I'm addicted to pornography and need help.
April 16, 2014 9:54 AM   Subscribe

I've amassed quite a collection, and have become compulsive about collecting and organizing my images and videos. I've been denying it for a while, but as it's been getting worse as of late I think I need some help and advice; I'd particularly like to hear from guys who have dealt with this issue, as I'm pretty sure this affects the dudes more than the ladies. NSFW, I guess. Details inside.

Apologies in advance for the crude language.

I'm ashamed to admit it, but collecting explicit images/videos has practically become one of my primary hobbies. It would be fine if I just got myself off and was done with it in five minutes, but once I sit down it's almost like I'm searching for the "perfect picture" that I can... you know... to. I'm at my weakest when I'm horny, which is practically all the time.

I'm always looking for new material, even though I have gigabytes upon gigabytes of the stuff. It's sort of like a high. I might get off once and say 'okay, I'm done' and then compulsively start collecting again later. It's also an anxiety reliever, I guess. It takes my mind off of the more stressful things in life. I can spend hours on it at a time, and lately it's been the first thing on my mind when I get home from work.

I've tried deleting my collection, but after a week or so I just start all over again. I've thought about deleting it all again, but I've spent so much time and if I just repeat my mistake and begin collecting again then what is the point?

One idea I've thought of is to make my computer a "no-whack zone," for lack of a better word. I'd limit my sessions to, say, the shower, where I would be done quickly and not spend too much time. I've also considered limiting myself to the collection that I already have and not downloading any more. I'm not sure how that would work.

Would anyone that has had problems with this before happen to have some suggestions or advice? How did you stop? As it's only gotten really bad in the last half year or so, hopefully I can break the habit and get back to pursuing more rewarding hobbies.

PS: Oh yeah. Just in case you're wondering, I have a girlfriend but she doesn't live with me. We have sex regularly, and she doesn't know about this. I'd rather find a way to curb this habit without letting her know that I'm addicted to porn, since the relationship is fairly new. If she were to find out the extent of the problem I'm worried it might be "deal-breaker" material.

PPS: Please refrain from answering this question if it grosses/creeps you out.
posted by anonymous to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

Sounds like addiction is the right word- you're unhealthily dependent on it, using it to avoid other issues, and you can't stop even though it's making you unhappy.

I suggest therapy. You need help to find a better way to deal with your problems and to stop the compulsive behaviours.

And as for the horniness side of things, I've heard anecdotal stories that with excessive use you become more resilient and need more intense stuff, more often, in greater quantities (like any addiction). Once you've stopped using it you won't need it anymore.
posted by mymbleth at 9:59 AM on April 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

Is it possible you're using this material to avoid thinking about things that are bothering you? I know I become kind of focused on obsessions of this kind when I'm feeling depressed or otherwise crappy. When I have something more fun to do that I'm genuinely looking forward to, I won't spend hours reading terrible Harry Potter fanfiction or whatever. Are you depressed or feeling stressed out?
posted by chaiminda at 10:01 AM on April 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Here is a whole forum of people in your same situation: reddit no fap

Lot's of good advice there. This is a very common problem, you are not alone.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 10:03 AM on April 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

Why is this a problem? You are concerned that you have too much porn, which isn't itself problematic. Today many, many dudes have gigabytes of porn. I have gigabytes of porn. I enjoy scrolling through tumblr until I find that right images. It is fun and I have a good time. You do not say anything that makes me think porn specifically is a problem for you.

But, let's assume that you do have some sort of problem. Porn is not the problem any more than a person with OCD has an addiction to washing their hands. You say it is an anxiety reliever. Why not pursue treatment for your anxiety?
posted by munchingzombie at 10:13 AM on April 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

In the title of your question, you say, "I'm addicted." Based on what else you wrote, that appears to be the case. It may not be an overly debilitating addiction. You might still be perfectly functional in other areas of your life. But it may be an addiction nevertheless.

My advice is to treat it that way. Instead of using the narrow framing of "addiction to pornography," look for resources and strategies for dealing with addiction. It's not the object that you're looking to change, after all. I presume you wouldn't be happy with advice that helped you convert from being addicted to pornography to being addicted to beadwork magazines. Rather, you are looking to change your emotions and behavior. (Eg, "compulsive," "I'm ashamed," "sort of like a high," "anxiety reliever," "repeat my mistake," "limiting myself," "gotten really bad," "break the habit," "I'm addicted.")

The Heart of Addiction by Lance Dodes is worth looking at. Check your local library. Good luck.
posted by cribcage at 10:18 AM on April 16, 2014

You need to treat the anxiety. It doesn't actually matter what the content is. If you treat the anxiety, the auxiliary behaviors should become manageable without a whole lot of effort (except, maybe, just breaking the habit - be prepared to find something else to do with your free time, but also expect your drive to collect to wane at the same time).
posted by Lyn Never at 10:22 AM on April 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

I have a term for this sort of getting-off to avoid getting-done: procrasturbation.

+1-ing the suggestions to deal with anxiety and helping yourself get the stressful tasks done with: at least, you'll won't have to sort through sex-negativity to find advice on the internet for these things as you will for "porn addiction" [insert spooky whooo whoo noises].
posted by batter_my_heart at 10:28 AM on April 16, 2014 [7 favorites]

Scientists are studying how humans get the same chemical "high" from interacting with our smart devices and social media, etc., that we get from completing a hard task or winning a competition or whatever. It's instant biological chemical gratification, in other words.

