Episode 24 – Pornography Addiction with Joshua Shea

Episode Summary

In this episode we talked with Joshua Shea about pornography addiction, how to know if you or someone you care about is suffering from it, and what to do about it.

Learn more about Joshua at:

Website: www.paddictrecovery.com

Instagram: www.instagram.com/paddictrecovery

TikTok: www.tiktok.com/@thatcorncoach

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Listen on YouTube

Show Transcript

David Enevoldsen: All right, hello, everybody, and welcome to another episode of the Emotional Embuffination podcast. I am your host, David Enevoldsen, and here on Emotional Embuffination we are training to become emotionally buff enough to overcome any conflict in life. And at the same time, we are trying to discover new levels of success and happiness and just optimize all those positive and joyful feelings in life. This podcast is just one of a number of resources I have available. If you want to learn more about any of that, check out the Emotional Embuffination website, which is embuff.com. That's E-M-B-U-F-F.com. Also on the website, when you're there, you sign up for the newsletter which has a bunch of quick weekly Emotional Embuffination tips. Okay. On today's show, we are going to be talking with Joshua Shea about pornography addiction. I think this is a huge topic for Emotional Embuffination because, well, frankly, any addiction is important for emotional Embuffination. But this is not one that we talk about a whole lot. And it's sort of a taboo subject that everybody seems kind of afraid of. Joshua is a pornography addiction expert and certified betrayal trauma coach, therapeutic disclosure specialist and the author of four books about pornography addiction, including I'm Reading this Book About Porn Addiction for a Friend. Since 2018, Joshua has given more interviews about pornography, addiction and betrayal trauma than anyone in the world. To date he has internationally appeared on nearly 400 podcasts, television and radio shows using his wealth of research and personal story to promote the ideas that porn addiction spans all demographics and those with a problem should seek help before it's too late.

David Enevoldsen: He also speaks extensively about the issue of working through betrayal trauma, especially with the partners of addicts and those who are facing infidelity. Prior to admitting his 24 year addiction to pornography in 2014, Joshua was a prominent magazine publisher, award winning journalist, film festival founder, and politician in central Maine. In 2017, Joshua launched paddictrecovery.com. He has also contributed articles about recovery to thefix.com and Recovery Today Magazine. Is a TEDx talk speaker and has developed and presents a porn addiction educational presentation series for colleges, churches, libraries, and other groups. Sober since April 2014, Joshua still lives in central Maine with his wife and two children. The current animal count is four dogs and eight cats, but it's ever changing. Other books by Shea include He's a Porn Addict...Now What? Porn and the Pandemic: How Three Months in 2020 Changed Everything, and The Addiction Nobody Will Talk About: How I Let My Pornography Addiction Hurt People. Josh, thank you very much for agreeing to interview with me today. Just as a preliminary point or matter, can we kind of talk a little bit about your background and what you what got you into kind of this whole field here? So it seems you're an expert in essentially pornography addiction. Is that a fair characterization?

Joshua Shea: Yeah, I think so and I got into this because I was a guy who was a porn addict for 24 years. I became a porn addict after a cousin showed me some hardcore magazines when I was 12 years old. And from that point forward, both pornography and alcohol, which I got into a couple of years later, those were my two friends up until I turned 38 years old and got into recovery and started to learn more about these conditions. And while I think a lot of people know about alcoholism, when I first went to a bookstore, if you remember what those are, I went to a bookstore and I went to the self-help section and there were books on addiction. There were books on alcoholism, books on drug abuse. But there were no books on sex or pornography addiction. And with my background as a journalist, which I worked in news for about 20, 25 years, I thought to myself that here might be an opening for me to pursue helping others in a way that I wasn't helped, and also playing to my specific skill set where I could, you know, make a difference moving forward.

David Enevoldsen: Yeah, well, maybe I can step back a bit. So you said you, you kind of got introduced pretty early on to pornography and then it turned into an addiction. What clued you into the idea that there was even a problem? Like, what made you think you had an addiction in the first place?

Joshua Shea: Honestly, I didn't think I had an addiction. I thought that my use of pornography, which I recognized was excessive. I thought that was just another poor decision I made when I was an alcoholic, because most of the time, probably after the age of 18, 90% of the time I used pornography was very late at night, early in the morning, and it was when I was also drinking. So when I went to rehab for alcoholism, I went believing that was my only problem. After a few sessions with my case manager, he recognized there's something up with my porn use. So he had me meet a guy he knew off campus who was a certified sex addiction therapist, and that was the gentleman who helped me understand that, number one, addiction is a brain disease. Number two, porn addiction is a real thing. And number three, porn addiction was separate from my alcoholism. It predated it and it probably hurt more people than my alcoholism along the way.

David Enevoldsen: Interesting. So, well, I guess can you characterize what that was? Like what did you think was excessive or at that time, what would you have thought.

