4 Ways To Cut Back On Watching So Much Porn
Stressed? You watch porn. Happy? Porn. Got an extra minute? Porn. If you worry that porn addiction is a thing that might be happening to you and want to quit watching so much of it, here’s what to know.
First off, porn addiction isn’t recognised as an official disorder, meaning it’s not in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), so you can’t really be diagnosed with it. Experts think that’s a good thing. “I try not to pathologise masturbating or watching porn,” says Ian Kerner, Ph.D., sex therapist and author of She Comes First.
Instead of thinking of what you’re doing as a porn addiction, start thinking about whether your use of porn is helping you get closer to the kind of life you want, or whether it’s taking you farther away from it. “Porn can be expansive and can create connection,” says Vienna Pharaon, a couples therapist based in New York City. “And porn can be isolating, numbing, distracting, and cause disconnection.”
Usually, watching a lot of porn isn’t about porn; it’s about something else that’s going on in your life that’s worth paying attention to. Often, porn is substituting for something, taking your attention from something, or preventing you from something—meaning it’s getting in the way of your life or your IRL relationship.
Instead of forcing yourself to quit watching it cold turkey, “take a level-headed approach to all this,” says Kerner. Here’s how:
1. Get clear on what you’re trying to avoid.
“If you’re using porn as a way to self-medicate or numb out, it’s important to get clear on what you’re distracting yourself from,” says Pharaon. Really get to the bottom of “’I’m watching porn instead of feeling X.’ That prompt can be confronting and difficult to answer, yet deeply valuable. It’s far easier to distract than to get present with things that are uncomfortable for us, yet that’s exactly what we ought to explore,” she says.
2. Ask yourself what else you’d rather be doing with your life in the time you spend watching porn.
Then use watching porn as a reward for doing those things. Maybe wait to do it until you’ve finished your workout. Or until you’ve made plans with someone to connect in real life. “Then it feels like it’s been earned or it’s a reward as opposed to something that’s squandered or wasted time,” Kerner says. Watching porn becomes a potential source of energy, not a default.
3. Detach certain activities from masturbating.
“Maybe being on Tinder or Instagram isn’t the best time to be masturbating,” Kerner says.
Look at what, besides porn, turns you on.
If you only ever watch porn to get turned on, Kerner says, “sometimes men get over-accustomed to that stimulation.” Sex—even with yourself—is a richer experience when you have more to draw on, like going through your mental library of images and partners, reading erotica, or noticing things in your environment that turn you on.
If you are using porn in an unhealthy way, stop worrying about it and use the strategies above. Kerner says, “everything is really correctible.”