PTSD Spirituality: Slippery Slope of PTSD Porn Addiction

Why do so many folks with PTSD get a porn addiction?  PTSD sufferers, especially military-induced PTSD, are vulnerable to porn addiction.  PTSD damages our soul and our sense of self.  It damages our relationships, especially with our loved ones.  PTSD creates a PTSD-Identity that tears us apart. 

One of the features of addiction is that you do more and more and get less and less back.  Alcoholics have to drink more to get the same buzz.  Porn addicts have to engage in more porn for longer periods of time to get the same thrill.  Porn addiction damages the soul and our relationships with others.  No wonder it is closely associated with PTSD.

Porn Makes Other People Into Objects

The PTSD-Identity seeks to isolate the sufferer and eventually drive that person to suicide.  One of the ways it does that is through creating a porn addiction.

Porn treats all others as an object to be used and discarded.

Thus, porn gives the PTSD afflicted person practice at treating people like meat to be used and then tossed away.  There is no relationship between the PTSD person and the sex worker in the video.  Porn teaches us how to exploit and discard other human beings.  That attitude is then carried into the relationship with one’s spouse, family, and friends.  In this way, porn drives people apart because the ability to truly care about someone as an individual with value and meaning is being destroyed by the porn addiction (But it’s not hopless!).

The Slippery Slope of Porn Addiction

Pornography sets a slippery slope for its users.  Usually someone begins with photos or video of a single person who is being sexually provocative.  After a short while the thrill that came with the porn recedes and the PTSD sufferer needs to regain that sense of thrill.  In order to do this, they have to look at more porn (quantity) and more diversified porn (types).

By more diversified, we mean that initially a photo with a single nude person may have been sufficient to feel alive again. But then, quickly, the thrill fades and we feel even worse.  To stop that feeling, we go after even worse forms of pornography: we diversify into other types of porn.   

One of the things porn promises is that the user will feel more alive, less numb, and to relieve stress by orgasm.  PTSD bounces us back and forth between extremes of hyper-numbness where we don’t feel anything and extremes of hyperactivity where we want to feel every thrill we can in order to feel alive.  When the porn thrill begins to recede – and it will – then the user needs more diversified porn.

Any stress relief is brief and artificial.  The PTSD anxiety kicks in faster and faster and the use of porn cannot relieve the new enhanced stress.  So, being addicted, one increases quantity and diversity of porn – and makes oneself even more addicted.

Now that they are numb.  They are unfazed by the photo of a single nude person.  So they move onto pictures which include several people, and in this day and age they may go straight to video porn. 

If they go to video porn, it is almost impossible for them to get the same thrill and aliveness they seek from a mere photograph.  Rarely does someone go from video porn back down to simple photographs and be able to maintain the same thrill or get a higher thrill.

To increase the thrill or sense of aliveness, they devour an increasing quantity and diversity of pornography. 

Devour is the right word, because they consume porn and it affects who they become.

To feed the addiction they watch multiple people engaged in sexual acts.  Over time, even that loses its thrill and they seek out other forms of pornography.

To keep reaching for the level of thrill that always feels just out of there reach they may start going to strip or sex clubs.   Often, the porn-addicted soul starts to look at fetish pornography and also they start seeking out videos which include younger and younger sex workers.  They may start watching videos which simulate a sexual assault.  Now they have digressed to the point where they can only find personal joy when someone else is seen to suffer violence. 

Some of those rape videos are professional sex workers who act as if they are being raped.  And, some of those videos are actually people who are being raped.

Where does the slippery slope of porn addiction end up?  It ends in child pornography and snuff films.  I include material about pornography in my class on the Theology of Violence and Non-Violence.  In my studies for that presentation, I’ve read interviews with porn addicted people, usually men.  They reveal the pattern of porn addiction:

     a. Initial thrill from pictures of an adult sex worker

     b. Moves to pictures/video of two sex workers together

     c. Moves to videos of 3+ sex workers together

     d. Moves to videos of mock violence

     e. Moves to videos of younger looking sex workers

     f. Moves to child pornography and real violence

     g. Moves to snuff films

Not everyone goes all the way to snuff films, but some do.  In the studies they said it was the only way they could get a sexual thrill anymore.  They had become burnt out on all of the other stuff.

