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Summary: Treating Pornography Addiction: The Essential Tools for Recovery by Kevin B. Skinner

Key Takeaways

  • Pornography addiction is a serious and widespread problem that can ruin lives and relationships. How can someone who is trapped in this addiction break free and recover? In this article, we will review the book Treating Pornography Addiction: The Essential Tools for Recovery by Kevin B. Skinner, a renowned expert and therapist who has helped hundreds of people overcome this challenge.
  • If you or someone you know is struggling with pornography addiction and wants to find a way out, this book is for you. It will teach you the causes and effects of this addiction, the steps and strategies to recover, and the tools and resources to succeed. Don’t let pornography addiction control your life any longer. Get this book today and start your journey to freedom and healing.

Treating Pornography Addiction (2005) explores why pornography is so addictive and what individuals can do to break the cycle. Its practical tools offer addicts a roadmap to recovery and systems to safeguard against relapse.

Summary: Treating Pornography Addiction: The Essential Tools for Recovery by Kevin B. Skinner

Introduction: Learn how to break the cycle of pornography addiction

Sexual imagery has never been more available. Billboards, mainstream TV, magazines – they’re all saturated with it. And then there’s the content that’s available online. We don’t even need to visit explicit sites to be exposed to it. It’s there on our social media feeds, filling our screens whether or not we want it to.

Being constantly hounded by sexual imagery in this way can encourage us to access pornography. And with so few barriers to pornographic content, what starts as curiosity or just a “one-off” can swiftly lead to addiction.

Addiction to pornography is just as serious as any other type of addiction. It can have grave consequences for a person’s health and well-being. From work and school absenteeism to depression and isolation, addiction to pornography impacts an individual’s professional life, relationships, physical and mental health, and financial stability.

Breaking the cycle of pornography addiction is challenging. For reasons we’ll explore, the way our brains function makes rehabilitation a complex journey. But it is possible – and is well worth the commitment. By following a roadmap to recovery and using practical support tools, you can emancipate yourself from the clutches of addiction.

Just a note before we get started: While this summary will provide you with insight and helpful strategies, it’s not a substitute for professional guidance. To access the support you deserve, please reach out to a health-care professional, especially if you’re experiencing depression or are at risk of self-harm.

The chemistry behind pornography addiction

When it comes to breaking pornography addiction, understanding your biochemistry is crucial. While this knowledge may initially make you feel overwhelmed – and possibly even more hopeless – it holds the key to regaining control. So, let’s take a quick look at what’s happening to your brain when you feel the urge to view pornography.

Brains are designed to associate a stimulus with a response. For instance, if you were bitten by a dog as a child, your body might automatically tense up or your heart rate increase when you hear barking.

The same thing happens with pornography. The first time you encountered explicit material, your body likely released an intoxicating cocktail of chemicals, including endorphins, epinephrine, oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin. In fact, the blend of chemicals that brains release when viewing pornography has a similar structure to amphetamines, creating a state of high arousal. Every time you view pornography, your body releases that same blend of chemicals. But this blissful state is short-lived, and withdrawal symptoms from it are harsh. That’s what drives you to view pornography once more, so your body can enjoy chemical bliss again.

What makes pornography addiction even more complex is that – unlike drug or alcohol addiction – your brain can self-supply its trigger. To set off the chemical reaction you’re craving, all you need to do is anticipate viewing pornography or remember explicit images you’ve already seen. But a helpful quirk of our bodies is that they’re predictable. Once you know that your brain is automatically going to respond to specific stimuli, you can learn to arrest and deactivate its reaction.

When you view pornography, the chain of responses you go through – known as the reaction sequence – always follows the same pattern. First, you encounter the stimulus – perhaps a provocative advertisement on TV. Then you have an emotional response, followed by a thought. So you might feel excited and then think, “I could jump online and look at porn.”

At this point, your body starts releasing its chemical cocktail. You have a physical response to this; your heart rate increases and you might sweat. Then your rational mind steps in, offering an important moment of reflection. This is your back-up system asking you to properly assess if you really should give in to your urges.

In this millisecond, your mind juggles arguments for and against. And most of the time, the body triumphs over the mind. Often, this is reinforced by a belief, like “I can’t stop myself anyway, so why try?” Or, “This will definitely be the last time I do this.” Then, the response to that initial stimulus happens – either you view pornography or you don’t.

Developing a deep awareness of your own individual reaction sequence is the first major step to breaking your addiction. Start by reflecting on when you’re triggered. Is it when you see a particular type of image, or when you’re experiencing a specific emotion, like boredom or loneliness? Think about the thoughts and sensations that arise when you encounter your stimulus. Once you’ve uncovered every possible option and feeling, map out your personal reaction sequence on paper, step-by-step. This’ll help you identify when you’ve been triggered, and when there’s scope in your reaction sequence to change your behavior.

