You may ask yourself this question. However, you may be asking the wrong question…
Your behaviors are not the source of the problem… it is your thoughts…
One of the first steps to recovering from an addiction is to correct negative ways of thinking and faulty or wrong belief systems.
In CBT, these are called negative schemas. Changing how we think causes us to change what we believe. Changing what we believe results in changes to our behaviors. In my work with pornography addicts, one common goal is the attempt to repair and/or rebuild my clients’ worldview.
The following are ways of thinking that fuel [and perpetuate] sexual addictions. Which of the following do you believe and tell yourself often?
Normal sexual behaviors and desires are wrong.
I am alone and no one will [or can] meet my needs.
I must give in to sexual urges and desires they are too powerful for me to resist. [no choice]
I am worthless, unlovable.
I can only trust myself to meet my needs.
My sexual needs are my most important needs.
I am powerless to control my life. [I am not responsible for my actions]
I am a dirty pervert.
Others exist to meet my needs because I deserve it.
Others entice me and I cannot help myself. [I am not responsible for my actions]
Others are here for my pleasure.
If no one sees [what I do], it does not matter.
If no one knows[what I do] it cannot hurt them.
I cannot live without sexual release.
I cannot live without my addiction. [It is who I am]
I am not hurting anyone by watching porn.
It is nobody’s business what I do with my own body.
I am not capable of handling my own life.
I am unattractive, stupid, ugly, unlovable…
I cannot be free…
If you believe any of the above statements, you are believing lies. Seek truth. Seek help.
Whether you are a Christian or not, you will eventually (if you haven’t already) realize that you do not have the strength to overcome your addiction on your own. I challenge everyone to Seek God for His help in this time; for He is the only true source of limitless help and strength. If you don’t know Him, you can… right now. Start Here:
9 If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. 13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:9-10; 13 NLT)
In addition to seeking the Lord, enlist the help of other people. Admit it. You have an addiction. If you could quit you already would have quit. You need help overcoming an addiction to pornography, and you need others to hold you accountable. You may need someone to show you the path to recovery. If so, please reach out to a local counselor/therapist with experience treating sexual addictions. Start your journey to freedom… today.
If you are looking for help recovering, and live in the Upstate of SC, consider reaching out:
I currently serve as Counseling Pastor for a church in the upstate of South Carolina. I hold a Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Liberty University. I am awaiting my scheduled time to sit for the SC LMFT-I licensing exam.
It is my goal to help rebuild broken lives and families from the inside-out through awakening and fostering a relationship with Jesus Christ. I specialize in helping men recover from addictions to sex and pornography. I run a support group for recovering men on Wednesday nights at 6:30pm.
Recent research is telling us a lot about the brain when it comes to watching porn.
Over a decade ago, Dr. Judith Reisman called porn an “erototoxin,” theorizing that the brain itself might be damaged while watching porn. She speculated that future brain studies would reveal that the surge of neurochemicals and hormones released when someone watches porn has measurably negative effects on the brain.
Recent studies are validating her theory about brain chemicals and porn addiction.
What Brain Scans Tell Us
Cambridge Neuropsychiatrist Valerie Voon was featured last year in the UK documentary Porn on the Brain. Her research demonstrates that the brains of habitual porn users show great similarity to the brains of alcoholics. A brain structure called the ventral striatum plays a significant role in the reward system of the brain—the pleasure pathways. It is the same part of the brain that “lights up” when an alcoholic sees a picture of a drink.
In The Porn Circuit, Sam Black describes the various hormones and neurotransmitters involved when someone views porn and how each ingredient in this neuro-cocktail contributes to the problem:
When having sex or watching porn, dopamine is released into a region of the brain responsible for emotion and learning, giving the viewer a sense of sharpfocus and a sense of craving: “I have got to have this thing; this is what I need right now.” It supplies a great sense of pleasure. The next time the viewer gets the “itch” for more sexual pleasure, small packets of dopamine are released in the brain telling the user: “Remember where you got your fix last time. Go there to get it.”
