Hooked on Porn? How Your Online Sexual Activities Might Hint at Sex and Love Addiction

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When was the first time you used the internet?  Are you one of the generation that can still remember the sound of the modem booting up?  Or did you grow up with an iPhone in your pocket and and iPad keeping you entertained from as early as you can remember?

What about the first time you saw a pornographic image online?  Heard stories about internet predators asking to meet teenagers for sex?  Stumbled into an adult chat room or adult site without knowing how you got there?  For those of us who have used the internet at some point in our lives (which I would venture to say is all of us, especially if you’re reading this article now), we’ve likely also been exposed to sexual content that we didn’t bargain for.  Statistics state that 34% of people who use the internet have been accidentally exposed to pornographic images through popups, ads, spam, and other intrusive methods.

But sadly, it isn’t just the internet where explicit sexual images can be found.  All you have to do is turn on cable TV or Netflix and peruse the prestige TV shows to find graphic sexual scenes.  Images that once would have been considered pornographic or inappropriate for TV are now becoming commonplace and even normal.  We’ve become desensitized to sexual content.

34% of people who use the internet have been accidentally exposed to pornographic images through popups, ads, spam, and other intrusive methods.

For younger generations who had the easy accessibility of pornography on the internet, pornographic images and videos provided sex education.  The average age of first exposure to pornography is age 11.  It is easy to get hooked on these videos as a young age, as watching the films releases “feel-good” neurochemicals, such as dopamine, into your brain that are similar to those involved in sexual behavior.

To add fuel to the fire, cultural messages about pornography make it seem as though it is completely acceptable.  Teenagers are often introduced to porn because their friends are watching it.  Pop-up ads, spam emails, search terms, and mistyped URLs can easily lead children into a rabbit hole they didn’t know existed.  Women can be pressured by boyfriends to view porn because that’s how the boys learned about sex.

The average age of first exposure to pornography is 11.

What’s frightening about sexual content on the internet is how insidious its use can be in developing sexual addiction.  Sexual content combined with the trance-like nature of internet usage creates a dopamine rush that requires more and more intensity to get the same "high".  When we look at a statistic that says traffic on pornographic sites is higher than that of YouTube, Amazon, and Twitter combined, it is difficult to deny the potential for addiction.

Women also may struggle uniquely with shame around pornography use.  Although one-third of all visitors to pornographic websites are women, resources for support and help are often targeted toward men, and the cultural stereotype is that all men watch porn.  70 percent of women keep their porn use secret.  Due to the relational nature of adult chat rooms, many women are drawn to connect with others through this online world to fill their desire for intimacy. Similar to a relationship addict, these individuals can form intense relationships online that gives an unhealthy substitute for healthy intimacy.

Sexual content combined with the trance-like nature of internet usage creates a dopamine rush that requires more and more intensity to get the same "high".

Porn creates a fantasy world.   Pictures are edited and sexual acts are performed in a way that highlights certain physical features.  This sexual fantasy does not match up to reality, and it leads to a degradation of female sexuality and an idealization of sex. Pornography can lead an addict into what is referred to as “addict” time, where real time seems to slow down or stop, but actually passes quite quickly as the addict is consumed by pornographic images and becomes out of control.

Guilt and hiding associated with online sexual activities can actually contribute to a more powerful sexual experience, as it heightens adrenaline. This increased adrenaline can lead to more risky sexual behavior. Online sexual activities increase likelihood of affairs or the destruction of a person’s reputation if the online activities are shared publicly.

Although one-third of all visitors to pornographic websites are women, resources for support and help are often targeted toward men. The cultural stereotype is that all men watch porn.

Easy access of both pornography and cybersex through the Internet are opening up addicts to images and activities that they would not have known about previously. This can lead to obsessions with certain sexual images that become “burned-in” to your thought patterns. The Internet has plenty of opportunities to view these images, from the anonymity and ease of its use, marketing campaigns for pornographic sites that use sexual stimuli, trance-like behavior caused by computer use, and the use of denial because Internet activities are not “real.” Patrick Carnes, a pioneer in the sex addiction field, describes that intrusive thoughts arise in much the same way as traumatic memories in trauma survivors, which affects the types of sexual behaviors they find arousing.

How can you tell if your online sexual behaviors might indicate sex and love addiction?

  • Do you find yourself losing track of time when you engage in sexual activities online?
  • Are your online sexual activities secret?
  • Do you find yourself idealizing sex or viewing it as the ultimate expression of love after watching pornographic images online?
  • Are you involved in intensely sexualized relationships with people you’ve met online and haven’t interacted with face-to-face?
  • Do fantasies about sexual activity you’ve engaged in online overshadow or affect real face-to-face sexual intimacy?
  • Are you turning to watching pornography compulsively in order to self-soothe, escape, or avoid painful feelings?
  • Have you had interactions with ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, or strangers online that your spouse would be angry to see?
  • Do you feel a rush or “high” when you start engaging in sexual behaviors online?
  • Are you disgusted by the type of pornographic images that excite you?
  • Do you tell yourself, “having sexual chats with people online doesn’t matter because it’s not real”?
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Do any of the above questions apply to you?  Have you felt worried about how much you use porn?  Are you ashamed of your online sexual activities?   I’d love to help.  Restored Hope is a mental health counseling office serving the Novi and Ann Arbor areas of Michigan.  I specialize in supporting female sex and love addicts in their journey toward freedom from the trap of their compulsive behaviors.  Give me a call today at 734.656.8191 or fill out our form to hear more about how we can help you.