In the next sections, we’ll explore ways you can support yourself in achieving that change.

Create your game plan

Sadly, many people who are addicted to pornography are so overwhelmed that they feel completely hopeless. In this state, it’s difficult to identify new strategies that might help break the cycle of addiction. That’s why it’s important to invest time in preparing to change your behavior before you attempt the actual change itself. It’s like carefully checking and rechecking the calculations on a house plan before you start building, so you can be sure the windows and doors you order will fit when they arrive on the construction site.

Here are three activities you should undertake before you attempt to tackle your addiction.

First, establish your boundaries. It’s crucial you define boundaries for yourself, so you can mitigate risks that leave you vulnerable to your addiction. While becoming familiar with your reaction sequence, you began identifying your triggers – the stimuli that spark the urge to view pornography. Once you’re confident you’ve uncovered every last one, write down some rules for yourself to help you avoid them. For instance, make it a rule that you won’t go online if you’re home alone, or that after 10:00 p.m. you won’t watch TV shows with particular ratings. If you live alone or work from home, create strict rules about which websites and channels you’re allowed to access so that you can keep yourself safe from temptation.

As you examined your reaction sequence, you also noted down the emotions that occur when you’re triggered. As part of establishing your boundaries, create a concrete plan of action to follow when you experience these emotions. For instance, if feeling lonely triggers you, your game plan might be to call a specific loved one who’s supporting you on your journey out of addiction – someone who can talk to you until the emotion passes. Or if you feel excited, your plan of action might be to go for a jog. Or if stress and anxiety arise, you might use journaling as a way to problem-solve instead of turning to pornography for comfort.

Second, create specific goals. Goals will keep you on track and motivated, and instill a sense of purpose. By setting goals that are just the right level of challenge, you’ll stay energized and focused. Some researchers believe that addiction and the pursuit of excellence follow similar brain patterns, so having an exciting goal that isn’t directly related to your addiction can be extremely helpful, like building up your fitness to run a half marathon.

As part of your preparation to change, establish short, medium, and long-term goals that are specific and monitorable. For instance, your short-term goal might be committing not to access adult websites at the start of each day. To track this goal, you might put a star on the calendar every day you’ve resisted and circle the days you’ve relapsed. You can then look for patterns surrounding relapse days to help you identify new triggers or vulnerabilities. Feed this information back into your reaction sequence map, so you can increase your awareness over time.

Medium-term goals can also equip you with empowering information. For instance, you could choose to become deeply familiar with your withdrawal symptoms over a period of a few months. Write about them in a dedicated notebook so you can study them. Revisiting these notes when you’re tempted will help mitigate the risk of relapse, since you’ll be reminded of the harsh price you pay when you’re experiencing withdrawal.

Long-term goals are a great way to improve your quality of life so that you’re less likely to crave pornography in the future. You might decide to foster a healthy relationship with your partner by learning more about intimacy, and investing more time and energy in your relationship. You could evaluate the success of this goal by your ability to empathize and communicate, along with a growing sense of mutual connection.

Finally, as you prepare to change, run emergency drills. Just like practicing a fire drill at work or school, simulate an emergency drill so you know exactly what you’ll do when you’re faced with a challenge – like being triggered after a chance encounter with someone you find attractive. If possible, talk through possible scenarios and action plans with a therapist or support person. Role-play different scenarios when you’re tempted to view pornography, and actions you can take to counter the urge.

This process will help you identify the alternative options available to you, even in those moments when your reaction sequence is underway. The greater your awareness is about your habits and patterns, the better positioned you’ll be to break the cycle.

Breaking the pattern of addiction

Once your preparations are complete, you can begin the next stage on the journey to freedom: taking action. This can be an exciting moment – one filled with hope. And that initial enthusiasm can help fuel behavioral changes, like going to bed earlier to avoid the temptation of accessing pornography at night. Your emotions will start shifting too, especially following moments when you successfully deactivate your reaction sequence. You’ll feel more positive about yourself and confident that you can win this battle.

As your awareness grows through putting your game plan into practice, you’ll realize that you can assess your behavior honestly and take steps to change it. Your triggers will be on your radar more and more, and you’ll have support systems in place to help you override them. You’ll also stop berating yourself after relapses, reframing these instances as opportunities to analyze your behavior and gain valuable insight about your habits and vulnerabilities.

To hone your awareness even further, there’s a three-step process you can use. This is particularly helpful since you can be triggered by memories or fantasies – not just external stimuli.

The first step is to recognize risks. Be on the constant lookout for any thoughts you have that are encouraging you to view pornography. Catching these thoughts before your brain releases anticipatory chemicals will set you up for success. Recognize the thought for what it is – a trigger that drives you to access pornography. This awareness will draw your attention to the fact that you need to put your game plan into action.

