/ By Mark Jorgensen

The idea of pornography addiction is a debated topic in the mental health community today. Many studies have been done making a case for both sides of the argument.  Obviously, as a facility that treats pornography addiction, Desert Solace believes that the condition absolutely does exist.

Addiction is defined as “a state characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding behavior or compulsive drug use, despite negative consequences.  Perhaps a simpler way of defining addiction is “not being able to get enough of something you don’t want”. Most people understand and readily accept the idea of addiction to substances such as drugs and alcohol.  They see the devastating consequences of a loved one trapped in chemical addiction, such as loss of jobs, homes, families, etc.  As an addict becomes involved with illegal substances, these consequences can expand to include fines and incarceration.

But what about addiction to pornography?  Isn’t it – as many claim – just a harmless “boys-will-be-boys” pastime?  Let’s compare the similarities to drug and alcohol addiction.  As one becomes more and more ensnared by compulsive use of pornography, he (or she, increasingly) becomes increasingly isolated from friends and family, similar to the drug and alcohol abuser. As the addict descends into the fantasy world of cybersex, he loses the ability to connect emotionally to the real people in his life, especially his spouse.  Heavy porn users report loss of sleep and ability to concentrate, resulting in adverse repercussions to jobs and financial stability.  Similar to drug users who seek out harder and harder drugs to achieve the same high they once reached with “softer” drugs such as marijuana, the pornography addiction also escalates, as the user often seeks out more varied and deviant forms of pornography to achieve the same level of arousal once reached through prior forms of “soft” porn. This stage of addiction is where the addict can discover – perhaps even accidentally – an attraction to bizarre or illegal forms of pornography such as child pornography.  Or perhaps the addict may attempt to heighten his sexual experience by acting out with and/or against others, including sexual crimes ranging from public lewdness to rape.  The possible legal and life-long ramifications of such behaviors are obvious.

Ultimately, the question of whether compulsive pornography use is actually an addiction as defined by mental health professionals is probably irrelevant.  The fact is that the damage caused by excessive pornography viewing is real, and the fact that individuals continue to engage in the behavior despite negative consequences certainly seems to fit the definition of addiction.