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  • Writer's pictureJake Kastleman

Feeling Bad About Porn Makes You Crave It Even More | How Shame Intensifies Porn Addiction



How do shame and porn addiction go hand-in-hand, and how can feeling bad about porn addiction make you more likely to seek it out?


Let’s say you had a relapse with porn recently. You feel all the typical side effects over the days afterward: low mood, trouble focusing and feeling motivated, trouble connecting with others. 


You feel more unhinged, you have brain fog, and you’ve got these cravings and fantasies constantly distracting you and making it hard to stay present and enjoy life and being with your loved ones. 


Underneath it all is the shame and guilt. The feeling that your dirty, messed up, and that if others knew about your addiction, they wouldn’t love you or associate with you. 


You commit “I’m never going to do that again!” You’re done. 


A few days go by and you start feeling a little better. The cravings are still there, but at least some of the fog has passed. You start to feel like maybe you’re getting the hang of this. Maybe you’ve got it handled. Then, something happens - perhaps stress at work, conflict at home, or just a bad day - and you relapse and start the whole cycle over again. 


Every time you do this, you feel worse and worse about your problem with porn. More and more ashamed of the behavior, and often more and more ashamed of who you are. If you feel so bad about it, you wonder why you can’t just give it up and move on. 


Why are you constantly drawn back to this thing that you hate? 


The strange and paradoxical thing about porn addiction - and all addiction for that matter - is that the intense hate you feel for yourself and your addictive behavior - the shame you feel - is actually a big part of what keeps driving you back to the addiction


This can feel confusing and discouraging for my new clients when they first come to understand this, until they understand what to do about it.


Read on to find out.


The Paradoxical Psychology of Addiction & Shame

We’re often taught in our households and society that the worse we feel when we do something wrong, the more likely we are to stop doing that thing. To an extent, that’s true. Negative feelings like fear and guilt can be great short-term motivators for change. 


That said, when some of us feel bad about something, it’s often not from a place of guilt (“I did something bad”), but instead from a place of shame (“I am bad”). 


We feel our mistake isn’t simply a reflection of what we did, but a reflection of the type of person we are. And when we feel bad about who we are, not just what we did, this in turn causes us to repeat the negative behavior again and again and again. 


This happens for a few reasons, which I’ll list below.


Perfectionism: Our mind believes mistakes define us 

Perfectionism is linked with porn addiction. Sometimes, we believe that only bad people do bad things, therefore we must be a bad person because we make mistakes. This unfair unconscious belief keeps us locked in an endless cycle of the same mistakes, due to our negative self-image.


Suffering: The stress weighs us down

The worse we feel about ourselves, the more we suffer. This suffering can fuel a desire to escape and self-sooth - such as through destructive addictions. 


Intensity: Negative emotions can add to the mental stimulation of an experience

It’s important to understand that the basest parts of our human brain favor one thing only: intensity. Negative or positive. As long as an experience is intense, our mind may be drawn back to it. 


Even if we hate it, that hatred is an intense and highly stimulating emotion. Resisting an addiction can actually cause us to engage with it again and again.


Focus: We get what we focus on

“I’m going to do this”, or, “I’m not going to do this.”


“I want this”, or, “I don’t want this.”


To our conscious minds, the phrases above are opposites of each other. However, to our unconscious minds, they are one and the same. 


Whether I say, “I’m going to do this”, or, “I’m not going to do this”, my focus is on whatever “this” is. So, if I say, “I’m not going to give in to my addiction”, or, “I don’t want to look at porn ever again”, what am I focusing on? 


Porn: the thing that I don’t want. 


If I feel horrible about porn, and I am consistently focusing on not doing it, I am more likely to do it.


Self-Punishment: I deserve to be punished

Feeling horrible about ourselves because of our addictions may cause us to unconsciously feel a drive to harm or destroy ourselves. We may engage in addictive behaviors because our unconscious mind believes that we should be punished for our mistakes. 


Afterall, if I am a bad person - if I am unworthy of love - don’t I deserve to live a life of suffering? 


So, intense emotions of shame because I am watching porn will not help me stop watching porn, it will often cause me to seek it out more often and with greater intensity. 


Solutions to Shame and Porn Addiction

Here are a few things you can do to overcome porn addiction and the shame that drives us back to it. 


Focus on What You Do Want

Instead of thinking “I’m never going to watch porn again”, start focusing on what you will do with your time. What new hobbies, interests, purposes, etc. can you get busy with? 


It may feel difficult to motivate yourself to do these things at first, but if you stick with it and practice, eventually you will enjoy other interests more and more as they take the place of your pornography addiction.


Use Relapses as Learning Experiences

Instead of allowing yourself to become overwhelmed by shame and regret because of a relapse, ask yourself what you can learn from the experience. 


What negative thoughts, emotions, or situations led you to the relapse in the first place? What can you do differently next time to avoid these factors and transform your situation? 


Reduce Harm

This advice is a bit unorthodox. But, instead of expecting yourself to quit porn cold turkey, reduce the harm of relapses. In other words, if you would typically spend an hour watching porn and masturbating, see if you can decrease it to a half hour. Or, see if you can reduce the intensity of the material you are watching. Or, see if you can only masturbate and not watch porn.


I have never had a client who has quit cold turkey. I didn’t quit cold turkey. Once I started taking real strides in developing a recovery mindset and lifestyle, it still took me months to wean off of porn, and years to wean off of masturbation. 


For most people, it doesn’t all happen at once. So show yourself some compassion as you learn to reduce the frequency and intensity of your addictive behaviors. 


Celebrate Progress 

Get focused on your victories. Celebrate the days you are sober. When you relapse or slip up, determine what you can learn from the mistake, and then move on. 


Celebrate any ounce of progress. If you used to watch porn 5 times a week on average, and now you watch it 4 times, celebrate that. Focus on your successes, and let that focus motivate you to do even better next time and push for eventual long-lasting sobriety from porn.  


Hope this helps, brother. 







Transcription of Episode 48: Feeling Bad About Porn Makes You Crave It Even More | How Shame Intensifies Porn Addiction



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