Breaking the Habit: Addicted to Online Pornography?

The number of people addicted to internet pornography has been increasing for years. Embarrassment and stigma attached to any addiction is sadly all too common, but perhaps none more so than pornography addiction. Because of this, many people just don’t seek help. Recently, however, this trend seems to be breaking, according to Graeme Orr, counsellor and therapist at Considerate Counselling.

Graeme talks to us about this particular addiction and how to overcome it.

“Like many counsellors I am beginning to see a significant rise in the numbers of clients with an addiction to Internet pornography.  Perhaps unlike other addictions, there are no physical symptoms; the object of the addiction is available from a variety of places, with few if any controls on the ‘strength’ of the material.  Yet when someone walks through my counselling room door with an addiction to Internet pornography you can be sure that their lives revolve round that single issue.


It interferes with your work, your family and your social life. It is not uncommon for sufferers to spend hours trying to find the perfect image on line or looking for a partner in chat rooms, or to make excuses to get away from their partner to get their fix on their mobile phone or other portable device.

It is a common misconception that the condition that effects only men, while they make up the majority of those who come forward for treatment; a recent study showed that 20% of suffers are women. Indeed it might be argued it is harder for women to admit to the problem as it is less socially acceptable for women to be looking at pornography. Even in confronting their addiction they are likely to be the only woman in group therapy which can be another barrier to treatment.

The 5 key things to help defeat your Internet pornography addiction:

1)Cleanse your environment: It may seem obvious but getting rid of all of the pornography that you have is an important step. Deleting the saved images (including the recycling bin), get rid of printed materials, even getting rid of DVDs or recordings. Often addicts hoard the materials just in case for the future.

2)Identify your triggers: Perhaps the key issue that you will need to address is why. What makes you sit at a keyboard and look for images or partners or chat rooms?  Perhaps your sex life is boring, unsatisfactory or nil. Perhaps it gives a lift from the stress and to get away from painful feelings. Ultimately you need to recognise and deal with those triggers. Perhaps you need relationship counselling or you need to find a different way to deal with stress or emotional problems. Finding the triggers to your addiction allows you to substitute new patterns of behaviour.

3) Replace the triggers with activity: By noticing your normal patterns of use, perhaps you notice that you always use after dinner, you can think about what other activities you could do instead. Many clients use the gym or physical exercise, one which gets them away from devices that could be used to access pornography. Although exercise would be an excellent alternative there are others like hobbies or spending time with friends. The important part here is to change your habits that would normally lead to the addictive behaviour.

4) Seek support: Understanding the help that is there makes a real difference to many of the clients I see.  These can range from the practical like internet filters that block pornography sites or moving your PC to a public room or even getting rid of your internet connection. Group and individual therapy can help to understand and deal with the compulsion that goes along with your addiction. Support while making changes to get pornography out of your life is key, that may be in a variety of ways, perhaps there is someone you feel you can trust to help or it may be the support of a therapy group. The point is that support will help keep you on track when the difficult moments arrive.

5) Admit you have a problem: Recognising that you have a problem is important because addicts are often the last to know and find the hard to admit that they are that person. With pornography there are lots of ready excuses: “Everybody does it” or “It’s natural, a biological urge that I want to look at pornography” or “I can stop anytime”.  The reality is that if the behaviour is interfering with your life you need to address it. For example how long do you go without looking at pornography, do you spend hours looking for just the right image to get you aroused, have you stopped doing other activities or been late for them because you were looking for pornography. All of these are the behaviours of someone addicted to internet pornography.

The ease of with which we can all access pornography today, does make internet pornography one of the easier addictions to fall into. The shame and the guilt can makes life difficult and effects the way you relate to all people. Yet there are practical steps you can take and help that you can get to make a real difference and get ‘sober’. Looking for help can be the best decision you ever made.”

Graeme Orr is the head counsellor at Considerate Counselling in Glasgow.

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