Joshua Shea: Well, I just I just knew that somebody who wanted to start looking at porn at 130 in the morning and wouldn't stop till between 3 and 4 and then get three hours of sleep for work the next day. And it's not like I'm going in and doing a mindless job. The last the job I had for the last five, six years before I got into recovery was as the publisher at a magazine company that I co-owned. So I was running 3 or 4 different magazines at the same time and doing this on three hours of sleep. I recognized that there was I needed the porn before I went to bed.

David Enevoldsen: Right.

Joshua Shea: But I just thought that was because I was also full of tequila.

David Enevoldsen: Right. It seems like it would be especially difficult to identify when you've got kind of multiple problems going on there. So you got referred over to this, I forget the label you used, the specialist, essentially.

Joshua Shea: CSAT, certified sex addiction therapist.

David Enevoldsen: So when you get the referral over to him, what happened at that point?

Joshua Shea: Well, we sat down and he basically started, you know, asking me if I if I believed that I had issues with sexuality. And I said that I didn't really think I did that if I looked over my sexual history, it wasn't anything that a porn star would brag about. But it also wasn't that I'd only ever been with one woman. I'd have I'd done fine for myself. And yeah, I liked looking at porn. But don't guys like looking at naked girls? That's how I was always led to believe. And who cares if I'm masturbating to this stuff? What's the big deal? And he helped me understand why people become porn addicts. Why, you know what symptoms include pornography, porn, addiction. And what what background porn addicts have. And my background includes several years of sexual abuse at the hands of a babysitter when I was three, four years old till about 6, 7. It also includes some pretty impressive mental slash emotional emotional abuse at the hands of my grandmother. And when he started explaining the symptoms and he started explaining the background of the average porn addict plus appealed to my scientific mind when it came to seeing this as what a disease really is, he helped me put the pieces together in a more scientific, intellectual way than they were doing at the rehab, which was, I guess, a little more touchy feely.

David Enevoldsen: Right. That makes sense. So what did you do in terms of treatment? Like how do you how do you get over this or how did you get over this?

Joshua Shea: Well, addiction, no matter whether it's a chemical addiction or a process addiction like porn or video games or gambling or food, ultimately it is just a symptom of a bigger problem. And that bigger problem, 99% of the time is going to be childhood trauma that didn't get resolved.

David Enevoldsen: That makes sense.

Joshua Shea: And so we go through the process of identifying that trauma, talking through it. And perhaps most importantly, and this is what I do with my clients and I really try to focus on this, is how did that trauma shape your life? How would you have been different without that trauma? And that can be something as simple as you almost drown when you're five years old in the ocean. So the rest of your life you are scared to death of the water so you don't get a pool in your backyard. You never take your kids to the ocean or the lake. You take them to the mountains. You, I think it's important to recognize how trauma has played out in your life and how it's actually affected it as part of the healing process.

David Enevoldsen: So once you've identified whatever that trauma is, child abuse, almost drowning or whatever, whatever the trauma is in your life, like, what do you think the next step is in terms of using that to kind of move forward with with quashing the underlying behaviors or kind of improving your life generally once you recognize that addiction?

Joshua Shea: Well, you figure out why did they use pornography and how would that use of pornography affect the particular trauma. In a lot of cases, when you're talking about process addiction, like I said, you got process addictions or chemical addictions. Chemical or drugs, they're alcohol, you know, weed, that kind of stuff. With process addictions, they call them process addictions because you're addicted to the entire process. Someone who snorts, snorts coke likes that moment of coke. Somebody who likes to gamble, it's about going to the casino. It's about finding your table. It's about getting your chips in a perfect way. It's about the entire thing. I mean, I still hear a fax machine or an old school modem and my ears, I'm like Pavlov's dogs. And I immediately think of pornography because when I first started watching porn on the Internet, we had to dial in.

David Enevoldsen: Right.

Joshua Shea: So when I hear that noise, that's what I think. And we become addicted to the entire routine. We become addicted to the entire process. And what I had to have done and what I do with my clients now is to really take a look at how would this trauma be helped by pornography when you first started? So, in most cases, what I've learned, and this is also from from studies, but also from seeing my clients, most people with process addictions are doing it to create a false sense of power or control. You're playing video games while you are a superhero, trying to get points, trying to get goals. You're a gambling addict. You are trying to predict what's going to happen with cards or numbers against the odds. With pornography nobody on that page is ever going to say to you, "No, you can't look at this." Nobody on that, nobody having sex on that page is going to say, "You forgot to take out the trash," or "You're late to work." And you can see in the world we live in now, there's so much pornography out there, you can see whatever you want. So if you're watching a man and a woman have sex on a beach and you decide, I want this to be in an igloo, I'm sure, I haven't seen it, but I'm sure it's out there.

David Enevoldsen: Yeah, it seems like there's a lot out there.

