Purity is possible: hope for those hooked on porn
A teaching psychiatrist goes online to help people with addictive behaviours
In addition, we have reproduced with his permission an article from his website explaining in some detail the science behind pornography.
Q. You are a busy private practitioner and teaching as well – what led you to reach out to addicts online?
A. In my clinical practice I focus primarily on treating anxiety disorders. In many cases, it became clear that addictive behaviors were also part of the picture, playing a role in maintaining patterns of avoidance that kept the anxiety from improving. It was natural to apply the same approach that I used in treating anxiety to treating these avoidant addictive behaviors, and I found that the approach was quite successful.
Creating the educational websites purityispossible.com for addictive sexual behaviors, and overcomingcravings.com for addictive disorders in general, was the most logical way to help people by making this approach better known. [overcomingcravings.com is not online yet, but should be VERY soon...]
Q. When you speak of ‘addiction’ in regard to sexual behaviours, are you using a metaphor?
A. From a behavioral therapy standpoint, an addiction is a repeated behavior in which the costs outweigh the benefits that you engage in because of cravings. The presence of a craving does not itself make an addiction: one can crave things and yet not meet this definition of addiction IF the costs of the behavior do not outweigh its benefits.
If the behavior violates one’s ideals and values, however, there is no benefit that can make up for it. So we can say even more simply that an addiction is anytime you violate your ideals because of cravings. The definition applies equally to all addictive behaviors.
Q. Could you explain how the purity is possible website works?
A. The site is broken into nine interactive modules. I wanted a format that allows for questions and answers, so that the experience would feel more personal, and so that I could give more complete explanations when needed to address concepts that were misunderstood. The nine topics covered are all necessary elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy.
The first step is to help people clarify their ideals, so that they have a positive target in mind; this also allows for an introduction to the concepts of virtuous and vicious cycles, which are at the core of behavioral therapy. The second module covers the specific ideal of patience, which is the crucial virtue for breaking the power of cravings. The next modules discuss the elements of patience in more detail, and gradually the material gets more specific and concrete, allowing for measured, focused practice.
Q. ‘Purity is possible for everyone,’ you say. This offers a lot of hope, but purity seems a very challenging ideal for people today. How do people you deal with respond to it?
A. In my experience, people are relieved to find an optimistic approach that combines high ideals and well-crafted practice. The idea of the website began when I saw how my patients responded so positively, and so quickly, to the cognitive-behavioral approach to cravings. From the feedback I get from readers of the website, I can see that the game-changing power of this approach is now reaching a much wider audience.
See also: The science behind pornography
For your weekend reading we have a very important article on the science of addiction -- to pornography in this case -- and how it can be overcome, plus a short interview with the author, psychiatrist Kevin Majeres.
We continue to hear how increasing numbers of men, mainly, are exposed to porn and become hooked on it. Dr Majeres, who used cognitive behavioural therapy with people who want to break with addictive behaviours and he teaches the method at Harvard Medical School. But he has also just launched a website to reach more people and has another site in the pipeline. What is most important about his approach is its optimism: it is possible to overcome these cravings, he insists.
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A teaching psychiatrist goes online to help people with addictive behaviours.
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