Rhyll addresses this question in the following way:
Not everyone who has been exposed will be addicted. One addict recently said here’s my definition of addiction: “I stopped. I stopped again. I stopped again. Then I stopped again. And then I stopped again.”
What they say is that it’s not that we haven’t stopped, and it’s not that we learn how to stop, we learn how to not start again. Maybe it will be six months later and they go back to it, or maybe a year. My husband could go two years without having acting out behavior and then he could go right back into it. And so the learning how to not start again is important.
So one question to ask if one is wondering if pornography use is really an addiction would be, “Can I/my loved one stop using it?” If not, it may be that the brain has been affected enough by pornography use to possibly be an addiction.
Consider this as well, from the SALifeline resource book, Understanding Pornography and Sexual Addiction:
While many individuals initially seek pornography out of a desire for excitement, anticipation, and pleasure, pornography is also often used as a way to escape from or cope with feelings of anxiety, fear, anger, stress, frustration, boredom, restlessness, loneliness, and insecurity. In this way pornography becomes a drug used to cope with life problems, just as alcohol or illicit drugs might be used.
Every person finds ways to deal with the stress, anxiety, fear, boredom, and insecurity in their life. An addict is a person who has used addictive activities or substances as a way to deal with these things. Because pornography is readily accessible and can serve as a way to cope with anxiety, fear, boredom, etc., it often is used. This use can easily escalate into addiction.
Even if it’s not a full-blown addiction, it would be wise to seek support and help in learning to deal with boredom, stress, loneliness, depression, fear, anxiety, or other emotions in a more productive and constructive way. The risks of pornography use are high, and also violate standards and commandments, which have an impact on spiritual and emotional well-being.
But the word addiction is not something to fear; understanding how addiction works is one of the keys to being able to learn how to not start again, as Rhyll talks about. Recovery work is a blessing, not a punishment.
So if you/someone you love can’t stop, have hope. Recovery is possible. Learn more about addiction and addiction recovery and take the steps needed to get on the path to healing. For the spouse/loved one, you have recovery work to do, too. You’ll be blessed as you both learn to focus on truth about how addiction or compulsive behavioral issues work, and how you can find help and recovery so as to “learn not to start again” (for the addict) and to learn to find serenity and clarity when living with and loving someone with an addiction.