Can playing video games help you quit porn?

Does gaming “level up” recovery from porn addiction – or does gaming cultivate a lifestyle where porn use is likely to thrive? There is no definitive answer. Through operating a large support network, we’ve noticed many people report that gaming has been any mix of beneficial, inconsequential, or harmful to their recoveries from porn addiction, porn overuse, and compulsive sexual behavior. However, we have noticed some trends. We believe how you game and why you game determines how gaming will impact your recovery.

Gaming can help you quit porn.

You can use gaming to avoid using porn. Many people successfully mitigate urges to use porn by playing video games instead. We often recommend that if a recovering porn addict is thinking about slipping up, that they get out of the situation immediately. If you’re a porn addict, you can’t expect yourself to make a level-headed decision about porn use if porn is right in front of you. That means physically removing yourself from the situation where the slip-up is likely – putting your phone down or closing the porn site and walking away to do something else. “Something else” is often a quick floor exercise, a walk, reading a book, or, if you want – playing video games. You want the activity to be something that you actually want to do – since taking a cold shower, going for a 10-mile run, or studying physics will be even less desirable than usual when compared to porn in the heat-of-the-moment. Video gaming is a great option to take your mind off of the urges to slip back into old problematic habits. So the next time that you want to return back to problem porn use, consider loading up a quick Fortnite or Valorant match instead.

You can use gaming for relaxation and recreation. Consistently recharging is part of properly taking care of yourself. Regularly relaxation will lower your stress levels, making you more capable to resist urges to go back to problem porn use – and allow you to be at the top of your game to pursue other goals in your daily life.

You can use gaming to stay “busy.” Busy is in quotes because, unless if gaming is your career, it doesn’t really count as “productive” and “getting stuff done” time per se. But you still want to make sure that your days are filled with activities that make you feel happy and fulfilled. Keeping busy and productive is one of the best strategies to overcome porn addiction. Otherwise, if you have too much empty time, you might just end up thinking about porn all the time and slip back into old habits.

You can use gaming for social interaction. Through the Internet, connecting with other people is easier than ever. Author Johann Hari’s popular quote “the opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety – it’s connection” seems to have some truth to it – many addicts report consistent connection with others to be an instrumental tool in their arsenal to combat porn addiction. Gaming makes connecting with others relatively effortless. You can game with old friends – or load into matchmaking to connect with strangers. These days, many people make lifelong friends through gaming. If you struggle with social anxiety, gaming with strangers online is a low-pressure way to practice your social skills.

Gaming can be harmful to recovery from porn.

Don’t game too much. Unless if you are gaming as a career, you want to be sure to limit your gaming to a reasonable amount of time. Some people have reported that gaming every time that they wanted to use porn resulted in many hours of gaming per day. While that might be fine temporarily, keep in mind that a lethargic lifestyle breeds problem porn use.

Make sure that you’re taking care of yourself. One of the best “techniques” to quit porn is to live a life that is so fulfilling there isn’t any room for porn to get back into it. So even if you are gaming, make sure that you’re exercising regularly, eating healthy foods, getting up to move around once in a while, talking to your loved ones, and not neglecting other areas of your life.

Don’t use gaming escape from responsibilities. You want to use gaming for enjoyment, not escapism. If there is something else that you should be doing, try not to run away to video games, but tackle your problems head-on. If you neglect your problems, those can lead to anxiety and stress, which are commonly-reported triggers that lead back to problem porn use. The video game will still be there after you take care of your important responsibilities. For many, gaming even seems more fun and enjoyable when you’re playing with the intention of relaxation, not running away from something else that you should be doing.

Don’t use games that include sexuality media. Recovering porn addicts are advised to steer clear of artificial sexual media, including things that aren’t technically porn, until they’re ready and willing to re-integrate these things back into their lives. Avoid pornographic games, hookup simulators, games with heavy sexual themes, and nude mods. Many people in porn addiction recovery struggle with substituting porn for sexualized media – for example, spending hours browsing through Instagram bikini photos – so make sure that you aren’t using sexualized games to feed your porn-starved brain. Also, be wary of video game streams, message boards, Discord servers, and videos which can sometimes feature porn – avoid the ones that frequently expose you to unwanted sexualized media, if necessary.

Don’t trade in one problem for another. If you want to game, just try to keep it non-excessive and healthy. If your gaming is getting out of control, it might be time to consider limiting your gaming time or even taking a temporary break, as well, to pursue other activities. Be wary of games that feature randomized micro-transaction gambling systems, which the ESRB recently issued warning labels for. The World Health Organization has recently classified “gaming disorder” in the ICD-11 (WHO also recently classified “compulsive sexual behavior disorder“).

Indeed, we have noticed that some porn addicts also struggle with problem gaming. Excessive porn use and excessive gaming habits can certainly complement and compound each other. With that in mind, if you do suspect that you already have an unhealthy relationship with gaming, you will probably want to avoid overloading yourself. Tackling one problem habit can be hard enough, tacking two at the same time could be overwhelming. If you are struggling with multiple problem-habits, it is probably a good idea to visit a tech-literate therapist. They might recommend that you focus on overcoming one problem at a time – such as taking care of the porn overuse first, then later addressing problem “gaming disorder.” Self-help is also available online, such as the StopGaming subreddit, Game Quitters (and their YouTube channel), and HealthyGamer.gg (who also has a YouTube channel).

5 thoughts on “Can playing video games help you quit porn?”

  1. Sorry but I’m a gaming addict. My addiction to games complements my addiction to porn, and when I binge on one, I tend to binge on the other. If you think that gaming is for nerds or something and you rarely touch the stuff, then yeah it might be a good distraction. But if you’re like me and you give into your impulses with gaming then it will make you feel ok with giving into your impulses with porn.

    1. I would say it is but it really depends on what you expect out of life. For instance one of my friend plays this much, but he’s a video game music designer and musician and a lot of his musician friends also play. So ultimately he spends most of time discussing video games with them, has a constructive approach to them, and meets people to play with. So in his case it’s a positive cycle.

  2. Pablo Cebrian

    I do not know if people are joking but 30 hours per week is so excessive. 2 hours per day is much, but I would say that’s the limit you should be playing videogames for a normal person. Play sports, read books, create something (a game, woodcraft, a story,), help with the house duties or even join a club. You will meet people there and it will be harder to go back to addiction.

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