Alcohol and Porn Addiction

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Addiction encompasses more than a physical dependence on drugs or alcohol. Compulsive behaviors, such as gambling, shopping, binge eating, etc., can have as many adverse effects as substance abuse. Watching porn is also one of these behaviors, and the chemical processes in the brain are remarkably similar to those caused by alcohol use. Both conditions also appear to share many of the same risk factors. And when alcohol is used for self-medication, it’s often related to other mental health disorders, even if they are also addictions or compulsive behaviors.

If you are struggling with porn addiction and an alcohol use disorder, Guardian Recovery can help. Through our individualized programs, you can learn how to use healthier coping mechanisms to deal with your compulsive need to use pornography. And although one condition may not have directly caused the other, the fact that they exist together means you may require specialized treatment to address both. If you are ready to take back your life from the grips of addiction, contact us today for a free, no-obligation assessment and health insurance benefits check.

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Similarities & Connections Between Alcohol & Porn Addiction

The American Psychiatric Association (APA), a group that helps health providers diagnose and treat mental health conditions, does not yet recognize porn addiction as a disorder. However, many medical experts do understand that some individuals have problems controlling their porn use, similar to how they may have difficulties curbing alcohol use. A 2015 review concluded that Internet porn addiction “fits into the addiction framework and shares similar basic mechanisms with substance addiction.

Alcohol & Porn Addiction Harm Interpersonal Relationships

Over time, porn appears to be linked to sexual dysfunction, especially a reduced capacity to achieve an orgasm or maintain an erection with a real-life sexual partner. Other compromised circumstances could be the quality of a spousal relationship  and commitment to a romantic partner.

To explain these effects, some researchers have drawn parallels between porn use and substance use. By design, the brain is wired to respond to sexual stimuli with increased dopamine. This neurochemical, often linked to the expectation of reward, also program information and memories into the brain. This means that when a person seeks a reward, the brain remembers where to go to fulfill that need. (4) Like porn, alcohol use affects dopamine and other feel-good chemicals that motivate people to re-experience pleasure associated with exposure to an object of desire—be it alcohol or porn.

As a result, chronic porn users divert their attention to porn for sexual fulfillment and away from a romantic partner. This is not unlike how alcoholics begin to turn to drinking to feel pleasure, neglecting essential or enjoyable activities such as work, school, family, hobbies, sports, etc.

The Hazards of Alcohol & Porn Addiction

As noted, porn addiction and alcohol dependence independently can have a detrimental effect on relationships. When an individual has both addictions simultaneously, this could result in even more severe problems, many of which a significant other might have extreme difficulty dealing with.

Research has shown that some individuals with compulsive sexual issues, such as porn addiction, have lower general sexual desire than most others. Health experts posit that the arousing aspects of porn may adversely affect the brain’s reward circuitry, making physical sex and other activities less desirable in comparison. A partner’s self-esteem is often severely impacted, as the person they love would rather watch porn for satisfaction than receive it from them.

Alcoholism is notorious for its effect on relationships of all types. In fact, when one partner consumes alcohol excessively, the divorce rate is close to 50%.  And there are many dangers associated with alcohol use, with or without porn use. The obvious include severe cognitive and motor skill impairment, lack of judgment leading to drunk driving or a car crash, injuries or death due to other accidents, and long-term health risks such as liver disease.

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Signs & Symptoms of Addiction to Porn or Alcohol

Like alcohol addiction, people who suffer from porn addiction will begin to engage in compulsive behavior due to substantial time spent watching porn. The behaviors you could expect from either of these conditions are remarkably similar. Consider the following signs and how alcohol and porn can be literally interchanged with each other.

Porn Addiction Signs Include:

  • Obsessing about porn and the next time it can be watched
  • Watching porn in inappropriate locations, such as work or school
  • Feeling guilt or shame about the amount of time spent watching porn
  • Continuing to watch porn, despite experiencing adverse effects
  • Lack of interest in having sex with a partner 
  • Concealing the extent of porn use from a partner and others
  • Becoming defensive when confronted about porn use and requests to stop
  • Failing to reduce or stop porn use
  • Neglecting activities once considered important or enjoyable
  • Using increasingly subversive porn to satisfy one’s needs
  • Experiencing withdrawal effects, such as depression, anxiety, or restlessness when not able to watch porn

Alcohol Dependence Signs Include:

  • Obsessing about alcohol, procuring it, and the next time it can be consumed
  • Drinking in inappropriate locations, such as work or school
  • Feeling guilt or shame about the amount of time spent drinking
  • Continuing to drink, despite experiencing adverse effects
  • Neglecting activities once considered important or enjoyable
  • Concealing the extent of alcohol use from others
  • Becoming defensive when confronted with concerns about alcohol use and requests to stop
  • Failing to reduce or quit drinking
  • Using increasing amounts of alcohol to achieve the desired effects
  • Experiencing physical and emotional withdrawal effects, such as depression, anxiety, shakiness, and headache.

There are many parallels in the behaviors associated with all addictions, including those centered around porn and alcohol. Due to shared biological and emotional risk factors, integrated treatment addressing both disorders is often essential for a successful recovery.

Treatment for Co-Occurring Porn & Alcohol Addictions

Although alcoholism is a chronic and potentially debilitating condition, it is very treatable. Many people have recovered, even when they thought they were at rock bottom. In fact, more than one-third (approximately 36%) of U.S. adults with alcohol dependence recover in the first year, and this number goes up the longer the person maintains their sobriety. 

Research on porn addiction, unfortunately, is scant but can also be successfully treated using many of the same approaches used for alcohol addiction, such as psychotherapy, group therapy, and sometimes medication, such as antidepressants. 

For alcohol dependence, medical detox should be the first step in the recovery process. This allows individuals physically reliant on alcohol to detox in relative comfort in a safe environment where they can be monitored around the clock for severe side effects.

Both conditions can be effectively treated with integrated addiction treatment programs on an inpatient or outpatient basis. Individualized therapy, group therapy, counseling, and aftercare are a few of the broad-based approaches used to help individuals conquer both alcoholism and porn addiction.

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If you’ve been suffering from an alcohol use disorder and porn addiction, comprehensive treatment is available for both conditions. In most cases, a multi-level process is advised for those struggling with these types of addiction. For example, this might include a long-term inpatient stay followed by a flexible outpatient program, followed by aftercare involving a sober living home and ongoing participation in support groups. 

Contact Guardian Recovery today to learn more about our streamlined admissions process and evidence-based programs. We can help you get on track to long-lasting sobriety and wellness.

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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