Is There a Link Between Porn Addiction and OCD?

Excerpt: Some people have an overwhelming fear of dirt or germs while others obsessively perform ritual behaviors including opening and closing doors, turning on and off light switches, or avoiding cracks in the sidewalk. Unwanted thoughts related to sexual subjects and content are another component of OCD and the focus of this article.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder affects over 2 million people in varying degrees and expresses itself in many different ways. Some people have an overwhelming fear of dirt or germs while others obsessively perform ritual behaviors including opening and closing doors, turning on and off light switches, or avoiding cracks in the sidewalk. Unwanted thoughts related to sexual subjects and content are another component of OCD and the focus of this article.

Here we’ll explore how the compulsion to view pornography is similar to other OCD behaviors and how some researchers believe OCD diagnostic tests can help identify and treat porn addiction.

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Understanding Compulsion in OCD and Porn Addiction

It’s important to note that there’s no direct correlation between obsessive-compulsive disorder and porn addiction. Not all OCD sufferers will develop porn addiction and not all porn addicts have OCD. There is, however, enough overlap in these two conditions to make some interesting comparisons.

The patterns of compulsive behavior associated with OCD are reminiscent of those exhibited by porn addicts. First, a thought or urge enters your mind. Instantly, you feel a mix of emotions including momentary excitement about indulging in the compulsive behavior followed by instant regret for giving in to these urges.

Now, your mind is racing as you struggle to suppress these feelings and prevent future, unwanted behaviors. The more attention you give these urges, the harder it is to resist. If you do give in, you’re now filled with remorse, guilt, and shame.

Even if you successfully suppress these thoughts, they’re sure to creep back in. Each time your mind wanders or you’re met with a new temptation, you’ll experience a flood of negative emotions and go through the same ritual of compulsive behaviors once more. These repeated patterns of behavior are common among both OCD sufferers and porn addicts.

Diagnosing OCD and Porn Addiction

Recent studies show that the test used to identify obsessive-compulsive disorder can help doctors identify sex and porn addiction in men. That’s not to say that men are the only ones who suffer from these addictions, but most studies have been conducted on male patients who are at greater risk of developing porn addiction.

Both OCD and porn addiction are non-substance-related behavior disorders. Currently, the Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale (or Y-BOCS) is used to assess OCD sufferers. Researchers believe that this same assessment can be applied to men who are engaged in an addictive consumption of pornography and identify issues and behaviors related to sex and porn addiction.

Signs of OCD and Porn Addiction

Before we discuss the Y-BOCS and how it’s helping those with OCD and porn addiction, let’s quickly cover the most common signs of both these behavioral disorders.

Signs of OCD

As mentioned earlier, OCD sufferers exhibit a wide range of behaviors in various degrees. For some people with obsessive-compulsive disorder, their ritualistic tendencies go unnoticed, while others are much more obvious and intrusive.

Here are just a few compulsive behaviors associated with OCD:

  • Fear of dirt and germs
  • Fear of hurting yourself or others
  • Fear of making a mistake
  • Fear of embarrassment or shame
  • Fear of hostile thoughts (including those regarding religion and sex)
  • Need for order and cleanliness
  • Extreme need to clean or wash your hands
  • Repeated “checking” or counting
  • Collecting or hoarding items

Some OCD sufferers exhibit more than one of these behaviors. OCD involves a compulsive need to repeat the same patterns of behavior to feel satisfied, fulfilled, and even safe in some cases.

Signs of Sex and Porn Addiction

The signs of sex or porn addictionncluding:

  • Inability to stop watching porn (or having sex) despite negative consequences
  • The need to watch more porn to achieve the same desired effect
  • Losing interest in sex with a partner/lack of intimacy
  • Spending money you don’t have on your porn habit
  • You’re in physical discomfort including digital eye strain, sore neck and back, and even discomfort from excessive masturbating
  • Irritability and mood swings

For many porn addicts, the act of watching pornography and masturbating triggers a chemical reaction in the brain similar to that of drugs or alcohol. Without it, your body struggles to produce natural feelings of happiness and relaxation. Irritability and mood swings can negatively impact your relationships. A lack of connection with your partner is another sign that your porn habit is interfering with your relationship.

Both OCD and porn addiction are considered behavioral addictions that cause changes in both brain function and normal daily behaviors. While there’s currently no standard to diagnose sex or porn addiction, some doctors are using screening tools to get closer to an answer and resolution. Excessive consumption of porn may eventually lead to sex addiction in various forms. Some porn addicts consume videos online while others prefer books, magazines, and photographs. One other classification growing in popularity in the medical field is “cybersex addiction”, which refers to a dysfunctional reliance on Internet pornography.

The Y-BOCS Explained

So, how exactly is a scale for diagnosing OCD helping to identify porn and sex addiction? Remember, both behavioral disorders involve compulsive behaviors. There’s a fine line between a compulsion and an addiction.

In broad terms, addiction is the process by which someone becomes dependent on a particular substance or behavior. The dependency becomes so strong that the person continues to engage in this behavior, regardless of the consequences. On the other hand, a compulsion is an intense urge to do something that may eventually lead to a specific behavior. Because these two tendencies are so closely linked, it’s not surprising that the Y-BOCS may help identify both.

What is the Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale?

This scale was originally designed to help health professionals test clients for symptoms associated with OCD. Factors include recurring, disruptive thoughts (referred to as obsessions), as well as compulsive, repeated behaviors used to relieve the mental pressure of the obsession. The scale focuses on behaviors related to cleanliness, religion and sex, illness, and contamination. Other obsessive behaviors evaluated on the scale including hoarding, counting, placing things in a specific order, and superstitious beliefs.

How does Y-BOCS Identify Porn Addiction?

So, what does all this mean for identifying and treating porn addiction? In a study published in Comprehensive Psychiatry, the Y-BOCS was used to evaluable 103 men who had potential sex (porn) addiction. At the time, each participant was seeking help and treatment for their condition, which also included a dysfunctional consumption of pornography. At least half the test subjects also had a history of sex with unidentified partners. The main focus of this study was the obsessive-compulsive consumption of porn and other forms of sexual activity and behaviors. After two separate studies, researchers confirmed that the assessment can be used as a useful indicator of OCD behaviors as they relate to sex and porn addiction.

The test also revealed several other interesting discoveries including:

  • Men with depression or anxiety had significantly worse symptoms of sex-related OCD
  • As much as 94% of all participants also had other, underlying mental health issues

As with most scientific studies on behavior, more research is needed to determine the underlying cause of sex and porn addiction and how it’s related to obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

Compulsive Behaviors May Lead to Addiction

Because the line between compulsion and addiction is so fine, many OCD behaviors can manifest into unhealthy addiction. Just because you have OCD doesn’t mean you’ll develop a porn addiction and not all porn addicts also have OCD tendencies. It is, however, interesting to note that the same scale used for diagnosing OCD may play an important role in identifying porn and sex addiction.

Many addicts don’t need a scale or even an assessment to determine that they have a problem. All they need is a little perspective and honesty. Take an objective look at how your porn habit is affecting your life. If you’re having trouble stopping or are experiencing any of the signs of addiction listed above, the Stop Together program can help.

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