Thanks to the ubiquitousness of the internet, pornography can easily slide its way into any household. Sex researcher Alvin Cooper, PhD, referred to this as the “triple-A engine” effect: the accessibility, affordability, and anonymity that the internet provides makes it easier than ever to discover erotic material.

Why It’s Problematic

Excessive pornography use can cause problems in many aspects of life, not the least of which is romantic relationships. In 2012, a study conducted at the University of Tennessee surveyed female college students and learned that lower sexual satisfaction, decreased relationship quality, and lower self-esteem were experienced by the women who saw their partners’ porn use as an issue. And a 2013 study looked at heterosexual couples who were living together or married, and they discovered that men’s use of pornography was linked to lower sexual quality for both the men and their female partners.

Ana Bridges, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Arkansas, reported similar findings in her 2011 study. When the porn use of one partner in a relationship was significantly higher than the other, there was often a tendency to emotionally pull back from the relationship. According to Bridges, those people reported “increased secrecy, less intimacy, and also more depression.”

Porn Declared a Public Health Crisis in Utah, South Dakota, & Virginia

The problems associated with porn addiction are real. It can affect your relationships, your quality of life, and even your job. For these reasons and others, the state of Utah was the first to declare pornography a public health crisis in 2016. Governor Gary Herbert said that this was an important step to let “our young people know that there’s a particularly psychological and physiological detriment that comes from addiction to pornography. … The problem is rampant, yet it thrives in secrecy and silence. Today’s bills will start an open discussion, bringing its very real dangers to light.”

Utah is not the only state making such a bold statement; South Dakota and Virginia have both passed similar resolutions, and Tennessee is considering it.

Finding Help

For someone suffering from a pornography addiction, recovery is usually a lifelong process. It’s a conscious choice made daily to “abstain from the substance,” just like any other addiction. As a result, it is vital to have the right tools and resources at your fingertips. You probably hear it all the time, but the first step really is admitting you have a problem.

Another important step is to surround yourself with a network of support, such as a therapist, a support group, or a trusted friend with whom you can be open about your issues. A support group can be particularly helpful, because remember: shame feeds addictions. When you find a group of people you can open up to and listen to their similar stories, the shame of addiction lessens because people around you can relate to your struggles.

Identifying your triggers is another step towards recovery. You have a better chance of avoiding something when it has a name, so learn to recognize them. Develop a plan of action to help you stay committed. Some things to include could be practicing positive self-talk and setting goals, like attending a support group meeting once a week, finding service opportunities, or discovering a new hobby. Download and install porn blocking software on your computer.

Above all else, remember one thing: you’re human. We all make mistakes, and we all fall back into old bad habits. Don’t let that discourage you from trying or distract you from the progress you’ve already made! Overcoming unhealthy patterns is hard, so be kind to yourself. LifeStar Therapy can help.