Because pornography use is so widely used and accepted today, many people may wonder if they are addicted to it. According to Dr. Mark Laaser (1992) pornography/sexual addiction is “any persistent and escalating unhealthy pattern of sexual behavior. It is compulsive in nature and used to avoid or change feelings despite destructive consequences to self and others.”
Diagnosing an addiction to pornography requires the assistance of a trained mental health professional. While there are many self-tests you can take regarding this issue, at most they can only help assess your risk of being addicted to pornography or cybersex. However, there are signs you can look for that may indicate a real addiction.
Since most pornography today is accessed online, Dr. Patrick Carnes, in his book, In the Shadows of the Net (2007), notes ten characteristics of problematic online sexual behavior:
1. Preoccupation with sex on the Internet
2. Frequently engaging in sex on the Internet more often or for longer periods of time than intended
3. Repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back on, or stop engaging in sex on the Internet
4. Restlessness or irritability when attempting to limit or stop engaging in sex on the Internet
5. Using sex on the Internet as a way of escaping from problems or relieving feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, or depression
6. Returning to sex on the Internet day after day in search of a more intense or higher-risk sexual experience
7. Lying to family members, therapists, or others to conceal involvement with sex on the internet
8. Committing illegal sexual acts online (for example, sending or downloading child pornography or soliciting illegal sex acts online)
9. Jeopardizing or losing a significant relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity because of online sexual behavior
10. Incurring significant financial consequences as a result of engaging in online sexual behavior
If you and/or someone you love are struggling with any of these signs, I recommend seeking the help of a competent mental health professional who is certified in the diagnosis and treatment of sexual addiction. For more information, read Integrity Restored: Helping Catholic Families Win the Battle against Pornography available under the book tab on this website.