Religion makes people think they are more addicted to PORN than they really are

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Religion makes people think that they are more addicted to pornography — and believe that their tastes are more extreme — than they really are.

US researchers said that a fear of addiction to pornography may be causing unnecessary distress among people engaging in perfectly normal behaviour.

The team supports the official recognition of compulsive sexual behaviour disorder, but warns that therapists must consider their own biases when making diagnoses.

‘Self-reported addiction to pornography is probably deeply intertwined with religious and moral beliefs for some people,’ said paper author and psychologist Joshua Grubbs of Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

‘When people morally disapprove of pornography but still use it anyway, they are more likely to report that pornography is interfering with their lives.’

Professor Grubbs and colleagues analysed the beliefs of more than 3,500 people across two studies and found that moral or religious beliefs are a central contributing factor to distress over porn use.

The team found that those who were religious were more likely to believe they were addicted to porn, even if their porn use was the same as less religious participants who did not believe their porn use was a problem.

‘We are not suggesting that people need to change their moral or religious beliefs,’ Professor Grubbs said.

Yet, he added, ‘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.’ 

‘However, if someone wants to reduce their porn use because it causes distress, then therapists should work with them in a non-judgemental way that doesn’t induce shame.’

This confusion is of concern to psychologists, who call for compulsive sexual behaviour disorder (CSBD) to be included in the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders, as accurate diagnoses are not being made.

Professor Grubbs said that he supports a diagnosis for CSBD as a distinct mental illness, but said that mental health professionals must ensure their own biases do not lead to inaccuracies.

For example, previous research has shown that therapists are less likely to diagnose LGBTQ people with CSBD, while religious therapists are more likely to view porn use as addictive and evidence of a mental illness.

‘This diagnosis enables access to care for people who need treatment,’ Professor Grubbs added.

‘Cultural sensitivity is needed for any diagnosis,’ he continued.

‘CSBD will require that clinicians and therapists be aware of and sensitive to the unique aspects of themselves and their clients that might influence how symptoms should be addressed.’

The full findings of the study were published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology. 

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