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The American Trauma of Pornography

“Am I crazy?”

“Why am I not good enough?”

“Can I ever trust them again?”

These are all questions frequently asked by partners of people who are struggling with porn. While a great deal of information exists for those suffering from porn addiction or obsession with porn, partners are often left feeling alone but with equally real wounds of their own. Though psychology once followed a model of codependency for partners of porn addicts, more and more psychologists are coming to realize that partners are most often not codependent but are suffering from real trauma of their own as a result of their partner’s addiction. This is called betrayal trauma.

The American Psychological Association defines trauma as “an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, assault or natural disaster. Immediately after the event, shock and denial are typical. Longer term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea.”[1] Discovering a partner’s porn addiction truly is a traumatic event. Partners of porn addicts often feel that their lives have been turned upside down – they realize their partner has a secret world where he or she seeks sexual satisfaction and emotional gratification outside the relationship. They feel betrayed, they do not know who to trust anymore, and they may even feel unsafe.

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