How to Quit Porn: 6 Essential Steps
Why stop watching porn? For some, porn might seem like a harmless past-time, a not-too-serious guilty pleasure, or perhaps an embarrassing habit.
But maybe you’re one of the many who have realized the devastating effects that porn has on your life and relationships. Maybe you feel trapped and unable to quit. Now you’re asking, “How can I quit watching porn?”
If you’re wondering how to stop looking at porn, you’re not alone. Skim through the hundreds of comments below, and you’ll see. Quitting porn doesn’t have to be complicated, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Dr. Weiss’ 6 Essential Steps to Quit Porn (Doug Weiss, Ph.D., is a nationally known author, speaker, and licensed psychologist).
If you want to stop looking at porn, it’s going to take some intentional work, and I encourage you to familiarize yourself with these six steps:
1. You need to want to stop watching porn.
2. You have to be willing to try quitting porn a different way.
3. You need to be brutally honest with another person.
4. You need to get rid of all your porn.
5. You also need to block porn from coming in.
6. You need a friend to help you stay on track.
Note from the editor: Since 2012, Dr. Weiss’ six essential steps for quitting porn have helped millions of people on their journey to stop watching porn. We’ve had so many comments and follow-up questions on this article that we decided to expand on the original points to help you understand what it’ll take to finally quit porn for good. Dr. Weiss’ original thoughts are included under each step.
Step 1: You need to want to stop watching porn.
“The first part to quitting porn is you really have to want to quit porn. You need to be sick and tired of porn and the sickness that it causes you in order to quit. If you are not committed, you will only be quitting until the next time you look. Deep inside you have to want to stop.” – Dr. Doug Weiss
Find your turning point.
One common theme among men and women who have successfully quit porn is reaching a turning point. They got to a place where they truly recognized their need to change.
Greg Bruce tells the story of his turning point. It came when he was finally caught after years of secretly viewing porn had escalated into a series of affairs:
“The husband of the woman with whom I was currently committing adultery met Lynn in our driveway and presented her with copies of texts and emails proving that what he was telling her was true.”
For some of us, that end-of-the-world feeling is what it takes to truly want to quit! For others, it’s simply the desire for something better than the emptiness of porn.
Keep the benefits of quitting porn in front of you.
Your rock-bottom turning point doesn’t need to be as dramatic as Greg’s. You can stop watching porn before it ruins your life! Just imagine your life without porn:
Would your marriage be better?
If you’re single, would you feel more confident to pursue a relationship?
Would you find freedom from guilt and shame?
Would you free up wasted time to pursue your dreams?
Make a giant list of every possible way you will benefit from quitting porn, and then post your top 1-3 reasons somewhere you’ll see it every day. To help you get started, we wrote a blog post on creating a unique list of how you’ll benefit from living porn-free.
Remember, porn doesn’t deliver what it promises.
When the Bible describes Eve’s temptation to eat the Forbidden Fruit, it’s careful to explain the appeal that it had for her. “The woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom” (Genesis 3:6). Eve didn’t eat the fruit because she wanted to do something bad; she ate it because it seemed nourishing, it was delightful to look at, and it apparently offered the promise of greater understanding and fulfillment.
In the same way, when we turn to porn, it’s usually not because we like the idea of porn in particular. It’s that we want what porn promises: comfort for our loneliness, pleasure for our eyes, sexual fulfillment, etc. But porn doesn’t deliver what it promises you.
So, do you really want to quit? And do you know why you’re quitting porn? It’s definitely worth it, but you’ve got to understand that it’s a long-term commitment and keep your reasons for quitting in front of you. You’ve got to really want it so you can go on to step 2.
Step 2: You need to be willing to quit porn in a different way.
“You have to be willing to do things you haven’t done before. Seriously, if you keep trying to quit porn the same way, you’re likely to fail again. To stop watching porn for good, you have to give up what you’ve been doing and do what you have to do.” – Dr. Doug Weiss
Identify and manage your porn triggers.
In Treating Pornography Addiction, Dr. Kevin Skinner describes a “reaction sequence” that begins when you’re in a vulnerable place. From that position of vulnerability, there’s a pattern of thoughts, subconscious actions, and reactions that will inevitably lead the habitual porn user to act out. He says:
“The deactivation of a reaction sequence requires a good game plan that can be used to break negative thought patterns or behaviors. A good plan can help deactivate the reaction sequences and help create new ways of acting rather than acting out” (53).
In other words, to quit porn, you need to quit whatever it is that triggers you to watch porn. What are your vulnerable moments? Is it a particular TV show? Is it having your laptop and mobile phone next to your bed? Perhaps it’s having a computer/device without accountability software on it. Ask the following questions (better yet, have a close friend or ally ask you):
What was I doing?
What was I thinking?
How was I feeling?
As you begin to find patterns in your temptation, you’ll need to create a game plan to navigate the vulnerable situations or avoid them altogether. Read the following blog to start your game plan:
Learn about porn’s impact on your brain.
When we understand the science and psychology of what’s happening, it allows us to create a better plan. Here are a few resources to get you started:
Blog: Brain Chemicals and Porn Addiction: Science Shows How Porn Harms Us
Free ebook: The Porn Circuit
Step 3: You need to be brutally honest with someone about quitting porn.
“You have to tell someone else about your struggle and desire to get free. This person may be a male friend, your wife, a person of clergy, a life coach, or a 12-step group person. Somebody has to know the truth about your porn usage for you to get and stay free.” – Dr. Doug Weiss
Porn plays on the power of secrecy and shame to trap people. We feel shame and embarrassment, which make us fearful of reaching out for the help we need. One of the biggest lies of porn is that you’re better off hiding your struggle than admitting to failure.
Confess to someone else.
