Stages of



Perhaps one of the best books written on pornography addiction is Treating Pornography Addiction by Dr. Kevin Skinner.  For any man struggling with pornography addiction, I highly recommend his book. He outlines stages or pornography addiction that I have found very helpful in assisting men in recognizing where they’re at and how to achieve forward moving goals other than quitting cold turkey (which often fails).  In this section, we will describe some of those stages based loosely on his staging methodology. His staging method focuses primarily on pornography addiction rather than masturbation addiction.  I have taken the liberty of adding what I have seen as a mentor as the stages that include men with masturbation as their primary addiction.  In the beginning stages, pornography and masturbation are often separate behaviors which can quickly merge together to become completely intertwined. 

  • Stage 1 – “The Path to Addiction” 

    • At this point, the individual is not necessarily addicted and pornography viewing and masturbation usually don’t occur together. 

    • Pornography viewing has just begun and viewing occurs one to two times per year.  Thoughts during the majority of the day are not focused on pornography.  This stage often begins at the beginning of puberty and sometimes before puberty.

    • Masturbation has begun in the previous few weeks or months.  Thoughts during the day don’t dwell on masturbating, but this “new” experience is something the young man is often eager to re-experience.  This often occurs during early puberty.


  • Stage 2 – “Moving Towards Addiction” 

    • At this point, the viewing of pornography viewing is not compulsive. Viewing typically occurs about once every other month.  However, there is a growing curiosity about pornography that can quickly escalate into pornography addiction.

    • Masturbation quickly begins to become a regular occurrence – sometimes multiple times a week or daily.  This can happen as early as a few weeks or even a few days after masturbation has begun.


  • Stage 3 – “Compulsivity”

    • Pornography can be abstained from for about a month; however, temptation becomes unbearable after a month.  This often results in a relapse with pornography viewing that can sometimes occur repeatedly over a few days, then the individual is able to withstand for a month or so again.  The individual typically begins masturbating to pornography if that has not already begun before.  This stage is often seen in the early teens.

    • Masturbation may be avoided for a week or two before the individual cannot resist temptation and relapses.  This can begin as early as a month or two after masturbations has started, especially if it was engaged in frequently (on a daily basis).


  • Stage 4 – “Early Addiction”

    • At this stage, the individual is thinking or fantasizing about pornography and/or masturbation during the day. 

    • The individual will fight strong urges to view pornography.  At this stage, withdrawal symptoms of addiction can occur if the individual abstains from their addiction.

    • The individual is thinking about masturbation throughout the day.  The individual can often get occasional erections and fight strong urges to masturbate.  The individual may also start feeling sensations that he needs to ejaculate and masturbation would help relieve that sexual tension.


  • Stage 5 – “Addiction Impacts Life”

    • Not viewing pornography or masturbating is a daily battle.  The individual will typically give in 3-5 times per week. 

    • The pornography viewed at this stage is typically video/internet pornography rather than still images.  Negative consequences start occurring – alienating friends so the individual can have more time to view porn or take advantage of times to view porn, decrease concentration and effectiveness in school or work, and religious consequences or limitations.

    • Masturbation is often at the forefront of the mind and erections may increase during the day increasing the temptation to masturbate.  Sexual fluids are being produced at a high rate and feelings of sexual congestion becomes common.


  • Stage 6 – “ Addiction Dominates Life”

    • At this point, there are very few days without viewing pornography and masturbating.  Porn and/or masturbation is at the forefront of the mind the majority of the day.  Compulsions can become strong and irresistible, even in locations where it isn’t ideal (school, work) which can lead to sneak porn viewing in public or resorting to public restrooms to masturbate.


  • Stage 7 – “Complete Addiction”

    • There are few days without pornography viewing and masturbation.  In many cases, slips occur multiple times a day and become habitual routines throughout the day.  There is little to no control over the urges to view pornography or masturbate if the behavior is abstained from for any length of time.  Viewing porn in public (on a phone in a public place rather than in the privacy of a bedroom or bathroom – thinking no one can see) or masturbating when other people are around (beneath bulky jacket, through the pockets, or even in a public area of the house hoping no one walks in).  At this stage, many men/young men stop trying to fight.  Oftentimes, pornography and masturbation are no longer enough and the desire to act out sexually with someone else can become overwhelming.


  • Stage 8 – “Sex Addiction”

    • Behavior moves beyond pornography and masturbation and includes compulsive sexual behavior including sexual fulfillment by including other people.  This can include going to strip shows as a replacement for pornography, petting as a replacement for masturbation, viewing porn or masturbating with others people,or full sexual activity with someone else to satisfy urges for both addictions.  In sex addiction, sexual encounters often occur through hook-ups with online apps, propositioning strangers, or even seeking out prostitutes. 


So why is understanding these stages so important?  For the majority of men and young men with sexual addictions, recovery often occurs by moving from a one stage to another stage.  For example, a young man who is addicted to pornography and is at Stage 5, will typically not be able to just stop cold turkey.  Rather, he will often find that he takes two steps forward and one step back, eventually becoming a Stage 4 addict, then a Stage 3 addict, and so on until he is free of the addictive behavior.  Keeping the stages of addiction in mind can prevent individuals from becoming overly discouraged by setbacks that almost universally come to every recovering addict.  In addition, it allows an addict to recognize their progress over time as they move from one stage to the next.