Norepinephrine is also released, creating alertness and focus. It is the brain’s version of adrenaline. It tells the brain, “Something is about to happen, and we need to get ready for it.”
Sex or porn also trigger the release of oxytocin and vasopressin. These hormones help to lay down the long-term memories for the cells. They “bind” a person’s memories to the object that gave him or her the sexual pleasure.
The body releases endorphins, natural opiates that create a “high,” a wave of pleasure over the whole body.
After sexual release serotonin levels also change, bringing a sense of calm and relaxation.
This system works the way it is supposed to work when you’re having sex with your spouse. Together you can experience a high, an alertness of sexual pleasure, and the deep calm afterwards (norepinephrine, endorphins, and serotonin). With each sexual embrace you are emotionally bonding to this person (oxytocin and vasopressin). Over time a craving for sex is transformed into a desire for one another (dopamine).
But porn short-circuits the system.
How Porn Hijacks the Brain
Multiple problems happen when porn is used. First, instead of forming a deep connection to a person, your brain ends up “bonding” to a pornographic experience. Your brain remembers where the sexual high was experienced, and each time you desire sexual stimulation, you feel a sharp sense of focus: I’ve got to go back to the porn.
In addition, pornography gives the brain an unnatural high. In a recent TEDx talk, physiology teacher Gary Wilson explained that when men look at porn, they experience surge after surge of dopamine in the brain. The brain eventually fatigues, stopping the production of dopamine, leaving the viewer wanting more but unable to reach a level of satisfaction. As a result, everyday pleasures stop causing excitement and the viewer seeks out more novel, more intense pornography to get the same high as before.
This imbalance in the brain leads to many problems: impotence with your spouse, frequent masturbation with very little satisfaction, anxiety, fatigue, lack of motivation, inability to concentrate, and escalating tastes for more bizarre or novel porn.
Louise worried her husband was way too busy and buried in work. She had more than noticed that he stayed in his home office most of the evening and late into the night, even after she went to bed. She felt there was almost a vacuum where her husband should have been. So she shared her feelings with Tom. He told her that he was working on an important project. For six months? Really?
Folks, if you have been where I have, down in the pit with pornography, or you know someone who was, then you have a pretty good idea of exactly what Tom was doing and looking at, and it had nothing to do with his job.
Pornography is an insidious snare–a snare that Tom fell into and couldn’t get out. Men, the pull of pornography is like a creeping plague–a powerful drug. Do it once, we think it’s okay. Do it twice, and we’re hooked. We are sucked in and trapped before we know what happened.
Pornography enslaves and then destroys! Christians, I cannot tell you how many men I have worked with who were in the same fix as Tom. And although he went to great lengths to conceal his misdeeds by keeping the door closed, constantly deleting history and cookies from his PC, quickly shrinking the image on his monitor at any inkling of someone approaching, she will find out. Be assured, she will.
If Tom was fortunate and had a truly forgiving wife in Louise, he might not receive the same treatment that a popular television psychologist so often prescribes, that is, “Kick his butt to the curb.” Oh! So many divorces result from just this one obsession.
Ways porn can damage your marriage
Please mentally weigh this–when we husbands are so “absent” while having sex with ourselves or the women in those images, our wives know that something is terribly wrong. They know! They just can’t identify the culprit.
Wives miss all the things that a loving husband can give, i.e., his attention, his affection, his honor, his affirmation, his loving touch, his listening ear, his romancing, his intimacy, his caring. When we are so preoccupied with ourselves, how could we possibly make her feel secure in our love? But in that scenario, we are so gripped by our love of porn and of self that we have nothing to give her.
I promise you that the plague of pornography can only lead to crushing ruin. I’ve already mentioned divorce. Many such addicts have lost their jobs, gone to prison, had to step down from the ministry, and more. How do I know? I have talked with these men and counseled them, one-on-one, during the past fourteen years–more than four thousand men, each with his own story of destruction through the cancer of pornography and its seeming irresistible attraction.
