Are Sex and Pornography Addiction Valid Disorders?

Updated: a day ago

Up to this date, the sex and porn addiction model has not been scientifically validated, while an accumulating body of empirical and critical scholarship on the topic provides strong evidence against it.

To begin with, it is not explicitly clear what addiction actually means, and this is reflected in the diverse and often contrasting ways that advocates of the sex/porn addiction model tend to define and operationalize the concept. For sure, numerous such supporters seem to utilize the idea of addiction as just a shorthand for sexual conduct and pornography watching. In 2000 was suggested that spending more than 11 hours per week in viewing online pornography was a significant indicator of addiction.


It is important to note that some people do struggle with their sexual behaviour and/or use of pornography and potentially experience their behaviour as compulsive, obsessive, or out of control. Likewise, some people regret their frequent sexual behaviour or pornography viewing and believe that these activities harm their relationships and/or lead to additional problems.



Viewing pornography, using cocaine, and watching a beautiful sunset may all increase dopaminergic activity associated with motivation and reward reinforcement, experiencing pleasure and such neurobiological reinforcement is not the same as addiction.

Prause et al. (2015) found that unlike substance addictions, study participants, with high sexual desire and who reported problems from viewing pornography, showed lower late positive potential in response to visual sexual stimuli. Unlike scientifically established addictions, experimental studies, regarding sex and pornography addiction, do not show enhanced LPP, escalation of use, withdrawal syndrome from discontinued use, or consistent negative effect.


Experiencing pleasure is an affective state common to both validated addictions and leisure. Even though it can be present in both leisure and addiction, some forms of leisure seem to progress into an actual addiction when the behaviour becomes uncontrollable and shows clear evidence of physiological tolerance and withdrawal upon cessation.



Empirical research suggests that the feeling of being unable to control one’s sexual behaviour, potentially including pornography viewing, is being distinctly characterized as hypersexuality. However, although difficulties controlling urges and cravings appear to be a component of addiction, this feature may be accounted for by a number of alternative neuropsychiatric possibilities, all of which require further empirical analysis.


Clearly, some people do experience their sexual behaviour and/or use of pornography in various problematic ways, and such problems can be successfully addressed by helping professionals.

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