No such thing as porn 'addiction,' researchers say

February 12, 2014
No such thing as porn 'addiction,' researchers say

Journalists and psychologists are quick to describe someone as being a porn "addict," yet there's no strong scientific research that shows such addictions actually exists. Slapping such labels onto the habit of frequently viewing images of a sexual nature only describes it as a form of pathology. These labels ignore the positive benefits it holds. So says David Ley, PhD, a clinical psychologist in practice in Albuquerque, NM, and Executive Director of New Mexico Solutions, a large behavioral health program. Dr. Ley is the author of a review article about the so-called "pornography addiction model," which is published in Springer's journal Current Sexual Health Reports.

"Pornography addiction" was not included in the recently revised Diagnostic and Statistical Manual because of a lack of scientific data. Fewer than two in every five research articles (37 percent) about high frequency describe it as being an addiction. Only 27 percent (13 of 49) of articles on the subject contained actual data, while only one related psychophysiological study appeared in 2013. Ley's review article highlights the poor experimental designs, methodological rigor and lack of model specification of most studies surrounding it.

The research actually found very little evidence – if any at all – to support some of the purported negative side effects of porn "addiction." There was no sign that use of pornography is connected to erectile dysfunction, or that it causes any changes to the brains of users. Also, despite great furor over the effects of childhood exposure to pornography, the use of sexually explicit material explains very little of the variance in adolescents' behaviors. These are better explained and predicted by other individual and family variables.

Instead, Ley and his team believe that the positive benefits attached to viewing such images do not make it problematic de facto. It can improve attitudes towards sexuality, increase the quality of life and variety of sexual behaviors and increase pleasure in long-term relationships. It provides a legal outlet for illegal sexual behaviors or desires, and its consumption or availability has been associated with a decrease in sex offenses, especially child molestation.

Clinicians should be aware that people reporting "addiction" are likely to be male, have a non-heterosexual orientation, have a high libido, tend towards sensation seeking and have religious values that conflict with their sexual behavior and desires. They may be using visually stimulating images to cope with negative emotional states or decreased life satisfaction.

"We need better methods to help people who struggle with the high frequency use of visual sexual stimuli, without pathologizing them or their use thereof," writes Ley, who is critical about the pseudoscientific yet lucrative practices surrounding the treatment of so-called porn addiction. "Rather than helping patients who may struggle to control viewing images of a sexual nature, the 'porn addiction' concept instead seems to feed an industry with secondary gain from the acceptance of the idea."

Explore further: Strong religious beliefs may drive self-perception of addiction to online pornography

More information: Ley, D. et al. (2014). The Emperor Has No Clothes: A Review of the "Pornography Addiction" Model, Current Sexual Health Reports. DOI: 10.1007/s11930-014-0016-8

Related Stories

Strong religious beliefs may drive self-perception of addiction to online pornography

February 12, 2014
People who consider themselves very religious and view Internet porn even once may perceive they are addicted, according to a new Case Western Reserve University's psychology study.

Is sexual addiction the real deal?

July 19, 2013
Controversy exists over what some mental health experts call "hypersexuality," or sexual "addiction." Namely, is it a mental disorder at all, or something else? It failed to make the cut in the recently updated Diagnostic ...

Childhood abuse linked with food addiction in adult women

May 29, 2013
Women who experienced severe physical or sexual abuse during childhood are much more likely to have a food addiction as adults than women who did not experience such abuse, according to a new study published in the journal ...

Sexually explicit material affects behavior in young people less than thought

April 25, 2013
Viewing sexually explicit material through media such as the Internet, videos, and magazines may be directly linked with the sexual behavior of adolescents and young adults, but only to a very small extent. That is the conclusion ...

Internet porn bad for adolescent health

May 21, 2012
Emerging evidence indicates that internet pornography is strongly associated with risky sexual behavior among adolescents, according a review from UNSW's Kirby Institute.

Recommended for you

Could insufficient sleep be adding centimeters to your waistline?

July 27, 2017
Adults in the UK who have poor sleep patterns are more likely to be overweight and obese and have poorer metabolic health, according to a new study.

Sugar not so sweet for mental health

July 27, 2017
Sugar may be bad not only for your teeth and your waistline, but also your mental health, claimed a study Thursday that was met with scepticism by other experts.

Vitamin E-deficient embryos are cognitively impaired even after diet improves

July 27, 2017
Zebrafish deficient in vitamin E produce offspring beset by behavioral impairment and metabolic problems, new research at Oregon State University shows.

