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What Does a Porn Addiction App Actually Do?

Some are simple habit trackers, while others are more like meditation apps. Either way, do they work?

Whether porn addiction is even a “real” addiction is a contested issue. It’s almost beside the point, though. Regardless of its lack of chemical similarity to other addictive substances, people who feel addicted to porn can be depressed, damage their relationships, lose work and even become suicidal as a result

So if it’s not an addiction in the clinical sense, it’s still a problem. And if our Google searches over the last year are any indication, it’s a problem with increasing prevalence: In the previous 12 months, searches for “porn addiction apps” and other related resources have grown by 3,800 percent compared to the 12 months prior. In other words, more and more people are turning to apps for help quitting their porn-watching habit. But what does this help actually entail? 

In the App Store, there are several options that appear following a search for “porn addiction.” Many are simply habit-trackers, with options of both developing good habits like regular exercise or breaking bad ones like smoking. Among these choices, porn addiction is simply another bad habit that can be broken. There are also several apps that block pornographic content from appearing on Safari. There are, however, some apps solely dedicated to providing more comprehensive help in stopping porn addiction, specifically. 

One of these is BrainBuddy, which has more than 5,500 ratings. The app itself is clean and almost cutesy, with a meditating animated panda as one of its avatars. Upon opening the app for the first time, you’re asked a series of questions, like, “When did you first watch pornography?” and “Do you fantasize about porn during sex?” The app will then tell you how likely you are to be considered addicted to pornography. For example, answering “occasionally” to questions like “Do you use porn to avoid stress or boredom?” yielded a 62 percent chance of being addicted to porn, by their algorithm. 

The diagnostic quiz isn’t the purpose of the app, though. Instead, it offers a multifaceted platform of tracking one’s feelings and porn use, communicating with others, and learning new habits. BrainBuddy in particular claims to “rewire your brain” with a variety of exercises, many of which are meditation-based. The cutesy-ness of that meditating panda continues, too — as users build habits and repeatedly use the app, they build a digital “Life Tree” demonstrating their growth and accomplishments. (BrainBuddy, like most other porn addiction apps, is recommended for users ages 12 and up.) 

Other apps are a bit less colorful and animated, taking on more of a macho tone. Fortify, the second most popular app with over 2,400 ratings, contains similar features to BrainBuddy in a more streamlined aesthetic. Manhood, meanwhile, emphasizes a similar type of masculinity as the NoFappers of Reddit. 

Regardless of tone and aesthetic, though, reviews show that people find these apps to work. Beyond some complaints about bugs and cost (BrainBuddy costs $12.99 a month, Fortify costs $9.99), most reviews are positive. “Do your life a favor and take it back with BrainBuddy,” one review says. “I am not even embarrassed to share this with my friends or strangers. No more shame, just support and progress.” 

This concept of “taking your life back” is a popular theme across both the apps themselves and the reviews. “Everyone’s next step towards freedom should be downloading Fortify,” one review for the app says. With that kind of response, the particulars around porn addiction seem irrelevant. Even if porn addiction itself isn’t “real,” the relief people experience when they get help for it is.

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