What is Pornphobia? (An Overview)


In this blog we will go through the causes, symptoms and treatments of Porniphobia.

What is Pornphobia? (An Overview)

Porniphobia is an irrational fear of pornography; either a fear of watching it or a fear of watching too much porn related stuff. This fear can emanate from the guilt of watching too much pornographic material. 

Pornography is the display of sexual material, either in the form of written or visual material, photographs or videos. It is widely and commonly viewed. The opposite of Pornophobia is Porn Addiction, where the person cannot control his/her impulse of watching pornographic material.

Pornphobia has been on the rise since the dawn of the internet and the free availability of exposure of sexua content. There are free websites that provide pornographic material along with private chat rooms where people can indulge in private sexual conversations as well.

It is a highly lucrative online industry, providing people with all sorts of graphic material to satisfy their lust. A person suffering from Pornophobia may have developed this fear after being a frequent visitor of such sites or would have had the aversion due to his strict upbringing.

Person who suffers from Pornophobia will undergo a full-blown panic attack even if he thinks of pornography or hears about it from someone. He may have difficulty breathing or dreads speaking to friends in fear of any discussion tht may arise related to pornography.

Pornophobia is an intense fear of pornography. To the sufferer the threat is too real and the stress and anxiety that follows is felt physically as well as psychologically as well. The pain and mental anguish is extremely dilapidating for the sufferer to overcome alone and requires therapy. 

Symptoms of Pornophobia

Different people display the symptoms of the same phobia differently; with varying degrees of severity. The symptoms are automatic and can occur without warning. There are two types of symptoms; Physical symptoms and Psychological symptoms.

What is Pornphobia? (An Overview)

The Physical Symptoms include those that involve changes in the bodily sensations and are physically felt by the sufferer. Examples are:-

  • Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • Headaches
  • Numbness 
  • Prickly sensations in arms 
  • Hot flashes or chills
  • Ringing in ears
  • Sweating and trembling
  • Dry mouth
  • Aches 
  • Palpitations 
  • Raised blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling faint

 The Psychological Symptoms include those that impinge on the mind and are visible through a person’s behavior. Examples are:-

  • Feelings of dread when thoughts of watching porn crosses the mind
  • Feeling of guilt at the thought of pornography
  • Fear of losing control
  • Fear of harm to self 
  • Fear of illness
  • Feeling of helplessness
  • Confusion
  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Feelings of shame
  • Lack of concentration
  • Feeling a disconnect

Causes of Pornophobia 

Pornophobia may be caused due to the following factors:-

  1. Genetic Predisposition

Every person has a genetic tendency to contract a disease or go through a mental illness. This predisposition is embedded in our DNA and is handed down to us over the generations. If the person’s ancestors suffered from anxiety disorders, phobias, mental illness or even Ideophobia, then chances are higher for him/her to suffer from the same or from either of these.

Phobias are familial and most often than not run in families. Their intensity may vary from person to person, from one relative to the other.

  1. Biological Cause

Hormones play an important role in causing anxiety disorders, specifically phobias as well. Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) is directly related to the etiology of anxiety related problems that occur. Symptoms that indicate a Thyroid malfunctioning are:

  • Changes in menstrual cycle
  • Nervous demeanor
  • Irritability
  • Losing or gaining weight 

Low levels of Testosterone (male hormone) can also lead to anxiety. Serotonin, is also called a happy chemical and depletion of this hormone can also cause anxieties of varying levels. 

Dopamine, the ‘feel good’ chemical or neurotransmitter is involved in happiness and a state of elatedness. When the levels of Dopamine drop anxiety and a feeling of dread become a common forte. 

Adrenaline rush is another biological factor that emanates the ‘flight or the fight’ response. This response is triggered when the brain suffers from a threat. This threat may be caused by a stimulus that causes anxiety. This stimulus is the very stimulus that initiates a phobia fear. In the case of Pornophobia, this stimulus will be pornography.

  1. Behavioral Cause

Children learn behaviors and attitudes from their families. Upbringing plays an integral role in shaping one’s cognitions and develops a mind set that stays with the individual for life. This mind set can be tweaked over the years, but the DNA and the early upbringing that the child experiences shapes him into what he may leter think, feel and react with.

