Monday, April 30, 2007

Internet Porn: The Crack Cocaine of Sexual Addiction

Posted for Sherry Weddell

A powerful piece from Catholic Exchange on the pervasive lure of on-line pornography addiction. Read the whole thing by clicking on the title, but here's an excerpt.

"What Andy didn't realize was the highly addictive nature of his porn activity. Even at this entry-level porn use, he was already caught in the web of a chemical-like dependency called the "crack cocaine of sexual addiction."

Pornography or cybersex addiction can progress much more rapidly than any other chemical or behavioral addiction — the individual can become addicted in only a matter of weeks or months. The internet has an extraordinary capacity to introduce a trance-like state. Hours may pass while the individual is completely preoccupied with chatting online or gazing at pornographic images on the computer screen. This trance-like state is the first key element in the addiction cycle, which intensifies with each repetition. "


"Patrick Carnes, Ph.D., pioneer in the field of sexual addiction, maintains that all sexual addicts have certain faulty, core beliefs that make them vulnerable to addiction. They experience a fundamental lack of self-worth and a mistrust of others that come from early childhood experiences (whether through some traumatic incident or through impaired early attachment experiences) and are reinforced by our culture. The four dysfunctional core beliefs are:

1. I am a bad, unworthy person

2. Nobody would love me if they really knew me

3. My needs are never going to be met, if I have to depend on others

4. Sex is my most important need

Viewing pornography is accompanied by self-gratification and triggers arousal, satiation and an increase in fantasy, which induce powerful neurochemical responses in the brain similar to those induced by addictive drugs and alcohol. When these neurochemical changes happen repeatedly, the responses to sexual behaviors become habituated, and these behaviors are now "hard-wired" in the brain.

Yet this cycle repeats itself, often escalating as the user compulsively seeks increasingly deviant websites, or even tries to live out some of his sexual fantasies. The user may try to stop, but discovers that he experiences anxiety, restlessness, and unease (symptoms of withdrawal). Often the secret sin is never disclosed — until a loved one stumbles upon his addiction, or until he loses a job, or gets caught engaging in an illegal sexual act.

Once discovered, it is difficult, but not impossible, to treat. The treatment requires an integrated model of individual therapy, a self-help twelve-step group such as Sexaholics Anonymous, and a strong spiritual program with frequent reception of the sacraments. Our Catholic faith can combat the faulty core beliefs of the addict, but often therapy is needed to face the issues of the past that gave rise to the feelings of worthlessness, fear, and mistrust. Oftentimes, there is a childhood trauma or abuse that needs to be addressed.

There is a growing movement to address the problem of pornography and to offer hope to those afflicted. In his pastoral letter, "Bought with a Price," Bishop Paul S. Loverde outlines the nature of the offense and counters many of the false arguments that attempt to justify pornography. Just last week, the second largest Canadian wireless phone company pulled their plans to sell pornography on mobile phones, after the Archbishop of Vancouver, Raymond Roussin, urged Canadian Catholics to boycott.

If anyone is suffering from pornography addiction, a first step is to take a look at the website which was developed by Catholic mental health professionals and especially designed to help Catholics (and their families) who are afflicted by the scourge of pornography.