Pornography addiction could be defined as a psychological addiction to, or dependence upon, pornography, theoretically characterized by obsessive viewing, reading, and thinking about pornography and sexual themes to the detriment of other areas of one’s life.
Formal criteria have been suggested along lines strictly analogous to the [DSM] criteria for alcohol and other substance addictions. This article cites Goodman (1990), who compared the DSM criteria lists for various addictive disorders and derived these general characteristics:
- Recurrent failure to resist impulses to engage in a specified behavior
- Increasing sense of tension immediately prior to initiating the behavior
- Pleasure or relief at the time of engaging in the behavior
At least five of the following:
- Frequent preoccupation with the behavior or with activity that is preparatory to the behavior
- Frequent engaging in the behavior to a greater extent or over a longer period than intended
- Repeated efforts to reduce, control, or stop the behavior
- A great deal of time spent in activities necessary for the behavior, engaging in the behavior, or recovering from its effects
- Frequent engaging in the behavior when expected to fulfill occupational, academic, domestic or social obligations
- Important social, occupational, or recreational activities given up or reduced because of the behavior
- Continuation of the behavior despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent social, financial, psychological, or physical problem that is caused or exacerbated by the behavior
- Tolerance: need to increase the intensity or frequency of the behavior in order to achieve the desired effect, or diminished effect with continued behavior of the same intensity.
- Restlessness or irritability if unable to engage in the behavior.
Some symptoms of the disturbance have persisted for at least one month, or have occurred repeatedly over a longer period of time
These criteria can be applied to almost any behavior, and would seem to characterize an excessive and uncontrollable involvement regardless of the particular behavior. They thus provide one possible definition of pornography addiction.
Online pornography addiction
Online pornography addiction involves pornography obtained via the Internet. Psychologists who support this concept argue that it is stronger, and more addictive, than ordinary pornography addiction because of its wide availability, explicitness, and the privacy that online viewing offers. In order to satisfy their addiction, addicts are said to regularly spend extended periods of time searching the internet for new or increasingly hardcore pornography.
Skeptics of pornography addiction
There is some dispute about whether pornography addiction actually exists, and if so, whether it has harmful effects.One popular argument against this form of addiction is that many people regularly watch pornography and still lead productive lives. Critics argue that people who regularly view pornography are able to have normal relationships and are not desensitized to less stimulating materials.
Some mental health professionals who specialize in the treatment of pornography problems such as author and researcher Rory C. Reid, LCSW, contend that such behavior reflects problems with affective regulation and that individuals turn to pornography as a way of disassociating from their inability to process uncomfortable or unpleasant emotions. Reid argues that brain regions implicated in sexual arousal can be suppressed when individuals cognitively reappraise erotic stimulus and attach different meanings and interpretations to such content. Reid states that if such patients were legitimately addicted to pornography their ability to cognitively suppress activation of cortical structures such as the nucleus accumbens in the corpus striatum would not be physiologically possible.
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