What is Sex and Porn Addiction?

4 minutes Written by Gary Hominick

Sex and porn addiction is a much more common concern than most realize. Due to its stigma, people are less likely to reach out for help despite the often severe consequences it can create.

Like most addictions, sex and porn addiction consists of problematic behaviors, preoccupations, negative consequences, and potential physical harm. Sex addiction is also what’s considered a process addiction so there are some unique characteristics that need to be addressed appropriately.

Sex addiction can come in the form of excessive porn usage, seeking out prostitutes, affairs, explicit massage parlors, emotional affairs, and other problematic behaviors. There’s the secrecy and denial that exists with other addictions but one thing that is more unique in sex addiction is what’s called betrayal trauma. While there can be trauma for partners with other addictions, betrayal trauma from sex addiction is a different dynamic.

My advice for anyone seeking help for sex addiction is to have three therapists on board. One for the addict, one for the partner, and a couple’s counselor. While this isn’t always feasible, it’s important to address these three areas. If this isn’t possible, I recommend checking out some of the podcasts in my resources section.

How did this happen?

While there’s no one thing that definitively causes sex addiction, there are often contributing factors that can lead to problematic sexual behaviors. Sex addicts often report being exposed to sexually inappropriate material at a young age, report that they have a parent with similar issues, and have difficult or adverse childhoods.

The most common thing that leads to sex addiction is trauma. Clients often report being sexually abused, enmeshed, or other forms of trauma. One difficult aspect though is when I ask clients about trauma they often respond with, “No, I haven’t experienced anything traumatic.”

Upon further questioning, I often find out that they’ve normalized things like parents fighting regularly in front of the kids, a parent with a substance use problem, bullying, and having unmet needs that are crucial for healthy childhood development. The mind and body are both affected after trauma and trauma rarely heals on its own.

Trauma often leaves a void that we try our best to fill and if we don’t have the proper tools, we’ll find whatever works in the moment. If we turn to porn or sex we convince ourselves that we’re good, but then we just end up needing more and more. After a while, our addiction becomes so habitual that we have a hard time thinking about our life without it. Even at its worst, there’s always hope.

What can I do about it?

The good news is that not only is there help out there, but there’s specialized help. There are several specialized programs that deal solely with sex and porn addiction. One of the most common types of counselors you can find is a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT).

The CSAT model is designed for all levels of sex addiction, betrayal trauma, and underlying issues that lead to and exacerbate sex addiction. I typically approach sex and porn addiction in two ways:

First, we set up ways to reduce or eliminate the behavior. There are apps and programs that can track your internet and app activity that will send an alert to an accountability partner if you do access something inappropriate. There are also structured activities that are recommended for those in a couple to reconnect and communicate during the recovery process.

Second, we identify the underlying issues that led to someone’s sex and/or porn addiction and start the healing process. After working the process I hear clients say that urges slowly decrease, they feel more in touch with what they are thinking and feeling, and learn how to cope with their trauma in a more positive and helpful way. Clients of mine who are in well-established long-term recovery tell me that they’ve never been happier and can’t even imagine a life where they turn to their previous problematic sexual behavior.

If you are struggling with sex/porn addiction, reach out today to see what your recovery options are.

Avatar Gary Hominick

Written by Gary Hominick

Gary Hominick is a therapist in Texas who specializes in individual therapy.