How we can begin the freedom journey
Admittedly, we’re not going to get porn removed from the Internet or anywhere else, at least not by next Tuesday. The world does not have Christian values. And our church is not in charge of the media. But individually, we can confront this enemy. If we are even slightly tempted to go there, there is hope for each of us. Here is a way to start:
1. Cut off access to porn on your various electronic devices. That’s what Covenant Eyes Internet Accountability and Filtering is for, right? That would be a strong beginning. The Filter will help block access to pornography, and the Internet use reports can be sent to a trusted friend or mentor to help keep you on track on your journey toward freedom.
2. Get help! Talk to your pastor or a Christian counselor. Search the Internet for ministries that help with sexual addiction. Yes, addiction. If you are looking at porn once a week or more, you are hooked. Please do not believe the lie, “I can stop anytime I want.” Get help!
There are lots of Tom’s out there, and Joe’s and Larry’s, who have their own stories and struggles with porn. It’s time to get going and do something about it!
Neill Morris is a Mentor with the online ministry, www.FreeInChrist.org. Along with a number of other Christian volunteers, he works with men who are addicted to pornography and other forms of sexual immorality. You can contact Neill at firstname.lastname@example.org
As someone who was once deeply trapped in the web of pornography, I can now look back and recognize several lies I believed without question during that time. Since sharing my story with many people over the years, I have found that these lies are not unique to my own story at all. Many of us have silently accepted these lies as truth, when they are anything but truth.
Lie #1: I can never tell anyone.
I didn’t think I could ever tell anyone of my porn addiction. I looked like I had it all together on the outside, and no one suspected what I was doing. I was sure that everyone would reject me if they found out my deep, dark secret. I had trouble admitting my struggle to myself, let alone anyone else. I repeatedly tried to stop watching porn on my own, but it never worked. I was convinced that telling someone would be a huge mistake.
TRUTH: My heart didn’t start to heal until I told someone.
Little did I realize, not telling anyone would have been my biggest mistake. Confessing my struggle is what helped set me free. Strongholds like pornography grow in the dark, and when they are brought into the light (telling someone) their chains start to loosen. I still had a long road ahead of me, but the day I confessed my struggle to my husband was the day my healing started. It was the scariest but one of the most important parts of my journey.
If you are struggling with pornography, I encourage you to pray about someone you can talk to. Telling someone may seem absolutely horrifying, but it will aid in your freedom. As long as you carry this secret sin on your own, it will eat you alive from the inside out. Telling someone breaks off part of the stronghold and allows the process of healing to begin.
Lie #2: I don’t know any other women who struggle with pornography.
I thought I was the only Christian woman who struggled in this way. I felt like a freak of nature. When I searched for help online, all I found were resources for men and support for women whose husbands were addicted. I felt so alone. Any sermon I had ever heard preached on pornography (which wasn’t very often) was in reference to men. Believing I was the only woman I knew who was trapped in this struggle increased the shame I already felt so deeply.
TRUTH: Most likely, there are other women in your own church and maybe even in your own circle of friends who secretly know all too well what you are dealing with.
When I first shared my story on my blog, I started receiving emails from other women who were also struggling. In addition, I had a few women in my own life who confessed their addictions to pornography to me once they heard of my own. Many thought they were alone until they heard the testimony of another woman who finally spoke up. Be encouraged! There are many women, like myself, who have found healing in their lives and freedom from pornography. This is available for you, too!
Lie #3: I am attracted to the women in porn. I must be a lesbian.
I was drawn to lesbian porn from the beginning, which did nothing but escalate the questions I already had concerning my sexual identity. Before I knew it, I was fantasizing about it all the time. After doing this repeatedly, I became convinced that I must be gay. (Why else would I be watching lesbian porn, right?) This made it even more difficult for me to confess to someone that I was trapped. I felt such shame and embarrassment. I was a married to an amazing Christian man, yet I was indulging in lesbian porn. I felt like two different people, and I didn’t know who I was anymore.
