Do you ever wonder how you reached this point in life? After all, nobody plans out their life as a kid, and says, “I sure hope I develop a pornography addiction!” Of course not! And yet, here we are. What do you think has brought you to this point?

Many factors come into play, of course, but we’re going to focus on one in particular: self-esteem.

How Does Self-Esteem Fuel Addiction Exactly?

Did you know that low self-esteem can actually make you more vulnerable to addictive behaviors? Why do you think that is? After you think about it for a second, it’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?

The worse you feel about yourself, the more you’re going to seek out ways to feel accepted, important, and in control. Often, we turn to pornography because it gives us a false sense of connection with those on the computer screen. However, by turning to pornography or any other potentially addictive behavior to escape from feelings of worthlessness, we are actually pouring fuel on the fire.

One guy who struggled with low self-esteem and pornography addiction described the vicious cycle that the two conditions created this way: “It’s funny. Because of my low self-esteem, I found myself turning to pornography for relief, but afterward, I would actually feel worse, and my self-esteem would get even lower. So without seeing the connection between the two, I would turn back to the very thing that was making it worse.”

His observation is consistent with the ironic pattern that many have experienced for themselves: turning to things like alcohol, street drugs, or pornography for relief from depression, loneliness, or self-hatred pushes individuals deeper into those same emotional ruts. The deeper we go, the more intensely we look for an escape. Do you see the downward spiral?

A Vicious Cycle Of Self-Loathing

Due to this pattern, our sense of purpose and self-worth can take a beating in any negative habit or addiction. When we’re giving our brain a dopamine rush over and over in response to an image, what do you think happens when we get up from our chair and turn back to real life?

That’s right, it’s boring! Think about it. Real life can sometimes seem dull when compared to those videos and images. We can start to feel less and less enthusiastic about anything, and that includes ourselves—our worth and well-being.

People whose habits have progressed to pornography addiction simply stop caring much about their own lives. They report feeling a loss of their sense of hope, purpose, and meaning in life.

And the cycle continues. This low mood then sets us up to think we want and need more of that artificial dopamine rush of pornography. After all, when any of us feel low and terrible, we’re going to want relief.

And when we try to escape those bad feelings through pornography or other harmful substances, we’re launching into the addiction cycle we discussed earlier. Is there another way to handle this emotional pain?

Take A Different Approach— Acceptance

What if we saw a low mood or a feeling of hopelessness as an alarm system going off in the body? When your finger touches a hot stove, the pain you feel hurts — but it’s also telling you something, right? It’s telling you to take your finger off the hot stove! What if your body didn’t send you this message? We would have far more serious injuries and probably be missing a few limbs, wouldn’t we? It’s a good thing we feel pain because it helps us make adjustments.

Instead of trying to force feelings by simply saying, “You’re great, just tell yourself that,” we’re talking about going to work building a life you can believe in, a life where you are offering something to the world, where your energies matter, where you are making a difference for someone. As you do so, it will change everything. You’ll notice a deep sense of purpose and contribution.

For many who face serious addiction, spirituality— whatever you define that to be— can also play a crucial role in finding freedom. Many find strength in turning to a higher power. If this is something that works for you, use it!

While it’s important to break free from a habit like this, having light to fill the void in your life that pornography used to fill is what is really going to give you meaning and purpose.