Porn addiction recovery and faulty core beliefs

Today we’re starting a new series of blogs looking at the role that core beliefs play in beating sex addiction and overcoming porn addiction. Also known as CSBD (compulsive sexual behaviour disorder) sex and porn addiction can devastate lives and on the surface it may seem like an easy problem to beat. Surely all you have to do is stop, but that’s the easy bit – it’s staying stopped that’s the challenge!

Therapy for porn addiction

Many people turn to therapy to overcome sex and porn addiction and this has proven benefits (do look at our published articles to read our outcome measures). And a critical component of effective counselling for compulsive porn use is looking at the faulty core beliefs that are sabotaging recovery. There are 2 reasons why core beliefs may be faulty. Either because they’re downright wrong, or they’re misplaced. But let’s start by looking at what we mean by core beliefs. 

Core beliefs is a term commonly used to describe the deeply held attitudes we have about ourselves, the world and others. Some are conscious, most are unconscious and either way, they are embedded into our thinking and have a significant influence in the way we perceive the world, people around us and ultimately, how we feel and behave. Our core beliefs are not ‘facts’ they are beliefs, and we tend to collect evidence to support them by privileging information and events that support them and ignoring information and events that challenge them. Again, much of this is unconscious but it has the effect of strengthening those core beliefs, which isn’t a bad thing if the core belief is positive but, if it’s negative, then it can become a stumbling block to recovery.

Our beliefs feed the assumptions that we make, assumptions about ourselves and also the assumptions we make about other people and our world. And critically those assumptions create what’s often referred to as our ‘automatic negative thoughts’, or ANTs. And it’s those thoughts that influence our behaviour. Let’s look at some examples:

If you have a fundamental core belief that people are untrustworthy then your automatic thoughts will be to not trust and this will impact the way you behave with other people. You will interact with people, expecting them to let you down or betray you in some way.  Understandably, if that’s how you ‘expect’ to be treated, you’ll probably be on your guard around people. You may question them and be suspicious or be jealous and possessive. Or you may keep your distance so you don’t get hurt so much ‘when’ they let you down. These behaviours will inevitably damage your relationships and very possibly result in you having lots of experiences of being ‘betrayed’ and ‘let down’ which then reinforces your core belief. 

Let’s think of another example: What if a core belief is “People will only like me if I’m successful”. That’s likely to lead to an assumption that your career is the most important thing in life and when you’re with others, you’ll probably spend a lot of time talking about work and your ‘success’. That may lead people to think of you as arrogant, or perhaps, boring, so it actually stops people liking you, but that might lead you to working even harder because you assume that you’re not ‘successful’ enough. Often when we’re struggling in relationships, it’s because we have a ‘faulty’ core belief that is influencing our thinking and our behaviour and hence our relationships. And when it comes to the world of sex addiction and porn addiction, that impact can result in greater feelings of anxiety, depression, anger, loneliness and low self-esteem – the common emotions that underpin and trigger acting out. 

Am I a sex addict?

Another reason why core beliefs are important is that they are at the root of our identity. If your faulty core beliefs have led you to compulsive or addictive sex or porn use, then you may start thinking “I’m a sex addict” and it becomes your identity. Another example would be, let’s say part of your acting out involves having sex with people outside of a monogamous relationship whenever you’re away on business. That is your behaviour. Over time it become a habit and your automatic negative thought whenever you’re away is “I can’t resist being unfaithful”. And that’s because you ‘assume’ that whenever you’re away on business, you’ll be unfaithful. I would suspect that at the root of this there will be a faulty core belief that says either that you’re a failure, or greedy, or needy, or selfish, or that “everyone cheats”. Overtime your identity will become – “I’m a cheat”.  Another really common example would be someone who keeps relapsing with porn whenever the cravings feel too strong. That’s the behaviour. The automatic negative thought is “I can’t manage my cravings” because you ‘assume’ you’re going to eventually cave in and relapse. The faulty core belief underlying this may be very similar to the previous example or it may be “I’m weak” or “I have no self-control” or “everyone looks at porn”. Either way, your identity gradually erodes into someone who says, “I’m a porn addict”.   

Beating porn addiction and sex addiction

If you want to beat sex and porn addiction for good, then you need to rewrite these faulty core beliefs or they will sabotage your recovery in the future.  But before you can address those beliefs properly, you need to find out where they come from. That will be the topic for our next blog. If you want more help in the meantime, whether that’s individual therapy or joining one of our groupwork programmes, you can get in touch here