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Drinking Habits

The Connection Between Porn Addiction and Alcohol 

Published:
June 22, 2024
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22 min read
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Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
June 22, 2024
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
June 22, 2024
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
June 22, 2024
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Reframe Content Team
June 22, 2024
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22 min read

The Link Between Porn and Alcohol Addiction Poses Risks

  • Porn and alcohol consumption have similar effects on our brain that can lead to dependence.
  • Since porn and alcohol addiction commonly co-occur, overcoming a porn addiction may go hand-in-hand with addressing our drinking habits. 
  • Reframe can help us overcome addictive behaviors and build healthier habits to improve our overall well-being!

Imagine this: we’re kicking back after a long day with a glass (or two) of wine, scrolling through our phone. One click leads to another, and before we know it, we’ve ventured into the realm of adult entertainment. While this scenario may sound harmless at first, it can be the start of an intertwined dependency — leading to long-term consequences.

These two seemingly different habits both offer a fleeting sense of pleasure and escape from reality that can impact our lives in unexpected ways. By understanding the complexities of porn addiction and alcohol abuse, we can better navigate the path to recovery. So, grab a drink (non-alcoholic), and join us as we explore the surprising and often hidden connection and consequences of these habits.

Understanding Signs of Porn Addiction

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Porn addiction is the impaired ability to stop watching pornography, which may interfere with daily life activities and relationships. Although it’s not acknowledged in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), porn addiction is recognized by the World Health Organization as a part of Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder (CSBD)

Like other addictive substances such as alcohol and drugs, watching porn can trigger the release of dopamine in our brain. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter or chemical messenger that is responsible for feelings of pleasure, satisfaction, and motivation. Excessive viewing of porn can lead to decreased natural dopamine production — leading us to seek more dopamine externally. Like with alcohol consumption, not all of us who watch porn will become dependent. Factors such as mental health conditions, biological factors, and environmental influences can add to the risk of developing dependence.

When porn dependence manifests, it can be identified through various signs and symptoms:

  • Viewing excessively
  • Interrupting everyday responsibilities
  • Losing track of time
  • Feeling ashamed or guilty after viewing
  • Isolating yourself
  • Lying about behaviors
  • Experiencing sexual dysfunction
  • Feeling out of control

With a clearer understanding of the signs of porn addiction, it’s also important to recognize the prevalence and impact of this issue.

Porn Addiction Statistics

The detrimental impact of porn addiction spans all facets of our life, including mental health, relationships, social life, and professional functioning. Let’s examine just how widespread the issue is through these staggering statistics: 

Similarly, the extensive impact of porn addiction is outlined in the following findings in this 2023 narrative review:

  • Porn correlates with an increased desire for rough or violent sex.
  • Porn sites get more visitors than Amazon, Twitter, and Netflix combined.
  • Porn addiction causes higher rates of general anxiety, psychological distress, and decreased emotional bonding.
  • 9.8% of drug addicts were also addicted to porn.

Porn addiction itself is harmful to our overall health and well-being. When we add alcohol consumption into the equation, things get even more complicated. Let’s take a deeper dive into the relationship between the two.

Porn, Alcohol Consumption, and the Link to Addiction

Although two seemingly different habits, porn and alcohol consumption are often intertwined — increasing the risk of addiction. Let’s take a deeper dive into why they often co-occur. 

Shared Risk Factors

The common threads connecting porn and alcohol consumption frequently intersect, which leads to addictive behaviors. Some vulnerabilities include the following:

  • Genetic predisposition. Those of us with a family history of substance use disorder are also more likely to develop substance misuse. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), genetics accounts for roughly 50% of the risk of developing alcohol use disorder (AUD).
  • Environmental influences. Stress, trauma, and adverse childhood experiences can lead to the development of poor coping mechanisms such as porn and alcohol misuse. Exposure to addictive substances or behaviors also increases our risk. Research shows that children who grow up with parents who drink regularly are more likely to consume alcohol.
  • Psychological factors. Mental health conditions and certain personality traits can contribute to the development of porn and alcohol addiction. Traits such as impulsivity and sensation-seeking are often linked with risky behaviors, including consumption of alcohol and porn. Additionally, research shows that disorders such as anxiety and depression regularly occur in those with substance use disorder or other addictive behaviors, including porn addiction. 

Now that we’ve identified the shared risk factors between alcohol and porn addiction, let’s investigate the mechanisms that facilitate their co-occurrence.

