Information for Especially For Church Leaders
It will be helpful to you to review the information under The Basics tab before reading the below information. Also, there is a free download of the manual, Information About Pornography and Sexual Addiction: A Resource for LDS Parents and Leaders, on this website, which has more in depth information, than will be contained here.
The Problem: Many wonder why those who view pornography do not just stop. The pornography addict can’t “just stop” for the same reasons that prevent the alcoholic from “just stopping.” Research shows that with addiction, there is an actual change in brain chemistry. Some studies indicate that the brain produces excess dopamine (a chemical associated with pleasure) based on overstimulation caused by addictive behavior. In response, the frontal lobe (the part of the brain that regulates judgment), shrinks and the receptor cells that receive the dopamine are reduced so the brain absorbs less dopamine. Once these changes occur, day-to-day pleasures are not enough to satisfy the brain’s craving for dopamine. The addict becomes dependent on his drug to achieve “normal” levels of dopamine. These intense cravings make it very difficult to stop the addictive behavior without serious intervention and outside help.
Uncovering the Problem: Pornography thrives where there is shame and secrecy. When we gain knowledge about the spiritual, as well as the physical, emotional and social destruction caused by pornography, we can teach better. By learning to recognize pornography addiction and understand the steps to recovery, we can win this war, one soul at a time.
When interviewing teens and adults, Bishops and Stake Presidents who ask, “When was the last time you viewed pornography?” have discovered that many members under their stewardship are currently struggling with this problem. When someone is viewing pornography, knows pornography is wrong and has a sincere desire to quit, but still keeps going back to it, their viewing is no longer a choice, but an addiction. The addiction damages the will-power center of the brain and feeds the impulsivity center, so instead of recovery, the person is, at most, is only able to achieve ‘white knuckle’ periods of abstinence.
Spiritual healing, as well as emotional, psychological, and neurological, must take place. Leaders can play an important role in helping the addict find recovery in each of these areas by meeting with the person weekly, or twice a week, and helping him find a good counselor and 12-Step Addiction Recovery group.
As a leader, your ability to help others is largely dependent on your awareness and understanding of pornography addiction and the recovery process. Start by educating yourself. Some basic concepts that are important to understand are:
- Pornography is addictive. Exposure to pornography can motivate a person to actively and repeatedly seek out porn and this consumption is addictive. There are studies which show actual brain function changes in someone who is addicted – and the changes are the same whether for addiction to alcohol, drugs, or pornography. Once these physical changes occur, willpower and spiritual motivation alone are not generally enough to achieve lasting recovery. See Addictive Nature of Pornography.
- “Abstinence” does not necessarily equate to “recovery.” Individuals may experience periods of time where they are able to refrain from using pornography and then relapse later, frequently at a more intense level. See What Is Recovery.
- Recovery from pornography addiction for most addicts almost always requires participation in a 12-step program which helps the individual work the 12-steps of recovery, find a sponsor, establish definite boundaries of behavior and gain support and encouragement from those who have successfully recovered. See Find a 12-Step Program.
- Pornography affects not just the addict, but also those closely associated with those viewing pornography. This is especially true for the spouse of an addict. It is often as important that the spouse of an addict receive help and work their own recovery program as it is for the addict themselves. See Recovery for Spouses.
What Can I Do?
Many resources exist to help leaders as they assist others who are impacted by pornography. As leaders educate themselves and are prepared with resources, they will better be able to assist others. There is a free download of the manual, Information About Pornography and Sexual Addiction: A Resource for LDS Parents and Leaders, on this website, which has more in depth information, than will be contained here. Additionally, leaders frequently have opportunities to provide education and training for those in their sphere of influence. By providing general training and presentations on the topic of pornography, much can be done to help those currently struggling with this addiction and also to prevent future problems.
- Select and train an individual(s) to serve as a specialist(s), coordinating training to educate others about pornography
- Make presentations in ward councils, leadership meetings, Relief Society, Priesthood, Young Women’s and Young Men’s groups
- Regularly meet with those struggling with pornography and their spouses to promote consistent accountability and provide encouragement
- Make available brochures, books and other educational resources relating to pornography
- Compile a list of effective 12-Step meetings, therapists and other local resources and help establish additional 12-Step support group meetings, where needed
- Read He Restoreth My Soul by Don Hilton and What’s the Big Deal About Pornography by Jill Manning, so that you will be prepared with solid information and answers, in order to serve those in your stewardship.
- Educate and provide training to those within your sphere of influence
What are the Stages of Pornography Addiction?
- Early exposure. Initial exposure to pictures or provocative material. The exposure is frequently accidental or may result from general curiosity. The problem begins when the person deliberately begins viewing pornography.
- Addiction. The person keeps returning to pornography. They recognize their activity as inappropriate, but regardless of what they resolve to do, it becomes a regular part of their life. The user begins to depend on pornography as their main source of ‘feeling good.’ The time spent viewing material continues to increase despite the consequences. Periods of abstinence may be followed by periods of binging.
- Escalation. The person starts to look for more graphic material. The images they now view might have disgusted them initially. They spend even more time looking at pornography and thinking about it becomes consuming. They may want their spouse to “act out” things that they have seen in pornography in their sexual relationship
- Desensitization. Eventually, the person becomes numbed to the effects of the pornography. They are in denial about their addiction and begin to see pornography and the sexual acts depicted as “normal” and acceptable. Even the most graphic, degrading pornography doesn’t excite them anymore. They become desperate to feel the same thrill again but can’t find it.
- Acting out. At this point, addicts make a dangerous jump and start acting out sexually with other people. Rather than limiting their exposure to images and experiences on the internet, they begin to act out the sexual fantasies they have seen. Their acting out may take the form of exhibitionism, voyeurism, promiscuity, strip clubs, sex with minors, soliciting prostitutes, or rape.