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Shelley Osterloh ReportingNearly every day there are stories in the news about people being arrested for dealing in pornography. The stories may be shocking, but psychologists say they are not surprising. Addiction to pornography is becoming increasingly common and treatment centers are seeing more and more patients trying to kick a habit just as destructive as drug or alcohol dependency.
Many people believe pornography is bad or immoral, but few understand how incredibly addictive it can be. Studies show that as many as one in five adult Americans could be at risk of becoming addicted to pornography.
Every day 68 million requests are made on search engines for pornography, and 70% of teens with computer access say they have seen a pornographic web site. It's a tough subject for a lot of people to talk about, but tonight one recovering addict speaks out in hopes of warning others.
The Gathering Place has been treating drug and alcohol addictions for more than 35 years. This year counselors have had a 400% increase in requests for sexual addiction treatment.
Sharon Kay, Ph.D., Executive Director, The Gathering Place: "A person who is starting to look at pornography and becomes addicted, they will begin to act exactly like any other addict. They will crave it, they will seek it, they will be obsessed by it. It will take over their life just like a cocaine addiction."
One 40-year old Utah county man saw his first porn magazine when he was 9. As an older teen pornography began to occupy his thoughts.
Roger, Recovering Pornography Addict: "For me it was constantly trying to find more to satisfy the appetite that it had started."
Sex addict counselors say the addiction to pornography is both psychological and physical. Repeated sexual arousal causes a "high" when the brain produces endorphins.
Dr. Sharon Kay: "If you pair a picture with masturbation and orgasm over and over again what you are going to get is that our brain is going to be trained to be sexually responsive to the picture rather than a person. And this interferes with any kind of a normal sexual relationship and actually interferes with a regular relationship with people because you can begin to see people as just sex objects."
Roger: "You look at your wife differently and you tend to get curious about relationships with other women, and that’s been, I hate to admit it, but that's the reason my first marriage ended."
Counselors say in the cyber age the odds of addiction are much higher. Internet porn sites are seducing a generation of sex addicts.
Tim Adams, LCSW, Sexual Addictions Program Director: "With the advent of the Internet, an individual can go from an addiction from soft core to hard core pornography in a matter of hours, or weeks, so the time it takes for the individual to become addicted is much shorter."
Roger says he tried to talk about his addiction with church counselors and even professional counselors, but they did not know how to help him. At The Gathering Place, which specializes in addictions, he got the individual and group therapy treatment he needed.
Dr. Sharon Kay: "If it is understood as an addiction, that is, people can come in, stop thinking of themselves as a bad person, stop thinking of themselves as sick or perverted and begin to understand that they've been addicted to something and need to find ways to control that, they need to find ways to avoid that." Like any addict, Roger knows he will always be at risk so he avoids computers and the Internet, the easiest source for porn. He says, for the first time in many years he is free of guilt and shame.
Roger: "It’s very nice to be to a point where you can actually think about work and family and other things and not worry about thinking about pornography."
Counselors say the recovery success rate for porn addicts is good if they get comprehensive treatment.