How do porn addiction symptoms affect your life as a dad?

porn addiction symptoms on dads

A perspective for dads from a dad

It has become pretty mainstream news that porn addiction affects your well-being. The issue used to be strictly seen as a religious concern, but over the years, neuroscience and many secular sources have proven otherwise. This means that as men, we must be on high alert for the times we look to porn as a way to escape or cope with the stressors of life. We must realize that we have far too much at stake when it comes to our families, careers, and passions to let porn get a foothold in our lives. Because If it does, the ripple effect of pornography addiction in the life of a dad is treacherous. As a dad myself and someone who works with dads all over the world struggling with porn addiction problems, I want to share from a place of deep care for what you may be experiencing. To start, let me share a bit of my own story to help you understand where I’m coming from

A personal story of porn addiction problems

I was exposed to porn at 10 when a friend brought me into his dad’s closet to show me some hardcore magazines. Needless to say, I was hooked. This was the beginning of my curiosity and 14-year “secret habit”. This came at a time when my mom fell away from the church and started drinking over at a neighbor’s house on a regular basis and my dad became emotionally and physically distant from me. Here I was, a young boy, longing to be seen and guided by his parents, left alone to figure things out. This is why porn and masturbation became so addicting to me. They numbed my pain, filled my voids, and offered me what nobody else could. Fast forward 10 years and here I am, 20 years old and frustrated with my life. I was completely addicted to porn, chasing sex, struggling with erectile dysfunction, and trying to make a ton of money to cover it all up. I hit a rock bottom not long after and began exploring Christianity as a way to find some direction and guidance in life. This led to me giving my life to Jesus in 2015. He became my savior, redeemer, and hope, and it was in a relationship with Him that I began feeling free to begin healing my deeper issues. Through the church I was attending I got connected to a recovery ministry that became the safe environment I needed to finally share my secret habit with safe and helpful people. At this time, I met my wife Helena. God used her in so many ways to bless me, but I still struggled with porn and masturbation. I lied to her every single day. It was devastating every time she found out I was lying and being unfaithful. This caused major erosion in her trust and 8 months into the marriage and there came another rock bottom for me. I had a choice to make, get honest and real about the help I need or keep lying and hurting my beautiful wife. I couldn’t handle seeing her suffering in silence anymore… our sex life was stagnant, our emotional connection was a rollercoaster and her trust in me was dwindling each and every day. It was this moment paired with a Holy Spirit experience that convicted me on Aug 20th, 2017 to quit porn and masturbation for good and transform my life. This was the beginning of where I am today. Over 5 years free from porn and masturbation started with a rock bottom moment where I couldn’t stand to look at myself in the mirror or imagine another year of my life being thrown into the garbage. Today, Helena and I have a marriage that has been restored – She trusts me, our sex life is thriving, our emotional connection is stronger than ever, we deal with conflict like adults, and we both have confidence individually and in each other. Today, I am a father to my daughter Violet and because of my transformation, I feel equipped to really father her. One of the sweetest things about being a dad who is free of this secret habit is teaching Violet about mommy and daddy’s body parts, her own body parts, and the beauty of God’s design for sexuality, all without any shame or embarrassment. Today, I am a beloved son of God, a husband and a father who gets to live confidently in his healing, humbly in His story, and courageously in His calling. All of this and so much more that I don’t have space to write about has led to me accepting God’s call to become a Christian Porn Recovery Coach through my business Secret Habit Life Coaching. We are all about helping Christian men get more of what they want from their life while becoming Confident, Free & Healthy. We believe as men grow, so grows the rest of their lives. Their spouses and loved ones once again regain confidence in their leadership, all much freer to engage in the world around them, and advance as healthy fulfilled followers of Jesus Christ.

I hope through my story you can get a small glimpse of how damaging porn was for me while seeing how incredible it is to be free. To dig a bit deeper into why porn has such a negative impact on the lives of us men, I want to focus on 3 major ways porn addiction problems can affect your life and cause harm to you and your loved ones

3 ways porn affects your life

#1: Your brain is being destroyed

Our brains are the very core of our ability to function. Us dads need our brains to be firing on all cylinders when we’re up early, working, co-parenting, leading our household and honoring the role of husband and father. Sadly, when the brain has been affected by porn, it loses its ability to function at its fullest potential. 

Most men have heard of dopamine before. Dopamine is the reward chemical that gets released in our brains. What most people don’t know is that the biggest rush gets released upon anticipation of something rewarding, not the reward itself. This is why men who watch porn feel an insurmountable rush before they actually watch and masturbate to it. It’s this rush that creates an addiction. Our brain wants more! Unfortunately, porn is a “supernatural stimulus” meaning it gives a rush of dopamine that is unnatural, aka. your brain can’t handle this much dopamine over and over again. But this is what we do when we get addicted to porn. We end up flooding our brains, shrinking our receptors, and causing issues such as erectile dysfunction and tolerance. This is only one of the many ways porn destroys your brain, but it’s one of the most common ones that men experience.

