Are we losing men to gaming and porn addiction?

TLDR;

At least 50% of men play video games and watch porn frequently.

Gaming and porn addiction are leading to a masculinity crisis in men.

541,000 people in Japan are isolated in their rooms for months of years without relationships.

Men are increasingly anxious, depressed, and struggling with suicide 1 1. CDC: Suicide rates are up 30 percent since 1999 × . They are dropping out of school and opting out of the workforce, instead choosing to live in a virtual world playing video games and watching porn. A masculinity crisis is on our hands.

Growing up as a boy is hard. You experience bullying at school and rejection by girls, leading to hurt and heartbreak. 1 in 3 boys grow up without a father, and for those of us lucky enough to have one, we only spend 30 minutes a week in conversation with them, compared to 44 hours we will spend in front of a screen 2 2. TED: Phillip Zimbardo on The Demise of Guys × . Without the tools and guidance to navigate our painful emotional states, we resort to escape.

Escaping into Gaming and Porn

“When life sucks you might as well stay in your room and live your life there.”

In Japan, a 2016 study found at least 541,000 people suffer from hikkomori 3 3. Hikikomori: The Japanese Cabinet Office’s 2016 Survey of Acute Social Withdrawal × , a phenomenon of social withdrawal in which the individual remains isolated in their room for months or years without social relationships. What are they doing while they are isolated in their rooms? Watching porn and playing video games.

At least 50% of men are playing video games and watching porn frequently. On April 14th when servers for the popular game Fortnite crashed for 24 hours, Pornhub (the most popular website for pornographic content) experienced a 10% surge in traffic from gamers, with searches for videos using the key term “Fortnite” increasing by 60% 4 4. Does “forced abstinence” from gaming lead to pornography use? Insight from the April 2018 crash of Fortnite’s servers × . When gamers were unable to game, they resorted to watching porn instead.

“I was addicted to gaming and porn because I was addicted to escapism.” -Paolo

We play games and watch porn to escape and fulfill our emotional needs. To feel a sense of achievement, we play games. To feel a sense of connection, we watch porn. For all the rest of our time, we mindlessly browse the internet as tech addicted zombies. Gaming, porn, and the internet provide a safe space. There is little-to-no risk of rejection, and we have more control over our experience.

“Pornography promises orgasm without intimacy. Video warfare promises adrenaline without danger. The arousal that makes these so attractive is ultimately spiritual to the core.” -Russell Moore

Gaming and Porn Addiction Change the Brain

Real life is boring, while gaming and porn are exciting. They require a low amount of effort for a consistent stream of different rewards, and this provides us with a rapid release of dopamine — our brain’s pleasure chemical. Research finds the more we are overexposed to this type of artificial digital stimulation, the more our brains rewire to not only expect it, but crave it.

The more you game, the more you want to game, the more your brain wants to game, so the more you game, and then you experience structural brain changes. There are three of them: numbed pleasure response — every day activities no longer satisfy you, hyper-reactivity to gaming — gaming is really exciting and everything else is boring, and willpower erosion — even if you wanted to quit you would struggle to have the willpower anyways due to changes to your prefrontal cortex. The same process works with porn addiction.

How to Overcome Gaming and Porn Addiction

To reverse these structural brain changes, research shows it requires a 90 day detox from gaming and porn. This means not playing video games or watching porn for a period of 90 days. Think of it as an experiment to learn more about yourself and your relationships to gaming and porn.

At the end of the detox you might want to try to play in moderation, or you may want to continue to quit forever, but you will be making that choice from an informed place about the impact gaming and porn addiction have in your life.

Block Access

To make the detox easier, block access to problematic apps, games, and websites using an app like Focus.Me. Delete Instagram off your phone, uninstall Steam, and block YouTube. The harder you make it to regain access, the less tempted you will be to relapse.

Beware: Addiction Swapping

Behavioral addictions are compulsive disorders driven by a desire to fulfill emotional needs we have. Often, that need can be to escape from stress, or simply boredom. Compulsive behavior comes from a lack of awareness so in order to combat it, you want to add more awareness and intention into your life.

Why are you doing what you are doing? How are you dealing with stress without gaming or porn? What else can you do to fulfill a desire for competition? Intentionally choose new replacements.

Navigate Withdrawal Symptoms

During your 90 day detox it’s common to experience withdrawal symptoms, such as cravings and urges, mood swings, irritability, feelings of apathy, headaches, and lethargy, amongst others.

It’s crucial that you watch out for potential triggers, and be mindful of cravings and urges to play games or watch porn. It’s normal to experience these symptoms, especially early on, so don’t sweat it. Learn to dance with your emotions.

Join a Support Community

Finally, join a support community. Whether that is Game Quitters, Reddit communities such as StopGaming and NoFap, or a 12-step group like CGAA or Porn Addicts Anonymous, being surrounded by others on a similar journey as you is proven to be helpful for you to succeed in your recovery.

It’s easier than ever to find yourself isolated in your room playing video games and watching porn. But what’s the impact that is having on your life? Is it making you happy, or are you simply entertained for a moment? Are you engaged in pursuing your goals, or avoiding responsibilities through escapism? With all of the temptations that exist in our world today it’s never been more important for men to be leaders, living their lives with passion and purpose.

Need help?

Reading this and struggling with a compulsion or addiction to gaming? You are not alone. Check out Respawn, a program specifically designed to help you quit gaming and take control of your life back. Backed by scientific research, join thousands of others like you who have quit gaming. Start your journey today.