Substance Addiction v/s Porn Addiction: Are They Similar?

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What is Addiction and How to Diagnose? 

A lot of people compare substance addiction to porn addiction.

Addiction includes psychological dependence, physical dependence, and withdrawal symptoms when a substance (such as drugs) is not available or lack of a certain behavior (such as pornography) becomes frustrating. 

Doctors can diagnose addiction based on dependence syndrome. This syndrome has a series of physiological, behavioral, and cognitive phenomena. The use of a substance or class of substances has a higher priority for a specific person than other behaviors that once had a greater value.  

The main descriptive feature of dependence syndrome is the desire to take psychoactive drugs like alcohol or tobacco. 

Substance Addiction v/s Porn Addiction- Are They Similar?

The extent to which pornographic use is similar to substance use is controversial.  

Some researchers insist that the brain’s response to pornography is so similar to its response to substances that behavioral disorders such as pornography addiction should be classified in the same category as substance use disorders.  

Whereas other researchers suggest that changes such as increased dopamine levels are common and make these results trivial. 

How are they similar? 

Behavioral addictions such as pornography, gambling, overeating, television compulsion, and internet addiction are similar to drug addiction. The exception is that the individual is not a substance addict, but he/she is a behavioral addict.

Both pornography and drug use are linked to genetic and biological factors. These factors include changes in brain structure and function and psychological characteristics such as emotional responses.  

These factors can increase the risk of drug abuse and pornography. The increased risk of addiction comes from parents who also have behavioral addictions.   

Effects of Harmful Use of Substances on Porn Addiction 

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse.

Why do people combine porn and substances? 

Substance and porn addiction at the same time is a dangerous combination. 

Some people are ashamed of using pornography and sometimes worry that it will reflect on them morally or psychologically. It is not uncommon for people to use psychoactive substances to suppress these feelings of anxiety and fear when watching pornographic content. 

Other people may combine porn and substance use to increase the pleasure they experience while viewing porn. Substances can induce euphoria and heightened sensory responses that amplify pleasurable sexual feelings.  

What happens if you combine porn and substance addiction?

Mixing porn and substance use can be so stimulating that it blocks out awareness of anything else. This can make people who are overwhelmed by stress or recent trauma especially vulnerable to developing cross-addictions to substances and pornography. 

Unfortunately, the combination of drug use and pornography increases the risk of addiction to both. The use of substances to suppress the feeling that people usually resist pornography increases their likelihood of regular consumption and addiction.  

Many therapeutic interventions for porn addiction signs aim at restoring awareness of the internal state. This is much more difficult for people who use substances that suppress or distort this consciousness.   

Combining drugs and pornography can increase the risk of negative outcomes, including interpersonal, financial, and professional problems. This cross-addiction also increases the risk of psychological complications, including depression and anxiety. 

Science Behind Simultaneous Porn and Substance Use

Often, porn addiction and substance abuse go hand in hand. Both behaviors provide an escape and fulfill the addict’s need for risk, which produces pleasant chemical changes in the brain. 

Unfortunately, these compulsions fuel one another. In order to recover from either substance abuse or porn addiction, both must be treated together. Relapsing with one addiction will likely mean relapsing with the other, so it’s important to learn how to avoid and cope with triggers for both behaviors. 

What does research state? 

Research shows that porn addiction and substance abuse often occur simultaneously.  

  • In one study, 58 percent of sex addicts reported either past or current struggles with drug addiction. 31 percent reported issues with alcoholism. 
  • Individuals with behavioral addiction have certain symptoms and will undergo the same consequences as those with alcohol and drug addiction and other obsessive behaviors. 
  • People with poly substance use have higher chances of sex addiction as well. 
  • People with substance addiction and porn addiction both are also often associated with committing sex offences. 

Let us take a look at the neurobiological point of view 

When it comes to substance addiction v/s porn addiction, pornography, and drug use can cause changes in the brain’s reward system by increasing the level of the neurotransmitter dopamine. These brain systems are activated by any activity that promotes learning or survival, but they may be overstimulated by drugs and pornography.  

After pornography or drug use, chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin in the brain will be significantly reduced, and trigger psychological reactions such as depression and anxiety.   

Like drug use, pornography use can slow certain parts of the brain and cause a decrease in gray matter in certain areas of the brain. This can lead to overactivity in other parts of the brain, which can lead to psychological withdrawal. 

Patients suffering from porn addiction (e.g., unable to limit the time that you indulge in porn) describe addiction-specific phenomena and diagnostic criteria 

These include: 

  • Craving 
  • Excessive behavior  
  • Psychological and physical withdrawal symptoms 
  • Loss of control  
  • Development of tolerance (increased behavior range)  
  • Inducing and perceiving expected psychotropic effects (e.g., pathological gamblers use several slot machines at the same time). 

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