Is watching porn causing your relationship problems?

By David Joel Miller.

What would your therapist say about watching pornography?

sex-on-a-cork-board

sex-on-a-cork-board.
FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In this Internet age, pornography is much more available and widely viewed. Occasionally a client tells their counselor they think they have problems with viewing pornography. Much more often this issue comes up in couple’s sessions when one partner, commonly the woman, is angry, or hurt, or feeling insecure, as a direct result of her partner’s watching of pornography.

Some counselors and therapists received a little bit of information on the problems connected to pornography during their training. Most did not. Those counselors who work with couples are likely to hear about the conflicts couples are having regarding pornography use. What they say to their client’s is probably largely based on their own beliefs, what other clients have told them or their personal “field research.” So just how big a problem is pornography causing in relationships?

The two questions above are, of course, two very different questions. Recently I came across a professional journal article which looked at the training, attitudes, and competencies counselors have when it comes to helping couples work through the issues involving pornography.

Pornography is hard to define.

Even the courts have found it difficult to define pornography. Contemporary standards have changed. You will see things on prime-time television now which once would’ve been considered inappropriate and pornographic. Technically the term pornography is customarily used to refer to explicit sexual material that crosses some line or boundary and therefore becomes illegal.

When clients talk about pornography what they usually mean is “adult entertainment” consisting of pictures of naked people or suggestive poses. Often it includes depictions of people engaging in a variety of sexual behaviors. The intended purpose of this material is to cause arousal in the viewer.

In the year 2000, sexual material was the number 1 item viewed on the Internet and accounted for more than half of the money spent on the Internet. It’s possible that Internet shopping, social media, and the increased popularity of videos has altered those numbers, the way doubt it’s changed that much. It’s quite possible that people viewing pornography were early adopters of the Internet. Whatever the statistics say today, it’s common for individuals and couples in counseling to report using the Internet for a variety of sexual activities (Ayres & Haddock, 2009.)

Pornography is the primary relationship problem for some couples.

Researchers have identified 5 ways internet usage may be harming a couple’s relationships

The largest consumers of pornography are reported to be married heterosexual males. There use of porn significantly impacts their partner, resulting in reduced self-esteem, loss of respect and trust, and impairment of the connection between the partners (Bergner & Bridges, 2002; Schneider, 2000.)

While some couples are reported to view porn together, this rarely brings them to counseling. The type of viewing which causes the largest problems is when one person, usually the male, views it privately and in secret. The keeping of secrets part significantly damages the trust in the relationship.

Time spent in this secret activity is time away from the partner and family. Discovery of this secret leads to marital discord and frequently separation and divorce.

Online sexual activity can lead to affairs.

Two types of affairs can be facilitated because of online sexual activity.

Cyber affairs and cybersex results in the parties meeting their needs online and having less sex with their regular partner. Online sexual activity can cause the same damage to relationships as real-world affairs.

Sexual activity online can also be a way to facilitate real-world hookups resulting in either a string of casual sexual relationships or a longer lasting affair. One of the ways these hookups, which are being facilitated online, comes to the attention of the relationship partner is the contraction of a sexually transmitted disease.

Pornography can create individual problems also.

About 10 percent of pornography viewers spend 90 minutes a day or more searching for and viewing sexually explicit materials. Individual issues may include an increase in erectile dysfunction at a young age. Internet viewing porn has been described as “the great porn experiment.” 

In addition to altering patterns of arousal, heavy use of cybersex and pornography has been reported to lead to sexual addictions. The diagnosing of sexual addictions remains controversial. But the pattern of behavior closely matches the pattern of drug addiction. The person addicted to sex spends more time seeking it, engaging in it, and more effort trying to hide what they are doing.

As a sexual addiction develops, the addict shows tolerance, needs more and more sexual encounters and seeks activities that will increase the arousal. The addict lowers their standards and will engage in sex with people they would not have found attractive in the past.

The typical content of adult entertainment is likely to create unrealistic expectations for partners and distorted beliefs about the roles of women. The plots are often bizarre, fantastic, and feature atypical behavior rather than the way in which most couples typically express their sexuality.

Can pornography and cybersex addiction be treated?

