{    Cnytr   }

{Monday, July 05, 2004  }

Again in response to SarahMc:

Addiction is a medical term: if you are addicted to something, it means that you will suffer physical ills if you stop using it...

But pornography is not an addiction. Gambling is also not an addiction. Sex is not an addiction. They may be bad habits, but that is not the same thing. That is why addictions are so horribly pernicious: you usually have to endure great pains to break them. Bad habits are psychological. Now, pornography and sex -- like overexercise, and chocolate, and sushi, and sometimes overeating -- can cause release of certain Happy Hormones; this is a chemically positive response to the stimulus, but it is basically controllable if you have any sense of moderation whatsoever. And even after you get deeply entrenched in one of these bad habits, you still *can* get yourself out without outside help. Maybe you choose not to, but I believe one could.

And sure, other people can help when you're trying to break a bad habit. That's perfectly fine and good. One time a camp buddy of mine and I decided we needed to stop slouching, and so whenever we saw the other one slouching or caught ourselves slouching, we sat up somewhat jerkily, so as to alert the other. And hey, by the end of the week, our postures had improved! But I would hardly say I had a slouching addiction... I even believe that people can break addictions on their own, but it takes extraordinary strength of will and dedication, and it also takes a lot of planning to prevent backsliding.

*Strictly speaking*, you are right, pornography is not *solely* a chemical addiction. However. Chemicals do come in to play, as you mention the "Happy Hormones", among others. It is definitely way more than just a "bad habit", however. For all intents and purposes, a person with a pornography problem acts like he has an addiction... definitely psychologically, I suspect some physical symptoms also are present, but am not sure. In terms of treatment of a person, a pornography problem is listed as a "sexual addiction" almost anywhere you look. The habit is a very strongly positively reinforced behavior, as most people engage in self-stimulation when viewing pornographic materials. The more often this occurs, the more the behavior is reinforced. Eventually it can become so strong that it overpowers volition, and the only way to stop it is to starve the addiction one way or another (i.e. no internet), and/or to place some strong psychological blockage in the way (i.e. Covenant Eyes, though this is merely a deterrant and will not stop the problem entirely). The idea that it's "basically controllable if you have any sense of moderation whatsoever" is false. You can't stop cold turkey once you've had this behavior reinforced for a certain time, which is the case even with lesser things like merely bad habits. The acquiring is like the losing of them, it happens gradually and over time, and not once and *boom* you're "addicted", or *boom* you're cured. Many people really, really struggle with this problem, and I know there are dads out there who hate themselves for such an addiction and for the sake of their wife and kids wish they could stop. But depending on how long such a problem has been going on, they might need therapy.

This is one aspect of a pornography addiction (I will continue using this word for the sake of argument, since I say that one with this sort of problem essentially acts like an addicted person) that people (usually girls) on the other end (i.e. the wives, girlfriends, mothers, fathers, sisters) usually do not understand. You can't just *stop*, it's not that easy, and that's what destroys marriages. It happens again and again and again, and the wife can't or doesn't understand that she has to let herself be hurt in this way for a while longer before it can get better (assuming that the husband is seeking help and is remorseful). Also, the guy (or "person", there's no gender bias intentional here) may be -- and usually is -- in denial, or thinks that he can quit cold-turkey; when he can't he falls into despair and may become depressed and suicidal; possibly may develop a strong guilt and/or inferiority complex. It depends on the situation. It's all extremely difficult.

From the very very good article, the PhD psychologist says about relapses in therapy sessions:

When relapses occur, I don't "beat them up." I point out that relapses are just part of a growth experience and explain what can be learned from the relapse that will protect them in the future. I try to give them hope. I point out the progress already made and the good things done.

By the way, this is an apparently new website (new since the last time I looked this stuff up which was when I posted previously about this same topic) on the same topic. However, I have not looked at it yet, so I don't know if there's BS psychology or logical errors or anything in it yet. But it may be useful.

In short: pornographt problems are much more strongly reinforced than any other bad habit, and while chemicals are involved they are not the mind-controlling chemicals of a drug addiction. Pornography is less than a merely chemical addiction, but much, much stronger and worse than any other bad habit, and falls into its own class of "sexual addictions". The steps to overcome it are more difficult and different than those of a bad habit, and more resemble more those of a chemical addiction (i.e. requiring therapy and such groups as Sexaholics Anonymous).
posted by Lauren, 11:09 AM


In ST IIa IIae q.156 a.2, Thomas says that even though one cannot avoid sexual incontinence (passions overcoming the will), it is still a sin, because it *can* be avoided with divine help. But, in the next article, Thomas says that the passions can temporarily overcome reason, causing ignorance, which can negate the will and thus the act is not sinful.
To me, addiction implies a lack of culpability, whereas habit allows for the will to overcome it. However, I think in reality, it is difficult to discern the line between habit and addiction. Certainly the word addiction has been enlarged to include a whole host of actions that probably allow for some human freedom, if not in the act, then prior. I would say that addiction must have a time where one temporarily loses the ability to reason, even if it is only for a moment. And I think that pornography can fall into that category. One can reason before, but there comes a moment when it seems impossible to do anything else, that one has no control over ones actions, which is the essense of addiction.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 7:52 AM  

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