Online pornography can effect people in many ways over time because of the many habits and behaviours associated with using it. For many users it doesn’t develop into a problem of any kind and may have no obvious negative consequences. However for some people it can develop into a very serious problem as it becomes a normal part of life. Here are over 20 practical ways to help you overcome pornography for good.
Online pornography effects users in many ways.
Excessive and long-term habitual use of pornography can have many negative effects on the individuals overall well-being and how they think, act and feel. The problem does not lie with the pornography content alone but with the sexual acting out, short term reward cycle and associations connected with it. Porn sites are also developed to be highly sensually and neurologically stimulating, designed to engage users for as long as possible, just like gambling websites. This makes them intriguing and compelling to keep accessing.
With porn being so free and easy to access, it can make it difficult to stop permanently. This is part one in a series of articles about Overcoming Pornography for individuals and couples.
Pornography addiction which is kept hidden and untreated creates great conflict between the individuals inner and outer world.
Porn addiction can become a complex problem and is directly connected with sexual functioning, desire and the arousal process. Over-consumption can effect sexual health, performance, intimacy and overall relationship health. Research confirms long term use can distort the perception of real normal healthy natural sex and intimacy, making it feel unfulfilling.
The nature of addiction is that it takes people away from loved ones and family, leaving the addict disconnected. In a relationship this translates into them turning away and shutting down from their partner, neglecting their basic relationship needs. With the secrecy and privacy that comes with using online pornography this disconnect is magnified.
The good news is pornography does not have to be a part of your life and you can live a fulfilling happy life without porn. All men do not use pornography. This is a common belief system among many avid users. It is difficult to measure and understand the benefits of giving up pornography when you have a problem until you give it up. Clients in recovery feel their relationships improve, they are more driven in work, experience less stress, tension and anxiety and overall have a more positive outlook on life because they are no longer caught in a negative perpetual cycle.
How do I know if I have a problem with pornography?
The best way to find out if you have a problem with pornography is to give it up for a period of time and see how easy or difficult that experience is for you. If it is already having negative consequences on your life, causing problems with your sex life, creating conflict in your relationship or you have tried and failed to stop many times then it is most likely already a problem.
Giving up online pornography may often mean giving up the way you use social media or any content which may trigger an arousal or desire to act out sexually or which feeds into being preoccupied by sex and sexually compulsive behavior.
Practical ways to stop using online pornography.
If you think you have a problem or you know for sure you have a problem it can be difficult to know where to start. If you would like to book an appointment to talk about how porn is effecting your life click here. Here are some of my suggestions and tools to consider which I explore with clients who come for sex addiction and pornography addiction counselling.
Decide to Stop.
Make a decision to start stopping, significantly cut down or to stop cold turkey altogether for a period of time i.e 7 days, 21 days, 365 days. It is important to start setting goals for yourself to feel motivated and focused. Consider setting a short term, medium term and long term goal which you transition through. Willpower alone is not enough to overcome a long term problem. In recovery, the first 90 days of total abstinence paves the way for new habits and behaviours.
Spend less time online on your phone, laptop and tablet. If you want to move away from online pornography then you need to significantly reduce how much time you spend online in order to reduce your risk of acting out in the early months of recovery. Get offline and into the real world.
Talk to someone.
Talking about what you are going through is an important part of coming to terms with any problem. If you are in a relationship, start talking to your loved one about what you are going though so that you have extra support and also someone to be accountable to who you can discuss your progress and hopes with.
Get professional help.
Get the help of a professional Psychotherapist or Addiction Counsellor who works with sex and pornography addiction as early as possible. This will massively increase your chances of success. Its important to find the right therapist for you. They will help support, guide and motivate you to overcome pornography and help you understand how it started and the best way forward. Stay working with your therapist until pornography is no longer a problem. They will help you work through any other personal or relationship problems you may be experiencing. I can help you quit pornography for good, book a face to face therapy session or online therapy session here.
Spend time enjoying hobbies & interests.
Many porn addicts describe being sexually preoccupied and as a result begin to sexualise the world around them including people, places and situations. Being in a preoccupied state is a common characteristic of many addicts. Enjoying hobbies, interests and activities on a daily basis will help to reduce sexual preoccupation and the desire to act out by keeping your mind busy and active. When you are feeling a possible slip or relapse coming on, turn to your hobbies and interests for a distraction.
Read a book.
Read a few books in your down time about how pornography can impact and effect your brain, your health and your intimate relationships. There are lots of good books out there about pornography and sexual recovery. You could also consider reading books about changing habits and behaviors, self development books, relationships or biographies about recovery.
Mark your calendar on successful days.
Get yourself a calendar or diary and tick each day you have stuck to your goals of having a porn free day. This is a small simple visual way of staying motivated and focused and acknowledging the commitment you are making. It is also an incentive to help prevent slips and relapses. If you were in any twelve step groups you would be receiving a special coin celebrating your success as time goes by. Its important to do this for yourself if you are not getting the support of a group.
Learn to self-regulate.
