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  • Writer's pictureDr. Natalie Ma

Spectrum of Pornography

Updated: Apr 29

From Treating Pornography, by Kevin B. Skinner.

It is best to look at pornography dependence on a continuum. You can evaluate yourself on the spectrum to understand the fluctuations in your life that change your involvement with pornography.

Level 1: This is the mildest form of pornography use. You may look at pornography once or twice a year or accidentally come across the material while on the internet. You can count the number of times you've seen online nudity, and your daily thoughts are not focused on pornography. Although your pornography use is insignificant, you have to be mindful not to view it inadvertently.

Level 2: At this point, pornography use does not create significant problems. It does not dominate your daily thinking, but the curiosity is growing, and the intent of being on the computer is to view pornography. Episodes of pornography involvement occur a few times a year with minimal fantasies. 

Level 3. This is when the behavior can be considered a compulsive behavior. You are likely to be viewing pornography about once a month, and it becomes unbearable not to see it. Binging and restrictive behavior are happening. Level 3 is where you may feel like you can manage your behavior through monitoring, but it takes great effort, and fantasies are growing. You may be thinking about pornography and planning how to view it. More time is spent involved in pornography, there are withdrawal symptoms, and the content is more robust.

Level 4: At level four, pornography involvement is impacting your life, and there is less focus on work, school, family, and relationships. You may question if you have a problem and wonder why you are viewing more hard-core content. Fantasizing has increased, and euphoria occurs when thinking about pornographic images. You may be fighting off strong urges to view pornography and more irritability if you cannot. This may be happening a few times a week. Many people have fought pornography use for many years at this level. You have tried stopping many times but give in after a few weeks or months. There is a sense of hopelessness because it is so hard to stop.

Level 5: This is now a regular day-to-day occurrence. Viewing pornography has limited your personal growth, and losses have occurred in other places in your life. Your life consists of watching movie clips, X-rated videos, and streaming. You spend significant time fantasizing and then feeling overwhelmed by your involvement. More intense withdrawal symptoms happen, and you can only go a few days without it. 

Level 6: Pornography has dominated your life. You think about it and other sexual things. It is no longer just for entertainment and relaxation, but now to avoid withdrawal. Compulsive behaviors and actions are present. You feel out of control; you lie about your use and cover-up, and spend too much time downloading clips and creating your secret stash. You have lost the drive to succeed at work and home because you can only attend to pornography.

Level 7: Viewing pornography and sexual acting out are happening daily. You can't focus except on sex and pornography. You feel powerless and hopeless. You spend part of the day searching for sufficiently stimulating images. Your work, happiness, relationships, and money have been affected by pornography. You are frequently lying, turning down social engagements, and isolating because of the shame. You cannot escape from pornographic images and sexual thoughts. You may start to act out deviant sexual fantasies to feel satisfactory sexual release. At level 7, your family, relationships, work, and health sufferings are evident to everyone around you. 

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