21st Century Morality: Religious Beliefs Make People Falsely Think They’re Addicted To Porn

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — Porn addiction is a very real condition that can develop if an individual allows their habit to spiral out of control. That being said, a fascinating new set of research has concluded that certain people may falsely believe they have a porn problem due to their religious and moral beliefs. In reality, these individuals’ porn consumption habits are usually on the low-end of the spectrum, or at worst, average.

“Self-reported addiction to pornography is probably deeply intertwined with religious and moral beliefs for some people,” comments lead researcher Joshua B. Grubbs, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology at Bowling Green State University, in a release. “When people morally disapprove of pornography but still use it anyway, they are more likely to report that pornography is interfering with their lives.”

Over the course of two studies that included over 3,500 people, the research team noted that moral and religious beliefs play a pivotal role in how distressed a person becomes regarding their porn use.

The first study encompassed 2,200 online participants, intended to serve as an accurate representation of the U.S. population, as well as 467 undergraduate students from Bowling Green State University. All of these people were surveyed on their porn habits and religious or moral positions. Interestingly, participants who reported being religious and believing that pornography is evil were also more likely to say they’re addicted in comparison to participants who didn’t see anything morally objectionable about porn. Regarding porn usage, religious individuals were more likely to believe they were addicted to porn, even though in most cases their reported usage was the same as less religious participants who feel they don’t have a problem.

The second study was made up of 850 U.S. adults who were initially surveyed on their porn habits and religious beliefs. Then, each person completed follow up questionnaires every four months for a full year. The ensuing results were similar to the first study; more religious people reported being addicted to pornography more often. Also, over time, if a participant reported becoming more morally ashamed of porn, they usually became that much more likely to believe they had a porn problem.

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“We are not suggesting that people need to change their moral or religious beliefs, but it’s not helpful for someone with a low or normal amount of porn use to be convinced that they have an addiction because they feel bad about it,” Grubbs comments. “However, if someone wants to reduce their porn use because it causes distress, then therapists should work with them in a non-judgmental way that doesn’t induce shame.”

More religious individuals who are convinced they have a porn problem may also wrongly assume they suffer from compulsive sexual behavior disorder (CSBD), an already fairly controversial disorder within the world of mental health treatment. CSBD is characterized by an inability to control urges of sexual gratification.

Besides the patients themselves, Grubbs says that therapists must also be sure not to let their own moral beliefs influence their diagnoses when it comes to CSBD. Prior studies have found that many therapists tend not to diagnose CSBD in LGBTQ patients. Meanwhile, more religious therapists are more likely to consider porn consumption, even sporadic use, as an addiction and sign of mental illness.

Just because someone feels badly about their porn habit, and even visits a therapist for help, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are addicted or suffering from CSBD. That’s why, according to Grubbs and his team, therapists must establish objective measures for CSBD diagnosis and not rely on a patient’s own opinion. Surefire signs of legitimate CSBD include failed attempts to quit porn and porn usage seriously interfering with an individual’s work and home life.

The study is published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

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