POST 28: PORN & SEX “ADDICTION”

Paula Hall ted talk – Google Search

 

Paula Hall on Sex Addiction

Although Paula Hall gave a nice talk and as so many popular and well-known therapists she is overflowing with empathy….she does simplify things to the extent that I feel she goes into the wrong by throwing the entire set of problems onto one pile. Of course compassion, understanding and in particular education is needed. I fully agree and I am sure all therapists and researchers agree with that statement.

Although Paula makes a point of not wanting to debate the different terminologies provided to this “devastating” condition….”as people need help”….it IS VERY important to make distinctions between the issues or cases.
1. Mark and also Mary’s son very likely have a different set of problems than Jim with different root causes and they very likely have different personalities. This also means that when they come for therapy, they will need different approaches. For more information read my post on Compulsive Sexual Behaviour (CSB). Mark is described as a loner, his problem is very likely “an inability to tolerate sexual intimacy” (Marcus, 2010). It is not surprising that Mark seeks Internet porn to compensate for the lack of sexual connection with real people (See Post 11).

2.” Porn addiction” is not equal to “sex addiction”, as many people using porn are not acting out in other ways. Paula talks mostly about porn. She states that it is a 97 billion dollar industry. As the porn world is making so much money we have to conclude that all genders are users (Paula agrees with that statement on equal opportunity) and I want to add that indeed many users are couples.
Some argue that Internet addiction leads to porn addiction. One could even argue that it is hard to avoid being confronted with pornographic images and therefore it should lead to problems. Researchers however, are not in agreement. Griffiths (2012) in Addiction Research and Theory, 20(2), 111-124, states that only for those for whom Internet porn serves as a substitute to offline sexual behaviour, there is a risk of it developing into problem behaviour.

Paula talks about addiction as “a behaviour that causes significant problems in life that people feel they cannot stop”. She states that it has not the same negative side effects as a chemical addiction such as alcohol or drugs, but she fails to mention that those hooked on PORN spend a lot of time on the computer or phone that is not accounted for. She also fails to mention that a large number of frequent porn users have found difficulty in reaching satisfying sexual pleasure and orgasm with a real life partner. This leads me to favour the term porn addiction and not sex addiction. Porn addiction has negative side effects on some people (who use it to compensate for a lack of offline sexual intimacy) and it can develop into an obsessive compulsive behaviour that is difficult to stop due to the activated reward systems in the brain. Having said that, I just looked at research on Google Scholar and I fail to find research evidence that demonstrates that Internet and porn addiction are addictions with similar characteristics to chemical addictions (e.g.see Prause, Steele, Staley, Sabatinelli and Hajcak (2015) in their article in Biomedical Psychology, 108, 1192-199).

3. Paula mentions hyper-sexuality. Most people who could be referred to as hyper-sexual, however, do not perceive their “condition” as a problem, so let’s not talk them into believing that they are addicts.

4. To want “sex addiction” pushed into the DSM-5 in order to have it recognised as a psychiatric disorder for “treatment” purposes makes little sense other than that therapists will obtain more referrals and therefore more money. Although some research shows that compulsive use of pornography might affect the brain in similar ways as gambling, the DSM-5 has not included porn as at this time there is insufficient peer-reviewed evidence to establish the diagnostic criteria and these behaviours have not established to be mental disorders (DSM-5).

5. The relationship between porn and extra marital affairs (with a real person) is not clear Paula mentions Jim. Jim is not having romantic affairs. Jim is moving on from porn to meaningless casual sexual encounters and with that he has crossed another line. To talk about sex addiction when talking about Jim, has a danger as Jim might have an interesting personality and Bipolar Disorder, ADD including impulsive behaviours and risk seeking are very likely present. That Jim is seeking these risks in casual encounters might have more to do with how easy it is to obtain casual sex rather than with the topic of his obsession as such.

6. Many couples coming for counselling admit that there is no sex in their relationship. This can have a variety of reasons. Many of the men who miss having sex with their partner use porn. The number of couples struggling with a sexless marriage is enormous and grossly underestimated. There are options for these couples to learn to re-connect sexually. It is a shame that this topic is not getting the attention it needs. Working with these couples prevents that an issue with frequent porn use will arise with the devastating consequences that sexual intimacy is even more difficult to obtain. Rightly so, DeAngelis (2000) mentions that more study is required to investigate what comes first, Internet “addiction” or previous mental and social problems. I agree with this statement and I assume we all do as the Internet has provided to many lonely people an outlet that compensates for a lack of face-to-face social contacts.

7. Last, but not least…did Paula investigate the enormous amount of erotic e-books downloaded by mainly women? Shall we start diagnosing them as sex addicts as well?

In summary, the issues are so much more complex and I feel that talks about sex-addiction while they are really about porn use, do a disfavour to the case. Indeed education is needed but simplifying the issues is not helpful and educators need to be guided by research rather than by assumptions and should refrain from jumping on the bandwagon to join the nations’ fascination with anything to do with sex.

More on the controversy: First is contra and second is pro:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/think-well/201008/is-sex-addiction-dangerous-myth

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/love-and-sex-in-the-digital-age/201512/sex-addiction-myths-vs-reality

 

3 thoughts on “POST 28: PORN & SEX “ADDICTION”

    1. It definitely lowers the tress hold. Movies such as “friends with benefits” and “hook-ups”, or whatever it is called are not helping either. It “normalises” hurtful behaviours.
      The newest research on STIs shows that those 40 and up are spreading it due to having poor knowledge of STIs. It are not the teenagers and adolescents. It are the cheaters, and the one-night stand people from that age group who are infected. Many older people too…are unknowingly putting themselves at risk.
      Many people lie about having been tested and many “cheaters” rather believe the stories than use their common sense. It is a sad development.

      Like

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