Maybe you’ve followed the breadcrumbs and learned to recognize some of your triggers. But, you will not be free from your struggle with porn until you open up about it. These articles are filled with tips on sharing your struggle with porn:
Step 4: You need to get rid of all your porn.
“Next, you have to do what I call “clean house.” You have to get rid of the porn you have. Throw away the discs, magazines, anything you have used as pornography, and make sure to dump and clean out your computer. This is just a start; you have to clean house regularly. ” – Dr. Doug Weiss
In addition to Dr. Weiss’ suggestions, you may want to run a malware scanner and cleaning program. Porn sites are notoriously riddled with malware and adware that can stay with your computer after you delete the porn files and stop going to the websites. Depending on the type of sites you visited in the past (particularly sites that offered free downloads), you may need to take it to a computer repair shop for a professional tune-up.
Get rid of other triggering content too.
If you want to stop watching porn, it makes sense to get rid of your porn. But, you also need to get rid of any other content or media that triggers your porn use or is just unhelpful in your porn recovery journey.
Remember, in Question 2, we talked about identifying your porn triggers. If you identified any media habits that often precede porn use, stop using that type of media—maybe it’s certain music, shows, or social media in general. Just get rid of it. If you want to quit porn, you need to be intentional about all the types of media you consume.
You need to be honest about what’s triggering for you and be sure to put it aside. You may want to involve your ally in the process to help you make tough decisions as well as to keep you on track.
Step 5: You need to block porn from coming back in.
A porn blocker alone won’t be enough to quit porn. But, a porn blocker can play an important role in your porn recovery journey—especially for those early in recovery or those deeply enmeshed in porn. Make it difficult to access porn! Dr. Weiss says:
“The next step is you have to block entry points. This means have a porn blocker and accountability software like Covenant Eyes on your phone, computer at home, and at the office. If you have people sending you compromising emails, block them. Unsubscribe from porn websites. You may have to decide if credit cards are a problem. You know how porn is coming into your life. If you had a gun to your head you could block entry points in a minute. “
Some people will ask someone to hold on to a tempting smartphone or computer for a time until their porn habit is better under control or other protections are in place. As with Step 4, the key here is being honest with yourself and your allies about where porn is coming into your life and then doing whatever it takes to remove access to it.
Too extreme? Remember Steps 1 and 2—how badly do you want to quit, and how willing are you to try something new to keep making progress on the journey?
Step 6: You need a friend to hold you accountable.
A recent peer-reviewed study porn recovery forums concluded, “Social support was a key external resource for many members that was crucial for them in maintaining abstinence.”1
On a difficult journey, the people alongside you can determine your success or failure. And, if you look back over the previous five steps, you can see that you really need accountability for each one to make it stick. Accountability is the glue that holds your plan together.
Remember Step 1? You often need accountability to remind you of your reasons for quitting porn in the first place. Step 2 is about trying something different, and accountability can show you where you’re falling back into the same old patterns that have kept you trapped in porn for so long. Admitting your failures to someone is step 3, which is a critical part of accountability.
If you attempt steps 4 and 5 on your own (get rid of all porn and block new porn from coming in), it’s easy to leave yourself loopholes. When you ask someone to keep you accountable, you’re asking them to help you lock down the loopholes that have always allowed you to slip back into porn.
Since most people access porn on their computers and smartphones, it’s essential to have an accountability app. Covenant Eyes Screen Accountability monitors your devices for porn and sends your partner a report of what you’re looking at on your devices.
Find an ally to keep you accountable in quitting porn.
A trusted friend or mentor can make a great ally. The resources below share helpful info on finding the right ally for you:
Samson Society (a great support group option for men who can’t find an ally in their immediate circle)
When Is Professional Help Needed in Porn Addiction Recovery?
What does accountability look like in quitting porn?
Having Covenant Eyes removes a lot of the ambiguity in your accountability relationship. When you have it on your devices, it removes the secrecy and helps you live honestly and openly with the people you trust the most. This is vital because secrecy and shame are powerful forces that can drive you back to porn.
It’s not enough to download an app. You need to connect regularly with your ally. Accountability often fails when people only meet sporadically. Dr. Weiss and many others advise daily check-ins, and this is especially important in the early stages of quitting porn. (Covenant Eyes Screen Accountability reports go out daily by default). Connecting with your ally could be as simple as replying to a Covenant Eyes report or following up with a text message.
Remember the questions we asked to find your triggers? I recommend asking your ally to ask you the same range of questions:
What are you thinking?
What are you feeling?
What are you doing?
There are lots of other questions, but this is a great place to start and will help you stay on the path and quickly correct your course if you notice you’ve started to veer off.
A porn-free life is a better life!
Dr. Weiss adds:
You have to decide that you are worth living porn free. I decided that almost 25 years ago and just passed a polygraph verifying my freedom. I believe you’re worth it but your behavior will show you if you are. Don’t believe your words. Believe only your behaviors; otherwise, you can be in denial as to your commitment to being porn-free.
One of the most effective tools I’ve found to quit porn is Covenant Eyes Screen Accountability™. It helps with four of these six essential steps. Not only can it block porn before it gets to you, it also provides a report of your device use to a trusted friend–forcing you to be brutally honest and making it easier than ever for you to have the open and honest relationship needed to beat your porn addiction.
Remember, you are not the only one being affected if you are married or want to be married. Your spouse is affected by your porn usage. Your children are being affected as well. They deserve your best. You decide. Do they get the porn-drunk you or the porn-free you? I recommend the porn-free you. It’s the better you
(From, Covenant Eyes. https://www.covenanteyes.com Retrieved 10/2022.)
If you think Still Waters might be the right place for you to get help, we would be delighted to talk it over with you.