Joshua Shea: And if you if you, well, I don't want just two people, I want three people going at it in igloo. You hit a button and you find it and when you when nobody on the screen is standing in the way of you expressing your sexuality and you can basically decide exactly who and what you want on that screen.

David Enevoldsen: Yeah.

Joshua Shea: That's quite a big feeling of power. You're kind of the sexual master of the universe at that point.

David Enevoldsen: Well, maybe so, thank you for the characterization of your background on that. Maybe I can expand this a little bit. So if somebody else is, say, using pornography at whatever frequency that they're using at, at what point does somebody know that they have or might even suspect that they have an addiction to it? I mean, is any use of pornography in your mind, rise to the level of addiction or is there what creates the threshold between.

Joshua Shea: Yeah, well, I mean, I I believe and numbers bear out that there are more non-addict porn users than there are addicts much like people who drink. Um, you know, it's there are plenty of people who have 1 or 2 beers who are not alcoholics who are fine with it. Um, I know that there are plenty of people who can look at porn once or twice a month.

David Enevoldsen: Yeah.

Joshua Shea: Not have any problem with it. But when you start to think about pornography, when you're not looking at it excessively, when you start to plan your day around viewing pornography, when you start to choose pornography over other pleasurable activities you used to engage with, that's when you can start to see a problem happening. And then when you talk about actually using the pornography itself, there are things like making promises to yourself that you're only going to use for, say, half an hour and then two hours later you're still there.

David Enevoldsen: Yeah.

Joshua Shea: And things like what you hear among a lot of addicts, both men and women, is that they're always looking for the perfect piece to finish with because they have an innate sense they're going to get a bigger dopamine rush out of a certain piece of porn than another. So there are people who will look at porn for an hour. They will find what it is they're going to finish their session with ten minutes into it and just keep it off to the side because something in their in their DNA, I guess, tells them that this is going to create the biggest possible chemical rush of dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, all those happy pleasure drugs in your head. And then just simple things like paying money for pornography. In this day and age, if you go on the Internet and you pay a dime for pornography, you're doing it wrong. There's there's no reason to ever pay a dime for pornography out there. So if you feel like you need to, that's a good indication of a problem. Um, and then as I always tell people, if you're asking yourself, do I have a problem, well, have you ever asked yourself if you vacuum too much? Have you ever asked yourself, do you like riding on fire trucks too much?

David Enevoldsen: Right.

Joshua Shea: No, because you don't. If you're asking yourself that question, where there's smoke, there's often fire. So, you know, at least talk to somebody to get where figure out where your baseline is.

David Enevoldsen: Interesting. And that that's fascinating. I mean, it sounds like there's a lot of parallels too. I mean, you talked about the perfect finishing piece. I mean, that makes me think that there's parallels with a lot of the other addiction types like the substance uses and people, do you also see that with with pornography?

Joshua Shea: Addiction is addiction is addiction is addiction is addiction. When it comes to pornography, much like alcohol, I got to the point with alcohol where I had to stop drinking beer because I couldn't get drunk anymore.

David Enevoldsen: Yeah.

Joshua Shea: So I had to move to higher, higher alcohol content stuff. I moved to tequila. With pornography what is once vanilla and works for you stops working. So you have to move on to more extreme material or you have to look at the material for a lot longer. And what happens to most porn addicts over time is that they stop caring about what's on the screen. I can tell you my last 3 to 5 years as an addict had nothing to do with sex, had nothing to do with naked people, had nothing to do with any of that stuff. It had to do with me knowing that if I wanted to feel even normal today, I had to get this chemical rush.

David Enevoldsen: Yeah.

Joshua Shea: And I and a lot of a lot of clients I worked with and a lot of people who I've met in treatment will say it almost feels like maintenance. I don't even want to look at porn. I don't care about porn, but I will not be able to function unless I get these chemicals through my system today and people will go online. And I couldn't tell you what I had, what I had finished with two minutes after I finished most days. Because it didn't matter.

David Enevoldsen: Interesting.

Joshua Shea: It was just the vehicle that got me there. Like, I don't care what the brand of tequila was, I was drinking. As long as it did the trick. Serve me the bottom shelf stuff, serve me the top shelf stuff. I don't care about how great quality this tequila is. I don't care about how great quality this porn is. Just do the thing that I'm using you for, and that's for the release of the dopamine and other other chemicals.

David Enevoldsen: Wow, interesting. And it seems that I mean, you were talking earlier about the, you know, the dial up, you know, the sounds triggering those those emotional responses in terms of the Pavlovian associations that you'd created with with pornography in the past. Tech has changed a lot. You know, we have way more Internet access. Everybody has smartphones that they walk around and could easily pull up porn on your phone or your computer anywhere, really. Have you seen or do you know if there's any data on like shifts in pornography addiction problems since when we were younger?