The porn addiction also consumes their time.  Someone starts out for 15 or so minutes a day – just to relieve stress.  After a while, they start making time for it, sneaking off for it.  Over time they find all of their free time is spent on porn, trying to feel alive, trying to feel unstressed.  Ironically, the very activity of engaging porn creates a stress that it cannot relieve itself.

There is Hope Against PTSD Porn Addiction

People can overcome porn addiction.  It does not have to eat them up, ruin their reputations, cause a divorce, or land them in jail on child porn charges.

Breaking a pornography habit is tough.  Overcoming habituated addictions of any kind are difficult endeavors: drugs, booze, porn, you name it.  But there is hope, it can be done.  You don’t have to allow the PTSD to ruin everything in your life.

The first part is to simply stop.  See if you have the willpower to not be engaged with porn at all for 90 days.  Alongside that is prayer.  Be open to the possibility of God and that God loves you.  You need not explicitly pray to be healed from porn or the images it has branded into your mind.  The images will fade if you don’t keep restocking them.  You can simply pray for healing and grace.  God welcomes your invitation to join together on a journey of healing from the soul wound of PTSD.

Semper Pax, Dr. Z

Comments

  1. Jacqueline says:

    DR. Z. What would your response be to someone that has suffered being in a war for years or abused for years and, still has a rush or thrill to do something on the edge. So far no evidence or theory has been mentioned by this and, I am very interested to hear what you have to say. I know this is not porn related but in the same aspect of getting the thrill. What truly make a person want to seek that thrill even at the age of 70 or 52. I know chemicals in the brain have a lot to do with this but our critical thinking has to play a role as well. In talking with Veterans with PTSD they still have that adrenal rush to do something like a bucket list per say. Not a death wish by far but just the thrill of it. Any advice would be appreciated.

    • Hello Jacqueline,
      Many of us will seek the risky thrills as they are ways we can try to still feel alive, that we know we are alive. Our trauma has made us both hyper-sensitive and blunt at the same time. In order to feel something, we keep pushing the envelope. At other times, moments, events which other people are very sensitive to, may not feel like much to a PTSD survivor. Sometimes, what seems like an horrific event to most people, may not make much of an impact on us. it’s not that we are callous, rather we have been desensitized and blunted by our trauma and the reactions to our traumas later on by other people. In order to “feel” again, we may take on risky and dangerous behaviors.
      While these links may not speak exactly to your question, they may still be helpful:

      http://www.ptsdspirituality.com/2009/09/12/the-ptsd-identity-wanting-to-feel-alive-again-by-living-reckless-extremes/

      http://www.ptsdspirituality.com/2012/05/28/ptsd-spirituality-art-and-writing-for-ptsd-healing-and-exploration/

      This need for adrenaline rushes can also be channeled into behaviors which are not usually thought of as thrill-seeking. While it is difficult to do, one may re-channel this need to feel alive, the sense of aliveness, into creative avenues. Much of my own voyage over the last decade or so has been through creativity. For a while I painted and made drawings. While these tended to be non-verbal and done either sitting or standing in one place, I can say that in some cases the sense of danger, thrill, ecstatic experience, equaled any thrill behaviors I had earlier undertaken due to PTSD.
      Within art (and also within prayer) one has the opportunity to consider their existence and the meaning of their lives and experiences up to that point. This can be rather frightening at times. I would wager that more people would choose to go bungee jumping than try to catch the essence of an experience through artistic endeavor. We can seek meaning and a sense of aliveness in other non-verbal ways such as music and sculpture (I spend perhaps way too much time playing a note on the guitar and then following it with another, trying to appreciate the notes in and of themselves, but also in their relationship to one another, they create a third thing in summation that does not exist as two simple notes…man, can I run off at the mouth sometimes!). I find in story telling and poetry, the same channeling of the thrill-desire can occur.
      Ultimately, beyond the brain chemistry, I think these acts of seeking an adrenaline rush – for the PTSD survivor – are attempts to find personal meaning and the validation that their lives still have value. Fore those who do it simply because it is “fun,” well, have at it. In my own journey, I find arts and spirituality provide me with a sense of meaning and validation which last longer than the act of bungee jumping or thrill-driving…they are also less likely to harm someone else by accident. The act of getting to know my self through art and spirituality is much scarier, and more thrilling, than anything I have experienced as a soldier.