The role of dosage in assessing risk of hormone therapy for menopause

July 27, 2017
When it comes to assessing the risk of estrogen therapy for menopause, how the therapy is delivered—taking a pill versus wearing a patch on one's skin—doesn't affect risk or benefit, researchers at UCLA and elsewhere ...

Blowing smoke? E-cigarettes might help smokers quit

July 26, 2017
People who used e-cigarettes were more likely to kick the habit than those who didn't, a new study found.

Brain disease seen in most football players in large report

July 25, 2017
Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school.

7 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

ReaderOfStuff
3 / 5 (2) Feb 13, 2014
I can't say it's surprising...therapists have to make their money somehow. It might as well be off some poor folks who could use a friend instead of fake therapy.
RebootedMan
1 / 5 (2) Feb 13, 2014
This is just a mans opinion about porn addiction who is not an addiction expert.

Wow.. So guys seeking help are likely to be religious gay men with high sex drives, whose sucky lives and shame drove them to use porn? That could not be farther from the truth for many guys SELF DIAGNOSING themselves as addicts.

Lets break it down for mr.David and his "team" as to what I and the majority of guys claiming porn addiction really look like...

Religion- The majority of members on porn addiction recovery forums are athiest or agnostic and openly say they had no shame in their porn use, and they only gave up porn when they found it was having a negative physiological impact on them, like a limp penis... to them and I porn was not a "moral" issue, it was a "my penis stopped working issue".

Continued in next comment......
RebootedMan
1 / 5 (1) Feb 13, 2014
Gay- Well this one is easy, I am not gay and the vast majority of the members on secular porn recovery forums are not gay either...mostly young healthy heterosexual males who over years of internet porn use developed sexual dysfunctions such as delayed ejaculation, or erectile dysfunction. All of these straight men recovered by giving up porn and once again could get it up with their women, including me.... However some gay men also recover from the same dysfunctions when removing porn use.... moving along

High Libido- If this were true, then guys would be able to masturbate without porn. However, I and others who developed porn-induced ED can NOT masturbate without porn. It took me 9 months to be able to get an erection without porn. Lets be clear...that is not a "high libido"

Sucky life- I thought my life was awesome before I developed ED at the ripe age of 23. Many guys on the forums did not have "issues" that drove them to use porn.
RebootedMan
1 / 5 (2) Feb 13, 2014
They simply had "access" at a young age to high-speed internet porn like I and 4 other of friends did who all developed porn related dysfunctions and recovered simply by giving up porn.

Shame- See "religion" point above... I had no shame and thought porn was awesome... I am a heterosexual male who likes naked girls. Ground breaking science right there.

David Ley is the author of The Myth of Sex Addiction, and has publicly claimed porn-induced ED and porn addiction do not exist. So, it would be hard to imagine him ever admitting porn addiction exists...unless he wants his books to be used as toilet paper and no one to come to him for help.
RobertKarlStonjek
3 / 5 (2) Feb 13, 2014
This is a problem of classification. People can become addicted to anything that stimulates dopamine release but it is the dopamine (and/or other neurotransmitter) that is the addiction locus and not the stimulant that causes it.

For drugs it is slightly different in that a rebound effect fuels the addiction. There is not going to be a rebound from non-drug addictions.

But there are other mechanisms comorbid with addition such as obsessive and compulsive behaviour that can exist with any form of addiction.

It would probably be better to consider behavioural addictions generally and consider that there are many forms just as obsessive-compulsive disorder has many manifestations.
ReaderOfStuff
3 / 5 (2) Feb 13, 2014
Actually, this was not authored as the other poster misrepresents. Authors included one therapist and two neuroscientists, one with a lifetime history of addictions (primarily alcohol) research at a top research university, as authors. This sounds like trouble for $$$ clinicians...
BasterdSword
5 / 5 (1) Feb 13, 2014
The article states that there is no conclusive research that proves the existence of "porn addiction", is there any conclusive evidence that proves that such an addiction doen't exist? If not, the solution souldn't be to dissmiss it as a whole, but rather conduct more, scientificly sound, experiments. The huge availability of porn is rather new, so saying anything absolute about it's benefits and/or harms is far to early.

On the topic of benefits, there's resarch that shows that drinking wine is good for you, but that doesn't mean alcoholism doesn't exist. Just because something may be beneficial, it's all about the amount, as almost everything can be harmfull in extreme amounts

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.