Joshua Shea: High speed Internet. If you're looking for the demarcation line of when this became an issue. High speed Internet. Those people who grew up before it double digits lower with addiction rates.

David Enevoldsen: Interesting.

Joshua Shea: Those people who grew up with high speed Internet, which I believe also had to do with access like you're talking about, we give every ten year old a smartphone and say, go ahead, get out into the world. And when you think about it, you know, when I was 13 years old or 14 years old and could get my hands on a Playboy.

David Enevoldsen: Right.

Joshua Shea: Well, what would I have? I had 50 softcore pictures I could look at that month. And then I had to wait for the next month's Playboy to come out to get new pictures.

David Enevoldsen: Just getting that magazine was really difficult.

Joshua Shea: Exactly. Well, yeah. Yeah, you had to there was certainly some subterfuge that had to go on to get those those magazines and today if you can spell man, sex, and woman, which are all about third grade vocabulary words,

David Enevoldsen: Right.

Joshua Shea: You can see a man having sex with a woman, but if you spell man, sex, and goat, you can also see that. And you couldn't see that when you and I were kids.

David Enevoldsen: Yeah, well, it seems like there's even for adults I mean, there's, you know, earlier, I guess I think we're roughly the same age. You know, earlier in life, I remember there were times, even as an adult where it didn't seem like you just go online and grab the porn. You'd have to, like go to a specific store and like, you know, face other people. And, you know, there's some additional social constraints there that might inhibit you.

Joshua Shea: The old porn industry, which pretty much changed around 95, 96 when America Online and Prodigy and those early dial up systems kind of I mean, you remember the magazines? How many CDs would fall out of them trying to get you to get on America online or whatnot? And,

David Enevoldsen: I remember using AOL.

Joshua Shea: Yeah, Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And that was most of our introduction to the Internet. And that's where. I truly believe it turned.

David Enevoldsen: Yeah.

Joshua Shea: That's when people started to, and it wasn't just the straight white men who were the target audience of the porn industry. Through the 50s, 60s, and 70s up through the mid 90s, they could trust straight white men to go into adult bookstores. They could trust straight white men to go into adult theaters. They could trust straight white men to buy the movies, to buy the products. They didn't cater to women. They didn't cater to ethnic audiences. But with the Internet, it is so much cheaper to make a film. It is so much cheaper to edit a film and distribution-wise, hit a button. You've uploaded it. There it is. Start making money today.

David Enevoldsen: And you can do it on your cell phone, which everybody has.

Joshua Shea: Exactly. And now, you can, it's so inexpensive to create and distribute porn that they have started targeting audiences. So when you look at the rates of porn addiction that are starting that have been spiking over the last five, six years, what you really see are women. You see people of color and you see people of religion. Because because it's now targeted slightly more to them or it's just so easy to get. You don't have to worry about anybody seeing you go into one of those stores or go into one of those theaters or, you know, you sneak out of an adult theater hoping that nobody recognizes you. Well, you don't have to do that now. Now you can be a a female kindergarten teacher. And if you want to watch porn easy enough on your phone or your laptop to do it from the comfort of your house.

David Enevoldsen: That's fascinating. And that's, that brings up another interesting point, because I guess without having looked at any data on this, I would sort of think of pornography addiction as being a little more male of a problem. Obviously, there's going to be women that have this issue. Do you know if there's any data on kind of the distribution between genders on porn addiction.

Joshua Shea: Yeah, there's quite a bit out there and we're just starting to get the latest post pandemic stuff because the pandemic shot everything up exponentially because we were all stuck at home. Um, but right now the, the latest statistic that I find really interesting is that worldwide, of the people who of the men who use the Internet, 91.5% look at pornography at least once a month, not to say they're addicted, but 91.5% of men who use the Internet look at pornography once a month. It's 60.2% of women who use the Internet look at least once a month. And when you're talking about that under 25, 26 age line, I have almost as many clients who are females under 26 years old as I do who are males.

David Enevoldsen: Interesting.

Joshua Shea: This youngest generation is actually caring about this stuff. They're concerned about this stuff. And with the world we've been living in it really hasn't been geared towards just women or just men for the last ten years. It's been geared towards everybody and five, six, seven, eight years of watching this stuff, some of these men, some of these women at 22 go, whoa, I'm watching this stuff every day. I tried to stop. I couldn't. I think I have a problem.

David Enevoldsen: Yeah.

Joshua Shea: And this is a lot of who were coming to me. And, you know, it doesn't, hey, man or woman, everybody's got working, you know, sex organs down there.

David Enevoldsen: Yeah.

Joshua Shea: And I believe over time it's going to equalize. I really think over time it's going to equalize between men and women.