Individuals with the pornography problem or sexual addiction can be treated, often with good results. Where these activities have damaged the couple’s relationship, couples counseling can help. Just like in-person sexual affairs, couples can recover from these experiences.

Treatment for sexual issues is very specialized, and you should seek someone experienced in working in these areas. In addition to the couple’s issues, each of the parties probably needs to see a counselor for individual therapy.

If your partner has a problem with pornography or cybersex, it is important not to blame yourself. It’s common for women to believe there is something wrong with them and ask what it is that the other woman had that made them more attractive. The truth is it’s rarely the woman’s fault. What was attractive, whether it was online pornography, cybersex or an in-person affair, was largely the result of one person’s individual problems, their need to constantly seek something different. Individual counseling for the partners of sexual addicts is extremely important.

Pornography and sexual addictions are only one way in which trust can be damaged.

Look here for more on the topic of trust.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

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Affairs, Pornography Addiction, Sexual and Internet Addiction Posts

The effects of affairs, pornography and sexual addiction on couples.

Here are some of the recent posts on the effects of affairs, pornography and sexual addiction on couples. Topics covered include making the decision to stay or go, how to repair the relationship and when and how professionals can help in mending relationships touched by these problems.

The internet is making it harder to define all the things that may be damaging relationships. Cybersex and virtual affairs are becoming destructive of relationships in the same way real life meeting-up affairs.

Despite the suffering, these problems cause most are not yet recognized as specific diagnosable illnesses. Most are very close to being a behavioral addiction but to date, only one behavioral addiction (gambling) is recognized as a specific mental illness.

Here are the posts so far – more to come

5 Misconceptions about the causes of affairs

Does an affair mean you should divorce?

Are internet affairs real affairs?

Internet affairs

Internet affairs? Internet addiction?

10 Rules for recovery after an affair

5 ways the Internet may destroy your relationship

Grieving bad relationships? Why men fear marriage counseling

Length of time together in failed relationships or marriages

Is he internet addicted 

(Some of these posts are scheduled to appear in the future so if the link does not work please check the list of recent posts or let me know and I will fix the links as the posts publish.)

Feel free to leave comments on these posts or send me a note via the “contact me” feature. I can’t do relationships counseling here via blog or the internet. That is not what this blog was designed for, but I will try to answer questions as I can and where possible tell you about other resources. If you know of resources out there that might be helpful then please let the rest of us know.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Is he Internet addicted?

By David Joel Miller.

Is this just having fun or is it internet addiction?

Internet addiction

Internet addiction
Photo courtesy of Flickr (mandiberg)

How much internet usage is a problem?

When it comes to behaviors how can you tell when enough is too much?

We know that behaviors can become problems. Some like pathological gambling can destroy lives and families but when is a behavior an addiction?

Is internet addiction a real addiction?

It would appear so. Brain scan studies show that in both drug-addicted individuals and people with problematic internet usage the same areas of the brain light up when they think about their preferred activity. The brain has changed in response to their habit and has resulted in characteristic symptoms of addiction.

The hallmarks of addiction are; building up a tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, excessive involvement with the drug or activity and continued participation in the activity despite negative consequences. We should also mention here that cravings for the drug or activity are the factor that maintains the addiction.

Let’s look at how these characteristics will manifest in someone with an internet addiction. We think there is a difference between high levels of computer usage and a true internet addiction. Computers and the internet have become parts of modern life. They can have good and bad aspects. Many jobs now require the use of the computer, often for many hours per day. We use computers and the internet for business, person and social applications. Some usages have more risk of becoming a problem than others.

Internet addiction is one of these “behavioral addictions” or compulsions that are poorly understood and little researched.

First, the 4 characteristics of addiction applied to excessive internet usage. Then some information on possible psychiatric connections.

1. Tolerance.

People who become addicted to the internet need more and bigger computers, more software, and the time they spend on the computer continues to increase. They may spend excessive (for their income) amounts of money and time on their computer activates.

2. Withdrawal.

When unable to do their usual activities the internet addict will become angry, fearful, anxious or depressed. Should their connection fail they are unable to do other activities in the place of their internet routine.

3. Excessive usage.

What is excessive is a matter of perspective. Most addicts can’t see that their activity has become excessive until it has become too late. Neglect of other areas of the life is a good sign this activity is becoming excessive.

