Commonalities in Eating Disorders and Pornography Addictions

February 7, 2019 Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

The similarities between eating disorders and pornography might not be always obvious, but these addictions share much in common. Learn what at HealthyPlace.

Eating disorders and pornography addictions have more in common than you might realize at face value. But when you break down the complex nuances, deep-rooted motives, and unaddressed traumas that often drive the symptoms of these issues, both eating disorders and porn addictions share many identical threads. In fact, I know firsthand this connection exists because I am a survivor of anorexia, and my husband is a recovered user of porn. Our two healing stories are uniquely our own, but the similarities between his obstacles and mine are also just too pronounced to dismiss as coincidental. So what do eating disorders and pornography addictions have in common? In case you are wondering, here is my perspective on this enmeshed and intricate dynamic. 

Why Eating Disorders and Pornography Addictions Are Similar

It's important to understand that both these dependencies are psychological in nature, but they manifest in physical repercussions. Both are used to numb out from painful emotions such as fear, anger, rejection, loneliness, insecurity, weakness, or disempowerment. And both maintain a stronghold on their victims with the poisonous cocktail of shame, stigma, and secrecy. Beneath the tortuous layers of eating disorders and pornography are sufferers desperate to break the vortex of obsession, ritual, self-hatred, and punishment which fuels their unhealthy behaviors. But the need to control and medicate the discomfort of their emotions often keeps them enslaved in this pattern of addiction. Freedom is attainable—my husband and I are proof that anyone can heal—but it does require constant, intentional, sometimes excruciating work to recover.

View Eating Disorders and Pornography from a Lens of Healing

Those with eating disorders tend to obsess about food, and those with pornography addictions tend to feel consumed with sex, but these are just surface distractions—the so-called "opiates" of choice. Shrouded under these two conduits of food and sex is a primal instinct to be sequestered from unsafe memories, feelings, and wounds that are buried deep within. So the behaviors associated with an eating disorder or porn addiction become defense mechanisms to survive this repressed psychological trauma and latent emotional pain. But unlike other forms of dependency, where the most effective treatment method is to sever all ties with the substance in question, it's not so black-and-white with eating disorders and pornography.

While sufferers can abstain from restricting calories, over-exercising, binging and purging, or watching explicit content, the fact remains, they cannot eliminate the presence of food and sexuality from their lives. Instead, they must learn how to nurture a positive and sustainable relationship with those same conduits they used to abuse. Food must be viewed through a lens of nourishment and pleasure, rather than a source of deprivation. Sexuality must also be viewed through a lens of enjoyment and self-expression in a consensual intimate relationship, not an act of secrecy which just leads to guilt and detachment.

Moreover, because of the threads eating disorders and pornography addictions have in common, it's my belief their treatment interventions should be comparable too. In the case of both myself and my husband, our recoveries began when the fear behind our maladaptive cycles was reframed in the context of health—when that ferocious shame and stigma were replaced with an empowering notion that, instead of being deviant, we deserved to be whole.          

APA Reference
Schurrer, M. (2019, February 7). Commonalities in Eating Disorders and Pornography Addictions, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 20 from

Author: Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

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