Porn addiction is not classified as an addiction in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) but has the same effects as drugs. Like cocaine, it causes an increase of that feel-good chemical, dopamine which leaves users wanting more by engaging in more porn. Making £79 billion globally, the demand for pornography isn't slowing down, with 28,258 users watching it on the Internet every second.
Bart, 20* from Belgium began watching pornography around the age of 11 when his friend introduced him to it and quickly got into watching BDSM (bondage, domination, submission and masochism).
"The darkest content was probably the porn where males were forced into becoming whores by wearing female clothes, being prostituted, etc. I guess I needed to go more graphic because I got used to the simpler stuff."
At 14, he started watching hypnosis porn videos that consisted of fast flashes of tasks and reconditioning with a hypnotic voice. "It started getting me into a dreamlike state for days on end. It became difficult to see reality from fantasy. I started losing sleep, often waking up in the night to watch more. It made me feel like awful, but like a crack addict I kept crawling back. I couldn't stop until I pulled myself together 80 days ago."
Bart's addiction had a detrimental effect on his health, resulting in sleep paralysis and experiencing hallucinations. It affected his self confidence and love life. "It made intimacy really difficult. I convinced my previous girlfriend to engage in activities related to my fetishes and it made our relationship worse."
Recently, Bart sat his exams at college which took a toll on him: "The stress hit me a bit too hard and I relapsed a few days ago, I'm trying to get back up and try again this time".
Heidi Als Ringheim, chairman of Porno & Samfund (Danish for Porn & Society) and psychosexual therapist at her private practice, Love At Home, in Denmark describes how it manifests into an addiction: "At the start when they start watching it as teenagers - they're just curious and they're just starting to find their sexual identity. Then that gets distorted and they use it to self soothe and self medicate. The porn will help you build up these huge amounts (of dopamine and oxytocin) which makes you numb to a certain point, and then at that point you will have to have more - they might engage in more violent types of porn or even child pornography."
The addiction results in the loss of many hours due to watching porn which comes with dire consequences such as the inability to form long-lasting social and intimate romantic relationships, feelings of depression and shame, sexual dysfunction and trouble at work or in school relating to poor performance.
Porn addiction often results in the partners also being affected. Vicki Tiede, from Minnesota, USA, is a former wife to a porn addict and author of When Your Husband is Addicted to Pornography: Healing Your Wounded Heart.
"Shortly after we got married I knew something wasn't right because he didn't want to be intimate, ever. Like, I had to beg. I thought that was so strange.
"One day, I discovered he was at the computer masturbating to images. He always had an excuse that he was researching something. Then I discovered he was going on trips with other women and having sexual encounters. We were intimate very rarely, and any intimacy there was verbally, emotionally and sexually abusive."
The stress from her ex-husband's addiction resulted in Vicki suffering from panic attacks. "I thought I was dying, my toes went numb and I'd be gasping for air. I had a fear that my daughter would be exposed to it or he would hurt her somehow from the choices he was making and the content he was watching." it also resulted in her having issues with her self confidence and self image.
After three and a half years, Vicki decided to file for divorce "I did all I could to recover from that but I didn't know how exactly and I carried a lot of wounds with me. Counselling was really important. But, I found my healing at the foot of the cross, I needed to really have true healing and that's where I did my work."
Treatment involves clients having to undergo a 90 day sobriety period from sex and porn to explore other underlying issues that may have influenced the addiction in the first place.
Heidi says it varies from person to person on what causes it and describes most of her clients' backgrounds: "Most of them have emotional issues, trauma issues or attachment issues (e.g, poor attachment to parents) together with going into puberty you find an environment that surges you with the dopamine, the oxytocin and it will even give you relational relief as it gives you a sense of relational company."
Porn addiction also affects women as well, beauty and fashion vlogger Oghosa Ovienrioba, 24 from London (Also known as SincerelyOghosa) shared how she felt her addiction was partly caused by experiencing sexual abuse from a family friend for about three to four years: "Being molested at a young age exposed me to sexuality very early and it gave me a certain reliance on it, and that's where it linked to the porn addiction."
The recovery process is a complicated one addicts are also affected on a neurological scale. Heidi says "If you've had this addiction for years and years, the neural pathways in your brain are so trodden and well used that it won't take very much to jump into the same routines. It takes about 3-5 years to make up new ones.
It's like riding a bicycle, you're so used to it that it's gone autopilot in your subconscious. So it takes time to unweave all these neural pathways and at the same time you have to make new ones."
*Real name has been changed in respects to anonymitySuggest a correction