Dear Dr G,

I started watching porn when I was in my late teens out of curiosity.

Initially I was completely disgusted by the whole industry.

After a while, I found myself searching for all sorts of material online and finding the viewing experience both stimulating and yet disgusting.

I really cannot explain how this happens, but now I am in second year of university, I just find myself watching more and more porn.

I am now in a relationship; my girlfriend is very put off by my behaviour.

We have very open communication, and my girlfriend thinks I have “pornoddiction”.

I realise I need to stop this, but I get very agitated after stopping for a while, as the lure of porn is really affecting my work and life.

When I have sex with my girlfriend, I also find myself having difficulty sustaining an erection, as my mind is fixated on porn fantasies.

I would like to put Dr G on the spot to get rid of my shameful behaviour.

Is there really such a thing as pornoddiction?

How much viewing is considered detrimental and dangerous?

Can porn addiction cause erectile dysfunction? Can this be permanent?

Lastly, is there any treatment available for my addiction?

Please help

Pornoddicted Peter

Some analyst revealed pornography viewing makes up approximately 13% of total Internet traffic globally.

Not surprisingly, most of us have been exposed to some form of pornographic material at some point in our lives.

It is impossible to gauge the scale of porn consumption to the extent of dependence.

One survey of 84 college-age males demonstrated 20%-60% of participants found the consumption to be problematic. Another study of 9,265 users found 17% of the participants meet the criteria for problematic sexual compulsion.

The Internet addiction disorder studies concluded the rate ranges from 1.5% to 8.2% in Europe and America.

Porn addition is a hotly-debated topic as the DSM-5 and ICD-11 classifications do not recognize compulsive pornographic consumption as a mental disorder or addiction. On the other hand, many other experts reckon “pornography addiction” has the addiction model, with the negative impact of physical, mental, social, relationship and financial wellbeing.

Addiction is a brain disorder characterised by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli despite adverse consequences.

Like any behavioural addiction, porn addiction is characterised by the ever-growing compulsion to view pornographic content.

Such compelling desire will continue to build dependence on and constant demand for more.

It is believed porn addiction has several stages of progression. In early exposure, the childhood or adolescent viewings expose the mind at a young age. The brain is thought to consider pornography as a source of comfort and security.

The portrayal of unrealistic sexuality will continue to skew towards fantasy and away from reality.

As the earlier images become familiar and boring, the desire for more exciting and more graphic material will escalate.

This leads to exploring content that was once considered disgusting and unacceptable. As the individuals get desensitised, even the usual graphic material no longer satisfies the needs.

This begins the destructive phase, as the addiction is left with an overwhelming desire that cannot be fulfilled.

Different levels of porn consumption have variable adversity on different individuals, generally resulting in lack of control, sense of guilt and interference in relationships.

Clinicians are also concerned about the issues of virtual porn potentially distancing individuals from relationships.

Individuals who watch porn regularly get used to the “quick-fix” intense rush it creates in contrast to real sex, where courtship rituals (including flirtation, appreciation, respect and consent prior to sex) are part of building a relationship.

Moreover, the fantasy version of how people should look and act are obviously different from real life. This can create disparity in expectation that will affect a normal sex life for couples, decreasing interest in a committed relationship.

A 2015 analysis of two large-scale studies demonstrated a very weak link between pornography and erectile dysfunction (ED).

This condition is multifactorial, and the initial trigger for regular consumption already indicates existing relationship difficulties that may be responsible for ED.

Therefore, the overconsumption of porn probably can result in performance anxiety, as the line between reality and fantasy is blurred.

Some therapists advocate cognitive-behavioural intervention as a treatment for porn addiction.

Others encourage acceptance and commitment therapy to alter the problematic pattern of viewing porn.

Support groups such as Sex Addictions Anonymous (SAA) also offer recovery tools to share experience and reinforcement to diminish dependency. The use of medication has also been proposed for more severe sufferers.

Seeing loved ones struggling with porn addiction is difficult.

Having porn addiction is even harder.

The first step is always acknowledgment of the problem and taking steps to ensure that the addiction does not take over one’s life.

The great Greek stoic philosopher Epictetus, known for reflection through rigorous self-discipline, once said: “If one oversteps the bounds of moderation, the greatest pleasure ceases to please.”

Many individuals who are attracted to porn are lured by the cheap thrill and become entrapped in the world of fantasised sex.

Satisfying the recurrent urges will cause dependency and addiction to develop.

Overstepping the bounds of moderation can soon make even the pleasure become non-pleasurable.

When Dr G is put on the spot to solve the problem of the ever-growing addictive lure of pornography, his response is: “The magic of moderation is the key to ensure the pleasure never ceases to please!”

Dr George Lee

Dr George Lee is a consultant Urologist and Clinical Associate Professor whose professional interest is in men’s health. This column is a forum to help men debunk the myths and taboos on men’s issues that may be too “hard” to mention. You can send him questions at

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