Over the last several years, I have talked with many women who question their sexuality. They have no desire to be with a woman in real life, but they find themselves aroused by the women they see in pornography. Many of them never questioned their sexuality until after they started looking at porn. (This is so much more common than you may think.)
TRUTH: If you started questioning your sexuality after watching porn, please let me encourage you: this does not mean you are gay.
As women, we put ourselves in the place of the women we see in porn. We want to look like them, or we even imagine being sexually desired in that same way. Mix in the heightened sexual arousal that pornography is designed to provoke, and it is no wonder many women start questioning their sexuality afterwards. Pornography warps our view of sex, sexuality and what true intimacy is. This is one of the reasons it is so important to know who God created us to be. The enemy can be relentless in attacking our identity. We are going to be led all over the place in directions we were never meant to go if we don’t know and embrace our true identity in Christ.
Lie #4: God must hate me.
I felt such guilt and shame for the pornography I continued to seek after. I believed God was angry with me, and I was convinced He turned away from me. I was absolutely disgusted with myself, and I couldn’t imagine that He felt any differently. I pictured myself turning to Him for help, but all I envisioned was Him pointing His finger in my face and walking away from me. I was aware of how destructive my actions had become. I felt so ashamed and thought I went too far to receive His grace, mercy or forgiveness.
TRUTH: It was only through God’s forgiveness, grace and love for me that I was able to begin the journey of Him healing my heart so I could be set free.
God certainly did not approve of my sin, but I didn’t realize He was not going to turn away from me when I reached out to Him for help. Did I mess up along the way? Yes. As I learned how to seek Him first and keep my eyes on Him, I started to see much more progress along the way. Knowing that God was my strength and that He would never give up on me gave me the determination I needed to persevere during the toughest of times.
Lie #5: There is something wrong with me. I cannot stop craving porn.
I craved pornography all the time. When I would stop trying to watch it, my mind was on constant replay of all the scenes I had previously watched. I lived in a fantasy world. It numbed the feelings I did not want, and it also helped me to escape into a world I could never get enough of.
I was convinced there was something very wrong with me, because I kept craving the very scenes that I hated myself for.
TRUTH: What I was truly craving was the intimacy God created me to have.
Porn is a very cheap imitation of what God designed sex and intimacy to be. I tried to let pornography fill a deep need I had inside of me, but God started showing me I was settling for a counterfeit. I always heard that God could fill all of my needs, but how could God fill a need in me that was so corrupt? It didn’t seem possible that a holy God could fill something in me that was anything but holy. This is when He started showing me that what I really wanted, needed and craved was intimacy.
Do you crave porn? You were created to experience an intimate relationship with God that runs deeper than anything else you could experience on this earth. This is why pornography never fills you up for long, and it is never enough. I encourage you to pray and ask God to reveal what intimacy with Him is. You are hard-wired for it. If you are reading these words, it is not too late for you to know the depth and satisfaction that comes with an intimate relationship with Him. There is nothing like it!
Lie #6: “I feel numb, and porn helps me to feel something.”
In an effort to turn off my lustful thoughts and attractions, I inadvertently turned off many of my emotions. My heart was also wounded in so many ways, and part of it shut down somewhere along the way. I couldn’t feel anything anymore. I wanted to feel something again but didn’t know how to. When I turned to porn, it awakened feelings in me that felt like life to me. It made me feel alive, even though I knew it was so destructive. The exhilaration that came with viewing porn made it incredibly alluring to me when I otherwise felt so numb.
TRUTH: Porn was only a temporary fix that led me further away from the joy I was seeking.
Looking at porn brought temporary feelings of exhilaration, but it quickly led to depression, despair, and feeling even more numb. I was stuck in a cycle of feeling numb, so I turned to porn, only to feel numb again. It was leading me further and further away from the joy I was seeking. I didn’t know how to stop what I was doing. It wasn’t until after I confessed to my husband that I was looking at porn and God started the process of cleaning out my heart that I started to feel joy again. The joy restored to me felt so clean and pure, unlike what porn offered me. It took cleaning out the junk in my heart to feel the pureness of joy again. This is something I never want to lose again!