      As in all things, your mileage may vary. Feel free to follow up with your thoughts.
      Semper Pax, Dr. Z

      • Jacqueline says:

        Dr. Z. I felt this as a very powerful message not to just one’s self but for others as well that will be reading this. As you have described in your spirituality I am of the same way. It is scarier to learn about yourself and what the good Lord has in store for us. Just the imagination of it all is well quit consuming and up lifting at best. Like you I have felt through art ( I do crafts) and I love music but do not play is a great way of release in many areas and to show compassion and passion to one’s self and to other. This gives me much gratitude to be able to do this. Not just for me but for others too. Life in general is a thrill all of it’s own to me. To wake up everyday is a blessing to see what God has made for us and touch it and smell it a thrill to me. I am a Psychology student and I am majoring in PTSD to help veterans with this form of problem. While them won the war they are still fighting the battle just like me being abused all my life to the point that I have panic attacks, and I deal with anxiety everyday. But I will say that a few that I talk with on a regular basis I have brought the Lord to them and soothing their souls with his words and mine. Now that is a thrill to me to be able to help and to actually see it in their eyes like a baby taking their first step or watching them learn. I have really enjoyed your writing and look forward to hearing more and learning more from you. I think your mileage has brought you much life. Thanks again,

        Jacqueline

        • Hello Jacqueline,
          I took the liberty of transforming your question and my response into a separate post. It struck me that your question has a widespread application and deserved to be highlighted. I am glad that as a psychology student you are allowed to focus on PTSD. PTSD does not really care just how we were traumatized, but it’s happy to abuse us all the same. I hope that trauma survivors, regardless of the exact source, can receive healing, meaning, and peace of mind.
          Semper Pax, Dr. Z

          • Jacqueline says:

            Dr. Z. I am very pleased that you feel this away about my post, and I thank you very much. I would also have to say that you are absolutely correct that PTSD does not really care just how we were traumatized, but it’s happy to abuse us all the time. With self insight because of my abuse and because I have grown up with Military through out my family I have seen what it has done to family’s. friends, and personal acquaintances that I have worked with over the years. One thing I would like to share that I have done is of two subjects that I am currently working with on my own. I have given them a flat piece of Albany a part of a seashell that is nice and smooth. I tell them when ever you feel in your heart that something is going to happen or something that you can’t deal with like in the form of anxiety, porn, panic, depression, anger and, to just rub that with your fingers and just imagine that God made that for us and for you to save yourself with this little piece of earth. It seems to calm them in a sense that relieves them of the stress and other behaviors as well. Sometimes we can do the simplest things in life to help another. Words are a great expression to give to one another. One day our milestones will me done and we will be with him. I hope that we can further talk more but I do understand that this is a discussion post meant for something else. But you have lifted me up also and for that I am grateful.

            Jacqueline

  2. Rich Hunsicker says:

    This has been so enciteful for me… When I read something that discribes me i feel I have been varified and explaned Y I feel and did all the things I have done… Thank You for your honisty…

    • Hi Rich, I am glad that some of this was helpful to you. In our honesty we can figure out to improve and heal. Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  3. I don’t know if this article really strikes true for me, it seems to rely on the old implicit AA paradigm that addictive behaviors always and inevitably result in the most serious and pathological consequences (in the case of alcohol, death).

    Is pornography generally harmful, especially in large quantities? Almost inevitably, in my own opinion. Does it always lead to “child pornography and snuff films”? Not at all, *in my opinion*.