When you experience the consequences of damaged dopamine receptors, it doesn’t just affect you physically. The emotional effects can also be extremely severe. 

Some potential porn addiction symptoms of a pornified brain are: 

  • Living a double life (your “secret habit”)
  • feeling depressed about your masculinity
  • low confidence in self
  • Low sex drive
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Delayed or Premature ejaculation 
  • Abdication 
  • Trying to control
  • inability to enjoy the simple things in life
  • Highs and lows
  • Short fuse
  • Avoidance of conflict

Take a moment to reflect on how porn may be affecting your life from a purely neurobiological level. It’s important to recognize the impact porn is having on the things you care most about in life… consider how it hinders your parenting, marriage, health, relationships, and career.

#2: Intimacy disorder

There are 2 elements to how pornography creates an intimacy disorder. First off, when we believe the illusion that we can get our sexual needs met without another human being, we’re believing the lie that we can go without intimacy with another. In the beginning, God gave the man a helper (Eve) because “it is not good for man to be alone”. That’s a big statement! To think that watching porn and masturbating is some sort of alternative or substitute to intimacy is a downright lie. Why? Because intimacy is all about being seen, known, and loved by another person (sexual and non-sexual). And porn doesn’t offer any of these. The porn industry is all about ensuring we fixate on our primal desires, take control of our “pleasure” and do it at whatever cost. As men, when we begin to believe the porn industry’s lies about intimacy, masculinity, and sex, we become disconnected and disengaged from true intimacy. Tragically, this causes good men to fail themselves, their wives, and their kids

Secondly, porn actually hinders our ability to be intimate with another person. Not only does the porn industry create a ton of lies about intimacy, but the viewing of porn atrophies the parts of the brain that help us develop intimacy. Maybe you have never thought of this, but in porn, there’s rarely consent, foreplay isn’t a thing and the word ”no” is unheard of. This is not real life. In your day-to-day life, you’re going to experience people saying no, disagreements, and conflict. These are wonderful opportunities to develop intimacy with others through curiosity and compassion, however, if you have learned your relational dynamics through watching porn, that isn’t even an option. This is a prime example of an intimacy disorder. It doesn’t even register to someone who is addicted to porn that conflict can be resolved and that being told no doesn’t have to be an attack on your masculinity or who you are. 

This is wildly important because we all know that being a dad requires things like intimacy, connection, conflict resolution, curiosity and compassion. The very fact that porn hinders your ability to be the best dad you can be is tragic to me. If we go back to God’s design for man to be in connection with another, then we must assume that deep in our souls, we all long to be intimate with others. You desire it, your wife desires it and your children most definitely desire it. I can’t think of something more I wish I had and still long for from my dad… for him to see me, know all of me, and to deeply love who I am in spite of my flaws. That is what intimacy is all about.

#3: Immaturity

As an “inner child recovery specialist” I have learned a lot about how what we feel is different than what is real. Let me explain with this example: Let’s say you’re at work tomorrow and your boss begins to make some critiques of some work you handed in. What if in that moment of being critiqued, you’re reminded of a memory where your dad would never let you make a mistake… he would always critique something, no matter how hard you tried. This left you feeling neglected, ashamed, and unseen. In those moments, you would have a choice, enter into conflict with your dad or retreat into a fantasy world where you could get what you needed/wanted which would end in stress relief via porn and masturbation. At the moment with your boss, your dad is not around. You’re feeling all these feelings surface from when you were a kid, but what is real is that you’re an adult who has a boss that is reminding you of your dad. You now have the decision to make: enter into conflict or retreat in fantasy land (sound familiar?). You’re not going to get mad at your boss because that will just lead to a bigger problem so you mull over what happened, you’re full of all these extra emotions because your inner child is activated and boom, you get home angry, riled up and ready for a release. This is where most men hurt their wives, kids, and selves. It’s not that they planned to watch porn, yell at their kids, or degrade their wives, but in being overwhelmed by past emotions meeting current events, they go into “autopilot”. This is where the idea of “when squeezed, what’s inside coming out” is on full display. We as men act as if we’re children more times than we would like to admit, and really, it’s because at that moment, we are a child (at least, from a brain perspective)

I share all of this to say something really important. If you used porn and masturbation as a way to soothe, numb, and cope growing up, you have programmed yourself to deal with emotional turmoil through porn and masturbation. This is how porn keeps you immature. You never learned how to deal with your emotions in a healthy manner so you run to what makes you forget about them. This is what kids do, and that’s why so many grown men act immaturely. There is a kid living in them that still uses porn and masturbation as a way to cope with what they don’t know how to cope with.

