Sex Addiction vs. Pornography Addiction

Far and away the largest subset of men who are dealing with sexual addiction are dealing specifically with Internet pornography addiction. The Internet has brought many, many good things to our lives–but it has also enabled the anonymous, always-on, and affordable (often free) access to pornography.

If you sent a bottle of vodka to every home in South Africa every week for a year, you would no doubt have a whole wave of alcoholics. The Internet has created a wave of pornography addicts with its pervasive porn delivery mechanism.

Pornography addiction

Is defined as a condition resulting from the overuse or abuse of pornography. As measures of “overuse” and “abuse” of pornography as well as research on the topic are disputed scientifically, ‘pornography addiction’ is not classified by medical doctors as a disease.

There is considerable dispute about whether “pornography addiction” actually exists, and if so, whether it has harmful effects. One popular argument against this form of addiction is that many people regularly watch pornography and still lead productive lives. Critics of this form of addiction argue that people who regularly view pornography are able to have normal relationships and are not desensitised to less stimulating materials.

The U.S.A. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does not presently provide a formal definition for pornography addiction. Many informal “self-tests” have been but do not appear to have been normed or statistically validated.

General definition

The concept of pornography addiction is defined by its proponents as a psychological addiction to, or dependence upon, pornography, characterized by obsessive viewing, reading, and thinking about pornography and sexual themes to the general detriment of the rest of one’s life.

It has been suggested by some proponents of the pornography addiction hypothesis that pornography addicts should experience similar patterns of symptoms to those involved in physiological addiction to substances such as drugs or alcohol; for example, euphoria while taking the drugs, and physical and/or psychological problems when they attempt to quit, desensitisation to the addictive substance, and the need to increase their dosage in order to maintain their euphoria.


Numerous physiological rationales have been suggested for pornography addiction. Some research into the brain’s function appears to show that pornography can affect the brain in a manner similar to that of heroin. Some people have higher sex drives because of medical conditions such as bipolar disorder or medications.

Pornography addiction according to James Dobson

According to Dr. James Dobson, a psychologist and a noted conservative, pornography addiction causes a person to:

  • Become desensitised to the material, no longer getting a thrill from what was once exciting
  • Fantasize about acting out various pornographic scenes
  • Become callous towards ordinary sexual relationships
  • Become reclusive and attempt to hide the habit from family and friends
  • View the opposite sex as sex objects
  • View sex as being solely for the pleasure of himself or herself

Dr. Dobson also believes that pornography leads to premarital sex, unprotected sex, prostitution, affairs and problems during marriage. Once married, Dobson believes that men who were or are addicted to pornography will be unable to be satisfied with their sexual partner, causing marital problems and even divorce. Dobson believes that pornography should be illegal because of its addictive effects.

Pornography addiction according to Irons and Schneider

Formal criteria have been suggested along lines strictly analogous to the [DSM] criteria for alcohol and other substance addictions. This article cites Goodman (1990), who compared the DSM criteria lists for various addictive disorders and derived these general characteristics:

  • Recurrent failure to resist impulses to engage in a specified behaviour.
  • Increasing sense of tension immediately prior to initiating the behaviour.
  • Pleasure or relief at the time of engaging in the behaviour.

At least five of the following:

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