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Dual Diagnosis: Alcohol and Porn Addiction

    Dual Diagnosis: Alcohol and Porn Addiction

    The link between alcohol and porn addiction creates a challenging situation for those with the problem as well as those connected to the person.

    In 2018, 82% of adults drank in the UK.(1) In the same year, 75,787 were being treated for alcohol misuse.(2) It’s safe to assume that there are many people with drinking problems who don’t access treatment, so although the statistic for those in treatment is high, the reality is that there will be many more people living with the destructive impact of alcohol.

    One survey showed that 3.2% of 1011 respondents watched porn every day. That’s just over 32 people of 1011.(3) It’s safe to assume that in a population of over 66 million, there are thousands of people who watch porn every day.

    It’s incredibly common that where alcohol misuse exists there is a tendency for other mental health issues to occur too, this includes the addiction to porn.

    Does porn addiction really exist?

    There’s a lot of controversy in the scientific field as to whether porn is an addiction. However, as years have passed, it’s become generally accepted that people can become addicted to porn. Porn addiction is slightly different to alcohol addiction.

    Firstly, porn is known as a behavioural or process addiction rather than one which is created by the chemicals in a substance. There are similarities, however, between the two types of addictions.

    When a person drinks alcohol, it activates the reward system in the brain. A release of serotonin and dopamine causes a person to feel good. This also occurs with porn use.

    The difference between behavioural and substance addiction is that the second directly impacts the brain’s neurotransmitter systems (releasing the feel-good chemicals).

    Behavioural addiction to porn indirectly impacts these systems through the repetition of porn-related behaviours (i.e. watching porn). Both types of addictions come with withdrawal symptoms and negative impacts.

    As with other addictions, the compulsive behaviours of a porn addiction usually reach a point where no pleasure is gained from the action. People will usually associate the act or habit with guilt and shame. With the additional negative repercussions typical of addictions, it becomes the cause of many uncomfortable feelings, events, and health risks.

    How can you tell if someone is addicted to porn?

    There are various symptoms that a person has developed a porn addiction. As with all addictions, there are the effects it has on a person as well as the impact that ripples out throughout life.

    Addictions typically destroy relationships as well as healthy functioning in most areas of life. Here are some typical signs that porn addiction exists:

    • Thinking and talking about it
    • Watching it compulsively
    • Being unable to stop watching it
    • Secretive behaviours around watching porn
    • Experiencing negative feelings after watching it
    • Losing sexual desires in intimate relationships
    • Negative impact on work
    • Increase in drinking and other unhealthy behaviours

    A problem with porn is especially damaging where people are in relationships as it can seriously reduce sexual desire. For some, porn might be prefered over sexual intimacy and this can be incredibly hurtful to the person’s partner, no matter how unintentional the unhealthy compulsions are.

    When a person has both an addiction to porn and alcohol this would be termed a dual diagnosis.

    What does dual diagnosis mean?

    A dual diagnosis (or comorbid condition) is where a mental health problem and addiction exist at the same time. There’s an incredibly high correlation between the two conditions, and this also occurs between alcohol and porn addiction.(4)

    Many people who have mental health problems will use alcohol to try and regulate their moods. Of course, using alcohol long-term to self-medicate is dangerous. It not only increases the risk of physical illnesses but also increases the likelihood of causing or exacerbating negative mental health symptoms.

    If a person is addicted to porn and experiences unpleasant feelings and repercussions around their use, then they are at an increased risk of drinking. People use alcohol to try and regulate mood and make themselves feel better.

    The issue with this, however, is that when this happens regularly then alcohol addiction and dependence can develop.

    Some people might use alcohol in order to feel less inhibited about watching porn. This might cause the two issues to become associated with each other and thereafter alcohol dependency can develop.

    Although a person might undergo treatment for one condition, it can sometimes be difficult to seek help for both. Both types of addiction come with a type of stigma and sex-related addictions are often difficult for people to admit due to their private nature.

    Is there treatment for alcohol and porn addiction?

    There are various recovery programmes available to treat both substance and behavioural addictions. Where the two exist together, it’s advisable to seek treatment for the two at the same time.

    Is detox necessary?

    Many people with alcohol problems might also have developed a dependency. When this has happened a detox will be essential as a way to taper the person from alcohol safely.

    The withdrawal effects of alcohol can be incredibly dangerous. This is why rehab centres provide an excellent environment for recovery as there are medical staff available at all times to ensure a person’s health and safety. Doctors are also available to prescribe medications to help manage uncomfortable symptoms.

    Psychological therapies to treat alcohol and porn addiction

    After any necessary detox has taken place a person is then able to focus on the psychological aspect of recovery. It’s essential that for the best chances of healing to take place, a person receives appropriate treatments.

    In terms of addiction where thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are manipulated by substances and compulsive urges, therapy is necessary. Two evidence-based therapies that have supported thousands towards an abstinent life include:

    • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
    • Dialectical Behavioural Therapy.

    Where a dual diagnosis exists, therapists will develop a combined treatment programme so both addictions are addressed.

    In the above-mentioned therapies, patients become aware of how uncontrolled thoughts lead to uncontrolled behaviours. Techniques are introduced that enable people to identify triggers, become aware of what they’re thinking, and then regain autonomy of the related behaviours.

    Rehabilitation centres in the UK

    There are many private rehabilitation clinics throughout the UK. People are usually given the choice of whether they want to stay close to home or to go further afield.

    There are pros and cons to both. Staying near to a person’s local area offers easier family therapy options. Going to rehab far away gives a person distance from the place the addictive habits usually take place.

    As well as offering detoxes and therapies, rehab clinics also provide alternative therapies such as yoga, mindfulness, equine therapy, and reiki. 12 Step structured groups also offer an excellent space for mentoring relationships to develop. This side of rehabilitation is as important as psychological therapies.

    Addiction impacts every aspect of what makes a person human and so every part of the person is supported in treatment.

    How can you be referred to rehab?

    Finding out about your treatment options and contacting the relevant professionals can sometimes feel daunting. The OK Rehab team is very happy to support you by explaining your treatment options as well as making any necessary referrals.

    Final Thoughts

    It’s common that when a person has an addiction to porn, they might also have a problem with alcohol. It’s also likely for people to have pre-existing mental health issues when living with alcohol and porn addictions.

    The reasons people use alcohol in relation to porn use could be to lower inhibitions or to try and suppress negative feelings around habits.

    When alcohol is drunk often alongside porn, this can develop an association between the two and thereafter increase the chances of addiction and dependency to alcohol.

    Due to the nature of sex addictions, it can be difficult for people to explain that there is a porn problem. However, it’s important to admit this when seeking treatment in order for the two conditions to be treated simultaneously as this provides the most solid basis to structure treatment programmes on.

    Recovery is possible. Contact OK Rehab to find out how and where you can access support.

    References

    1. https://files.digital.nhs.uk/A3/2F03E4/HSE18-Adult-Health-Related-Behaviours-rep-v2.pdf
    2. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/substance-misuse-treatment-for-adults-statistics-2017-to-2018/alcohol-and-drug-treatment-for-adults-statistics-summary-2017-to-2018
    3. https://www.statista.com/statistics/675230/united-kingdom-uk-survey-usage-of-internet-pornography-with-advanced-age/
    4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3354400/

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