Sexual addiction and pornography use receive widespread national attention. Celebrity involvement and the media’s focus can leave one wondering if effective treatment is even possible.
Pornography use and addiction are serious problems with devastating consequences. However, effective treatment is available. Pornography addiction affects young and old, male and female. It is common across all social classes, racial categories, and economic levels. It affects not only the user, but also spouses, dating partners, family members and friends.
As a certified sexual addiction specialist (CSAT) and therapist with LDS Family Services, I have been treating individuals struggling with pornography and sexual addiction for the past 15 years. One the most important lessons I have learned is that individuals can and do recover. Without minimizing the harm caused by pornography use, it is important to understand that not everyone who views pornography is addicted. Most people who are exposed to pornographic material do not become addicted. The minority who do can recover. Treatment, hard work and continued vigilance are required to manage recovery. Treatment and help depend on the scope of the problem and what the best course of action should be taken to ensure success.
Pornography addiction is defined in many different ways. One of the things I look at is how their use of pornography is negatively affecting their life. In assessing this I ask about four important things. 1. Frequency: how often are they viewing pornography? 2. Duration: how long have they been viewing pornography and have they tried to quit without success? 3. Intensity: what type of material are they viewing and how extreme is the content they are viewing? And 4. Risk taking: what type of risk are they taking to engage to view pornography, ie. while at work, at home when there is a risk of being caught, any illegal activity, or other negative consequences if caught.
Recovery takes many different forms but has some common elements of success. One of the most important of these is participation in a 12-step support group.
Founded by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) this type of group offers free support and information from others at all stages of recovery. LDS Family Services sponsors 12-step support groups from an LDS perspective called ARP (addiction recovery program). This 12-step process guides the addict through recovery and healing.
In addition to the 12-step recovery groups, some individuals may need individual treatment from an experienced therapist. I recommend that individuals seek help and assistance from their ecclesiastical leaders.
The use of pornography at any level is harmful to an individual’s spirituality, relationships, self-worth and confidence. Addictions to pornography thrive in secrecy. It is critically important to have the helpful support of others. The 12-step support community offers help. However, support from priesthood leaders, family and friends are invaluable. It takes courage to humble ourselves as we seek support from others, but great strength and blessings come when we do.
The greatest blessing of healing comes as we seek the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ in our lives. Pornography use causes spiritual damage in one’s life. It requires a spiritually focused change to overcome.
Information on groups can be found at www.ldsfamilyservices.org , by clicking on addiction recovery support groups. The website also has listings of where and when groups operate.
A manual titled, A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing can be downloaded free of charge on the website. You can also contact you nearest office of LDS Family Services for more information on dealing with addiction to pornography.
Michael D. Gardner, Ph.D. is a Program Manager for LDS Family Services. This viewpoint represents his opinion and does not necessarily represent the opinions of BYU, its administration or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.