Porn Addiction- A Family’s Role in Recovery

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Porn addiction is a tricky condition. Apart from the severity of the problem, a lot of discomfort, shame and hesitation it is surrounded with.

As multiple literature says that porn addiction is not a medical or a psychiatric condition, people do not recognize it as a problem. But the reality is the distress and the emotional turmoil it is accompanied by is way too dreading.

When an individual is undergoing porn addiction, it is just not the single person who is affected, but it is everyone around him/her- family, friends, partners and so on.

The effect of porn addiction on people are a serious concern and is multi- faceted. If someone understands porn addiction as being just about repeatedly watching porn, it’s not that simple and clear cut.

Porn addiction brings about a lot of side-effects and negative impact on the mental well -being of the individual. These impacts are for the obvious biological and the physiological side effects in terms of the hormonal disequilibrium.

Talking about the associated challenges with porn addiction, let’s not forget how challenging porn addiction itself is. An individual dealing with porn addiction, encounters irresistible and compulsive urge to watch porn and sometimes leading to compulsive masturbation.

How does the cycle of porn addiction begin?

No doubt the experience of porn addiction of a series of events and the cycle goes on. Although masturbation is a self-pleasuring activity which people do indulge in for self-pleasure as sexual development happens. But what causes the problem?

The problem occurs when, firstly, the individual loses self- control over their urge to indulge in self-pleasuring activities, and second, the distress it causes.

Although it begins like a pleasurable thing, gradually when the individual realizes that he is losing control over their indulgence, then it doesn’t remain pleasurable anymore. If gets very disturbing and distressing for the person who is experiencing this.

This cycle of addiction most usually begins as an experiment for the first time. There is a curiosity to explore videos of adult content and browse through magazines, and this is because of the growing age. Boys usually have more curiosity to explore sexual stuff and information, which also marks their sexual development by the time they attain adolescence.

As long as it remains a part of their experimentation and curiosity, it never takes a form of porn addiction. Parents have to remember that exploring adult contents once or twice out of curiosity is not a porn addiction- it’s a myth which a lot of parents have.

It gradually takes a problematic turn when the indulgence increases, and they urge to explore more of adult contents.

It is important for parents to be a little watchful with their adolescent boys at this age; although instances with girls are less but certainly cannot be overlooked.

How to find out if my child is into porn watching?

A lot of times parents ask, “how to stay vigilant with adolescent boys and girls” “How do I know if my child is exploring adult contents?”

There is no one specific answer to these questions though, but look out for some of the behavioural change or red flags as below-

  • Is your adolescent is spending too much time on devices; do enquire about their digital behaviour?
  • Is your adolescent preferring to stay aloof and wants to keep the doors locked most of the time?
  • Is your adolescent pressurizing to either buy him a phone/ laptop/ tab of his own or to keep parents’ phone in their custody?
  • Is your adolescent showing anger or temper tantrums over phone usage?
  • Is your adolescent complaining to be more lethargic than before? (in absence of any physical ailments)
  • Is your adolescent spending way too much time in the washrooms?
  • Do you notice any shaky response in your adolescent as soon as you enter their room?

These are possibly a few red flags, though not the exclusive ones. You may discover some other range of behaviour and reactions as well.

How do I know if my partner is into watching porn?

Although we are talking about adolescents, the same stands true for young adults or even older adults.

In cases of adults its either the parents, siblings or the spouse have to deal with problematic porn watching behaviour of the individual.

As people grow up and reach early adulthood they are no longer in physical proximity with their parents. Either they are living away from parents for academics or job; and even if they are living together, they acquire their own physical space and privacy and hence parents may or may not be able to discover the problematic porn watching behaviour of their adult son or daughter.

But the same isn’t true with the partners. Since people share a close physical proximity of space with their partners, they are able to discover the partners problematic porn watching behaviour.

Some of the red flags would be –

  • An urge to spend time alone
  • Excessive digital behaviour
  • Erratic behaviour when questioned about device use behaviour
  • Problems in establishing and maintaining sexual relationships with the partner
  • Blames the partner for not able to excite him
  • Asking for time alone before you would want to initiate an intimate moment (seeking for arousal from watching porn)
  • Anger spells frequently directed towards the partner.

Why people don’t talk about porn addiction?

People mostly hesitate to talk about porn addiction because of the awkwardness people attach to the theme of adult content. Porn addiction itself suffers from innate series of taboos – taboos of talking about adult contents, talking about ‘sex’ in front of people; leave aside the hesitation to pronounce that someone is repeatedly watching adult contents.

This actually makes the suffering worse for the person who is struggling with porn addiction, because they have grown up believing that we cannot talk about it, and since nobody talks about it it’s a silent drug and people suffer silently.

To adequately address porn addiction, it is important to talk.

Secondly, the hesitation is increased considering it as a mental health issue – end of the day, addiction is a behavioural issue which needs mental health intervention. But as soon as mental health intervention comes people take it in another way.

Since usually people see mental health intervention is only meant for “crazy people, and I am not crazy” makes it even worse.

Thirdly, people usually rely on the internet a lot. Whereas, the internet proves to be an efficient source of information but it’s also a source of misconception and inadequate information.

It’s a common practice among people with porn addiction to google about their condition, and most literature would mention that porn addiction is not considered as a medical or a psychiatric condition.

Although this piece of information stands true up till now but it’s incomplete and inadequate, and that doesn’t change the fact that porn addiction is equally or even more distressing and associates a number of comorbid mental health conditions, which requires proper professional intervention.

Not talking about porn addiction is the first obstacle because of which mental health professionals are not able to address it well.

One simple effort that can make it easier and people would actually feel normalise is ‘talking about it.’

Parental Measures of prevention – What parents can do to prevent Porn Addiction?

Parents of adolescents can actually take a few measures and open the communication between the parent and child

  • Educate your child about their stages of sexual developments
  • Impart adequate sex education to them; don’t let children get sex educated from porn which is mostly the case, and source of major trouble
  • Since children now a days have easy accessibility to digital devices, talk to them about appropriate and inappropriate internet content
  • Exercise proper rules and control of device and internet use
  • Use a filter in your devices with adequate password and educate your child about the use of the filter and why you are using them
  • Tell your child empathetically that you are aware of what the child browses and why you are doing it
  • Curiosity is the reason why adolescents explore things which are not talked about, which are kept hush; rather break the curiosity by adequately talking to them about it.

Parental measures of intervention – What parents can do when your child is struggling with porn addiction?

  • Be a responsible and open parent, and in case you find your child being way too indulgent in watching porn or emerging porn addiction, accept it and address it
  • Parental denial and ignorance are a danger
  • Speak to the child; open up a communication because in case your child is into problematic porn watching behaviour, they would not know whom to go and talk to and that is very distressing
  • Take appropriate measures, you can best take care as a parent but he might need professional help and therefore taking him to the mental health expert is strongly suggested
  • Actively check on your child’s digital use behaviour and adequately tell them why are you doing it. Communicate adequately the difference between spying and healthy behavioural checks.

Spouse’s measures- How you can help your partner struggling with porn addiction?

  • Firstly, stay calm and decide what should be your stand; either you want to be an active part of your partner’s porn addiction recovery process, or you would prefer a passive stand in this situation, decision is purely yours
  • In case you want to be an active part of your partner’s recovery process, then going for couple counselling session is most important
  • Accept that it’s not about your partner’s intention but it’s about his problem
  • Set realistic goals for your partner and for yourself

Family systems approach towards treating porn addiction is an efficient approach and is more sustainable. Please remember, talking can bring about a big difference, and let’s join hands to make that difference.

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