Purity is possible: hope for those hooked on porn

A teaching psychiatrist goes online to help people with addictive behaviours
Kevin Majeres | Jul 22 2016 | comment  



It is commonplace now to speak of dependence on pornography as an addiction. But how can this disorder be overcome? Dr Kevin Majeres (pron. “majors”), a cognitive behavioural psychiatrist who is currently on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, explains in this Q&A with MercatorNet that this type of therapy can help those who want to break the “power of cravings”. And that is why he is reaching out to them online.

In addition, we have reproduced with his permission an article from his website explaining in some detail the science behind pornography.

Q. You are a busy private practitioner and teaching as well – what led you to reach out to addicts online?

A. In my clinical practice I focus primarily on treating anxiety disorders. In many cases, it became clear that addictive behaviors were also part of the picture, playing a role in maintaining patterns of avoidance that kept the anxiety from improving. It was natural to apply the same approach that I used in treating anxiety to treating these avoidant addictive behaviors, and I found that the approach was quite successful.

Creating the educational websites purityispossible.com for addictive sexual behaviors, and overcomingcravings.com for addictive disorders in general, was the most logical way to help people by making this approach better known. [overcomingcravings.com is not online yet, but should be VERY soon...]

Q. When you speak of ‘addiction’ in regard to sexual behaviours, are you using a metaphor?

A. From a behavioral therapy standpoint, an addiction is a repeated behavior in which the costs outweigh the benefits that you engage in because of cravings. The presence of a craving does not itself make an addiction: one can crave things and yet not meet this definition of addiction IF the costs of the behavior do not outweigh its benefits.

If the behavior violates one’s ideals and values, however, there is no benefit that can make up for it. So we can say even more simply that an addiction is anytime you violate your ideals because of cravings. The definition applies equally to all addictive behaviors.

Q. Could you explain how the purity is possible website works? 

A. The site is broken into nine interactive modules. I wanted a format that allows for questions and answers, so that the experience would feel more personal, and so that I could give more complete explanations when needed to address concepts that were misunderstood. The nine topics covered are all necessary elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy.

The first step is to help people clarify their ideals, so that they have a positive target in mind; this also allows for an introduction to the concepts of virtuous and vicious cycles, which are at the core of behavioral therapy. The second module covers the specific ideal of patience, which is the crucial virtue for breaking the power of cravings. The next modules discuss the elements of patience in more detail, and gradually the material gets more specific and concrete, allowing for measured, focused practice. 

Q. ‘Purity is possible for everyone,’ you say. This offers a lot of hope, but purity seems a very challenging ideal for people today. How do people you deal with respond to it?

A. In my experience, people are relieved to find an optimistic approach that combines high ideals and well-crafted practice. The idea of the website began when I saw how my patients responded so positively, and so quickly, to the cognitive-behavioral approach to cravings. From the feedback I get from readers of the website, I can see that the game-changing power of this approach is now reaching a much wider audience. 

See also: The science behind pornography 



This article is published by Kevin Majeres and MercatorNet.com under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation. Commercial media must contact us for permission and fees. Some articles on this site are published under different terms.

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