David Enevoldsen: Well, that raises yet another interesting question for me. So I just did a interview in a previous episode where we were talking about processed food addiction. And a lot of the discussion in that was about a lot of the the food industry marketing people and and all sorts of people involved in the the production of processed foods there seems to be some direct targeting at children. And so a lot of the concern was that to the extent that we've got addictive food items or addictive additives in our processed foods that we're just commonly consuming, they're almost hooking kids when they're little and then they're growing up and they're just kind of stuck with this addiction. Do you think there's anything analogous to that in the porn universe? Do you see anything that seems to be targeting children.

Joshua Shea: I think, with pornography it's a lot more like when you had some of the religious zealots in the 70s and 80s claiming that when you run the record backward, you hear satanic messages. Um, I think that it's like when saying if you play violent video games, you're going to end up as a killer. Um, I don't think there's any real analogous thing about about catching kids or about trying to get kids on board. It's a lot like I remember when I was in high school and I smoked cigarettes at that point I wasn't doing it because Joe Camel was super cool.

David Enevoldsen: Right.

Joshua Shea: He was a cartoon. When I would read in my civics class, when I would read about how all these people were getting, you know, all these all these anti-smoking people were getting angry because kids were smoking camels, because Joe Camel looked cool. It's like, how stupid do you think we are? Here's the thing. 13 and 14 year-olds have always been interested in sex. They've always been curious. That's called puberty. And as long as a caveman could write on a wall, there's been depictions of sex. You know, you go into any fine arts museum, you go to the ancient Egyptian exhibit and you look at some of that old pottery. You're going to see some pretty X-rated stuff on it.

David Enevoldsen: Yeah.

Joshua Shea: The best the what's largely considered across the board, the best sex manual of all time comes from the conservative Indian culture thousands of years ago known as the Kama Sutra.

David Enevoldsen: Right.

Joshua Shea: The depiction of sex has always been interesting to people. It's always been there. I think that's normal. I think sexuality is normal. I think the problem is we are just have so much of this at our plate now and we're just starting to learn what it actually does when you feed somebody a diet of pornography for 20, 25 years in a row.

David Enevoldsen: Yeah. I mean, acknowledging that maybe there's there's not like a an intention to target children specifically.

David Enevoldsen: Yeah.

Joshua Shea: I just I just don't because they don't need to.

David Enevoldsen: But is it creating any problems for kids, you know, in terms of the increased accessibility?

Joshua Shea: It certainly is. It's sexualizes them young. I think that too many kids who have not been, you know, you and I have been in normal human relationships. We've been in normal sexual relationships. We know pornography is not a documentary. We know pornography is not a reality show. But how does a 13 year old boy or girl know that? That's the problem with it, is that it gives a very skewed view of sexuality. One of the things that I come in contact with again and again when I'm out giving speeches, especially at the college level, is talking to 18, 19 year old, 20 year old women who say that they don't like having sex with inexperienced guys, especially virgins, because they almost have to reteach them what to do because they've watched so much porn growing up in the last 20 years that they expect that a woman wants them to throw them down on the bed or to be rough or to say rotten things. You know, that there's there's a there's a giant gender inequity in porn.

David Enevoldsen: Yeah.

Joshua Shea: It was I don't remember what the school was, but there was a university that looked at a hundred videos from the two top porn sites. So, 200 videos total. I believe it was something like 96, 97% showed either physical or verbal aggression from the male towards the female.

David Enevoldsen: Wow.

Joshua Shea: In the video. So a lot of these women in real life have to be like, no, you don't treat me like the porn guy does in the movie. I don't want you calling me names. I don't want you trying to bend me like a pretzel or put your hand around my throat. That's not how real people do this. And there are a lot of younger women who don't want to be with younger men who aren't experienced because they're going to put on their best porn star cosplay and they don't want to deal with that.

David Enevoldsen: Well, that's interesting, too, because we were talking earlier about that, especially in the younger generation we're having a lot of women that are exhibiting porn addictions. They're being exposed to these same messages. Do you think that that's impacting the younger generation of women at all?

Joshua Shea: I am hearing from some women, some of my clients as well, and a lot of actual I also coach for betrayal trauma with the partners of porn addicts. And you do get a lot of, well, I'm wondering, am I supposed to be enjoying this? Is something wrong with me? Because, you know, he wants to dress me up in whips and chains or in leather. And I don't really like this. But this seems normal based on porn so should I be liking this?

David Enevoldsen: Interesting.

Joshua Shea: And that's, no. You like what your boundaries are.

David Enevoldsen: Yeah.

Joshua Shea: Some people like whips and chains. Some people will stay 500ft away from them. And it's cool either way.

David Enevoldsen: Well, I guess that kind of raises yet another question for me. So let's we've talked a bit about kind of recognizing your own porn addiction. What if you were in, say, a romantic relationship or some sort of personal relationship with someone and you think they have a porn addiction, but maybe they aren't recognizing it themselves. Do you have suggestions on what somebody in that situation might do or how to approach that?

