The problem with any addiction is that most people don’t know just how far down the rabbit hole they’ve traveled until it’s too late. An addict will justify their situation, or trivialize it. “It’s just a little alcohol. It’s not like I need it every second!” “Everyone does it. No need to worry.” “I can stop when I want to.”
In the case of pornography, most addicts get stuck in a cycle, and can’t begin the process of recovery until they realize the severity of their problem. Indeed, with pornography so prevalent in today’s media culture, one can easily slip into a vast pit of darkness without realizing they ever fell away from the light.
Part of the problem arises from a misguided sense of denial, or an unwillingness to recognize the full extent of the problem. Denying that the problem exists allows addicts to avoid the discomfort of the shame and embarrassment that are involved with admitting to a pornography addiction.
In actuality, modern society makes it difficult to recognize the dangers of pornography addiction. Online websites and even health care and psychology professionals continue to claim the viewing of adult material as perfectly normal, while motion pictures and television shows make light of sexual addiction, creating a sense that pornography is merely a part of our culture, thus making it difficult for an addict to recognize his or her problem — the notion that “everyone does it” remains a misguided justification.
Once an addict finally recognizes the severity of the problem, it’s important for them to seek help. Unfortunately, denial can limit progression and lead to more years of abuse. “I used to look at pornography, but I don’t do it very often anymore, so it’s not really an addiction.” The correct thinking should be, “I know I am vulnerable to viewing pornography and could easily relapse, so I have to be constantly careful to avoid being in situations where I am exposed to it.”
What many people don’t understand is that breaking the shackles of pornography addiction often requires a lifetime of management to overcome. The temptation to view pornography never subsides, meaning an addict must work on controlling their desires on a daily basis — without minimizing the overall problem.
Minimizing can be just as dangerous as denial. By making a harmful action seem less significant, we hope to lessen the consequences that may result. Often times an addict uses the words “only” or “just” while minimizing in order to lessen the blow of his or her actions.
In the television series “Breaking Bad,” the main character Walter White, who transforms from timid chemistry teacher to criminal mastermind, continually minimizes his actions. Even when said actions lead to death and the destruction of his loved ones. He claims his actions are done “only for the love of his family,” and never fully comprehends just how far he’s fallen until it’s too late.
If we deceive ourselves that our hurtful or irresponsible behaviors are no big deal, then we won’t work on changing them. Young people struggling with pornography addiction will often minimize the problem, and say, “I only look at pornography on occasion-it’s not like I’m doing it all the time-I’m not addicted.”
It is possible to become addicted to pornography after only viewing it once. Even the occasional viewing is highly dangerous as it warps the mind’s overall understanding of sex, turning one of God’s greatest gifts into a vile and repulsive act that results in shame and guilt.
The correct thought for all men and women (no matter their age) should be, “Any viewing of pornography is a serious issue and only increases my chances of forming an addiction.”
As Gordon B. Hinkley once said, “Stay away from pornography as you would avoid a serious disease. It is as destructive. It can become habitual, and those who indulge in it get so they cannot leave it alone. It is addictive.”
If you are struggling with a pornography addiction, or know someone who is, don’t trivialize it. Seek help immediately so you may enjoy a life free of guilt and shame, full of happiness, friends, and love.
Matt is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been working in the field of youth treatment and psychotherapy since 1995. He did his undergraduate work at BYU and earned his M.S.W. at the University of Utah. He has worked in a variety of treatment setting in his career ranging from wilderness therapy and residential treatment to outpatient treatment and state government.