When Porn is a Compulsive Numbing Tool

When Porn is a Compulsive Numbing Tool

If you read about compulsive porn use, there’s a lot of information that takes the discussion about problematic porn use to the extremes: it’s either always a problem or it’s never a problem. Like most things, the answer of whether or not it’s a problem for you is personal. Regardless of whether or not it’s actually a problem for you, it’s a good idea to examine how you use numbing tools and whether or not you’re at risk numbing too often.

Numbing

All of us numb. Whether it’s by using our phones, zoning out on social media, or eating our favorite tasty foods, every single one of us uses numbing at times to cope with difficult times that are going on in our lives. By itself, short bursts of numbing behaviors aren’t really that problematic. It can even be self-care. However, because there’s no concrete answer about how much time equals a problem with numbing, it’s difficult to tell if you’re experiencing a problem when you do indeed use things to numb.

Rather than get all or nothing about numbing, I recommend you examine your life, what you want out of your relationships and goals, and whether the behavior is helping you or hindering you. If too much time is spent numbing, you risk losing out on deep connections, you can negatively impact your health, and you can avoid reaching goals you want to achieve. This is why it’s important to look at what you want. Do you want deeper connections? What would you like to be different in your life? Is numbing giving you a much needed break?

When you examine these things, you’ll often find that you have unmet needs, you want things to change, or you’re not tending to things that are making you dissatisfied. Keep reading because I’ll get more into that later.

Let’s Talk Compulsivity

For some, numbing becomes so relied upon that the behavior itself becomes compulsive. By compulsive I mean that even though you make efforts to change the behavior, you just can’t seem to do it. You end up engaging in it for longer periods of time than you want to, giving up even more meaningful things to engage in it, and become increasingly frustrated with yourself. This does sometimes happen with porn usage.

There are some things you can do however to start making a change:

  1. Make a plan. It is so tempting to try to make behavioral changes without a plan. “I’ll just stop.” However, this rarely works out. What usually happens without a plan is that you just fall right into the behavior. This usually happens becomes numbing is kind of dissociating. More on that later…
  2. Don’t wait until tomorrow. Because of the hedonistic qualities of numbing, it’s really tempting to just give yourself that one more moment with the behavior rather than focusing on making a change. We’ll often say to ourselves I’ll start making the change tomorrow. However, when tomorrow comes, the same pattern often takes place. You return to the same philosophy of “I’ll make the change tomorrow.”
  3. Care for your challenging emotions. Remember that numbing can give you a break. Sometimes, the break it’s giving you is actually from intense feelings. It’s amazing how often people’s compulsive behaviors decrease or even evaporate when they learn how to accept and manage emotions like anxiety, anger, and sadness. Learn more about how you feel and what to do with these feelings.

Dissociation

Numbing is tricky to catch before you start engaging in a behavior. There’s a natural dissociated quality about it and we’re often already kind of detached when we numb. Remember that one of the reasons we numb is that we need reprieve or a break. Thus, if you’re overwhelmed, you may start working to get some relief before you even know it.

When I work with people who are trying to make behavioral changes, it’s extremely common that they’ll tell me they don’t even know how or when they started engaging in the behavior. This is why mindfulness work is so important. Learning about how you feel and how to tap into your experience in the present moment can go a long way in minimizing the amount of time you have to rely on dissociation in general.

Meeting Unmet Needs

If you’re overlying on porn use to numb, it could be a sign of unmet needs. There are times where you need to have open conversations with your partner about your sexual needs if those are what you’re feeling frustrated about. Ultimately, you’re responsible for your sexual needs, but relationships thrive on communication, boundaries, and compromise. At the same time, your partner can’t read your mind. They have to hear about how you’re feeling to negotiate anything.

However, numbing isn’t just related to unmet sexual needs. If you’re feeling disconnected or you’re lacking support, you may rely on numbing in those situations as well. Whether it’s sex, emotional connection, relationships or any other missing need, it’s up to you to identify it and express it.

Vulnerability

Speaking of connection, we have to get vulnerable to connect with others. Numbing is a specific way to get away from being vulnerable with others. Therefore, when you identify that you’re spending extra time numbing, you may look to see if you’re putting yourself in enough situations where you can connect, open up, and take mindful risks to share.

Mindful Hedonism

Hedonism can get a bad wrap. However, it’s great to do things for pleasure. However, it’s also really difficult and even vulnerable to do so. You might feel selfish or guilty when you work on getting more of what you want. This is why I like the term “mindful hedonism.” Rather than mindlessly ending up in numbing situations, you can turn your attention to identifying and appreciating what pleasurable things you want to engage in and identify boundary around these things. These boundaries can help you feel less guilty about simply enjoying yourself, while also feeling grounded and oriented to your personal values and goals.


If you’re in Texas and struggling to manage any compulsive behavior including porn use , please feel free to contact us to learn more about how we can help.

 

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