Consequences of Co-occurring Porn and Alcohol Addiction

Mechanisms of Co-occurrence

In addition to shared risk factors, the intersection of these vulnerabilities, which lead to co-occurrence, overlap in many ways: 

  • Neurological connections. Alcohol and porn addiction act on similar pathways in the brain, hijacking the brain’s reward system. When our dopamine levels dip, our brain seeks other activities that produce high levels of dopamine, a theory known as cross-sensitization. This means that after drinking, we may turn to watching porn to seek that same pleasure boost and vice versa — leading to a cycle of dependence and addiction. 
  • Behavioral patterns. Key behavioral patterns involved in co-occurrence of porn and alcohol addiction include compulsive use, tolerance, avoidance, and reinforcement. The compulsive nature of these behaviors can lead to excessive time spent consuming alcohol and porn. Over time, this can lead to increased tolerance — requiring more extreme behaviors to get the desired effects. Both alcohol and porn are also used as a means of avoidance — a way to distract yourself or escape. This immediate gratification can reinforce their use as coping mechanisms, making it difficult to break free from addiction. 
  • Psychological interplay. Alcohol and porn addiction can often be used as coping mechanisms for one another — escalating addictive behaviors. The act of watching porn can leave us feeling shameful and guilt-ridden. It can drive us to drink as a way to distract us from our uncomfortable feelings. Alcohol can lower our inhibitions and decision-making abilities, increasing the chance of risky behaviors such as watching porn. Although alcohol and porn act on the same pathways in the brain, the complex interaction of psychological factors can reinforce and exacerbate each other.

By delving into how alcohol and porn addiction interrelate and reinforce each other, we can better understand why co-occurrence can be so detrimental.

Double Trouble: Consequences of Porn and Alcohol Addiction

The intersection of porn and alcohol addiction can exacerbate their detrimental effects, resulting in a complex web of consequences that affect mental, physical, and social health. 

  • Exacerbated dependence. Alcohol and porn dependence can fuel one another. When intertwined, the feelings of pleasure can increase—and increase the risk of seeking this same “high.” It becomes even more difficult to break free from dependence.
  • A toll on our body. Dual addiction can lead to compounded health problems. Alcohol misuse can result in liver disease, cardiovascular issues, and neurological damage. Porn addiction causes sexual dysfunction and changes in our brain function. Many of these effects overlap and/or exacerbate one another, leading to co-occurring health conditions. 
  • Emotional turmoil. Porn and alcohol addiction are often associated with feelings of shame, guilt, and isolation. These feelings heighten our risk of such mental health conditions as anxiety and depression, which co-occur with these dependencies. 
  • Impacted work performance. Alcohol and porn addiction put our other priorities on the back burner. By prioritizing habits such as drinking and watching porn, other priorities — for example, academic and work performance — often slip. 
  • Relationship woes. Negative behaviors due to prioritizing alcohol and porn consumption strain relationships. Hiding our addiction also leads to isolation — pushing away those close to us.

As we can see, porn and alcohol addiction alone are harmful to our overall well-being, but when intertwined, they can be even more detrimental. How can we break free from the cycle of dual addiction?

How To Overcome Porn Addiction and Alcohol Addiction

Simultaneous dependencies are difficult to manage. However, there are many treatment options that can help us address both issues.

  • Behavioral therapies. Porn and alcohol addictions are marked by the inability to stop, even if we want to. Targeting our behaviors through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), or motivational interviewing (MI) can help us better understand and change them. 
  • Support groups. There are options for alcohol addiction, porn addiction, and multiple dependency support groups. Peer support groups can be beneficial to our recovery as we can develop a sense of community and be reminded that our struggles are shared experiences. 
  • Pharmacological interventions. Medication-assisted treatment is often used for alcohol addiction because it’s marked by neurological changes. Since porn addiction involves similar changes in our brain, medications used to treat alcohol addiction are often used to treat co-occurring dependencies. Although there are no official FDA-approved medications to treat porn addiction, antidepressants, specifically selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are frequently used.
  • Limit alcohol intake. Since both porn and alcohol affect dopamine production, quitting or cutting back on alcohol while treating a porn addiction will help the brain return to balance.

While there are options for independent and co-occurring treatment models, taking the step to recovery and maintaining the path can be challenging at times. Recognizing these challenges sets us up to overcome them.

Challenges With Navigating Alcohol and Porn Addiction Recovery

Porn and alcohol addiction alone are often stigmatized and associated with feelings of shame. When combined, these feelings can be even further exacerbated. This can negatively impact our willingness to seek treatment — highlighting the importance of overcoming societal and personal stigma in order to better address these issues. 

Another common challenge in recovery is the prevalence of relapse. Relapses are difficult as they often make us feel like we’ve failed when actually they are often part of the recovery process due to the chronic nature of addiction. Developing strategies for preventing and overcoming relapse can help us stay on track. 

