One of the most common questions that people ask me in the first session is, "Should I stop looking at porn?" There isn't an easy answer to that question. Pornography could be poisonous to one person, but have little noticeable impact on someone else. If you are wondering about your own porn-watching habits, here are some things to consider.
Why are you watching?
If you take a few minutes to think about it, you may notice that there are multiple answers to this question. One answer might be as simple as feeling sexual tension and wanting release. But there may be more to it than just that. Do you notice that you look more when you are feeling anxious, or during periods of high stress? Do you ever look just because you are bored? Do you look in order to calm down, or to rev-up? Do you look in order to "get in the zone" before a sexual encounter?
If you answered yes to any of these questions it suggests that your relationship with pornography isn't purely sexual. That doesn't mean you are addicted to porn, or even that you have an unhealthy relationship with porn. It does mean that you should pay close attention to the next two questions.
How does it make you feel - before, during, and after?
This is one of the most important considerations when deciding whether you should take a break from porn. Pornography is an extremely potent form of entertainment. If you notice that your interactions with porn produce unpleasant feelings (unlike other forms of entertainment), it probably makes sense to try stepping back for a while. For example, before you watch, does the feeling of anticipation ever get so strong that it seems like anxiety? Do you feel let-down if circumstances make it impossible for you to watch porn when you had been planning on it? When you are watching, do you feel "numb" or unplugged from the things in your life that cause you stress? After you have watched, do you feel guilt or shame? Do you ever promise yourself that this was the last time?
How do you think it would feel to stop?
It is difficult to stop any behavior that has become frequent. When you think about taking a break from watching porn, or stopping altogether, what are the feelings that come up? Often when people get to a place where it makes sense to stop or reduce, they feel some hesitation when they think about doing those things. Perhaps it's because there have been unsuccessful attempts before. Or, maybe you have trouble imagining what your life would be like without porn. That is especially the case if porn has become a big part of your life.
If you notice that you feel unsettled when you think about stopping, it is another indication that your relationship with porn has become complicated, and deserves more of your attention.
The Bottom Line
You are the only person qualified to decide if you need to stop looking at pornography. In order to make that decision, take some time (10 or 15 minutes) and really think hard about your relationship to porn. If you are a take-it-or-leave-it type person when it comes to porn, then there probably isn't a compelling reason to stop at this time. However, if you notice strong feelings attached to how you use pornography, or the prospect of stopping, then it probably does make sense to consider some kind of porn-holiday.