Joshua Shea: Well, if they're openly watching pornography and it's not hidden, hopefully you can have a conversation where it's like, I think you're doing too much of this, like you had if they were smoking or drinking or doing anything else, you can have an open conversation. In my experience with my clients, most of the time the guy is hiding it and hiding it well. When my family had a intervention for me, it was because I was a drunk and they could see I was a drunk. You can smell it. You can hear me slur. You can see me stumble. It's very easy to hide being a porn addict. Most of the time that a porn addict is discovered, it's because their partner went on their phone or went on their computer or found some other way to learn that this person was a porn addict. And that's where the trouble comes in, because then you get a partner who says, oh, my goodness, this person's been hiding this for five years, ten years. What else have they been hiding?

David Enevoldsen: Yeah.

Joshua Shea: And why are they this way? Is it because I'm not good enough in bed? Is it because I'm not pretty enough or handsome enough or experimental enough in bed? What, what is causing this person to go do this? And it's you know, the first thing I have to do when I'm dealing with people who have betrayal, trauma, including men, is to assure them that they have nothing to do with it. They did not create an addict. The addict came into it most likely with all the seeds in place, probably already addicted, just doing a very good job hiding it. Because it's one of those things, unlike alcoholism, that's pretty darn easy to hide. If you think if you do know, if you do see the signs, I think all you can do is basically say, I see some indications that I think you may have problems with pornography. I hope you'll look into it if you need any help finding somebody, I'm here for you. I think that's the first thing you say. You plant that, you plant that seed and then come back later and find out if there's anything up with that. If if they believed it, if they didn't believe it, whatever. But you can take a horse to water, but you can't make them drink. Um, you know, I have to sit with many men, specifically whose wives have pushed them to come see me, who do not believe that they're a porn addict, who do not believe that looking at porn is, there's anything wrong with that. Who aren't sorry they look at porn, they're sorry they were caught.

David Enevoldsen: Interesting. So what do you do in those situations? Just say, hey, I think you have a problem, but you need to.

Joshua Shea: Well, I talk them about how much they use. What's interesting is probably about one out of five of these guys actually isn't a porn addict.

David Enevoldsen: Interesting.

Joshua Shea: Sometimes. Sometimes. Sometimes a partner wants to put a reason or a medical reason why somebody would be that way. If if a wife catches a husband using porn twice this year or three times this year despite telling him they were against it well, he's either not listening to me or he has a problem. And the reality is, a lot of times you just have a partner who doesn't care what you think. It's not that he's an addict. It's that he's just a butthead. And that's really it. You don't. You don't have a great picker, lady. I'm sorry you picked the wrong guy. But it's not addiction. And when they don't want to talk about it, I'll, I learn what they how much they use. I learn what they use. And then at the end of it, I say, if you want to come back and keep talking, we can. And if you don't, you know, that's fine too. But I'm you rent my services for an hour. I'll talk to you about porn. Or I'll just talk to you about what's going on in your life. Let's talk about, you know, when you were younger. Let's talk about what your hopes are for your for your partnership in the future. You know, we can talk around the pornography without talking about the pornography.

David Enevoldsen: Yeah. That makes sense. If so, let's say that flipping back to the individual level, let's say that you recognize that you have a porn addiction. And I know we talked a little bit about the idea of recognizing where that's coming from and kind of getting to the the traumas that may be spawning those behaviors or the impulse to to engage in those behaviors in the first place. Where should people go? I mean, should they try to deal with this on their own? Do you recommend always approaching someone else to talk to?

Joshua Shea: Yeah. I've never I've never seen anybody get better fully on their own. Okay. They might be able to get to a point they can white knuckle it and hold it off. But if you don't understand and work on why you became an addict in the first place and how that trauma affected your life along the way. You're probably not going to really get that far with things. You know, any of us can white knuckle. But that doesn't get to the core of the problem. And I think that you need to have some kind of expert to get you to the core of the problem. And I think hopefully you have an expert not diagnose you, but at least profile you into where you are as a porn addict. There are 11 symptoms of porn addiction. Obviously someone with three of them is does not have the acute problems, someone with ten of them.

David Enevoldsen: Right.

Joshua Shea: So to establish where you are kind of on the porn addiction continuum is also important. Because if you have ten if you have ten symptoms, I'm going to urge you to do something different than if you only have 2 or 3.

David Enevoldsen: I guess for purposes of recognition, are you able to go through what those those are? The ten?

Joshua Shea: Yeah. Yeah, I will. It comes from my book, I'm Reading this Book About Porn Addiction for a Friend.

David Enevoldsen: That is a great title.

Joshua Shea: Thank you. Yeah, I'll go. I'll go through them really fast here. Um, just so I don't miss any.

David Enevoldsen: Yeah.

Joshua Shea: The first one is questioning if you have an addiction. We talked about that earlier. You know, people who don't have addictions generally don't ask themselves if they do. Second one is difficulty not thinking about pornography during the day. A very big one is looking at porn or masturbating in inappropriate locations. Almost 30% of people have admitted that they've masturbated at school or work to pornography. That's a big sign of it.

