Where We Stand in Late 2019 with Pornography Addiction Being Recognized As a Diagnosable Condition

I haven’t shared many pornography addiction statistics in the last 6-to-8 months because it’s really been a matter of waiting for science to present more information. I asked a few months ago for people to forward new links to me if they ran into anything, and I appreciate those of you who forwarded a few along. I’ll be pulling data from these sources to share as it appears there are a lot of new 2018 and 2019 studies being released.

I’ll start with an overview of where things stand with pornography addiction from a clinical, scientific standpoint, looking at the results of a catch-all survey of the situation from a team of Spanish researchers released earlier in 2019. I’ve included the actual abstract at the end of this post, but I’m translating it into everyday English for you here:


  • Scientists still can’t tell the exact moment that porn use becomes a problem, affecting someone on a deeper level than just a casual user. This isn’t that surprising as science still hasn’t been able to figure out when someone goes from being a liar to a pathological liar, despite knowing that condition has been around for more than 100 years. My guess is that it’s a little different in everyone and there will never be a specific black-and-white test to determine when one has crossed the line into problem use.


  • The only behavioral addiction accepted by the DSM-5 (the manual of diagnoses preferred by most North American mental health providers) is gambling addiction. While the World Health Organization has adopted Sexual Impulse Disorder as a diagnosis in its ICD-11, it has still not officially recognized pornography addiction as a diagnosable condition. Based on reading I’ve done, it sounds like video game addiction may be the next behavioral addiction to be formally recognized. While most seem to feel its inclusion one day is a given, most experts seem to believe it is still going to be a while until enough data supports its inclusion in the DSM-5.


  • There has been recent attention paid to pornography addiction in the world pre- and post-introduction of high-speed Internet. While I understand the Internet has provided the tools to make pornography addiction more prevalent, I still need to do more reading on it to understand what the difference between the actual addiction would be before and after. I got hooked a decade before high-speed internet was made available, but used that exclusively in my last decade of addiction. Aside from the startling ease by which to access copious amounts and exotic varieties and genres of pornography, I don’t know what the difference is. A new designation (POPU) appears to be a favorite among researchers, standing for “Problematic Use of Online Pornography). Yeah, the letters seem to be in the wrong order to me, too.


  • POPU may have adverse effects on young people’s sexual development. It seems like a given, but even up until a few years ago, there were many studies doubting this. Science often has to prove the obvious again and again until the vast majority agree it’s the best conclusion based on the provable data. It’s a slow process, but getting pornography addiction officially recognized is getting there.


The actual abstract from the survey overview:

“In the last few years, there has been a wave of articles related to behavioral addictions; some of them have a focus on online pornography addiction. However, despite all efforts, we are still unable to profile when engaging in this behavior becomes pathological. Common problems include: sample bias, the search for diagnostic instrumentals, opposing approximations to the matter, and the fact that this entity may be encompassed inside a greater pathology (i.e., sex addiction) that may present itself with very diverse symptomatology. Behavioral addictions form a largely unexplored field of study, and usually exhibit a problematic consumption model: loss of control, impairment, and risky use. Hypersexual disorder fits this model and may be composed of several sexual behaviors, like problematic use of online pornography (POPU). Online pornography use is on the rise, with a potential for addiction considering the “triple A” influence (accessibility, affordability, anonymity). This problematic use might have adverse effects in sexual development and sexual functioning, especially among the young population. We aim to gather existing knowledge on problematic online pornography use as a pathological entity. Here we try to summarize what we know about this entity and outline some areas worthy of further research.”


9 thoughts on “Where We Stand in Late 2019 with Pornography Addiction Being Recognized As a Diagnosable Condition

  1. I can’t imagine with the unlimited, free access that it hasn’t been considered an addiction. Even more so with the abuse of having personal possession of child porn discovered in the homes of thousands of older men (at least in Louisiana). I think porn remains a taboo subject making the actual research required for diagnosis problematic. I am unsure of how scientist suggests rehabilitation in reference to porn addiction but it would be interesting to see how it would be implemented.

    1. Science is always behind on things. AA was created in 1935, yet it wasn’t classified as a disease until 1956, and there are still some who won’t call it one. At the rehabs I went to, porn addiction was treated pretty much like any other addiction, behavioral or chemical.

  2. Even if the DSM hasn’t officially recognized a sexual addiction there are many specialists in the field who strongly argue that it does exist, and has all the defining characteristics of a behavioural addiction. Patrick Carnes is probably the leading spokesperson related to this. Another key figure is Rob Weiss.

  3. Sex/porn addictions have the same symptoms and are caused by the same character and personality flaws as any other addiction. I have been to other support meetings (AA and CODA) and found a lot of identification and wisdom that has helped me in sex and porn recovery. Science does have a tendency to over complicate challenges that are primarily emotional, relationship and mental health problems, which are at the core of sex and porn addiction.

    1. I don’t know if you ever read my entry here about it, but I’ve never done cocaine in my life, yet found CA meetings to be of great help. I only went to support a friend and ended up being the one to ask if we could go back. I think you just have to click with a 12-step group and it doesn’t matter as much what the exact subject matter is.

  4. Sorry, to finish off my statement, Science by definition is a practical and a intellectual study of structure and behaviour through observation and experiment. Not much emphasis is placed on personal emotions or experience. More of the courageous work from recovering addicts like yourself around raising awareness on the life harms caused by porn and sex addiction in the media is more helpful.

    1. I appreciate you saying that Mark. I wish science didn’t take so long to catch up to things, but I don’t stress that pornography addiction won’t one day be recognized. And as a therapist I met in rehab told me, it almost doesn’t matter. It only matters when the insurance companies start recognizing it.

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