I have no desire to get into a debate about the rights and wrongs of the adult entertainment industry. The purpose of this article is to expand the conversation about online pornography addiction. Last week the American celebrity Pamela Anderson and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach co-authored an article, Take the Pledge: No More Indulging in Porn for the Wall Street Journal with respect to the effects of excessive consumption of pornography. They wrote, "This is a public hazard of unprecedented seriousness given how freely available, anonymously accessible and easily disseminated pornography is nowadays".
According to their major source (American Psychological Association) porn consumption amongst men is between 50% to over 99% and 30% to 86% amongst women. These are staggering figures. In spring 2016, Utah, USA, declared that pornography addiction is a "public health hazard".
In British society most open-minded people fully accept that alcohol addiction (alcoholism) is something to be taken seriously. It is something that we would rather brush under the carpet but even the Government grudgingly puts aside a modest budget for public services to tackle the problem every year. After all, substance misuse can destroy the very fabric of a family home and diminish the prospect of any kind of "ordinary" life. We accept that eating disorders are grave addictive behaviours and gambling addiction is widely acknowledged. However when it comes to "pornography addiction", many scoff. Even though porn consumption involves anticipation, sexual stimulation and ultimately orgasm, these "payoffs" cannot possibly become addictive to a person who has an addictive personality? Why the non-logical bias?
Generally speaking, many Brits still feel uncomfortable when sex is brought up in a conversation (even the younger generations to whom easy access to online porn is no big deal) and attempt to offset their embarrassment by laughing it off or resorting to smutty innuendo (in true "Carry On" fashion). I suppose it is therefore no surprise that when a conversation arises with regard to online porn addiction, ridicule often ensues.
When I travel across England to facilitate mindfulness-addiction workshops at residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation centres, men and women who are already in some sort of recovery program from an addiction (perhaps alcoholism or heroin abuse) are very reluctant to talk about their problems around online porn, although this reticence is less common amongst those under the age of forty-five .
The primary reason many addictive personalities find it so hard to come out of hiding and ask for help in this area is because of the shame and stigma attached to porn addiction. By and large, any form of addictive behaviour is shamed in society and this lack of open-mindedness, compounded by high levels of denial around porn as a real addiction leads to many feeling unsafe in asking for help.
Many people are able to use porn safely with no apparent adverse effect but it really comes down to a few simple questions: If you are accessing pornography on a regular basis, how does it make you feel after using it? Do you feel ashamed or guilty or experience some kind of "comedown?" Are you able to stop using porn promptly? Are you compelled to view it and while watching it are you scanning through different vlogs to find "the perfect hit"?
We know in neural science that any addictive behaviour releases dopamine and leads to an emotional crash after the "hit" has worn off. The behaviour is often secretive and solitary, thus, one of the primary characteristics of addictive behaviour is set in place, that of isolation.
The primary problem, as with all grave addictive behaviour is due to mental/emotional isolation, suppressed grief, trauma and a lack of belongingness. Online pornography addiction, just like alcohol addiction, can be addressed, one day at a time with the help of therapy, counselling and twelve-step fellowships such as Porn Addicts Anonymous.
Christopher Dines' new book, The Kindness Habit: Transforming our Relationship to Addictive Behaviours, co-authored with Dr Barbara Mariposa is out now.