David Enevoldsen: And speaking as an attorney is illegal in a lot of places.

Joshua Shea: I'm sure it is. I'm sure, I'm very sure it is. Um. And I always imagined the poor HR person or the poor boss who has to fire them. What is that speech like? I mean, I don't know if you have a template for it that you give them, but I've always thought, "Well, I'm sorry, Bob. We caught you,"

David Enevoldsen: Never had to run into that situation before. So I don't have a template.

Joshua Shea: Yeah, we caught you doing this. And yeah, I've always wondered what that speech is like. So another one is losing track of time while engaged with pornography. Again, I'm going to watch this for 30 minutes. And then holy two hours have gone by.

David Enevoldsen: Right.

Joshua Shea: Really common thing. You replace other pleasurable activities with pornography like I mentioned before. Maybe you have a Wednesday night poker night with your buddies. Well now, Wednesday nights, you stay home and look at porn because it's more pleasurable for you.

David Enevoldsen: Yeah.

Joshua Shea: The feelings that you are trying to escape or escaped early on using pornography are always there. The you know, you can't even get rid of the bad thoughts no matter how much you use. You can't get rid of the bad feelings no matter how much you use. Um. Physical injury is one, whether that's a injury from masturbation, which happens to both men and women who do it excessively or with porn-induced erectile dysfunction which is a huge problem among late teens and guys in their early 20s. When you and I were around 20 years old the rates of erectile dysfunction for 20 year olds were 2 to 4%. These days, depending on which medical study you look at, the rates of erectile dysfunction for 20 year old men are 20 to 25%.

David Enevoldsen: Wow. Really?

Joshua Shea: Yeah. Yeah.

David Enevoldsen: And that seems to be sourced in porn addiction.

Joshua Shea: Absolutely. I mean, it's. It's only been 20, 30 years. Our little monkey brains haven't had time to evolve. Um, there's, like I mentioned, searching for the perfect piece of pornography. Um, a lowered sex drive is a big one. You ask anybody who's an addict how much sex they want to have and the answer is not much. Ask somebody who's high on heroin how much sex they want to have. It's none. Ask somebody with a gambling addiction when they're going hot or going cold to casino how much sex do you want to have. It's none. Just because with sex addiction and porn addiction you access your chemicals with an orgasm that doesn't mean that you are hypersexual. In fact, you have a lowered libido. I've heard stories of men who are intercourse addicts, I hate the term sex addict. I prefer intercourse addict, men who are intercourse addicts who can have the most wonderful, amazing partner in bed next to them, but will still wake up in the middle of the night, sneak out of the house and go have risky sex and a risky place with an even more risky partner. Because that's how they get the dopamine. That's how they get their pleasure chemicals. It's the charge of doing that. It has nothing to do with the orgasm. It has nothing to do with how pretty the wife is or the girlfriend is compared to that person they picked up and in an alleyway. That is just how somebody who has that addiction services it.

David Enevoldsen: Yeah.

Joshua Shea: And it can get very confusing because you think about sex but sex and getting the chemical or getting the chemical high from being addicted to a sexual or having a sexual disorder are very very different. And that's something that people still don't understand. Inability to keep promises to oneself is a big one. I'm not going to look at porn for three days. That evening you blow it. You know, I'm only going to look for an hour, three hours later. You cannot keep promises to yourself. And then ultimately, is the escalation of the content. Like I said, I had to go from beer to tequila. Well, you have to go from sometimes very vanilla, milquetoast content to much more extreme stuff that if you saw in real life you would run from.

David Enevoldsen: Right. That makes sense. All of those make sense and seem to fit similar parameters you find with other addictive problems. You know, drugs.

Joshua Shea: I believe that addiction is 95% the same right across the board. You know, I understand with with drugs and with chemicals, you're going to get other side effects. But with gambling addiction, you're more likely to lose the house than you are with a porn addiction. With, you know food addiction, you're more likely to have a heart attack than you are if you're a video game addict. You know, all of these things come with different side effects. But what's going on in the mind that search for the pleasure chemical, that's the same thing.

David Enevoldsen: What do you think are the major concerns in terms of side effects for sex addiction? Excuse me, for porn addiction?

Joshua Shea: It's the biggest one I think is obsessing over it. Is that you constantly live in this state of searching for it. You constantly live in this state of waiting for the next hit. You, it's so available everywhere now that, I've never seen a study, about this, but based on people I've talked to I bet that 5 to 10% of guys at their lunch break are in their car looking at porn. Based on how many people I've met who have who have talked about doing that kind of stuff. It is a time crunch. It is something that forces you to lie. It is something that and with this perhaps even more than most, addictions comes a level of shame.

David Enevoldsen: Yeah.