Self regulation is a great life skill. It means that when you have a strong feeling, thought or emotion that you acknowledge what you are experiencing and react in a healthy way rather than in a negative way. For example when you are feeling very stressed you can choose to acknowledge the stress and manage it in a healthy way by going for a walk or a run rather than turning to porn, alcohol or something that may have a negative consequence. Self regulation for porn addiction means not acting out in an impulsive or compulsive sexual way but finding a new way to express yourself and cope with your emotions.
Learn more about others giving up pornography.
Check out the website www.fightthenewdrug.org which is an organisation in the USA promoting the positive aspects of living a porn free life. Their website has articles, videos, books, supports and podcasts. Their motto is #PornKillsLove. There are tons of websites dedicated to promoting porn recovery that you might find helpful.
Get software to restrict you going online.
Consider downloading some parental type software like Qustodio on your phone and other devices which will help regulate the content that you can view. The purpose of this is to make it more difficult to access porn when you are feeling triggered. Restricting access using software not only protects children from accessing pornography but also helps rebuild trust in your relationship.
Reduce your risk.
Contact your internet, TV and mobile phone provider and ask them to put a total block on all adult and pornographic content. These days its not enough to just block your smartphone as most household devices with internet connection will have access to explicit content.
Download an App.
Download an app for overcoming pornography addiction such as The Fortify App on your phone and tablet and use it regularly for a couple of months. The Forify App helps your quit porn for good and is a great way of focusing daily on your goals and understanding more about yourself. It is free to sign up but the premium plan cost about €10 a month and it worth the investment.
Understand your triggers and stressors.
Spend some time thinking about the why’s and when’s of your porn habit. Most porn use can be described as predictive i.e same habits every time. Write out a list of triggers and stressors which lead you to using porn. Then write a list of other things you could do instead that will have a more positive outcome. Finding ways to reduce or eliminate your stressors is a good preventative strategy. I always get clients to start compiling a list of alternatives to viewing porn, as they move through their recovery this list get longer.
Take it one day at a time.
Take things one day at a time. Try not to focus too far into the future, the present is what is important. Everyday is an opportunity to change and be better.
Keep a diary.
Keeping a diary is a common self-care recovery practice. Your diary can consist of thoughts and feelings about how you are doing, reflections or just simple plans for the week to help keep you focused on your goals.
Cut all ties.
Close any online accounts you might have, end subscriptions, clear browsing history, delete any content you have saved, empty spam folders and delete email accounts if necessary. The purpose of all of these exercises is to totally eliminate any connection to pornography you have created. You may wish to discuss this with your partner first. Rebuilding trust means allowing them to understand more about your addiction and be a part of eliminating all content and ties.
A routine for success.
Developing a good daily routine is a positive way of staying strong, motivated and focused particularly if life has become chaotic. Get good sleep, eat healthy, create a good work life balance, have fun, exercise, relax, enjoy life, get out into nature, spend time with friends and family. A good routine is critical to recovery.
Put down the smartphone.
If you access porn on your smartphone then its time to detach from your phone and start using it less, way less. Turn it off early in the evenings, keep it outside of the bedroom at night, don’t bring it into the bathroom or on your lunch break. Alternatively, opt for a regular non smart phone for a few months until you are confident you have learned to self-moderate.
Real emotional connection.
Start spending more time with your loved ones, family and friends. The opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it is connection. Addiction slowly pulls the addicted person away from what really matters in life without them noticing. The more time you spend in the company of others, the less time you have to spend on your online addiction.
Avoid common triggers.
Common triggers for acting out which I hear my clients share are often stress, drugs, alcohol, hangovers, stimulants, medication, gambling, relationship discord, opportunity, boredom, anger, availability and a lack of a sexual relationship. Triggers can keep causing slips and relapses if you don’t identify them clearly. Overcoming pornography will probably mean getting professional help for other problems, trauma or emotional pain you are struggling with.
Listen to podcasts.
Listening to podcasts on iTunes and Spotify about recovery, self development, addiction and areas of interest you might have can be a great learning and a good distraction. You can listen on your way to and from work, driving in the car or out walking. They are a great way to keep yourself motivated.
Get relationship counselling.
Porn addiction directly effects the health of your relationship, sexual intimacy and your partner. Couples therapy with an experienced therapist can help guide you both through a recovery and healing process together and address any problems that have developed in the relationship. Gottman Method Couples Therapy is a holistic approach to creating happy successful long lasting relationships, you can find a list of registered Gottman Couples therapists around the world here. Find out more about Gottman Method Couples Therapy.
A holistic approach.
Taking a holistic approach to overcoming your porn problem is the best approach. You can do this by addressing your online porn problem on lots of levels. This means you are not only overcoming pornography but also improving your overall quality of life and your physical, mental and emotional well-being.
The key to success is being focused on feeling happy with the changes you are making in your life and being in control of your decisions and not on feeling deprived or missing out. Keep your recovery process simple. Start where you are, stick with it. It will be worth all your effort. Invest as much time and energy into your recovery as you did your online porn addiction.