We as individuals are sponges absorbing environmental stimuli after filtering them. What we filter in and leave out again depends on what we have experienced over the years and, ye, what has been taught or the way we were taught.

The person who suffers from Pornophobia, is often found to be raised in a strict or religious household, where anything related to sexual content was considered sinful. Wanting to have sex is a biological need and should not be suppressed. It should be appropriately fulfilled, but in these family styles, the mention of physical consummation is forbidden.

It so happens that desires and impulses that are repressed keeps on impinging the mind of the individual till the time he/she either fulfills their desire of totally developing a reaction formation, i.e the opposite of what they actually desire.

In the case of Pornophobia, repressing sexual desires leads to intense fear of the desires itself in fear of fulfilling them and being considered a sinner. 

Or repressing them also leads to indulging in immoral acts or even watching excessive pornography, but in th eend developing Pornophobia due to extreme guilt.

People may also be afraid of losing control because this is something that is not in their hands and not controlled by them, no matter how powerful a person is. Thus, at the time he is suffering from the symptoms of Pornophobia, he/she feels totally helpless, aggravating their already hiked anxiety.

What is Pornphobia? (An Overview)

Treatments of Pornophobia

Pornophobia can be treated through different treatments. These include Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Exposure Therapy, Neuro Linguistic Program (NLP), Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction MBSR) and forms of meditation.

  1. Systematic Desensitization

This is one of the most common therapies used in treating phobias and an effective way to desensitize the person suffering from phobia. In this therapy the client with phobia is exposed to the stimulus gradually with varying degrees of severity, varying durations of time. The degree of severity is hierarchical, ranging from low to high. Every time the ‘exposure’ of the feared stimulus is increased.

In Pornophobia the client is exposed to images first. For the fear to be invoked during therapy, the patient must be exposed to an intense stimulus (one that is feared). The aim of Systematic Desensitization is to remove the ‘feared stimulus’ and substitute it with a ‘relaxation response.’

Initially a relaxation technique that involves deep breathing is taught to the client. Then the client is asked to present a list that has a hierarchical presentation of his fears, starting from the least fear evoking situation to the most. 

The therapist takes the client through these situations via two methods:

a)     In vitro – where the feared stimulus is made to imagine

b)    In vivo – where the client visits the the feared place in reality

The exposure to the phobic stimulus is of varying durations, where the client exercises relaxation techniques and can revert to a previous non-threatening situation any time.

  1. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

When phobias start to prevent the daily activities of the person, therapy becomes inevitable.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy is one such approach that shows the relation between thoughts, beliefs, feelings and behaviors. It alters the way of identifying and substituting destructive thoughts and emotions that have a negative impact on behavior.

In CBT the therapist helps the client to amend his thoughts so that a desirable behavior can be achieved. This therapy is effective, because if the thoughts or cognitions alter then there will be a lasting impact on behavior. It helps the person change the way he thinks. 

The therapist helps the client to discover the reason for this thought and behavior that follows. This therapy is goal oriented and short termed. Therefore, the results are seen soon. It changes the way a person thinks and feels. CBT does not focus on probing the past to resolve current problems, rather it concentrates on the present situation. 

Our thoughts determine how we act or react to certain stimuli and situations. Therefore, negative thoughts bring about a negative behavior response or an undesirable behavior. Whereas, positive thoughts propagate desirable and healthy attitude and response.

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) is a form of CBT and designed by Albert Ellis. According to Ellis, “people are not disturbed by things but rather by their view of things.” This is what subjective perspective is. 

REBT is the dictum that it is our beliefs that makes us experience emotions like anger, depression, anxiety and not the events happening in our lives. Changing irrational beliefs positively impacts on reducing emotional pain.

REBT’s ABC Theory: The Diagnostic Step

Based on Ellis’ theory, the ABC Model was proposed:

A – Activating Event: an event that takes place in the environment

B – Beliefs: the belief one has about the event that happened

C – Consequence: the emotional response to the belief

Not the event but beliefs cause emotional pain.

c) Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)

MBSR involves being aware of one’s own thoughts, feelings and reducing the interference from around the environment. We do not pay attention to how we process the various stimuli that affect us. We do not process the way our bodies feel and respond, there is no focus on our thoughts and how these thoughts are influencing our emotions. 