Does the internet user stay up too late and then are they tired all the next day. Does this time online interfere with their job, school work or family life? Is this person neglecting their role responsibilities?

All of these are signs that the use of the internet has become excessive.

4. Continued use despite negative consequences.

The internet addict will begin to lie to others around them about their usage and the nature of their online activities. We have talked elsewhere, or will soon about how this lying may be a sign that the person is using the internet in the service of another addiction, like an affair, gambling or a sexual addiction. The lying we are talking about here is not about covering up the why of their usage but this lie is about covering up the extent of their usage.

Poor school work or job performance are common results of excessive internet usage. Chronic fatigue with a loss of motivation and interest in other activities occurs. Social isolation, with few friends and few offline activities, also occur.

Psychiatric considerations and co-morbidity.

So why should we be concerned about an internet addiction? They could be addicted to books (an incurable condition for a writer.) As long as they do not lose their job or family, what’s the harm?

Internet addiction may be a symptom of other disorders rather than a primary disorder. Internet addiction coexists with several other serious mental health problems. Those with an internet addiction often have depression from mild all the way to serious. Anxiety is a common co-morbidity and may be of the generalized, over-anxious, variety or the social phobia type.

Among those with excessive internet usage, alcohol and marijuana abuse is common. Addictions travel in flocks and switching one addiction for another is commonly reported in recovery circles.

Internet addiction is not yet a recognized disorder in the DSM. One variation Internet Gaming Disorder has been proposed for further study. The mental health community is still not quite sure how to understand this internet addiction thing.

Some authors have proposed that this may be a variant of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD.) Use of the internet may be a way of reducing anxiety in those with OCD. Other authors have noted that the anxiety in Internet addiction is more like that in drug addiction, the addict becomes anxious when they are unable to get the thing that is the object of their addiction.

Internet addiction may be another of those catch-all groups that are really a set of similar symptoms that represent several distinct disorders. A cough can be a symptom of many illnesses and what if excessive internet usage is really a symptom of many differing mental health disorders?

Three variations of internet addiction appear likely

1. Internet Gaming.

This variant is the need for the repetitive playing of games and racking up points. They may be playing against others online or this may be a solitary activity. Research currently distinguishes this from internet gambling. Gambling Disorder (formerly called Pathological Gambling) seems the same online and offline and pathological gamblers move between various settings and games of chance.

2. Cyber Sex.

This appears to fit in with other sexual issues. It is distinguished from the use of the internet to facilitate affairs or other crimes. This can vary from sex chat and sexting all the way to a pornography addiction. In a cybersex addiction, the goal is to get sexual gratification online rather than the goal of meeting a real person offline.

3. Obsessive use of the internet for social contact.

This includes frequent usage of emails, text messages, and social media sites. The internet addict may become obsessed with how many friends they have on a particular site, what others are saying and so on. This reliance on the internet for human contact may lead to a lack of social skills and few friends when in offline situations.

One serious concern with excessive reliance on the internet for social contact is the risk of pain caused by online stalking and cyberbullying which can result in suicide or other emotional crises.

Hope this brief summary of the problem of internet addiction and the link to other behavioral disorders may be helpful to someone. As always appropriate comments are welcome.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

5 ways the Internet may destroy your relationship

By David Joel Miller.

Signs internet usage may destroy your relationship.

Love

Love

The internet has changed how we all live our lives for good and bad. It can help you find information, directions, and possibilities. Singles can use online dating sites to find dates or even long-term partners. It can create a lot of happiness.

Internet usage can also destroy relationships. Here are five ways your or your partner’s internet usage could be jeopardizing your relationship.  These are not discreet problems. A particular person or couple may be affected by one or several of these problems and sometimes one problem can morph into another.

1. Cyber-flirting and emotional affairs.

sex-on-a-cork-board

Talking inside games or chat rooms can start off innocently enough. In the relatively anonymous environment, it is easy to flirt, make sexual comments that would never be allowed in real life. You think you are getting to really know the other person at a very rapid pace.

In the online world, you do not have to see the person when they are tired or cranky. You can put only your best, often fictitious, self forward.

