University of Sydney study exposes secret world of porn addiction (2012)

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Study exposes secret world of porn addiction, May 10, 2012

A major study from the University of Sydney has shed light on the secret world of excessive porn viewing and the devastating effect it has on users and their families.

Dr Gomathi Sitharthan of the Faculty of Health Sciences and Professor Raj Sitharthan from the Department of Psychiatry of the University of Sydney conducted an online study of 800 people who watch porn to gain an unprecedented insight into who suffers from porn addiction and how their addiction affects them.

Preliminary results from the study have revealed that 43 percent of those surveyed started to view porn between the ages of 11 and 13, 47 percent spend between 30 minutes and three hours a day watching porn. More than half of porn users surveyed were married or in de-facto relationships and 85 percent were male.

The researchers found excessive users had severe social and relationship problems and had often lost their jobs or been in trouble with the law as a result of their addiction. Some users escalated their viewing to more extreme and often illegal material.

"We all know what porn is, but until now we haven't known much about its impact," says Dr Gomathi Sitharthan.

"Gone are the days when you had to go to a shop, pay for the merchandise, and come out with a magazine in a brown paper bag. You can now download anything, anytime, anywhere - at home, in your bedroom, in your office, in the car, in the park, on the way to work."

The survey also shed light on extreme cases. For example, about 20 percent of participants said that they preferred the excitement of watching porn to being sexually intimate with their partner. About 14 percent had formed a relationship with other online users, 30 percent acknowledged that their work performance suffered due to excessive viewing, and about 18 percent were preoccupied with fantasising when they were not online.

"The reality is that porn is here to stay. What we need is a balanced view of the potential dangers of porn addiction, supported by good evidence," says Professor Raj Sitharthan. In the last five years, he has seen an increase in people presenting with problems associated with excessive porn viewing in his clinical practice.

Tellingly, 88 percent of those surveyed reported they were willing to seek professional help, but would prefer to seek it online. Dr Gomathi Sitharthan and Professor Raj Sitharthan are currently preparing a treatment program that can be offered online.

"Watching porn is a learned behaviour and we believe it can be unlearned. We are finding that people do understand that their excessive porn viewing is impacting on their lives and they want to change," Dr Sitharthan says.


ANOTHER ARTICLE WITH MORE DETAILS

Are You Addicted to Porn? See How You Compare to This Study

By Timothy Boyer on May 11, 2012 - for eMaxHealth

According to the husband-wife psychologist team Raj and Gomathi Sitharthan from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Sydney, porn addiction is a growing problem and one that is not as well understood as some addiction counselors would have you believe. One of the most pressing questions is whether occasional watching of so-called “soft porn” will lead to excessive viewing and acting out of violent and/or socially unacceptable sexual behavior that can ruin your life. The following is a summary of what the research team found that can give you an idea where you stand when it comes to your porn viewing habits.

One of the messages of the researchers is that porn is ubiquitous and is here to stay. Because of the internet, no longer is accessibility to porn limited to having to go to a porn shop to buy magazines or videos. Rather, that part of the power of porn today is that it is a profitable commodity that is based on the “The Triple A” Marketing strategy:

  • Porn is easily available
  • Porn provides anonymity
  • Porn is affordable and/or free in many cases

They also point out that not everyone agrees to how harmful porn can be. Views on porn range anywhere from a perfectly safe and normal habit (regardless of the degree of pornographic imagery or action) to the view that any and all porn is demeaning to women and leads to serious sexual misconceptions during sexual maturation in both young and adult individuals.

What the researchers have experienced is that for the past five years they have seen an increase in clients that have depression, anxiety and relationship problems associated with excessive viewing of pornography. The root of this they believe is directly attributable to the internet making porn more accessible with anonymity.

Treatment of porn addiction is another concern. The researchers find that treating porn as if it were another type of addiction such as with drugs or alcohol is likely not the best way to address the problem. Research on what leads to excessive pornography viewing is needed to fully understand why some people watch porn everyday as opposed to others who do so only occasionally. There is no scientific evidence that supports abstinence from viewing porn is on par with abstinence from alcohol toward treating addiction.

The researchers note that thorough scientific data is lacking on the effects of viewing porn and say that what they had seen previously was limited to anecdotal reports of lives spiraling out of control in a minority of porn addicts. Therefore, they decided to quantify the extent of porn viewing and the effects of excessive viewing through a web-based study that recruited 800 participants. The following data is what they found:

Porn Viewing Findings

• 85% males vs. 15% female viewers

• Average age of participants 32.5 years

• Over 50% married or in a de-facto relationship

• 71% in paid employment

• 43% started to view porn between the ages 11 and 13 years

• 47% spend on average between 30 minutes to 3 hours per day watching porn

• 48% had a university degree

• 52% downloaded clips and XXX rated videos from the internet

• 15% fantasize multiple times during a day about viewing pornography

• 22% act upon these fantasies at least 4 times a week

• 80% willing to seek professional help, but prefer to seek help via the web

• About 30% said they will become defensive or secretive when asked what they are doing online

• Over 35% said they will snap or yell if they are bothered when they are online

• Over 20% said they will hide how long they have been online

• Over 25% said they try to cut down the amount of time they spend watching porn, but fail

Identifying whether someone has a pornography problem is based on observed behaviors. According to their study, some of the behaviors they have seen in patients include:

Porn Viewing Addiction Behaviors

(1) Young adults who skip education, and have several social skills deficits (e.g. inability to converse with the opposite sex, viewing the opposite sex as merely "objects" of desire, false assumptions of what is a proper relationship, etc.).

(2) Adults in a relationship (e.g. married, de facto) who become less interested in intimacy with their partner, engaging in "stealthy" behaviors, excessive expenditure via credit cards, wanting to experience what they saw in porn movies and thereby engaging in high-risk behaviors, etc.

(3) Severe disruption in work / academic activities. People have been reprimanded, lost jobs etc. due to inability to control their viewing at the workplace.

(4) Attempting to experience what they see from porn movies (having sex with teens / minors) and have ended up in trouble with the law.

(5) “Extending” their viewing to materials others consider as bizarre or immoral, e.g. viewing child porn (sometimes masked as “barely legal”). It is like the “tolerance” to viewing has developed to another stage and they need to view more and more “extreme” materials to experience pleasure.

(6) With some patients, it is as if they have lost touch with “reality” as to what is legally appropriate behavior.

(7) This trend is not limited to any particular age/occupational groups. Many people in prominent positions have been in trouble due to their viewing habits.

(8) We think that some people have a proclivity to Fantasy Proneness, Sensation Seeking, Risk Taking, and engaging in “sex tours” overseas, or engage in other behaviors that are considered by some as not the norm.

Future Porn Viewing Research Directions

The researchers will next begin studies that seek to determine why some people view porn excessively whereas others do not; why such viewers knowing it’s against the law continue to view illegal porn; what is it inside some viewers that prevent them from going too far; and, if and what role desensitization plays in escalating pornography viewing.