Even when we’re ready to start the road to recovery, accessing treatment for the co-occurrence of alcohol and porn addiction can be challenging. Although specialized treatment programs are available, they aren’t prevalent. Financial barriers and insurance coverage can be obstacles to accessing the care we need. Although navigating alcohol and porn addiction can be difficult, we don’t have to do it alone. Let’s see how we can better support those with porn addiction.

How To Help Someone With a Porn Addiction

Supporting someone who may not realize they have a porn addiction or are in denial about the problem can be challenging but not impossible. As we’ve learned, porn addiction is commonly surrounded by feelings of shame and guilt, making it difficult to admit we have a problem. However, we can take intentional actions to motivate loved ones to embark on a path to healthier consumption. 

  • Monitor the issue. At first, we can monitor how much time someone spends watching porn to see the extent that it affects them. We can also take this time to better plan how to address the situation. 
  • Track the impact. After we’ve gotten a better idea of a person’s habits, we can take note of how it affects them. Look out for how watching porn affects their mood, performance, stress, relationships, and self-care. We can refer to these later to help us encourage them to seek support (in a nonconfrontational way). We can also notice how their habits make us feel so we can communicate that to them.
  • Communicate intentionally. Communication is key when trying to support someone with an addiction. Set aside time to talk and limit distractions to highlight the importance of the topic. Being patient and understanding can also prevent someone from becoming defensive and derailing the conversation. While it’s important to communicate our feelings, it’s also important to take time to listen to what they have to say.
  • Explore treatment options. Letting someone know we’re there to support them is great, but helping them explore treatment options will help them take the first step. There are many options to meet an individual’s particular needs.

These steps can be used for supporting someone with a porn or alcohol addiction. However, they’re commonly co-occurring. What additional considerations should we keep in mind when supporting a loved one with co-occurring dependencies?

Supporting Someone With Co-occurring Addictions

Navigating co-occurring addictions can be extra challenging due to increased stigma and additional barriers. Approaching the situation with empathy and understanding is key when supporting a loved one. Here are some practices we can implement.

  • Create a judgment-free space. Co-occurring addictions can be associated with greater feelings of shame. By creating a judgment-free space for our loved one, they may be less afraid to ask for help when they need it. Stigma is often a major barrier in accessing treatment. 
  • Encourage professional treatment. Alcohol and porn addiction can be serious conditions with dangerous effects. Although we may be offering all the support we can, sometimes professional help is needed. Taking that step can be difficult, so encouraging them and helping them access treatment is critical. 
  • Provide accountability. Overcoming co-occuring alcohol and porn addictions is doubly challenging. By providing accountability in a nonjudgmental way, we can help those struggling to stay on track. 
  • Suggest other activities. Healthy distractions — getting out in nature, participating in daily movement, exploring hobbies — help loved ones get involved in the community. Healthy activities also keep their mind off drinking or watching porn, especially as cravings may increase after quitting.
  • Practice self-care. As much as we’d like to help our loved one break free from alcohol and porn addiction, setting boundaries is important to ensure we’re also caring for ourselves. This way we’ll also prevent strains on our relationship and ensure we have the energy to support them over time.

Porn and alcohol addiction not only affects those who are struggling with dependence, but those around them as well. We can take steps to prevent or treat alcohol and porn addiction as we embark on a healthier and happier life for ourselves and our loved ones!

Gaining Respect for Ourselves

Struggling with alcohol and porn addiction can be lonely and isolating, but it’s actually more common than we think. Both alcohol and porn act on similar mechanisms in our brain and fuel the dependence of one another. Although breaking free from the cycle of this double trouble can be challenging, it’s entirely possible! By understanding the shared risk factors and mechanisms behind these co-occurring addictions, we can take the necessary steps to regain control and lead healthier, happier lives. Cheers to making positive changes and embracing a life full of real, lasting pleasures!

Summary FAQs

1. What are some porn addiction symptoms to look out for?

Interruptions to daily life, feeling out of control, and sexual dysfunction can be signs of porn addiction.

2. How are alcohol misuse and porn addiction connected?

Alcohol misuse and porn addiction fuel one another, leading to increased negative effects.

3. Why is the combination of alcohol and porn addictions so dangerous?

When the two are intertwined, some of us may be less likely to seek treatment due to shame or embarrassment. 

4. How are porn and alcohol addictions treated?

Porn and alcohol addictions can be treated with behavioral therapies, support groups, and medication-assisted treatment.

5. What steps can I take to prevent co-occurring alcohol and porn addictions?

Limit alcohol and porn consumption, identify natural ways to boost dopamine levels, and develop positive coping strategies for stress.

Take Steps Toward a Healthier Lifestyle With Reframe!

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

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And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app today!

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