Need help breaking free from addiction?
1-888-993-3112
Call 24/7 for treatment options. Who Answers?

How Can I Stop Using Porn?

Question:

I am a 33 year old male that can not stop thinking about sex or performing it by my own hand with the help of porn. I am married and enjoy the intimacy with my wife, but it seems not to be enough. Sometimes It just feels easier to do it by myself than with her. I have masterbated since I was five years old. I saw porn for the first time at my dads place when I was about 10. Phone sex started at 18 and ended when I was 26 at the “recomendation” of my wife. At 28 I found the internet. I’m getting better with the internet issue but I still relapse and I am afraid It will one day bite me if I can not stay off it permanently. I’m disgusted with myself after reading a perversed story of sex knowing I was aroused by the material. I do not know how to stop doing these things. Its like a perverted cycle that I don’t know how to break. All I want now is a way to stop so I can finally feel normal. Right now I am tired of my self induced torment and need to do something to get rid of it.

This Disclaimer applies to the Answer Below
  • Dr. Dombeck responds to questions about psychotherapy and mental health problems, from the perspective of his training in clinical psychology.
  • Dr. Dombeck intends his responses to provide general educational information to the readership of this website; answers should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s).
  • Questions submitted to this column are not guaranteed to receive responses.
  • No correspondence takes place.
  • No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by Dr. Dombeck to people submitting questions.
  • Dr. Dombeck, Mental Help Net and CenterSite, LLC make no warranties, express or implied, about the information presented in this column. Dr. Dombeck and Mental Help Net disclaim any and all merchantability or warranty of fitness for a particular purpose or liability in connection with the use or misuse of this service.
  • Always consult with your psychotherapist, physician, or psychiatrist first before changing any aspect of your treatment regimen. Do not stop your medication or change the dose of your medication without first consulting with your physician.
Answer:

This is a tough issue but also a very pervasive one in our current culture where porn is a multi-billion dollar industry that no polite person can talk about without being stigmatized. At this point, porn is pretty firmly wedged into your personal experience of sexuality, and it will be difficult to dislodge. If you really want to never use porn again, you will have to be dedicated and consistant in your avoidance of the things that enable your porn use. You will probalby need to get rid of your home Internet connection, for instance, or at least install some “net-nanny” software that will lock you out of the stuff. You will want to tell someone else about your “addiction” so as to make it public in some way (Going public helps you be accountable). And you’ll have to be very concious of the self-talk that goes on in your head so that at the earliest sign that you are getting into a porn using mindset, you can head that mindset off at the pass and engage in alternative behavior (such as being with your wife or masturbating without porn). If you approach your “porn addiction” in this manner (e.g., treat it as an addiction), you will likely have about as much success as most addicts do when they try to kick their habits. You will go through periods of craving and mindsets will come over you that wonder what all the fuss was about and why don’t you use again… You will relapse despite yourself from time to time, but if you are really motivated and well supported in your efforts and do the right avoidance things, you will come out the other end “clean and sober” from porn.

I wonder however, if the issue is actually your use of porn or habit of masterbation so much as it might be removing yourself from a cycle of sexual shame that you are caught up in. You believe that use of porn is shameful and/or that masterbation is shameful (not clear from your message), and this drives you to feel bad about yourself and to worry that other people will judge you negatively. You hide the activity from others. Still you are driven to it again and again (for sexual release is a consistant hunger of adult life just as is food), and you never feel good about yourself. The feeling bad about yourself leads you sometimes to say “what the heck – if I’m already a sinful person, I might as well act sinfully”, and then you dive back into the porn, perpetuating the shame feeling. Sometimes the way out of a cycle of shame is not to swear off the shameful stuff you’re involved with, but rather to see whether that feeling of shame is necessary in the first place.

Historically, societies have had very different attitudes towards sexually explicit materials. The ancient Romans were pretty open and accepting about such materials, so far as I can tell, but us modern societies are not at all. Our basic western attitude towards sexuality is that it is essentially shameful and “animal” (as in base and dirty) suitable for reproduction only. The pleasure that sexuality can provide is discounted as sinful, or at least as non-useful, and the negative sides of sexuality are played up for all they’re worth to make the whole thing look worse than it needs to. At the same time, “softcore” sexually explicit images are used as marketing tools to influence us to buy things. We want to look at the images, but we feel bad about it at the same time (or at least shortly thereafter). The association of shame with sex was something deliberate, I think, because when you can hook people into thinking that they are essentially shameful beings (because they have these animal desires) you can control them more easily. Though the formula “sex is shameful” is pretty much a repressive and manipulative technique, we’re mostly all bought into it nevertheless.

This leads me towards offering you several questions to consider. What exactly is it about your porn use that you find shameful? Is it the compulsive aspect of the habit? You and many other men have difficulty stopping the use of porn, and realizing that you aren’t completely in control of yourself can feel shameful. Is it that you feel that porn itself is shameful and dirty? If so – what is it about porn that makes you feel this way? Many people feel that masturbation is somehow not a good or healthy or mature kind of sex (myths on all counts). Some people feel that women are exploited in pornography (and surely in some forms of pornography, they are, but in some they are not necessarily). Some people just think that sex is dirty and that they are diry because they want sex. Is it that there is a stigma attached to porn use, and that you would be embarrassed if someone found out you used it? Is it that you keep it a secret from your wife, and she would be upset with you if she found out?

Identifying what it is about porn that is so objectionable for you may be a freeing exercise. If the only reason you feel that porn is shameful is because other people think badly about it, well then, maybe if you could just accept that you like porn and like to masturbate on your own you wouldn’t have to feel so bad about using it, and then you could enjoy yourself a little. If you are worried that porn is exploitive to women, you could find sources of porn that don’t exploit people. If you are worried that you’d hurt your wife by using porn, maybe your issue isn’t porn, but rather that you are keeping secrets from your wife. In that latter case, maybe the thing to do would be to find a way to talk about your liking to have some sex on your own without your wife and with the use of porn. She might be very upset at learning this truth about you, but then again, she might be okay about it too. Such a discussion could easily create problems in your marriage, but it also might lead to greater intimacy because it could be a way of banishing some shame. Hard to say without knowing her.

I can recommend a book to read which will help you feel less alone in the world. It is called “Making Love” and it is by Richard Rhodes, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Making of the Atomic Bomb”. The book is a sexual autobiography. It is very well written essay, but not appropriate for the faint of heart because of how unflinchingly explicit and honest it is.

Anyway, good luck facing your demons here. I wish you luck in solving the problem.

More "Ask Dr. Dombeck" View Columnists

Close

Call the Helpline Toll-FREE

To Get Treatment Options Now.

1-888-993-3112 Who Answers? 100% Confidential

Get Help For You or a Loved One Here...

Click Here for More Info.

Close

Call The Toll-FREE Helpline 24/7 To Get Treatment Options Now.

100% Confidential
Get Treatment Options From Your Phone... Tap to Expand