Can ADHD lead to Porn Addiction?

Reviewed By Priyanka Bhattacharjee, is a licensed and practicing Clinical Psychologist based in India, who has been working very closely with a variety of mental health issues across different age groups for the past 7 years. Working for the cause of mental health is her passion, and primarily advocates for primary prevention and early intervention. Her professional interest areas include diagnosis and therapy for Addiction, Personality Disorders, Mood and Affective Disorders, Children and Adolescents’ Mental Health, Couple Intervention, and Workplace Mental Health issues.

What is ADHD?

When we talk about ADHD- that is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and porn addiction, they seem to exist in separate corners of mental health scenarios- like in different quantum. True that it is challenging to even imagine how one can predispose to the other.

It is one of the most common neurodevelopment disorders that is seen in childhood and adolescence. It is usually diagnosed in childhood and often lasts in adulthood. Those children who suffer from ADHD will have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors, or being overly active.

A few signs and symptoms:

The symptoms may vary from person to person but continue to be severe if not treated. This can cause difficulty at work/school or at home or with friends.

  1. Fidget a lot or show restlessness
  2. Have a hard time resisting temptation
  3. Have difficulty in bonding with others
  4. Make careless mistakes or take unnecessary risks
  5. Face difficulty in taking turns
  6. Daydream a lot
  7. Forget or lose things

Though these are the primary features that include inattention and hyperactive disorder. ADHD as per the studies occurs more often in males than in females.

For example, Boys can be more hyperactive and girls may tend to be inattentive.

There are several subtypes of ADHD:

  1. Predominantly inattentive: Most of the symptoms fall under inattention
  2. Predominantly hyperactive/impulsive: Major symptoms are being hyperactive and impulsive
  3. Combined: This type is a mixture of inattentive symptoms and hyperactive/impulsive symptoms

Causes: The exact cause of ADHD isn’t very clear, the efforts of research continue though. There are several factors that include genetics, the environment, or problems with the central nervous system.

Risk factors of ADHD:

Risk factors include:

  • Blood relatives – ( parent/sibling) who have ADHD or any other mental health disorder.
  • Exposure to a toxic environment – physically and emotionally
  • Usage of drugs/alcohol/cigarettes during pregnancy
  • At times premature birth

Many incidents experienced in childhood can lead to some attention issues but that is not the same as ADHD. It is a condition that comes under childhood disorder, often gets on the surface and gets diagnosed by the time the child attains a school-going age and shows symptoms apparent in at least two areas of functioning.

Whereas porn addiction, though cannot make a strong opinion, emerges by adolescence, and by the time it takes a shape of problem behavior and a maladaptive functioning, the individual is at the onset of adulthood or even later.

Since the nature of their onset and the way these two conditions are way too different, it is indeed challenging to analyze how could ADHD contribute to Porn Addiction.

Secondly, due to the dearth of research, we do not have adequate longitudinal studies or cohort studies to understand the relationship between the two.

The other conditions that exist with ADHD:

  • Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
  • Conduct disorder
  • Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder
  • Learning disabilities
  • Substance use disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Mood disorders
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Tic disorder or Tourette syndrome

ADHD can be prevented by reducing the risks:

During pregnancy: Avoiding anything that could harm fetal development.

Example:

  • Not consuming alcohol, not using recreational drugs, or smoking cigarettes.
  • Protecting your child from exposure to pollutants and toxins including cigarettes and lead paint.

However, the limited research findings have pointed out certain red flags and overlapping traits between the two conditions.

The personality traits, the pattern of emotional connectivity, social reciprocity, sensation seeking, and other characteristic features as such seem to have shown some connections between the two conditions.

Few studies in the Journal of Sexual Medicine (ciencedirect.com/journal/the-journal-of-sexual-medicine) have shown results that ADHD is one most common comorbidity in hypersexuality.

Surprising results have also been reported in gender-based studies focusing on the contribution of ADHD on problematic porn watching behavior, compared between men and women

Results have suggested that hypersexuality has also been found to have a positive as well as moderate association with problematic pornography use among women; whereas the same study suggests a strong association between hypersexuality and problematic porn use behavior.

One of the promising research (Kafka MP, Hennen J. A DSM-IV Axis I comorbidity study of males (n = 120) with paraphilias and paraphilia-related disorders.

Sex Abuse 2002;14:349–66.)by Kafka and Hennen, which showcased an intriguing relationship between compulsive sexual behavior and ADHD, found in their sample for studying certain aspects of hypersexuality, possibly due to certain common mechanisms like impulsivity, sensation-seeking, and reward deficiency.

Some studies such as one by Niazof et al. which particularly focused on studying the contribution of ADHD to problematic porn-watching behavior clearly mentioned that people with ADHD are more exposed to porn watching, often leading to porn addiction, and have avoidant attachment styles.

Problematic Attachment Style and Porn Addiction

People with avoidant attachment traits find it difficult to sustain meaningful relationships, and hence this tendency impacts the quality of personal life and intimate relationships.

As reported by a lot of Mental Health professionals based on their experience of dealing with clients with ADHD, such patients often report increased peer rejection, and difficulty in romantic relationships, and they often resort to compulsive sexual behavior in order to destress themselves and escape from the emotional discomfort. That is how they build a tendency of indulging in porn-watching behavior

Impulsivity – a major symptom found among people with ADHD highly predisposes them to engage in online pornography.

Whereas there are studies that strongly indicate that Behavioural Addiction is found as frequent comorbidity among ADHD patients. Although Internet Gaming disorder is most common, however, depending upon accessibility and availability, online porn surfing behavior is also commonly found.

ADHD and Online Behaviour

Further, people with symptoms of ADHD are more likely to spend a lot of time on online activities; which makes them more vulnerable to getting exposed to problematic porn watching behavior.

Understanding the nature and symptomology of ADHD, behavioral systems like novelty-seeking, detachment and being alone, and impulsivity make it more vulnerable to developing porn addiction, and as such children grow up, they should be treated with caution to prevent them from developing porn addiction.

Parents need to be duly educated about the preventive strategies, by the mental health professionals and social work specialists.

Thus, we need more research to understand the clear-cut connection between ADHD and porn addiction. However, the current database of research suggests that there are a number of common mechanisms and behavior systems that are common between the two.

But there are more symptoms and behavior patterns of ADHD individuals that lay the foundation to develop porn addiction- such as novelty-seeking, impulsivity, escape and avoidant personality styles, and on.

However, it is not necessarily true that all individuals with ADHD are likely to develop porn addiction. True that they are more vulnerable than the non-ADHD patient population, but with cautious preventive strategies, it can be curbed at an earlier state and can strongly regulate internet behavior.

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