In MBSR, the client is ‘woken up’ to actually experience the various senses. ‘Focus’ is the keyword! Once this develops, the person will no longer process the stimuli as threatening.

d) Meditation

Meditation is an awareness training and getting a healthy perspective. It teaches how to observe the thoughts and feelings without being judgemental. It helps the person suffering from anxiety, stress and phobias to develop a rejuvenation outlook, where his body is in sync with his ind and this personal entirety is one with the environment.

e) Group Therapy

Self Help groups are an effective type of therapy, in which the client does not find himself as a lone sufferer. These groups are individuals who are afflicted with the same types of phobias. 

They come together to share their thoughts, experiences and their coping strategies. This also helps in developing a ‘sense of I am not the only one’ suffering.

The therapist facilitates the group of people who are suffering from the same kind of phobia and bringing them to share their experiences and coping strategies. There are Psychoeductional groups and process oriented groups. Groups are better than individual therapies, but then it depends on case differences. 

f) Changing Lifestyle

Breaking down the mundane of the daily, helps break down anxiety as well. 

Take up jogging or go for daily walks:

Developing a walk routine can damper the way our negative thoughts control our behavior.

Indulging in an exercise regime:

Vigorous exercise like aerobics has proved to reduce or alleviate the symptoms of stress and anxiety. Exercise helps the mind to cope with stress and stressful situations better. This is what the American Psychological Association has to say about inducting exercise to eliminate stress or phobias.

Altering eating and drinking habits:

Cutting down on fatty foods and caffeine can improve self-image, that in turn leads to a raised self-esteem. This finally diminishes the symptoms of stress to a bare minimum. With high intake of caffeine, the body resembles a ‘fight or flight’ response, thus giving way to anxiety.

Improving the sleep cycle:

When we get proper rest, our concentration improves. Sleep is important to maintain brain health. 

Adopt a hobby

Adopt a hobby that takes your mind off things that keep pressurizing. We can take up reading, knitting, Do It Yourself (DIY) activities as well. 

What is Pornphobia? (An Overview)

g) Psychiatric Medication 

There are a number of medicines that the Psychiatrist can prescribe if the symptoms of  Pornophobia are severe.

  1. Anxiolytics (anti-anxiety drugs)

These should only be taken after the consultation with the doctor and shouldn’t be initiated or discontinued as per personal discretion.

  1. Antidepressants 

These medicines are not only used to treat depression, but also to alleviate the symptoms of  Pornoophobia as well as other phobias. Medicines alone might not be as effective, but if used in conjunction with therapies then the results will be better. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Porniphobia?

Pornophobia is an irrational fear of pornography and material related to sexual content.

Is reading porn related literature also associated with Pornography?

Reading porn related material may also be associated with Pornography as while reading the mind creates visual images as well.

Can Mindfulness help?

Yes. MIndfulness helps. Mindfulness is the ability to be present, to rest in the here and now, fully engaged with whatever we’re doing in the moment.

Which is the most common symptom of panic?

The most common symptom of panic is tachycardia or a racing heart, but different people can have a variety of symptoms. 

Titles to Read

  • The 10 Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques: Understanding How Your Brain Makes You Anxious and What You Can Do to Change It (Second) by Margaret Wehrenberg Psy.D.
  • DARE Workbook: New Brave Tools to End Anxiety by Barry McDonagh , Graham Thew, et al.
  • Overcoming Specific Phobia – Client Manual (Best Practices Series) by Edmund Bourne PhD 
  • How to Stubbornly Refuse to Make Yourself Miserable about Anything–yes, Anything! by Albert Ellis


  • www.transformpsychologys.com
  • www.psychtimes.com
  • www.mindfulness.com
  • www.nhs.uk

What is Pornphobia? (An Overview)

Juanita Agboola

Juanita Agboola is the editor in chief of HFNE and an expert in mental health online. She has been writing about online behaviour, mental health and psychology issues since 2012. All Guides are reviewed by our editorial team which constitutes various clinical psychologists, PhD and PsyD colleagues.