Video: Hooked on porn

msnbc.com
updated 3/3/2006 1:40:20 PM ET 2006-03-03T18:40:20

According to experts, 25 million Americans visit cyber-sex sites every week, leading some to become sex addicts. 

Pornography is everywhere, and the ease of a person being able to get their hands on it is turning countless numbers of people into porn addicts, becoming hooked without even knowing it. 

Sex therapist, Dr. Laura Berman, joined Rita Cosby on ‘Live and Direct’ to discuss the problems of porn addiction in America.

To read an excerpt from their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

RITA COSBY, HOST, ‘LIVE AND DIRECT’:  Dr. Berman, why did you think more people are addicted to porn?  What is it?

DR. LAURA BERMAN, SEX THERAPIST:  I think it's just the Internet, that the access is so intense.  Twenty-five percent of the searches done on search engines are for porn sites.  You can basically see anything, have access to it 24 hours a day, and have anonymous access, so you don't have to leave your house, you don't have to pay any extra money, and you don't have to even fully acknowledge that you're doing it to the outside world. 

So in the comfort of our own home, you can have access to the World Wide Web full of every kind of porn you can imagine. 

COSBY:  You know, and speaking of Web, let me show some statistics.  I was surprised about this:  372 million pornographic Web pages; 72 million people visit porn sites each year.  I mean, you can just see just the number and how much of a business operation this is. 

Are you surprised to see how much it is?  And it is increasing with other behaviors?  Is there something else tied to it? 

BERMAN:  Sexual addiction is not considered a formal psychiatric diagnosis, but anyone who's out there treating, you know, in the world of sex therapy or even treating couples is seeing this.  It's becoming a pandemic, in terms of the clinical experience of it, because couples are coming forward with this all the time. 

I just had a couple I was seeing this week where the man is on the Internet six to eight hours a night looking at porn sites.  It very often goes hand-in-hand with other addictions whether it's substance abuse or substances, alcohol, any kind of addiction.  It's typically an addictive personality who also gets addicted to Internet porn or pornography in general. 

And the difference, I think, between Internet porn and regular porn, for the addict, is that you have constant temptation when you're at work on the computer, when you're at home on the Internet, at any point.  You almost have to throw out your computer to try to go cold turkey, so it's really hard to isolate yourself from the pornography when you're addicted. 

COSBY:  You know, can a married couple survive this when one person is so addicted, as you're talking about? 

BERMAN:  I think absolutely, but it's like treating any other addiction.  You have to, you know, as we heard in the piece you just showed, acknowledge that you have a problem, first and foremost, and get the help.  You're not going to resolve it by yourself any more than you would any other addiction. 

So you need to get help with a trained therapist, perhaps go into a 12-step program.  There are sexual addicts anonymous groups.  There's sexual addiction support lines now.  So people can get the help and the assistance they need to resolve the addiction and move toward rehabilitation.

COSBY:  Let me put some statistics about adult behavior, about Internet behavior.  Forty million regular visitors, 72 percent are male, 28 percent female.  Twenty percent of the men admit viewing sites at work.  Why more men than women?  What is it inherently?

BERMAN:  Part of it may be that women aren't reporting it as often, because there's more taboos against women using pornography than men.  Part of it may be that this is just something that men are more interested in. 

I'm not sure what the answer is, but I think the most important thing is that there is a place for pornography, and erotica, and healthy couples, and individual sexual relationships.  It's not like all porn is bad.  It's when it's getting in the way of the intimacy in your relationship, it's getting in the way of a healthy sex life, and, in many cases, it's getting in the way of your ability to even hold down a job, or spend time with your family, or carry out your daily tasks.  That's when it's really considered a problem. 

Watch 'Rita Cosby Live & Direct' each night at 9 p.m. ET on MSNBC.

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