By Eddie Capparucci, Ph.D., LPC, C-CSAS
When I first meet a man struggling with porn addiction, he often uses the following introduction: “Hi, I am Ted Smith, and I am a porn addict.”
First adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous, addiction groups universally utilize the fill-in-the-blank addict label.
I hate it.
There are two reasons for my disgust with this name tag. The first concerns the stigma it places on an individual. Like a black mark, a stigma can crush self-esteem, causing shame and embarrassment. It also can hinder someone from seeking treatment.
The second reason is the label Porn Addict is inaccurate. The central problem facing anyone with an addiction problem is they have an addictive brain. Dr. Daniel Amen is a world-renowned psychologist who specializes in brain health. He has this to say about the addictive brain.
“The brain’s reward system is an intricate network of brain circuits and neurotransmitters that work together to drive you to seek out rewarding things (such as food and sex) while regulating self-control, so you don’t overdo it,” says Dr. Amen, who is a 12-time NY Times best-selling author. “In people with addictions, however, the brain’s drive circuits dominate, and the self-control circuit doesn’t work hard enough. The result is a lack of self-restraint and, for some people, addictive behaviors.”
With all this said, should individuals who struggle with porn addiction ignore their condition to avoid the label? Of course not. They must be responsible for their poor choices and learn to develop impulse control to manage their addictive behaviors.
They also need to recognize their identity is not based on the disorder, but that is what the label porn addict does – reinforces a negative identity.
In his best-selling book, Atomic Habits, James Clear writes if you want to achieve lasting behavioral changes, such as removing addictive behaviors, what is required is a true change in your identity.
Therefore, instead of labeling yourself as a porn addict, your new identity could be one of the following:
- I have an addictive brain
- I don’t view porn
- I am a child of God
- I seek to be an individual with integrity
- I am like everyone else, a broken individual
- I strive to do the right thing
Sometimes minor changes such as stating your true identity can help you succeed in managing pornography.
Eddie Capparucci, Ph.D., LPC, C-CSAS, specializes in treating sex/porn addiction. He is the creator of the Inner Child Model, a trauma-based approach for treating Problematic Sexual Behaviors. He is the author of Going Deeper: How the Inner Child Impacts Your Sexual Addiction and Why Men Struggle to Love: Overcoming Relational Blind Spots. Visit his website at http://www.innerchild-sexaddiction.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.