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Is Porn Compulsion An Addiction?

In a recent post called What’s In A Word? I talked about how you may sometimes feel a writer’s use of a word is inappropriate or offensive because of meanings or connotations you’ve associated with that word. The big one I dealt with in that post was my use of the term “girl” when I write about females in relationships.

Some girls find this offensive.

I emphasized in that post that it’s not really appropriate to get upset over a word because of a connotation you have attached to it, without first making sure the author you’re reading shares that connotation with you. Only if he does should you take him as being offensive. Otherwise it’s your own issue and you need to adjust your understanding of the author accordingly.

Another word I mentioned briefly in that post which also bears a lot of connotation assumptions is the word “addiction.”

I’ve had readers take offense when I say that most guys are naturally sexually addicted.

They feel the word addiction has a negative connotation and so I must be suggesting guys should change their natural sexual tendencies. I’ll have lots to say about that particular question in future blog posts.

But in this post I want to zero in on my use of the term “addiction” in reference to a particular form of sexual addiction…compulsive porn consumption.

Many people don’t think this type of addiction exists either.

In a recent post I shared my own past experience with sexual addiction and the factors that played in my life that exacerbated it.

I was fascinated that the very same week I released that post, a sex therapist friend of mine Karolina Taterenkova from Passion In Love released a blog post titled Why Porn Addiction Is Not An Addiction.

[UPDATE: Apparently Karolina’s site and this article are no longer available.]

It is an interesting post and I highly recommend giving it a view. It’s all about some recent brain science research that points out differences in the experienced responses in a particular part of the brain between subjects who have porn compulsions and subjects with drug related addictions.

Apparently the responses in these two types of subjects are exactly opposite each other.

Since the researchers in this study consider real addiction to be associated with this brain response they focus on, their scientific conclusion is that “porn addiction” is not a real addiction.

Hmmm. I wonder how many guys addicted to masturbating to porn will feel reassured to hear this?

Of course as is always the case with these things…what’s in a word?

Other research shows that the experience in the brain when sexually climaxing is exactly the same as that experienced during a Heroin hit, suggesting that the dopamine reactions and ongoing felt compulsions to repeat the behaviors are very similar in both cases.

There are lots of studies regarding how porn changes the brain in the same ways that drug use does, so that the porn users’ consumption patterns map to the same kinds of behaviors drug users are known for. Here is just one.

So while the study Karolina references is definitely interesting, I don’t think it is quite time yet for us to dismiss the addiction terminology or our methodologies for addressing compulsive porn use.

When I commented on Facebook to Karolina’s publication of her blog post I said the following:

“I’m going to part ways with you on this one, though the addiction label is likely used in different ways by different people…perceiving my problem as an addiction was a very important step to it’s eventual solution.”

I went on to say that, “I define an addiction as a compulsive behavior that serves no natural need of the person experiencing the compulsion. Given my definition, many people’s experience with porn is definitely addictive in nature! :-)”

Obviously what we’re seeing here is once again a disagreement over the meaning and connotation of a word.

Which is why I’ve made my meaning explicit.

It doesn’t matter to me if someone uses a different definition for the word “addiction,” and concludes based on their definition that compulsive porn consumption is not an addiction.

Clearly given the definition of “addiction” used by the scientists in the article Karonlina references, compulsive porn consumption is not an addiction.

Given the article I linked to above that also uses brain science to compare brain patterns of porn consumers and drug addicts, compulsive porn consumption shows all the signs of an addiction, and so is considered to be one based on this article’s stated criteria.

I take more of a behavioral approach when assessing the presence of sexual addiction (or any other addiction for that matter), while remaining informed of the brain science research going on.

Ultimately if a person cannot control his or her behavior in some way, and that behavior is not meeting a natural need of the person in question, then I consider the behavior to be an addiction.

Which is why I even consider the natural sex drive of most guys to be an addiction too. The lack of self control most guys demonstrate regarding their sexuality is indicative of the way nature has made them addicted to sexual release for purposes of propogating the race.

In saying this though, I’m not saying “There girls! You’re right! He shouldn’t want sex so much!”

Not at all.

If anything I’m telling you girls to understand that he’s not a creep or a bad guy just because sexual connection is so important to him.

Yes there are players and creeps out there but there are also lots and lots of good guys who have strong compulsive desires to experience sexual connection and release.

You should not shame them for this.

If you have no interest in being sexual with your partner, you are not romantically interested in your partner, no matter how important emotional connection is to you. I’ve actually suggest if that’s the case, you’ve got your own addiction to emotional connection going on.

Both sexual fulfillment and emotional connection need to be present for romantic love to exist and thrive.

I do believe there are better and less good ways to explore this area of sexuality together and I do believe guys can learn sexual self control so that you both can experience a more fulfilling sexual union.

One of the ways a lack of sexual self control shows up is in compulsive porn consumption and its associated masturbation patterns. As I said I’ll have lots to share with you on this subject going forward.

If you struggle with this whole area of sexual self control please reach out to me. I want to help. You can achieve control and feel good about your sexuality!

So what do you think? Is porn compulsion an addiction?

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