Cork organisation witnessing spike in pornography addiction 

Children as young as age 8 have been exposed. 
Cork organisation witnessing spike in pornography addiction 

The psychotherapist said that the demographic of people reaching out to them for help has changed dramatically in recent years. Picture: Pexels

A CORK organisation is battling a spike in pornography addiction as it endeavours to help an average of 60 people a week with problematic sexual behaviour.

Psychotherapist at Cork’s Sexual Health Centre, Donal Clifford, who runs the organisation’s Sex and Love Therapy (SALT) group therapy programme, reported a 350% increase in service users presenting with problematic sexual behaviours since the onset of the pandemic.

Mr Clifford said the majority of issues around problematic sexual behaviour they see relate to compulsive pornography consumption. The psychotherapist said that the demographic of people reaching out to them for help has changed dramatically in recent years.

“Eight years ago it would have been middle-aged and older men who were coming to us,” he said.

“Now we are helping people as young as 18 who have had access to pornography from the age of eight years old.

“Some tell us that they have viewed it [for instance on other people’s phones] from the age of 8 but didn’t start [actively] watching it till they were 10.”

Mr Clifford explained how children can be exposed to pornography from a young age.

“Almost every child from sixth class upwards has a smartphone. If you block it on their phone, chances are they will still be able to view it on another child’s device and that could be the hook for them. The effect this is having on the brain long-term is where the real issue is.”

The psychotherapist described how problematic sexualised behaviour can begin quite innocuously.

“A lot of social media is being sexualised. People are turning to pornography outside of that but more so since the pandemic. Everybody has a smartphone now. However, a smartphone for a compulsive pornography viewer is the same as an alcoholic with a bottle of vodka in their pocket.”


Mr Clifford explained how pornography addiction can escalate. “Very often people who were treated for gambling, drug addiction, or alcoholism move into obsessive and compulsive sexual behaviours. Pornography can be the same as any gateway drug in that it can lead to other forms of problematic sexualised behaviour. What tends to happen is that men don’t see women as women anymore and only as sex objects.

“This can lead to feelings of isolation and shame and a lack of intimate relationships. Some of the time it can lead to people spending thousands of euro on sex workers.”

The centre is also helping a number of women negatively affected by pornography. “We work with people who often become involved in abusive relationships. They think they should perform the same way as pornography actors which results in them becoming involved in relationships based solely on sexual performance. They can find partners in unhealthy places who also have an unhealthy view of what a relationship should look like,” Mr Clifford said.

Demand for services at all-time high 

Demand for the Sexual Health Centre’s services is at an all-time high. “The number of people coming forward has taken us by surprise and we continue to have a long waiting list for people dealing with problematic sexual behaviour,” he said.

“People have struggled with this for a long time and they are full of gratitude to be able to avail of a service like this.”

The Sex and Love Therapy programme at Cork’s Sexual Health Centre was created by Donal and is based on the training he undertook with leading UK sex addiction expert, Paula Hall.

It works to support people in regulating their own sexual behaviour and eliminate any internalised shame or isolation that may be associated with it.

It is for any person who feels they are engaging in any sexual activity to a degree which creates a negative impact on their life.

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