Joshua Shea: You know, I say the joke that, you know, when I went off to rehab for alcoholism, people are patting me on the back and calling me a hero to go conquer my demons. And when I say because and then later on, I did go to rehab for sex and porn addiction, you know, and I tell people I went to rehab for sex and porn addiction. They don't want to pat me on the back. They want to find the hand sanitizer.

David Enevoldsen: Right? Yeah, that makes sense. Because now

Joshua Shea: Because it's still such a taboo thing that despite the despite the fact that you are far more uncommon if you don't watch pornography we still live in society as if it's only those really freaky people on the fringes who do it. The only people who watch porn are the 19 year old guy who's never kissed a girl that lives in his mom's basement or that mentally ill 50 year old guy who's flashing people in the park. Those are those those are your two people. When the reality is between my clients and the people that I went through recovery with, we're talking doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers, every color of the rainbow, every religion, every nationality, social status, income, intellect. There is no typical porn addict. That's one of the important things, because a lot of people seem to think, well, I don't fit the I don't fit the profile of a porn addict. There is no profile of a porn addict anymore. Maybe there was back in the 50s and 60s. But there is no profile of a porn addict anymore. There are too many people using it. There are too many people falling under it. Perhaps the only thing you could say is that it tends to skew younger because of high speed internet.

David Enevoldsen: Interesting. So if somebody wants to I'm going to ask you one more substantive question in just a second, but if somebody wants to kind of reach out to you, use any of your services, find your book, anything like that, where should they go?

Joshua Shea: If my website is paddictrecovery. That's a .com. That has my books, that talks about my coaching. That is probably the best resource if you want to learn more about me, if you want to learn more about my services. If you're just curious to learn a little bit more about my about porn addiction, about betrayal trauma, about porn statistics in the world today, I have a pretty big presence on Tik Tok. And my name on Tik Tok is ThatCornCoach because you can't say porn online. You have to say corn. So it's ThatCornCoach. Um, and I've got something like 111,000 followers on there now. Um, and so that's, that's a lot of people have been learning that way about this stuff.

David Enevoldsen: Okay. And of course I'll post links to all that wherever I'm posting this. Okay. My my last kind of question of substance and this might may or may not shift off of the porn topic, but I ask everybody this at the end of the interview, and that is if you could offer just one piece of advice to people about emotional health or strength and how to optimize that, how to be as emotionally fit and healthy because that's what Emotional Embuffination is all about, what would that one piece of advice be?

Joshua Shea: You have to prioritize yourself first. Because while you can be a positive or negative influence in someone else's life, ultimately their health comes down to their choices and your health comes down to your choices. And I understand that we can make 101 different, you know, exceptions to the rule, but ultimately you are in charge of yourself and you can get there. If I can quit pornography and alcohol at the exact same time and be successful, anybody can do anything.

David Enevoldsen: I love that message that I think that's perfect. That's very consistent with the stuff that I talk about. I think that's great advice. So, Josh, thank you very much for your time today. Thank you for interviewing with me. I appreciate this. I think this is an important, quite frankly, thank you for addressing this topic at all, because I know, as you said, this is very stigmatized. And I think it's hard for people to even talk about it, much less come forward and say, hey, I've got a problem and try to get some help.

Joshua Shea: If you hear if you hear my podcast from five years ago, they do not sound as good as it did today.

David Enevoldsen: So well, so thank you for all the work you're doing on this. Thank you for your interview today.

Joshua Shea: Thanks, David.

David Enevoldsen: I guess we can wrap it up there and I guess I'll let you go.

Joshua Shea: All right, thanks a lot.

David Enevoldsen: So that brings us to the end of today's show. I hope that you have found this useful. I hope you can take some little nugget out of this. I hope that if you don't recognize that there's a problem with you related to porn addiction or maybe someone around you directly, if you do, I hope that you can use that, some of the information here maybe get some help with any of that. But even if you don't have an addiction with porn, maybe look around and see if you have an addiction to anything. Try to deal with addictions as best you can. Get help for addictions. Do what you can to make your life better, because that's what Emotional Embuffination is all about. It's about improving your life and making things better, dealing with conflict effectively, dealing with the stuff that holds us back so that we can live the best lives possible. Don't forget to sign up for the newsletter on the website embuff.com. And remember, Emotional Embuffination generally is all about continuing to work on this stuff. Keep doing it, keep working on whatever it is, if it's addictions or something else. We go every day and we try to improve just a little bit, make make us deal with things better, learn things constantly, constantly improve. Just like when you go to the gym, you don't go just one time and you're done forever. You keep going and you make it part of your routine. Same thing with Emotional Embuffination. Keep working on it. At the end of the day, I want you to be emotionally strong enough to go from saying things like, "The struggle is real," to saying, "What struggle?" Thank you all for listening. Have a great week and I will see you on the next show.