crosby, Jesse. “Acceptance and Commitment Therapy as a Treatment for Problematic Internet Pornography Viewing.” Behavior Therapy, Vol. 41, No. 3. Published September 2010. Retrieved January 10, 2019.

Ford, Jeffrey, Durtschi, Jared, and Franklin, Darrell. “Structural Therapy with a Couple Battling Pornography Addiction.” The American Journal of Family Therapy, Vol. 40, No. 4. Published July 2, 2012. Retrieved January 10, 2019.

Anxiety and Depression Association of America. “Facts & Statistics.” Undated. Retrieved January 10, 2019.

Kelly, Thomas M., and Daley, Dennis C. “Integrated Treatment of Substance Use and Psychiatric Disorders.” Social Work in Public Health, Vol. 28, No. 3-4: 388-406. Published June 3, 2013. Retrieved January 10, 2019.

WRAL.com. “Recovering Sex Addict Tells His Story.” Published May 24, 2010, and updated October 27, 2011. Retrieved January 10, 2019.

Porn Addiction Treatment
5 (100%) 1 vote[s]