home Sex More Evidence “Porn Addiction” is Just a Load of Snake Oil

More Evidence “Porn Addiction” is Just a Load of Snake Oil

To the individual struggling with porn:

Aren’t you tired of hating yourself?

Aren’t you sick of hiding that you look at porn occasionally? Tired of the stress, anxiety and depression you feel?

Aren’t you done with feeling guilty, weak, damaged or depraved?

Just stop.

No, don’t stop looking at porn if you enjoy it. Stop labeling yourself a porn addict.

For the legions of people identified as porn addicts – by themselves, spouses or so-called counselors – the cure for their misery could be as simple as that.

As Dr. David Ley reported at Psychology Today, new research suggests believing oneself to be a porn addict causes psychological pain, stress and sadness, regardless of the amount of porn a person actually consumes.

In other words, it’s the label – not porn – that causes problems for people.

Joshua Grubbs, of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, interviewed 1,047 men and women about their porn use and whether they considered themselves to be porn addicts.

After ruling out effects of personality traits, such as compulsiveness or neuroticism, the research showed self-identification as a porn addict correlated strongly with depression, anxiety, anger or stress.

Grubbs replicated his first study with 3,055 college students and got similar results. What’s more, the more serious a person believed their “porn addiction” to be, the more anxiety and depression they suffered.

Actual porn use had “no reliable relationship to emotional issues.”

In summary, “if someone believed they were a sex addict, this belief predicted psychological suffering, no matter how much, or how little, porn they were actually using,” Dr. Ley wrote.

These results show even more strongly that “porn addiction” and “sex addiction” are pop psychology diagnoses more effective at stealing people’s money than helping them feel better about themselves.

Neither porn nor sex addiction is an official diagnosis in the DSM-5 – the guidelines used by mental health professionals to help determine course of treatment.

As I demonstrated in an earlier post, the criteria for sex addiction are so loosely defined, just about anyone with a normal, healthy sexuality could be labeled a sex addict.

Sex-addiction quizzes available online are obviously worded to feed into the guilt people feel about their sexuality – guilt imposed by religion, family, spouses or society.

Dr. Ley, author of the book The Myth of Sex Addiction, calls porn addiction treatment iatrogenic, a word that describes medical treatments that hurt people, rather than curing them. “The porn addiction treatment model is iatrogenic, creating harm under the guise of providing treatment and support,” he wrote.

“The model of porn addiction is one which serves many people: Those who sell treatments for it, those who believe that sex and porn should be feared or controlled, and those who believe they are helping others by spreading the word about the dangers of porn addiction. Unfortunately, this concept is now shown to do a disservice to the very people it purports to help,” he continued.

The research findings back up what he and other psychologists have observed in their own clinical practices. “I’ve seen many vulnerable people call themselves a porn addict, despite using less porn than many other people,” he wrote. “I’ve found this self-imposed label has much to do with moral values about sex and pornography, and often comes from an impoverished understanding of human sexuality.”

Dr. Ley, Dr. Marty Klein, Dr. Darrel Ray and others who’ve spoken against the “porn addiction” concept aren’t suggesting people don’t struggle with their sexual behavior. They are simply pointing out the label does harm to people, rather than helping them. It keeps them from working on underlying problems – sexual shame, trauma, fear of intimacy, or romantic resentment – that may lie at the root of compulsive behavior.

Sex addiction counselors have an “obligation to demonstrate empirically that their label, their treatments and their theories are beneficial,” Dr. Ley wrote. “Because right now, the evidence suggests that their treatment is hurting people.”

Porn addiction industry: The ball’s in your court.

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