If this cycle is never broken, you will always live from what you feel rather than what is real, and sadly, your wife and kids will never experience what it’s like to have a healthy and mature man leading the house. This isn’t to say you will be perfectly mature in all ways. But it is to say that it’s your job to attune to the parts of you that are immature and learn about the pain they carry and what you can do to “re-parent” them (This is what I help guys do with the inner child recovery approach”)

To learn more about working with Shawn, check out our porn addiction coaching services

3 expert tips to become a healthy dad who doesn’t watch porn and live porn addiction symptoms free

#1: Do a dopamine detox

As I am writing this, my free e-book on “The 4 stages of porn addiction symptoms” has just come out. I say that because this topic really matters, hence the resource I made! When we detox our brain, we give it the time and space it needs to recalibrate. The brain is so used to getting a quick hit of dopamine from your phone, youtube, or whatever else you grab every day and it’s so used to getting the floods of dopamine from porn and masturbation that doesn’t know how to function on a “normal” dose. This becomes your #1 job: to give your brain 90-ish days to recalibrate and detox what is hindering you from being a healthy dad.

This means you’re going to need to do things like finding purposeful activities in your life, moving your body, engaging in meaningful relationships more often, and giving yourself a lot more time with a lot less tech. When your brain recalibrates, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to be satisfied by normal things again… like food, fitness, physical touch, laughter, and so on. All the things God intended us to enjoy and be satisfied in

Read more about “The 4 stages of porn addiction symptoms” and get your free e-book

#2: Renew your mind

Most men that struggle with an addiction to porn that continues living in their secret habit are full of shame and fear. It’s these 2 drivers that keep their thoughts and beliefs so focused on themselves and the “what ifs” of life that they can feel crippled. This is a huge reason why men often live in their heads and carry so much shame. The solution is to renew your mind. This will challenge you to begin thinking about what you think about, to do an internal inventory every day to see what you’re mulling over and to check in with your emotions to learn what affected you throughout the day. Our minds are the powerhouse behind much of our lives and man, you are in control of what you think, believe perceive, say and act on. It’s time for you to take up your responsibility and “man the house” of your own life. 

I have modified an awesome journaling method that I learned about from “the life coaching school” called The Thought Model. I have a breakdown of how to do this exercise here if you would like to learn more

Ultimately, any form of journaling will be helpful. The goal is to become self-aware to the point that you are in control of your mind. This doesn’t mean you’ll get it perfect every time, but it does mean you’ll be able to learn from your mistakes and make changes for the next time.

#3: Mend past wounds

We have all been hurt in one way or another. No one goes through life without experiencing some form of abuse, neglect, rigidity, loss, or something that caused pain. When physical wounds are left undealt with they get “infected” and ache. It’s the same with emotional wounds! And it’s here that many men turn to porn and masturbation as a way to cope/numb the pain they feel. 

Unless your wounds get cleaned out and mended, there cannot be healing. This is where you are called to look at the times in your life when you felt hurt and developed wounds. These can be emotional, physical, and spiritual instances that taught you something about yourself and others that hinders your ability to thrive. 

A really helpful practice you can apply today would be to go and find an old photo of yourself and feel all the feelings that come up. What pain do you remember going through? What support do you remember lacking? What did he need but never seemed to get it? This practice can be the beginning of you pinpointing old wounds and grieving the pain that still troubles you.

If you need some help on where to start with your recovery, join the free Secret Habit men’s recovery community and live porn addiction symptom free

In conclusion

We need to be full of integrity if we want to be the leaders our wives and kids need. Porn addiction problems simply have no place in the life of a man who wants to be a healthy man, husband, and dad. That integrity begins when we say no to the things that do not serve our families and yes to the things that help us become more self-aware. You were made for so much more man! To have a healthy brain, a life of intimacy with those you care most about, and maturity that helps you feel like a real man. Here’s my challenge to you: Kick your secret habit to the curb and start looking at the facts of what’s really going on. If you do, I believe you will experience things like never before: renewed energy, intense focus, confidence in yourself, conflict resolution skills, trust with your wife, and presence with your kids. And these things, and so much more, I desperately want for you and your family.

Shawn Bonneteau

Shawn Bonneteau

Author of this Article

Shawn is the co-founder of Secret Habit. He loves to write, speak and coach men. He has a story of addiction to porn and masturbation, as well as a struggle with Erectile Dysfunction that haunted him for many years into his marriage. He feels called to use his story to bring hope and healing to those stuck in sexual bondage.

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