Study: Porn Addiction Increasing as Technology Proliferates Access

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San Francisco psychotherapist Michael Halyard, MFT describes a University of Sydney study showing an increase in porn addiction as technology explodes access. Problems related to porn are explored and solutions are offered.

If you are spending more than 30 minutes watching porn each day, you may have a problem.

Recent study confirms what therapists already know--the Internet and other new technologies have been spurring an increase in pornography use. A University of Sydney study has shown an increase in porn use as the technologies are exploding access.

Preliminary results are discussed on the University of Sydney website. Nearly 800 people came forward to discuss their pornography addiction for an extensive online study facilitated by researchers at the University of Sydney. The study revealed that 43 percent of people surveyed began watching porn from the young ages of 11 to 13 years old.

The study also revealed an increase in pornography use in both young adults and adults. Among participants, 47 percent acknowledged watching pornography for between 30 minutes and three hours every day, and over half had de-facto partners or were married. The study revealed that in addition to the damage to friendships and romantic relationships, negative consequences included loss of jobs and legal problems.

“The easy access to pornography on the Internet and other devices makes resisting the urge more difficult, and appears to be increasing pornography addiction. There are people who are now porn addicts who arguably wouldn’t have gotten there without the new technologies,” says San Francisco psychotherapist Michael Halyard, MFT.

Halyard is a San Francisco Marriage and Family Therapist and can be found on the websites and

“Pornography is not only on the Internet, it’s now available on smart phones like the iPhone and Android, computer tablets like the iPad and Kindle Fire, and Internet television like Apple TV and Roku. There are apps for the smart phones and tablets, and special channels for Internet television,” adds Halyard.

Pornography addiction is defined as a psychological dependence on pornography, characterized by compulsive reading, viewing and obsessing about pornography to the detriment of a person’s well being and affecting all areas of their life. As with all addictions, key to its addictive quality is that the behavior continues despite ever growing negative consequences and a desire to stop. Pornography addiction is also a form of sex addiction, and can often co-occur with other compulsive sexual behavior.

Modern pornography is more addictive than traditional pornography due to its easy availability, explicit nature, wide range of images and video available, ability to access it on any handheld device or tablet, and the privacy that the experience offers. People can spend hours searching the Internet on their computer or device for the newest or most hardcore pornography.

“You used to have to go to an Adult movie theater to watch pornography. Some people even had film projectors and showed Super-8 films at home. Then the VCR allowed practically everyone who wanted it access to pornography in the privacy of their own home. Then came the Internet and all bets were off. Smart phones, iPhones, tablets and iPads, Internet television, and now even Twitter and Facebook feeds and apps have made porn difficult to avoid,” explains Halyard.

“This omnipresent availability makes it easy for people with addictive personalities to cross that indivisible line into addiction. For many adults, the moderate use of pornography can be a healthy part of their sexuality. For porn addicts, however, pornography can be as damaging as gambling, alcohol or drugs, and can take over a person’s life. If you are spending more than 30 minutes watching porn each day, you may have a problem,” argues Halyard.

The kind of behaviors that porn addicts engage in include: watching porn on a computer or other device, looking at nude picture personal ads on websites, spending hours searching for the most exciting videos, talking to people online, file sharing, instant messaging, texting, cybersex, webcam sex, and even sex in virtual world video games. There’s also downloading, classifying and storing porn in a way--that is in essence hoarding porn-- and an obsessive compulsive way to control anxiety. For some people it doesn’t go any further than this, but others get into sexually compulsive behaviors in the real world.

“For compulsive pornography consumers, the pornography often serves as a way to self-soothe, relax, and escape the stress of modern life. People also use pornography to avoid uncomfortable feelings like sadness, guilt and shame, and as a way to manage their anxiety. Sometimes people use porn just to avoid doing work or tedious tasks,” says Halyard.

Pornography addiction, like drug and alcohol addiction, has the potential to wreck havoc in people’s lives and results in real consequences. Negative consequences include being caught at work downloading or watching porn, being late or missing work due to a several hour stretch of watching porn, loosing one’s job, and being caught by one’s significant other.

It also can affect intimacy because the porn addict may be more comfortable watching porn than interacting with his or her partner. Porn addicts can incur huge charges from website subscriptions and other adult services, and the addiction can lead to isolating, secretive behavior, moodiness, unrealistic expectations of sex, and the constant search for more extreme material.

“Although not recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical of Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the standard classification system for mental disorders, pornography addiction has all the hallmarks of an addiction, including causing significant distress, tolerance, withdrawal, increasing time spent and intensity, behavior continuing despite negative consequences or the desire to stop, and causing problems in occupational and social functioning,” explains Halyard.

“Porn addiction is serious, but there is hope. Porn addicts can receive treatment from private practice psychotherapists, clinics, and out-patient and in-patient programs. The impediment to treatment is often denial, because people don’t want to think they have a problem, and they often are embarrassed to seek help,” adds Halyard.

Psychotherapy is helpful for sex addiction, and involves confronting denial and rationalization and making a sexual recovery plan. Part of that process is figuring out what the triggers are for acting out, and learning how to avoid or cope with them. Treatment also involves figuring out what an individual’s healthy sexual practices are and teaching people to cope with their urges. Additionally, treatment also involves learning to cope with uncomfortable feelings.

There are also a number of self-help programs set up to help porn and sex addicts. Porn Addicts Anonymous is a 12-step program geared specifically for pornography addiction--it is relatively new and most meetings are by conference call. There are also online message boards like where porn addicts can go and get online support.

Sex Addicts Anonymous, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous and Sexual Compulsive Anonymous are also 12-step groups based on Alcoholics Anonymous. These self-help / mutual-support groups are well-liked and effective at helping sex addicts achieve and maintain sexual sobriety.

Internet monitoring or Internet filtering (designed to keep children from seeing adult images and content) helps reduce accessibility and can prevent a relapse. The filters provide an external deterrent to a relapse and are very helpful.

“The good news is that people do recover. Pornography addiction is very treatable. Being in recovery means having a life free of sexual obsession, reconnecting with one’s world and deepening relationships,” adds Halyard.


Michael Halyard, MS, MFT is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and specializes in LGBT issues, depression, anxiety, addictions and couples counseling in his San Francisco private practice. He can be found on the websites and

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