Porn Addiction Relapse

Making sense of a porn addiction relapse

Whether you take a 12-step view to addictions or a more cognitive based approach, a porn addiction relapse needs careful management.

The mark of addiction is unmanageability.  If you or someone you know is experiencing a porn addiction relapse, then the manageability that they will have established to wean themselves away from porn will have broken down.

Often, a relapse has the capacity to be more destructive, to take the porn user further into feelings of shame and degradation than they have experienced before.

Addictions and relapses happen when our feelings become too much to manage

A porn addiction relapse means that the addict has returned to using porn.  Generally, the thing that addictions have in common is that someone uses something, in this case porn, to avoid difficult feelings. The addict uses porn to avoid feeling sad or angry or confused, or in response to stress.

In the film Shame (2011, Steve McQueen) Michael Fassbender plays a man who is addicted to online pornography use.  In the film, Fassbender’s’ character repeatedly returns to online pornography. As the film unfolds the viewer sees more about the way that immersion in online pornography becomes near total.

The nature of online porn usage is that it becomes obsessional, it absorbs more and more of the user, and makes having a satisfying sexual relationship with real people very difficult, if not impossible.

Porn addiction is one type of sex addiction.  The behaviours that go with porn addiction tend to harm and negatively impact your life. Currently porn addiction is not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).

The NoFap Movement

NoFap is a movement that supports people who are trying to avoid pornography and masturbation.  Fap is an internet slang term for masturbation.

A key idea of the NoFap movement is that abstaining from pornography and masturbation leads to an increase in self-confidence and mental functioning.  NoFap users say that their minds had been warped by pornography.

Breaking the cycle of porn addiction relapse

When you break your addiction, you stop the cycle of reaching for porn instead of experiencing feelings. And, as you do so, you start to see the way porn has been getting in the way of more constructive and successful ways of living.  Gradually you become able to experience and process the feelings that would typically drive you towards porn usage.

A porn addiction relapse means that the ability to abstain from using porn has failed.  Somehow you need to stop the pattern of using and return to the daily habit of abstinence.

The language of relapse, abstinence and recovery come from 12 step-based programmes

People can find the idea of a 12-step program objectionable for various reasons, but the fact is that they provide a way of supporting you to break your addictive behaviours one-day-at-a-time.  And, they are free, anonymous, and the meetings are widely available.  There is a great deal of supportive experience available through the meetings.

An alternative to 12-step based work is to try to develop a more cognitive approach to thinking about the stress that drives you to relapse and back into using porn.

Cognitive models work to help the addict develop thinking strategies.

To try to embed new behaviours so that before you reach for the internet and porn web sites, you do something more self-supporting.  So, for example, you might plan to call a friend when you feel a porn addiction relapse is likely.  You actively try to develop supportive strategies such as:

  • Put down your phone and go for a walk.  Simply by stepping away from your devices and internet access you give yourself the chance to stop.
  • Go and be with people.  By being with people you break the secretive and reclusive pattern that porn usage feeds on.

All of us experience increased levels of stress at particular times, the question is; how do we manage them?

To avoid a porn addiction relapse it is helpful to become more mindful of the way stress affects you.  Know yourself, know your triggers.

  • Become better at recognising when you are feeling stressed and the way that stress tends to push you towards reclusive behaviour and to using porn again.
  • Whatever approach you choose, the key thing is to stop using porn.

If you can stop using porn and build up good and supporting habits that keep you away from porn, then you can start to consider more about what it is that drives you to use porn in the beginning.   But in the first place you need to find a way to break the habit.

A porn addiction relapse means that the good and healthy practices that have kept you away from porn have failed.

  • You need to stop again.
  • You need to do all of the things that support you being abstinent from porn.

If you work a 12-step program, then you will have access to a sponsor who you will be able to be in regular contact with.  When you feel your stress rise, when you recognise the patterns of thinking that usually goes with you reaching for porn, you call your sponsor instead.

You speak to your sponsor about the pressures you are feeling and recognising in yourself.

Your call to your sponsor is a lifeline to intercepting what will otherwise all too likely become a porn addiction relapse.

Porn usage is solitary and obsessional

It is damaging and tends to be used by people who have experienced damaging emotional relationships.

Porn addiction is an obsessional condition, it turns the addict in on themselves and breaks up relationships with others.  As an addictive illness develops, so the addictive habit, in this case porn becomes the only focus.

For the addict, when the urge to watch internet porn takes over, nothing else matters. When the addict is not watching porn, he is thinking about watching porn.  The habit takes him into himself and away from other people.

In the grip of a porn addiction relapse the addict is on a path into a unhappy secret, dark part of themselves.

Like a powerful drug, the user’s mood is significantly affected by their engagement with porn.  It changes the way the mind works and feels.  In its own way it is as powerful and destructive as cocaine, alcohol, gambling or heroin.  A porn addiction relapse is a destructive act that requires a helpful intervention to stop it.

In counselling and psychotherapy, it is possible to develop a confidential relationship in which to start to talk openly about the problems, about the nature and power of the craving.  And to get support to help you stop using and break the cycle.

Contact me

I have twenty years experience of helping people find ways to engage with addiction issues like these. Contact me to arrange a free telephone consultation to discuss how my work might help you.