Lie #7: It’s too late. I ruined my brain forever.
The more I tried to stop looking at porn, the more I realized how much I fantasized about it. My mind was on constant replay with many of the scenes and pictures I viewed, and I thought I had ruined my brain forever. Pornography did re-wire my brain in a way it was not wired to think and feel before.
Regret is not an adequate word to describe the pain I felt when I was repeatedly unable to rid myself of the compulsions and pictures in my mind I did not used to have. Many of you know exactly what I mean. I wanted to feel pure and not constantly be reminded of how I corrupted my mind had become. I wanted the marriage God designed me to have, but because of the horrific choices I made I was afraid it was too late.
TRUTH: I have found lasting healing for my heart and brain.
As I started taking steps to guard my eyes and my heart, I also started surrendering my thought life to God. As I was diligent in this, I started to find the hope I needed to see a future free of pornography. This was not an overnight process. There were times I felt like nothing was changing, but I kept moving forward. I can now say that my brain has not been ruined forever. Many of those images that were burned into my brain have subsided as I learned how to fight against them.
Do you recognize any lies that you have been believing?
I want to reiterate that if you are struggling with pornography and have not told anyone, please pray about who you can talk to. As God has healed my heart, I have been set free from a pornography addiction and the fantasies that go along with it. This has been a long process, but God has restored so much to me, and He can do the same for you.
The following is adapted from an article I found on xxxchurch.com by Alice Neaves on July 18th, 2016
Addicted to masturbation??? Is that even possible?
Perhaps you’re already picturing me as a hundred-year-old Sunday School teacher or pastor, with corduroy pants so high rise they must be a cover for a long-term fitted chastity belt.
Or maybe you’re seeing the Christian protester who has nothing better to do with their precious time on Earth than to yell about people “fanning the flame” or “ringing Satan’s doorbell” or… choose your favorite euphemism.
But have no fear; I’d like to think I’m a fairly reasonable and open minded gal, who hasn’t worn anything corduroy since the early nineties.
However, the reality is, masturbation can become a legitimate addiction, just like any behavior. I’m not intending to make a moral statement or provide a biblical guideline but rather to help you decide if you are addicted so you can seek healing.
Here are three practical ways to help you discern if you’re addicted to masturbation:
1) Are you using masturbation to alter your mood?
Masturbation is a quick fix. It’s free, accessible and easy. It’s the perfect drug. Understandably, men and women use it to medicate bad moods. Those warm fuzzy chemicals sure hit the spot!
There are more positive ways to sooth moods, for example, listening to calming music or having a hot bath after a lousy day. The difference with using masturbation to alleviate negative emotions is that the powerful chemicals and hormones involved set you up for compulsion and emotional repression, not to mention they can be a detriment your future or current sex life. These are powerful chemicals you’re playing with.
Take note of when you feel the urge. What has triggered you in the past? Did you feel stressed? Powerless? Rejected? Lonely? Tired? Anxious? Sometimes the feeling that drives us is just a need for comfort. Whatever the trigger, there is often an underlying motivation: to feel good. Because you don’t already.
If you’re regularly masturbating in response to negative emotion, you may be addicted. Why? Because it reveals you’re not processing your emotions and indicates you’re living in some level of distress, making it the perfect opportunity to get hooked. Addiction loves pain. It is a faux salve for emotional wounds. But in reality, our vice, be it masturbation or otherwise, is infecting that wound that so desperately needs to be healed.
2) Do you feel like you can’t stop?
Perhaps one of the clearest signs of addiction is when you feel you can’t stop, even when you really want to. Pretty simple. You may white-knuckle it for a few weeks, but it always come crashing back into your life.
There’s a reason for this.