    Thus while there’s nothing wrong with raising the alarm on morally and psychologically destructive behavior(s) that many people feel are harmless, sensationalizing the negative potential in an overgeneralized way also detracts from the debate (and in addition can perhaps increase the susceptibility of people with PTSD symptoms to worsened outcomes, insofar as they experience their real-life suffering and problems to have been subordinated to someone else’s religious-political agenda).

    • Hello and thank you for your thoughtful comment. I have never actually studied all of the AA steps, but people do seem to connect what I find with PTSD to the steps found in AA. Most of the experience I have which led me to writing this particular essay is based on the porn consumption of people with PTSD, not always military people, and college age young adults. Usually in the latter case, it is the girlfriends and fiances (sp?) of young men who have discovered bad things on their male partner’s computers. And, my experience in the PTSD and pornography axis is pretty much limited to North America.

      The general slippery slow, while not an immutable law, tends to hold up, even if the porn consumer does not turn into a consumer of snuff films. Rarely, is a person able to go back to a “milder” form of porn once they have imbibed stronger porn for a while. They may be able to quit entirely altogether their use of porn, but they don’t often go back to casual use, whatever that may be.

      As far as the parenthetical statement at the end of your comment: Alas, I do have a “religious-politico agenda.” My agenda is to help people understand the spiritual dimensions of PTSD and to promote the sanctity of all life. I am upfront about my title being an academic doctorate in theology and not a medical or psychological version of the title. I also strongly encourage people to seek out medical and psychological assistance, not only spiritual understanding. Thus, the suffering of others is not subordinated to my agenda. This website is not written for an audience of medical practitioners, or even advanced theologians, for that matter (Ibn Rush would typify it as audiences one and two). But anecdotally, the website, based on non-scientific feedback, seems to help others who are trying to understand the spiritual dimensions of PTSD, relationship-destroying behaviors, and ultimately to prevent suicide. At the risk of sounding Aesopian: the site, and the essay in question, appears to help more people than it could possibly harm.

      That all said, I am very grateful for your reading and your comment. It made me again consider the how and why of what I do. Such a stimulus is always valuable. My journey is not applicable to 100% of everyone else. And, for those for whom it does not resonate I hope and prayer (literally) that they will keep searching for understanding, dialogue, and the choice to stay alive. As I am fond of saying: Your mileage may vary. Semper Pax, Dr. Z

      • Hi, thanks for your response.

        I agree that people rarely go back to milder forms of pornography (they either realize they have to stop altogether or they don’t), but I would suspect that most stop before getting into child pornography and certainly snuff films as you say.

        Also I am not opposed to religious-spiritual perspectives per se, but rather I think it’s important to keep religion and science as separate as possible, that is, don’t prostitute science in the name of religion—but also *don’t* worship science as another form of absolute truth (which many people do nowadays, it’s called “scientism”).

        (I don’t question your commitment to trying to help but I would also caution you to be careful in assuming who’s getting hurt/helped, it’s very hard to know from a strictly online presence how people are reacting since very few people actually respond and that is a self-selected population [usually complimentary]).

  4. Hi Becky, Thank you for your comment. You are right that no spouse would want to try and emulate what sex workers do in porn films. I was reading one man’s comments on his experience with porn. He said it made him more aggressive. As he watched more “simulated” rapes he began to emulate that violence in bed with his spouse. He realized that he no longer was involved in consentual love with his wife. He was raping her, not loving her.

    Porn is vampiric: it leeches the love, tenderness, and devotion, out of a relationship. All parties are harmed. Thankfully, a person can recover from porn addiction. Discovering or re-establishing healthy loving relationships will cause PTSD to wither. By embracing life and nourishing relationships the porn can be defeated. Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  5. Wow Dr. Z. Great post. I am left with the thought that even though one is stricken with PTSD, and the PTSD personality wants the sufferer to be alone, the natural and true desire of the human being is to be loved by another human being. Porn quickly destroys the ability of real men to love real women, and vice versa I suppose. No woman could live up to what is portrayed on the porn screen (nor should she want to!). Porn is a travesty of our society, sucking the very life and love out of the people who have fallen prey to it’s lure, as well as the people who participate in it’s production.

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