Tell Me About It

My life is slipping away from me due to my porn habit

I’ve never had sex and my experiences so far have been disastrous

PROBLEM: I am 27 and am struggling with my porn use. I have stayed off using it for nearly a month now and thought I was doing well, but then my resolve weakened and now I am back using it compulsively.

I had decided to stop using it so that I might have a better chance of actually dating someone, but in the month I was off it nothing happened. I find that it is really difficult to think about an actual sexual situation with someone and the panic is almost too much.

I’ve never had sex and I am not sure if I can get that to work. My experiences so far have been disastrous: when I go drinking I can sometimes meet someone, but then when the sex stuff happens I lose interest and just want to get out of there.

I’ve always been a bit of a loner and have been described as shy, but now I am angry at myself as I can feel my life slipping away from me. I want all the things that other people have – a relationship and a family – but it feels as though this might never happen. I know the anger I have is not doing me good and the porn answer is making everything worse.

I work in IT and don’t have much chance of meeting someone through work. My family are always at me to bring someone home, and I just get angry at them. What can I do?

ADVICE: It sounds as though life has become so tough for you that you are determined to do something about it. The fact that you avoided porn for a month shows how seriously you are taking your situation, and it also demonstrates that you have a capacity for tackling the more difficult aspects of change.

Your porn use sounds as though it has developed as a way of distracting you from the more difficult aspects of your life, such as risky social situations, but it now has become a habit that in itself is a problem. You are angry and panicked that life is passing you by, and your family are also pushing you to move into a more connected state of living.

You say you are a loner and shy by nature. This means that social situations present you with stressful responses, and none more anxiety-inducing than possible intimacy. In order to avoid this trauma you turned to porn as a stress release; it worked initially, in that you got pleasure and release, but perhaps over time it became more compulsive and it felt as though your level of choice decreased. You are also creating a sexual response that is geared towards fantasy. You have no history of desire working in a real human situation. This may take some effort to change. You have two things to tackle: the porn habit and social anxiety.

Many people who are trying to break a porn habit say it takes more than a year of abstinence to stop the yearning. There are obviously many people who find it easier than this, but it is worth noting that you need to take a long-term view. Breaking habits is hard, and you may find there are many setbacks, so any support you can garner is good.

The Porn Trap by Wendy Maltz might be helpful to keep you on track by highlighting the pitfalls. If you find you are struggling and you cannot tell anyone in your life, you might consider some counselling; there will be times when you need help with motivation and support.

If you manage to cut your porn use down, you may be able to use your natural desire to push you into social contact with attractive people. However, you will probably find that social anxiety offsets the desire, at least initially. We know that fear and anxiety act as a deterrent to libido, so you will need to take the steps towards a real relationships slowly.

First, you might consider where you might be likely to meet partners you find attractive. For example, if you like sporty people, you might research social clubs. Then you might set yourself a challenge of attending an event once a week or fortnight. Initially, the aim is to simply turn up, but after a while you can set yourself the target of having one sentence with someone who you find attractive and gradually move this to suggesting coffee.

The move towards intimacy needs to be slow to allow time for your panic and anxiety to settle. You are looking at months rather than weeks. Ideally you will tell someone – a friend or family member – of your aim so that you are not alone in this endeavour. Even the act of telling them will be a practice of intimacy and a challenge to your current isolation.