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Challenging the Rhetoric of "Porn" Addiction

April 3, 2018

 


Pornography use in terms of the word “addiction” is a complicated and highly debated issue in the mental health arena. Currently, the leading Sex Therapy association that certifies therapists and educators, AASECT (American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists) has a very clear position statement that denounces "addiction" models for the treatment of sexual concerns. The term "addiction" is a shaming term -- usually with lifelong repercussions implying disease (i.e. "once an addict, always an addict). This is not particularly helpful when addressing a normal part of being human. The only positive I've seen from its use is that for some (usually those that come from religiously conservative cultures) it can be helpful to understand this as an issue much more complicated than exerting enough "willpower."  Some notes:

  1. In the Diagnostic Criteria Manual – where the criteria for diagnoses are spelled out – the term “addiction” is not used.  There is “substance dependance” which is referring to dependence of an ingested substance such as alcohol, narcotics, nicotine, etc. There is also another category called “impulse-control disorders” which speaks to certain maladaptive behaviors that are used in ways that feel out of one’s control (i.e. gambling, pulling out one’s hair, shopping, etc.).   

  2. Some of the things that should be present for an “impulse-control disorder” are a preoccupation with the behavior (i.e. incessantly thinking about it); increasing sense of tension (i.e. anxiety) before behavior is acted out;  has repeated, unsuccessful efforts to cut back or stop behavior; uses behavior as a coping mechanism for other problems or emotions (i.e. depression, guilt, anger, relational difficulty, etc.); lies about or tries to cover up behavior; has committed illegal acts to support behavior; and has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job or educational opportunity due to behavior.  One problem in diagnosing a true disorder from other behavior is that items 1-5 can also have to do with religious pressure to conform to high, often unrealistic, sexual standards. In other words, a member of a conservative church may read these criteria and diagnose themselves as having an impulse-control disorder when the frequency of said behavior is minimal and would not meet the standards for diagnoses (i.e. single adult looks at porn once every few months).  This is actually backed up by the research of ...

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© 2017 by Natasha Helfer Parker.