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Are Sex Addiction and Pornography Addiction The Same Thing?

By  Michael LoRe
For those who struggle with compulsive sexual behavior, pornography consumption may also be a problematic behavior.

Sex addiction is a highly debated topic. It isn't classified by the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), but was recently added to the World Health Organization's International Classification of Diseases (ICD). For those who struggle with compulsive sexual behavior, pornography consumption may also be a problematic behavior.

"Sex addiction can manifest in a variety of ways, one of which is an addiction to pornography," says Dr. Carla Manly, a clinical psychologist and sex expert. "In essence, a pornography addiction is just one disorder under the main category of sexual addictions."

Compulsive sexual behavior disorder is defined in the ICD as: "a persistent pattern of failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses or urges resulting in repetitive sexual behavior." Because of this uncontrollable erratic and intense behavior, it's common that those dealing with compulsive sexual behavior disorder have underlying mental health issues including bipolar disorder, depression, or obsessive compulsive disorder.

As with any addiction, there are tell-tale signs you or someone you know may have a problem. With sex addiction, you are constantly thinking about sex and acting on those urges regardless of potential consequences. A sex addiction comes with a misuse or overuse of sexuality, according to Dr. Manly, which includes anything and everything from fetishes to pornography and masturbation. If you are a sex addict who gets his/her fix from porn, you then misuse or abuse that material for sexual pleasure.

"Porn viewing, though not a substance, produces those same brain responses," says Dr. Mike Anderson, a sex and relationship expert. "If the viewing is accompanied by masturbation and orgasm — as it often is — the chemical and hormonal response is all the more complex and powerful, and the desire to repeat the behavior far stronger."

While those who struggle from compulsive sexual behavior disorder will do anything they can to fulfill their thoughts, fantasies and urges, some seek sex with another person, while others may prefer the less personal means of pornography. Because of this difference, some view sex addiction and porn addiction as separate disorders.

"There are some obvious similarities and areas of overlap between the two," says Dr. Daniel Sher, a clinical psychologist. "It is even possible to struggle with both both porn and sex addiction-like behaviors at the same time. However, they are not the same thing."

"With sex addiction there's a more significant interpersonal component. The person with the addiction needs to be having sex with another person in order to satisfy their need — porn alone wouldn't cut it. For this reason, people with sex addiction are often extroverted and eager to mingle. People who are addicted to pornography, on the other hand, are more likely to be introverted and happy to stay at home."