People will disclose to an anonymous avatar, feelings that they have been unable to express to their life partner. The feeling of being understood and cared for can be created quickly and look more real than it is.

More than one person has fallen in love with someone on the internet only to find out that this person never existed or was very different from the way they represented themselves.

Emotional affairs involve a giving of feelings and self to a stranger that should have been saved for the partner. People will tell their secrets and their partner’s confidences to a comparative stranger often with disastrous results.

Some partners of people having emotional cyber affairs describe them as even more painful and damaging than a real-life one night stand. You can alibi the one time sex, alcohol, being out-of-town, overcome by a momentary weakness. But the time spent in romancing a cyber affair partner and the keeping of the secrets this entails is a more severe breach of the trust that a relationship partner can excuse.

2. Cybersex.

Cyber-flirting can easily expand to cyber sex. IM allows a conversation that can quickly escalate in emotional intensity. People can live out their sexual fantasies; describe desired sex acts that they feel uncomfortable describing to a real live partner.

People become their alter egos; the unemployed man becomes a jet-setting playboy. The middle-aged mother of 6 becomes a hot twenty-something model and this fictional couple describes all the emotional and sexual acts they wish they could do. People may fanaticize about behaviors that given the chance to act out in real life they would decline.

This cyber flirting or cyber sex can involve masturbation and become a substitute for real-life sexual activities.

These cybersex activities may include sexting and incurring time spent thinking about and participating in fantasy sexual activities.

3. Internet created sexual affairs.

Cyber-flirting and cybersex may move into the real world. Online infidelity often begins with looking for an affair.

Adult dating sites and the relative anonymity of chat rooms have made it easier than ever before for people to find other people for sexual relationships. The relative anonymity of the internet encourages people to talk more openly and that feeling of intimacy can develop much more rapidly.

These internet arraigned sexual liaisons may go on for years, one partner after another.

Often these internet facilitated affairs are discovered accidentally. When they are discovered there can be an explosive reaction from the relationship partner.  This sudden disclosure of the infidelity can result in separations and divorce.

Even when the affair goes undiscovered or if the couple decides to stay together after the disclosure of the affair, this event can permanently damage or alter the relationship.

Developing the online relationship requires dishonesty and keeping secrets. To facilitate this behavior the partner having the affair needs to become more secretive and dishonest. The relationship couple moves farther apart emotionally. A distance between the couple may be created that can never be bridged.

4. Internet pornography.

The internet provides a ready access to pornography. There are graphic images of all manner of sexual activity. Some of these activities may be illegal, child porn for example.

Porn can also be computer generated with no real people involved in the activities the viewer sees. This material can quickly create a distorted view of sexual reality. Not many people have near perfect bodies. Even the most sexually adventurous person can’t engage in all the activities that are portrayed on the porn site.

A real live partner pales in comparison to the images on the web.

Viewing graphic sexual materials is very emotionally exciting and the occasional view can quickly escalate to an addiction. The magnitude and destructive properties of porn addiction have only recently been recognized and the harm porn can cause has been underestimated.

This should not be taken to mean that we should return to the Victorian era when no bare skin showed and sex was a taboo subject. Some sexual behavior and arousal are normal and healthy. Researchers have made the case that some viewing of sexual materials can inspire a couple to be more adventuress.

What is a problem is when this becomes a habit that races out of control. Sexual arousal is a very powerful force and can quickly lead to some form of sexual addiction.

5. Internet addiction.

In this internet activity, the sexual component is absent or minor. One member of a relationship becomes more and more involved in their online activities to the point of failing to meet relationship responsibilities.

They can play online games and forget to go to bed with their partner. They may stay up later and later to play online games or other activities.

Eventual this online need overtakes their real responsibilities. People with an internet addiction may miss work or come in late from being up all night gaming.

They may experience real emotional withdrawal reactions, anger, and anxiety when they are unable to participate in their customary on-line activity.

If you or your partner has developed any of these internet issues your relationship does not have to end. Marriage or relationship counseling can help. A relationship may become stronger and better as a result of the steps you take to repair these problems.

In future posts, I plan to explore internet addictions, affairs and other relationship issues in more detail. Hope you all stay tuned and follow counselorssoapbox.com

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.