There are people who drink alcohol, and then there are alcoholics. Watching pornography, like drinking alcohol, comes with varying degrees of dependency. For some people, it is a harmless, infrequent means of sexual stimulation. For others, it is consuming compulsion that invades their thoughts, relationships, and day to day lives. But how do you know when you are edging close to territory of addiction? For that matter, what does it mean to be addicted to pornography in the first place?
The Meaning of Addiction
Merriam-Webster defines an addiction as “a strong and harmful need to regularly have something (such as a drug) or do something (such as gamble)”. Notice the key words here: strong, harmful, and regularly.
Science takes a slightly different approach in defining an addiction, classifying someone as an addict if they meet these three criteria: desensitization, impaired impulse control, and tolerance. In other words, when a person ceases to feel pleasure from whatever it is they are consuming or doing, (or at least not the same degree as pleasure that they used to), becomes unable to control their impulse to use or do whatever it may be, and requires larger and larger amounts of whatever it is they are using or doing to get the same effect, that person is, scientifically speaking, addicted.
Using these criteria and performing countless studies, science has proven pornography to be an addictive medium, and there are a large number of people who are addicted to pornography. There are also an even larger number of people who watch porn, perhaps even semi-regularly, who are not addicted. Much like the difference between a social drinker and an alcoholic, the right classification is important.
What Does This Mean for People Who Watch Pornography?
Pornography addicts suffer. Their lives are held back by their addiction, and most would quit if they could. Not everyone, however, falls under the umbrella of addiction. What all of this means for people who watch pornography but are not addicted is one simple warning: proceed with caution.
The lines between harmless, infrequent use and uncontrolled addiction are terribly blurred, and by the time you realize you’ve crossed them it is often times too late. Still, this does not mean watching pornography is always harmful, or even poses a significant threat of becoming harmful. What it does mean is that precautions should be taken. If you are a person with addictive tendencies, porn is best avoided. Even if you are not, it is important to maintain a well-honed sense of introspection. Ask yourself important questions such as, “How is watching pornography affecting my life?” “Am I watching it because I want to, or because I need to?” and “Could I stop watching pornography if I tried?” Ask yourself questions like these, and answer them honestly.
At the end of the day, watching pornography isn’t the problem. Being addicted to pornography is. Understanding the difference between the two, and how to avoid the one (especially if you plan on still doing the other) is crucial in keeping your mind healthy and addiction-free.
Author – Scott Andrews