Let’s look at an illustration of how porn addiction and denial tend to interact.

Alfonso is a 35-year-old structural engineer who was recently fired from his job for using his company-issued computer and phone to view pornographyThis incident happened after he’d already received a verbal reprimand from his boss, followed less than a month later by a written reprimand (entered into his work record) that very clearly outlined what the consequences would be if his porn use on companyowned devices continued.

Now he is unemployed and deeply depressed, yet he refuses to acknowledge or accept that his compulsive use of pornography might be part of the problem. Instead, he says, “I’m not hurting anyone when I look at porn. And I need the stress relief I get from it. Without that, I’d probably go crazy.” So instead of learning from the multiple reprimands and getting fired, he continues to use pornography – all the while ruminating about how his former employer is uptight about what he views as perfectly normal guy stuff.”

Active porn addicts like Alfonso rarely see their escapist use of pornography as a cause of their unhappiness and life challenges. Even when they are neckdeep in consequences, they somehow don’t let themselves think about porn as a contributing factor. In fact, they typically see their porn use as the solution to rather than the cause of their emotional discomfort and various life problems.  

So, as we see in those suffering other addictions, porn addicts are nearly always out-of-touch with the costs and consequences of their behavior. At least, until a major crisis hits, or sometimes (as we see with Alfonso) even still after a major crisis.

They ignore all sorts of blatant warning signs:

  • Destroyed relationships
  • Job loss
  • Diminished self-esteem
  • Shame
  • Depression
  • Social and emotional isolation
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities
  • Financial issues
  • Legal trouble

They simply refuse to see the destructive impact that pornography has on their own lives and the lives of people they care about.

Porn addicts, unlike healthy individuals who use past mistakes to guide and improve future decision-making, choose to ignore the problems related to their addiction. They place their compulsive search for sexual intensity at the top of their priority list, no matter the cost. Instead of heeding the many warning signs of a serious problem, they rationalize, minimize, and justify their behavior. They’ll also blame others for the consequences which they themselves face. And this willful ignorance can go on for years. In fact, when confronted in the early stages of addiction treatment with an examination of their porn use history, porn addicts tend to be shocked by the extent and depth of their addictive behavior.

Denial Comes in Many Forms

For some people, the excitement and intensity from pornography create an extraordinarily powerful drug-like high, which addicts sometimes call the bubble or the trance. To protect their access to this neurochemical high, porn addicts must find ways to make their behavior seem OK to both themselves and others. Unsurprisingly, they can be incredibly creative in this regard. They’ll rely on a variety of techniques, including blame, entitlement, justification, minimization, and rationalization, among others.

Blame and Externalization

Frank, a 38-year-old pilot for a major airline, blames his wife. “With the lousy sex life I have at home, who wouldn’t be looking at porn when they’re away for work? Ever since we had kids, she doesn’t have time for me. It’s like she got what she wanted (the kids), and now she feels like she doesn’t have to worry about me anymore.” 

Entitlement: 

Jeff, a 27-year-old junior attorney at a major law firm who has received multiple written warnings about his use of porn at work, feels entitled. “Just look at how hard I am working. I give and give to this firm. I work nights and sometimes even weekends. But it can’t be all work and no play. So if I spend a few hours here and there online, getting off on a little fantasy, that’s a reward I deserve for all the effort I put in.” 

Justification: 

Daniela, a 24-year-old copywriter, justifies her behavior. “This is what single girls do. If I’m not in a relationship, then I need some kind of sexual excitement. And all I’m doing is looking at porn. It’s a lot better than sitting around in some cheesy bar waiting for some guy to buy me a drink.” 

Minimization:

Sam, a 53-year-old salesman, minimizes his behavior. “I’m no different than any other gay guy. All of us are looking at porn. Everybody does it. We’re home alone and we’re bored, so we go online. Some guys look at porn. Some guys use apps to hook up. Either way, it’s just not a big deal.” 

Rationalization:

Suzanne, a 41-year-old physician’s assistant, rationalizes her behavior. “I’m not having affairs like some of the other women I know. I’m not even flirting with the doctors at work, even though everyone else does. So if I go online for a few hours at night to look at porn, I’m still doing better than most of the women I know.

On some level, even though their porn use is clearly harming not only themselves but their loved ones (and possibly others), many porn addicts somehow see themselves as the victim. This, too, is a form of denial. They say they feel overwhelmed and at the mercy of the people in their lives, and also that pornography gives them a sense of freedom and control that they don’t otherwise experience. They view themselves as burdened by the unceasing demands of other people, especially those close to them, who demand attention, participation, validation, and support. Unfortunately, feeling like a victim (poor me) leads to feeling entitled (I deserve) to use porn, which of course leads to the behavior itself.  

If you or someone you care about is struggling with pornography or any other sexual behavior, consider joining my Sex, Love, and Addiction meeting at In The Rooms, every Friday at 9 p.m. EST. Or attend my weekly Sex and Intimacy Q&A on Sex & Relationship Healing, Mondays at 8 p.m. EST. You or a loved one can find treatment for sex- and porn-related issues at Seeking Integrity 

Author

Robert Weiss PhD, LCSW is Chief Clinical Officer of Seeking Integrity LLC, a unified group of online and real-world communities helping people to heal from intimacy disorders like compulsive sexual behavior and related drug abuse. As Chief Clinical Officer, Dr. Rob led the development and implementation of Seeking Integrity’s residential treatment programming and serves as an integral part of the treatment team. He is the author of ten books on sexuality, technology, and intimate relationships, including Sex Addiction 101, Out of the Doghouse, and Prodependence. His Sex, Love, and Addiction Podcast is currently in the Top 10 of US Addiction-Health Podcasts. Dr. Rob hosts a no-cost weekly Sex and Intimacy Q&A on Seeking Integrity’s self-help website, SexandRelationshipHealing.com (@SexandHealing). The Sex and Relationship Healing website provides free information for addicts, partners of addicts, and therapists dealing with sex addiction, porn addiction, and substance abuse issues. Dr. Rob can be contacted via Seeking Integrity.com and SexandRelationshipHealing.com. All his writing is available on Amazon, while he can also be found on Twitter (@RobWeissMSW), on LinkedIn (Robert Weiss LCSW), and on Facebook (Rob Weiss MSW).

1 Comment

  1. Deborah Harrison Reply

    Thank You for the article it is informative and helpful. Getting treatment or even attending a meeting or group has to be wanted by the individual in order for any recovery to take hold. As as it states in this article quite clearly most are not caring who they hurt or what they destroy by doing what they are doing, for they are entitled to it.
    Until in “society” Online Porn is treated differently than it is now there is no way to get relief when faced with something like this in a relationship. You either live with it and accept it for what it is (even when they themselves won’t) or you don’t accept it at all, and split up. It’s a hard choice to live with I can tell you that for sure.
    Thank You again for the article for it is helpful to me, and thank you for your service.

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