Next, identify your trigger. Understanding what’s made you think about pornography will yield useful information about what you need to avoid, or be cautious of, next time. Was it seeing something on TV, or thinking about a particular person, or recalling a fantasy? Make a note of this, so you can explore it further and add it to your reaction sequence map.

Finally, choose your outcome. Think about what will happen if you give in to the trigger. Then, consider what will happen if you don’t. How will you feel in the short and long terms, in each of these two scenarios? Is short-term gratification and relief worth the cost to your confidence and inner strength? Are the withdrawal symptoms worth it if you let your brain release those intoxicating chemicals?

When you press pause and reflect in this way, you break old behavioral patterns and replace them with new ones. By considering the outcome, you create space for increased awareness. And that can help you resist the internal cravings that always won in the past.

Maintaining your recovery

The key to successfully recovering from addiction is consistently putting your plan into action. It’s a strength-building exercise – the more often you successfully implement your plan, the easier it’ll get over time. Aim to utilize the tools and awareness you’ve developed each instant that you’re tempted. As you see them working, and you become increasingly free from your addiction, your confidence and faith in your tools will grow. When drawing on your tools becomes a reflex, you’ll know you’ve reached the maintenance stage of recovery.

Arriving at this stage of your recovery journey brings a few bonus gifts. Difficult feelings, like guilt and shame, will have receded because you’ll better understand your addiction. Cravings might still be present, but viewing pornography will also seem less appealing to you now. You’ll be keenly aware of the price you pay for giving in, and you’ll want to avoid those challenging days filled with intense and painful withdrawal symptoms. Most of the time, that reality will be enough to protect you from relapse. If a trigger arises, you’ll shut your reactions down more and more competently, knowing that you’re liberating yourself a little further each time.

During the maintenance stage, you can reflect on your huge, challenging journey of personal growth – and be proud of your commitment and effort. Your fine-tuned awareness will safeguard you, or let you know when it’s time to seek out help again.

When you were in the clutches of your addiction, a better existence seemed impossible. But now that your life is filled with unimaginable joy and inner freedom, you know all your hard work was worthwhile.


Freeing yourself from an addiction to pornography is a demanding undertaking. It asks you to develop laser-sharp awareness – not just of your external environment, but of your inner landscape too. By becoming intimately familiar with the thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations you experienced when driven to view pornography, you can learn to arrest your reactions and change your behavior. While this is no easy feat, there are tools available to support your recovery so that you can regain control of your life.

About the Author

Kevin B. Skinner


Sex, Self-help, Psychology, Addiction, Recovery, Relationships, Sexuality, Mental health, Spirituality, Education, Therapy


The book is a self-help guide for people who struggle with pornography addiction and want to overcome it. The author, Dr. Kevin B. Skinner, is a licensed marriage and family therapist and a certified sexual addiction therapist who has worked with hundreds of clients dealing with this issue. He explains the causes and effects of pornography addiction, how it affects the brain and the relationships, and how to break free from its grip.

The book is divided into three parts. The first part covers the basics of pornography addiction, such as the definition, the cycle, the triggers, the consequences, and the myths. The second part focuses on the recovery process, which involves understanding the addiction, changing the thoughts, developing new habits, and creating a support system. The third part provides the essential tools for recovery, such as the assessment, the contract, the journal, the plan, the accountability, and the relapse prevention.

The book is a valuable resource for anyone who wants to overcome pornography addiction and reclaim their life. The author writes in a clear, compassionate, and practical way, drawing from his professional experience and scientific research. He provides many examples, exercises, and tips to help the reader apply the concepts and strategies to their own situation. He also addresses the common challenges and questions that may arise along the way, such as the denial, the shame, the guilt, the anger, the forgiveness, and the hope.

The book is not only useful for the addicts, but also for their partners, family members, friends, and therapists who want to understand and support them. The author acknowledges the pain and betrayal that the addiction can cause to the loved ones, and offers advice on how to cope and heal. He also emphasizes the importance of seeking professional help when needed, and provides resources and references for further assistance.

The book is a comprehensive and effective guide that can help anyone who is serious about overcoming pornography addiction and achieving lasting recovery. It is based on sound principles and proven methods that have helped many people regain their freedom and happiness.

Alex Lim is a certified book reviewer and editor with over 10 years of experience in the publishing industry. He has reviewed hundreds of books for reputable magazines and websites, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Goodreads. Alex has a master’s degree in comparative literature from Harvard University and a PhD in literary criticism from Oxford University. He is also the author of several acclaimed books on literary theory and analysis, such as The Art of Reading and How to Write a Book Review. Alex lives in London, England with his wife and two children. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Website | Twitter | Facebook

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