You'll have to google around for articles and data, sorry, no links right now.

My point is I think it might help you to understand the science of why you feel so damn drawn to this activity. It might be easier for you to turn off your computer if you understand how the mechanism and content are interacting with you.
posted by jbenben at 10:40 AM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Mod note: This is an answer from an anonymous commenter.
I'm actually in the midst of dealing with a variation on this issue. Without going into too much detail, I've compulsively involved myself with online pornography and erotica. It was destructive, to the point that I couldn't function normally without thinking about my next "fix." Addiction really is the word for it.

At work, I couldn't focus on a task at hand, constantly checking my phone for messages. My marriage was falling apart - unlike you situation, we didn't have sex, and I used that as the excuse for my "outlet."

Logically, I knew I was just getting the fix of that rush. There was always another story to write, another person to answer. But I kept doing it, on and off, for years.

Finally last month, I was confronted at work about my lack of production, and their suspicions of how I was spending my time in the office. It was terrifying, but it was the push I needed to cut out my addiction. I deleted all my accounts, all the messages, the stories I had written, everything. And that's something I have done in the past, and started over again just like you.

But it was the fact that I wasn't able to hide it anymore that made all the difference. In AA, a common phrase is "You're only as sick as your secrets," and that is so true. There is an underlying reason you're using pornography this way. Just like other addictions, I know it isn't something I can deal with in a healthy manner, so I have to cut it out of my life.

To give you silver lining (and far too much information), the transformation for me has been more than I ever expected. I know now that I was dealing with depression, more situational than anything. I blamed everything around me for my actions - my wife won't have sex with me, so I have to put my energy somewhere. The reality is that it was my choice, my actions, that led me down that path. In the past few weeks, we've had a renewed sex life, more directly related to my wife finally seeking treatment for anxiety issues. I always wanted to have sex, she usually didn't, and when we did it was not the best. For most of my life, I've had issues with premature ejaculation, and it was always a source of disappointment in myself. Since I cut out my online interaction entirely, well, things have changed in that regard in ways I couldn't have imagined. If you've ever watched the movie "Garden State", there's a brief scene with a neurologist who mentions how the body can react in bizarre ways to stress and anxiety. Once I dealt with it, I guess my body stopped reacting to the secrets I kept.

You may or may not be able to overcome this without your girlfriend knowing. But from my personal experience, you need to treat this like any addiction. There are support groups, and most importantly you have to be accountable for staying the course. You already know deep down that you have to stop looking for and collecting pornography. Do that, and work on the issues that cause you to turn to what is basically a "quick fix". I hope that you manage to find an answer that helps you as much as I've found in the past month.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:28 AM on April 16, 2014 [4 favorites]

I have found the works of Patrick Carnes to be very helpful to folks suffering from pornography and sexual addictions. His book, In the Shadows of the Net is a very useful resource - a place to start.

I'd also encourage you to learn about, and start to attend, self-help meetings that exist in your area. Sex Addicts Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous, and Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous are in many locations.

I think therapists can be useful as well, but I'd encourage you to make sure the therapist is someone who has specific experience working with addiction.
posted by jasper411 at 12:02 PM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Could we have some more details, OP, on things outside of your addiction? What is going on in your life that you might want to be avoiding? Your job? Personal life? Financial situation? These are more illuminating than the actual details of the addiction and will provide us with some way to guide you.

Basically, you need to admit the other problem you're avoiding, not this one and find a way to engage it when it happens.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:08 PM on April 16, 2014

Address the underlying anxiety. The problem doesn't seem to be the porn or the masturbation so much as the collecting, accumulating, amassing of the files.

I find myself in times stress and anxiety wrting all kinds of thoughts and reminders on index cards and post-its and amassing boxes of them and then i get obsessive about organizing them and the only cure is to just throw them out and address the underlying stress causing all the crazy behavior in the first place.
posted by WeekendJen at 12:40 PM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure that you have described any effect that your "hobby" has had on your daily life. It sounds more like shame to me.

I would think about some kind of automation that would delete images and other files after a set period of time, say 90 days, so that you have a fresh flow of material and you don't simply continue to amass it. You may be no more than a hoarder of porn, which is probably pretty harmless.
posted by megatherium at 5:26 PM on April 16, 2014

You could consider a tool like LeechBlock (a firefox add-on) that you can set up to only allow, say, (I'm just picking an amount of time that I thought might not feel destructive and shameful) 40 minutes every 3 days on a set of sites. Then you could also set it to block completely during work hours, and after 8pm so it never messes up your sleep. You just add every site you get sucked into.

That might be a good supplement to therapy. I can have enormous difficulty having the internet nearby when I'm trying to work, and LB has been a big help.

(megatherium, even without the shame, I understand how this can be harmful, just sucking away time from what's valuable. Speaking for myself there, I can make big plans, get distracted by the shiny things, and wake up from the trance way-too-long later. It's pretty awful. Add to that the shame and secrecy with people he cares about, and it's got to be just soul-sucking. I liked what anonymous said about the benefits of secrecy being lifted.)
posted by spbmp at 6:28 PM on April 16, 2014

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