A sexual encounter (with someone else or on your own) instigates the release of a host of nice-feeling chemicals into your brain’s reward system. It’s an incredible gift from God when it’s not confused (and used as He intended – within the bonds of matrimony). It keeps humanity thriving and surviving. It releases chemicals like dopamine and oxytocin when you participate in a behavior that it [the brain] believes ensures survival of the body or gene pool (hence why an orgasm feels so much better than mopping the floor or eating dirt). The reward pathways function is to remind the brain to do that thing again! Your body begins to make unconscious associations. When you feel poorly, it remembers how to give you a kick! A process begins deep in your brain which, unbroken, leads you right back to the behavior, because your brain is wired to seek the easiest route to pleasure.
3) Is your habit harming you or those around you?
A characteristic of any addiction is continuing despite harm. Harm can come in many forms: emotional, relational, physical, spiritual or criminal to name a few.
If you’re masturbating to the point of overuse or needing medical assistance, you may very well be addicted.
Compulsive masturbation can lead to sexual dysfunction and less-than-ideal intimacy with your spouse. This is a very real harm that must be identified. More than physiological, this can affect your spouse emotionally. Are you masturbating to the detriment of your sex life?
Isolation is another harm to look out for. Such retreat can be rooted in shame, anxiety or the lost ability to interact non-sexually. Perhaps you would rather be at home masturbating than socializing?
Having an orgasm is easier than building real relationships.
But only building real relationships will bring lasting happiness and fulfillment in the long run.
Masturbation is a very personal and complicated topic. It can be a response to sexual or emotional trauma, it can be a struggle that begins in early childhood, it can be accompanied by viewing porn or voyeurism or nothing at all; and the line between “struggling with” and “addicted” can get blurry. There is a battlefield of opinions out there and it is so easy to slip into judgment and shame in this conversation.
Please know that, no matter what, you are known and cherished by the God of the universe, and the team at XXXchurch have resources to help you find freedom. You are not alone, and you need not feel ashamed. Recovery is so possible.
If you are looking for help recovering, and live in the Upstate of SC, consider reaching out:
Shannon Watson, LMFT-I (awaiting licensure)
I currently serve as Counseling Pastor for a church in the upstate of South Carolina. I hold a Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Liberty University. I am awaiting my scheduled time to sit for the SC LMFT-I licensing exam. It is my goal to help rebuild broken lives and families from the inside-out through awakening and fostering a relationship with Jesus Christ. I specialize in helping men recover from addictions to sex and pornography. I run a support group for recovering men on Wednesday nights at 6:30pm.
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates
One definition of insanity is “doing the same things and expecting different results.” Haven’t we all done that – been insane at times, I mean? How many times have you wished and begged and pleaded with God to just take away your lustful desires? I know I did… over and over… and over again.
Many years and many petitions later, I realized why He never just “took away” my problem [my porn addiction]. It was not because God was unable to do so. It had more to do with me and my choices. When I begged for my “lustful desires” to be taken away, what I really was asking for [this is what I realized]was for Him to remove the guilt. In the worst part of my addiction, I wanted to keep looking at all the pornography I could, but I didn’t like the guilty feelings it brought. The guilt and the shame were so “heavy” on my heart that it was hard to breathe at times. At that time, I did not want healing… I wanted to “have my cake and eat it too.”
13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. (James 1:13-14)
I am so thankful that God did not answer my prayers back then. I am so grateful that He did what I needed, and not what I wanted. What I needed was to grow up, and take responsibility for my life, my choices, and my behaviors. I needed to make amends and CHOOSE to change and CHOOSE to live differently.
Where are you on the road to recovery? Are you still looking for an “easy out?” Are you still “mad” at God because He won’t take away your “lust?”
God will heal you and restore you; but you mustfirst CHOOSE to give up your addiction. Just as the man at the pool of Bethesda was asked by Jesus, “Do you want to be healed” you too, must decide that you want to be healed. Once that decision is made, you must commit to the process it will take to get you to recovery. I highly recommend a very structured recovery program combined with individual counseling. You need help getting over your addiction, and if you could have done it on you own… you would not be reading this. Reach out to godly men and ask for accountability; sustained sobriety depends on this! Rise up, take hold of your recovery, and begin your journey today: