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Recovery From Porn Addiction (Updated Guide for 2021)

By March 9, 2021 November 24th, 2021 No Comments

Porn addiction can be a debilitating condition.

The effects of pornography addiction can wreak havoc on your life, especially if it goes untreated for a long time. It can have a range of severe psychological and emotional effects. It can damage the addicted person’s relationships, their personal life and their professional standing. However, with the right support, lasting recovery from porn addiction is an achievable goal.

Although research on porn addiction statistics suggests that it could affect up to 5-8% of the adult population, very few people understand what it is, the effects of excessive porn use, and how to seek treatment for it.

If you are concerned that you or a loved one may be struggling with porn abuse, understanding this process can be a crucial step towards achieving recovery.

Here’s everything you need to know about this disorder from a porn addiction definition to its effects.

We will focus on the requirements of recovery and the different phases of the process. We will also discuss the effect of porn addiction on the brain and how it can be reversed over time through treatment.

While sex addiction and porn addiction are often linked, they can also exist independent of one another. These blog posts focus exclusively on porn addiction.

What is Porn Addiction?

First of all, an addiction is when someone abuses substances such as alcohol or drugs to the point where their body becomes overly dependent on the substance to function.

Overtime this dependence could turn into cravings for the substance and eventually the body will become unstable without it.

It is undeniable that the abuse of addictive substances will only harm the body in the long-run.

Nevertheless, non-substance related addictions can be as harmful to a person’s mind and body.

Many people do not consider porn addiction as a ‘real’ addiction and that the minds of those who view pornographic material obsessively do not behave the same way as the mind of drug users.

However, there are many studies that argue that it can be considered a very real addiction.

There are people who become consumed with sexual thoughts and behaviours that their impulse to watch pornography can be comparable to that of a nicotine addict needing a cigarette.

Although porn addiction may not be a physical disorder, it is labelled as a behavioural disorder that can impact a person’s relationship with the people around them and the way they act in their daily life.

Porn addiction is when the brain becomes dependent on pornography to experience dopamine surges, therefore, it will cause a lack of control over their sexual behaviour.

The obsessive consumption of pornography is the brain demanding stimulus provided by watching pornographic material.

The constant craving for these dopamine surges can reduce the brain’s response to ordinary stimuli. What this means is that it could very well impact a person’s psychological and emotional needs.

Why Do People Get Addicted to Pornography?

How does porn addiction start?

While plenty of people understand the addiction to alcohol or drugs, not everyone realizes why sexual imagery or videos can be addictive – especially since it’s not a physical substance that you’re putting in your body.

But sex can still activate regions in the brain that are associated with motivation and reward – such as the dopamine system.

During the act and after, you may feel heightened pleasure, which is the result of a dopamine rush.

Like sex, pornography can also activate the dopamine system, and lead to that same dopamine rush.

However, over time, your body stops providing as much dopamine when you engage with porn – which means you may have to watch it more often or view more extreme pornographic scenes to receive the same pleasure.

There is some controversy surrounding porn addiction but in one study, researchers found that people who sought treatment for problematic porn use had changes in their brain chemistry that were consistent with other kinds of addiction.

Their brains also reacted differently to sexual content than the brains of people who weren’t seeking treatment.

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Signs of a Porn Addiction

After watching X-rated movies for some time, many people ask themselves if they are addicted to porn? So, when does watching porn become a problem?

It’s important to define what porn addiction is, and how it differs from regular or moderate pornography consumption.

Just because someone regularly views adult materials does not mean that they’re addicted, or that they need to seek treatment.

To understand the addiction to erotic movies or magazines, one should understand its resemblance to other addiction types.

For example, common signs of addiction to any substance would include:

  • Constant craving for the substance
  • Unsuccessful attempts to stop
  • Increased tolerance to the substance
  • Compulsive behaviour leading to lack of control
  • Continually being preoccupied with the activity

What Does Porn Addiction Look Like?

And there are some common signs across the board that indicate you have an addiction to pornography or you’re developing an unhealthy relationship with it:

Ignoring Responsibilites:

You frequently ignore other responsibilities in order to watch porn.

Feeling Ashamed

You feel ashamed or frustrated after viewing sexual content but still continue to watch it.

Many people who suffer from porn addiction may feel embarrassed by their obsessive use and often lie to their friends or loved ones about watching it. They also tend to lie about what they are doing in order to continue watching it.

Need Extreme Porn

You have to keep finding more and more extreme porn in order to get the same release.

You can start watching some erotic movies or so-called soft porn. Then, you may stumble upon some hard-core examples. The pleasure you get from the hard-core porn may exceed the one you get from soft porn and you may start to seek excessive examples of exploitation of adult stars.

Spending Too Much Money on Pornography

You’re spending large amounts of money on pornography consumption, and neglecting other expenses in your life.

The Internet may seem to offer free sexual imagery whenever you search for it. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. To satisfy yourself and your eyes, you will start to seek different types of movies or genres.

And this is the point where you will start spending money. Like other companies, adult entertainment firms also utilize different marketing tactics to make a paying customer.

You may think many movies and pictures are free, but they actually are the marketing materials to sell more. Many websites will let you view their contents for free. But they will cut some scenes and offer you exclusive parts for a small price.

The more you browse, the more you will want to see. In an era of subscription-based services, paying 10 dollars a month may seem insignificant at first, but the individualized products and videos of adult actresses may cost you more along the way.

Taking Risks to Watch Porn

You’re taking risks in order to watch porn in inconvenient places.

When you become a cyber-porn addict, every trigger will make you reach out to your phone.

The name or the face of your favourite pornstar may convince you to go after a quick pleasure in public.

This triggering can happen when you are in your office or at school.

You may think you could manage to watch it unnoticed but the excitement of the situation can put you in a very difficult situation.

Getting fired would be the least of your problems when you face severe legal consequences.

Less Satisfied by a Partner

Your normal sex life with a partner begins to feel less satisfying.

In addition, people who are addicted to watching porn struggle to be intimate with people as they excessively masturbate to pornographic material to the point where intercourse is low.

You can request or expect the things you see in the movies or magazines.

Seeing different genres of porn may shift the normality in your relationship. You may start to think about the possibility of these fantasies and forget that they are just fiction or a scenario.

You can objectify your partner or strangers. However, your partner may not be on the same page with you and these demands can ruin the mutual trust and ultimately the dynamics of your relationship.

Relationship Issues

Your porn consumption is causing relationship issues, but you’re still unable to stop watching it.

Unable to Stop Watching Pornography

You want to stop watching porn or watch it less frequently, but you find yourself unable to do so.

Using It to Cope With Other Problems

You feel as if you’re watching pornography to cope with mental health issues, sadness, anxiety, or depression.

As a summary, common signs of Porn Addiction would include:

  • Constant craving to view pornography.
  • Unable to stop viewing porn despite several attempts to do so.
  • Experiencing anger or hostility when asked to quit using porn.
  • Decreased interest in intimacy with one’s partner.
  • Keeping one’s porn use a secret from a loved one.
A table to show common signs of Porn Addiction

Keep in mind that you don’t need to have all of these signs to have an addiction to porn – or you may have symptoms that aren’t listed above.

Like other types of addiction, sexual content addiction can look different for everyone who has it.

What’s the Difference Between a Healthy Relationship With Porn and an Addiction?

Since millions of people view erotic movies regularly, what’s the biggest difference between a healthy relationship with pornography and one that can be labelled as an addiction?

For most people, it usually comes down to how pornography affects the rest of your life.

In a healthy relationship, you may view porn regularly and arouse to any depiction of erotic behaviour. But it shouldn’t negatively impact other areas of your life, and you should be able to stop if you need to.

With an addiction, pornography can seep out into other parts of your life, and begin to negatively affect them.

For instance, if extreme consumption of sexual materials is beginning to cause issues with a partner, you’re neglecting other responsibilities, or you’re spending money that you can’t afford to on porn, those could all be indicators of an unhealthy relationship.

More importantly, once you notice how pornography use is impacting you, you still aren’t able to stop watching it.

The Effects of Porn Addiction

The Long-Term Effects of Porn Addiction on Relationships

Porn addiction can affect almost every part of your life, but it can especially cause damage in romantic relationships.

It’s not unusual for a cyber-porn addict to lie about how much pornography they’re watching, especially if their partner has asked them to stop viewing or suspects there might be a problem.

Other issues can arise with intimacy.

When someone is excessively masturbating to porn, they may have very little desire to have sex with their partner.

And, when they do have sex, their sexual satisfaction is usually much lower since they’re used to different stimuli and extreme depictions of sex scenes.

Even if relationship issues haven’t occurred yet, a lot of relationships deal with low self-esteem and low sexual satisfaction when one partner has excessive porn consumption.

Pornography Effect on the Brain

Excessive use of pornography will have a range of effects over time. As discussed previously, it can have serious consequences for relationships and for your life at home and at work.

However, it also has a range of effects on the brain.

Over time, porn addiction alters neurotransmitters. This means that the brain will come to depend on the chemical surges elicited by viewing sexually explicit material.

You will therefore require more and more to achieve the same effect.

It also means that the brain’s response to other stimuli will be reduced. This makes it extremely difficult to end your use. The brain will demand the response provided by porn.

How to Quit Porn?

The signs of porn addiction can give you a good indicator of whether you’ve got a healthy relationship with porn.

But if you do notice a problem, you may be wondering, how do I stop being addicted to porn?

The quick answer:
You can quit porn. It is possible.

First of all, know that you are not alone. There are thousands of people around the world that struggle with the same situation.

Since it is a process addiction, you don’t see it as much as you see other types of substance addictions, such as alcohol or weed.

Also, it is still taboo and people don’t feel comfortable talking about it.

It is not common that people chat with their friends about how they consume pornography. So, you certainly do not hear other people admitting that they are addicted to it.

There are a few approaches or techniques to prevent or mitigate your obsessive consumption of the depiction of sexual intercourse.

But before choosing an approach, learn about the withdrawal process.

Initial Withdrawal

As discussed above, pornography addiction creates an intense psychological, physical and emotional dependence.

This means that, as with most addictions, an addicted person in the early stages will experience withdrawal symptoms.

Many people who are addicted to porn and try to stop, experience the same symptoms that alcoholics and drug users face.

But luckily, unlike withdrawal from alcohol or opiates, withdrawal in porn addiction does not pose a direct, physical danger to the addicted person.

However, if you experience this process, you may experience a range of emotional and psychological side effects.

You may feel physical cravings, intense agitation, anxiety or depression. You may also experience insomnia.

These symptoms may last a number of weeks but will usually diminish as you progress in your recovery.

Withdrawal can be an intensely difficult experience. However, once you have made it through the process, you have made a very significant step towards lasting recovery.

While you may still experience psychological and physical cravings, you will be in a much better position to resist them.

This is particularly true if you are in evidence-based addiction treatment, which will help you to develop methods for coping with cravings and relapse triggers.

What Does Withdrawal from Porn Look Like?

Like any other addiction, there’s an emotional, physiological, and even physical dependence, and people can experience withdrawal symptoms from quitting pornography.

Symptoms include signs such as:

Sudden irritability, mood swings, or depression: Since a lot of extreme porn abusers may use sexual content to cope with other negative emotions in life, the early days of sobriety can bring up these suppressed feelings. It’s not unusual for an addict to feel irritable, depressed or even anxious after they’ve gone without porn.

Insomnia: The longer you’re away from pornography, the more you may think about it. Initially, addicts may have trouble sleeping at night or feeling to need to masturbate.

Intense feelings of loneliness: Sometimes, porn usage can mask underlying issues that addicts may have, especially related to emotional or physical intimacy.

Without the release that explicit sexual imagery provides, feelings of loneliness and longing for a physical connection can begin to bubble up.

A desire to use another addiction to replace pornography: With a porn addict’s coping mechanism gone, they may begin searching for a new one, especially when they’re new to recovery.

As a result, this can create a cross-addiction, where they turn to another substance – like alcohol, drugs, or food – to cope with the uncomfortable emotions they’re experiencing.

A loss of libido: After living in a fantasy world for so long, addicts may find it initially challenging to relate to a partner or have physical intimacy.

After witnessing bizarre and intense sexual intercourse scenes, having a soft, romantic experience may not seem enough or attractive.

However, this period eventually ends, and the recovering person starts to enjoy their sex life again.

Keep in mind that these withdrawal symptoms don’t always occur when someone stops looking at a porn material.

Even if you don’t deal with withdrawal symptoms like the ones listed above, that doesn’t mean you don’t have an addiction or that you don’t need to seek treatment.

It just means that you can quit porn easier than those who experience the withdrawal process.

If you are experiencing withdrawal symptoms, it’s important to remember that they won’t last forever.

Some symptoms could last for weeks, but over time, they should slowly diminish until they’re completely gone. And, once you’ve made it through withdrawal symptoms, you can rest easy knowing you’ve overcome a crucial hurdle in your recovery.

Now, let’s examine the common approaches to quitting excessive abuse of sexual content.

Call to action for Virtual Addiction Treatment for Porn Addiction.

Quit Porn Cold Turkey

Simply abstaining from watching or viewing it would start your recovery process.

There might be many triggers along the way and the withdrawal symptoms would make it hard for you to quit.

Some days will be depressing and you may lose your concentration at work or school.

Quit Gradually

If quitting cold turkey is too daunting – and for many, it is – you can try to reduce your use of pornography over time and with certain content.

If, for example, your addiction has led you to watch content that is causing you distress (ie. It is against your values, or scares you afterwards), you can cut out certain genres to reduce the emotional impact while engaging with less distressing content.

This is similar to a harm reduction method. It is also usually helpful to track your usage, so you can see where changes might be possible.

For example, if you are aware that you are using pornography during the workday to relieve stress, as well as night before bed, you can look for alternative methods of stress management during the day and reduce your consumption to just the evenings to start, or vice versa.

Then, you can work on reducing how frequently in the evening you use pornography by replacing it with healthy sleep hygiene routines or other ways to meet the need the pornography has been being used for.

This type of plan is best to create with the input of a therapist so that you can reduce the chance of setting yourself up for failure by cutting out too much too fast, or too little.

Psychological and Emotional Needs

It is important to remember when working towards recovery that your addiction is routed in complex emotional and psychological causes.

Treatment must identify and address these causes. It is also essential that you maintain a focus on these causes as you continue your recovery. So it may not be always easy for you to quit porn cold turkey or gradually on your own.

You may need to alter your life in other ways to help you in your recovery. There may be certain relationships or habits in your life that jeopardize recovery.

It may also be necessary to consider how you process and express emotions and how you communicate with those around you. A professional treatment centre will help you to do this.

Good treatment centres will also offer porn addiction aftercare services which will help you to maintain your focus on recovery.

When Should You Seek Treatment for Porn Addiction?

Generally, it’s a good time to seek professional porn addiction help when:

  • You’ve already tried to stop watching porn, but you can’t quit.
  • You’re constantly thinking about viewing erotic content and masturbating all the time, even when you’re working or socializing.
  • You feel as if you have to hide your porn consumption from your partner.
  • You feel as if your addiction is keeping you from having a satisfying sex life with your partner.

Since it’s an addiction, quitting porn on your own can feel impossible, especially since a long-term addiction can affect brain chemistry.

However, a good addiction treatment center will take an individualized approach and provide aftercare services that help you heal and recover from pornography.

Effective Porn Addiction Treatment

How Does Porn Addiction Treatment Work?

While pornography addiction is a complex and debilitating condition, it can be overcome with effective treatment.

Since there’s less research on this addiction therapy than alcoholism or drug abuse, the approach to treating it can vary. And the psychological and emotional aspects of porn addiction can be very deeply embedded.

The addiction is often linked to other substance and process abuses and concurrent mental health disorders.

This means that treatment must be evidence-based and client-centred, confronting the underlying causes and consequences of the addiction rather than approaching the addiction in isolation.

Individual therapy alongside skills and process groups help addicted people to identify and address the causes of their addictions.

They allow them to develop methods for coping with the specific challenges they face.

Ultimately, effective, holistic treatment will provide the addicted person with the strongest possible foundation for recovery.

Individual Therapy:

Often, individual therapy can help people understand the underlying causes behind their porn addiction.

It’s not unusual for pornography abuse to mask a mental disorder or deeply-rooted emotional issues.

Skills and Process Groups:

Along with one-on-one sessions with a therapist trained in porn or sex addiction, skills and process group therapy (for example, Sex and Love Addiction Group) can work as well.

Here, you can meet people struggling with the same issue as well as learn coping mechanisms that’ll help you overcome the day-to-day challenges of porn addiction.

For example at Trafalgar, there is a Sex and Love Addiction Group, a twice weekly group in place of afternoon process groups.

This group meets to bring together anyone in the main program stream that might be dealing with sex and love or pornography addiction behaviours.

In these groups, we focus on exercises and tasks that aim to reduce shame, increase insight and awareness, and provide corrective attachment experiences.

Partner Support Therapy:

Whether you’re in a monogamous relationship or not can also affect your porn addiction treatment.

Someone who’s single and seeking help may focus on one-on-one therapy as well as discuss the impact of porn on past relationships with their therapist.

However, if you’re part of a couple, the goal is usually to recover with a healthier sex life and overall relationship.

Depending on the situation, your therapist may encourage you to seek couples’ counseling, or have some joint sessions with your partner.

The Importance of CSAT Therapist:

A CSAT is a Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist, who has completed extensive training through the International Institute of Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP), which has become the industry standard for treating sex and love addictions, as well as some other process addictions like unhealthy relationships with work and money.

To become a CSAT, a therapist must already be educated at the masters’ level and have minimum of 5 years of clinical experience, before starting the training.

It is important when seeking out treatment for sex and love addiction, that you seek the services of a CSAT therapist as they are trained in specific ways to ensure the distress from pornography or other sex addiction behaviours is understood and validated; there are some clinicians that, because it is not a disorder listed in the DSM, deny its presence.

This can be incredibly damaging if you can see it yourself. CSATs are also specifically trained in trauma, as often (but not always), sex and love addiction behaviours can be rooted in traumatic or adverse experiences that create patterns and cycles the untrained eye may miss.

Additionally, if you are dealing with a sex and love or pornography addiction, you are probably already feeling intense experiences of guilt and shame; a non-CSAT therapist may unintentionally create more shame and guilt if the addiction is not addressed properly and with care.

Treatment Effect On the Brain

Holistic, evidence-based treatment will allow you to address the underlying causes of porn addiction.

It’s important to note that, even once you’ve gone through the initial treatment for porn addiction recovery, that doesn’t mean your compulsive behaviour is “cured.”

You may still struggle with the temptation to watch porn movies, but you’ll now be equipped with the coping mechanisms to overcome the desire – as well as the knowledge of what your porn addiction is really masking.

A comprehensive and intensive treatment will also help you to develop practical, progressive methods for dealing with the daily challenges of recovery.

As you progress in your recovery, the effects of pornography use on the brain will gradually diminish.

This means that the brain will no longer demand the stimulus provided by porn use and that its response to other stimuli will gradually increase.

While you will still face potential relapse triggers and other recovery challenges, this will make recovery much more sustainable.

Call to action for Virtual Addiction Treatment for Porn Addiction.

Different Treatment Options for Recovery from Pornography


Virtual (At Home) Treatment Programs:

Being addicted to porn may feel you ashamed. Unlike other addiction types, it may feel more embarrassing and humiliating to talk about it in front of other people.

Having individual therapy sessions and participating in specific groups (like Sex and Love Addiction) from the comfort of your home may be easier.

You can start your recovery journey with a comprehensive and structured online treatment program through a secure telehealth platform.

Outpatient Addiction Counselling:

Some addiction centres offer outpatient rehab programs that teach you how to quit consuming pornography.

Residential Treatment:

If you have tried everything and need more help, inpatient rehab treatment is likely the best option.

If you are concerned that you or a loved one may be struggling with porn addiction, or if you have any questions on the subject, contact Trafalgar Addiction Treatment Centres today.

Common Therapy Options for Pornography Addiction

While different treatment centers and different clients need different plans, there are a few common therapies that you’ll see used in porn addiction.

To start, your therapist will work with you to identify the role pornography is playing in your life – for example, if you are using it to cope with or escape certain parts of your life or to manage certain mental health symptoms.

Combined with behavioural interventions, one of the most effective treatments is CBT, or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

CBT can help you identify the triggers of your porn use as well as change the pattern of thinking that fuels your addiction.

Other treatments may include mindfulness, a type of meditation that helps you become aware of what you’re thinking or feeling in the moment.

Practicing mindfulness can include guided imagery or breathing techniques to help you relax.

Group therapy is another common approach, although it’s almost always used in addition to individual therapy. In a group, you can bond with people that are also experiencing porn addiction as well as learn more about your addiction.

Groups can be integral in reducing shame, learning and practicing effective communication, and experiencing corrective attachment experiences, or in other words, practicing healthy relationship behaviours.

Breaking Pornography Addiction

The first step in understanding porn addiction and learning how to get over porn addiction is acknowledging that you have a problem, and need professional help.

Even if you’re not sure whether your porn use or a loved one’s is problematic, you can still reach out to the professionals at Trafalgar Addiction Treatment Centres to learn more about our program.

Frequently Asked Questions about Porn Addiction

Still have questions about porn addiction, how to recover from porn addiction or how to know if you are a porn addict? Here are some frequently asked questions that people tend to have.

  • I’m addicted to porn. Do I need to tell my partner if I’m struggling with it?

    +

    Although porn may already be causing issues in your relationship, your partner might not know the true extent to which you struggle with porn or why you’d want to seek treatment for it.

    While having this conversation may feel awkward, it is usually still a crucial one to have.

    Once you open up, you may be surprised how supportive your partner is, or how many people around you have struggled with similar issues.

    As scary as it is to talk about, remember that seeking treatment is likely to lead to a healthier sex life – for both you and your partner.

  • What if my partner isn’t supportive of me seeking treatment for porn addiction?

    +

    While many partners are supportive of their significant other getting help for porn addiction, not everyone may understand why you need help – especially if they’ve never struggled with pornography themselves.

    At this point, it’s a good idea to talk to your therapist or counsellor at the treatment center for more tips on how to navigate this conversation.

    You may be asked to participate in couples’ therapy, family therapy or joint sessions so that your partner can better understand the impact of your porn addiction.

    Porn addiction can damage many relationships including a couple’s relationship.

    Many individuals that have a partner with porn addiction experience, poor relationship quality, low self-esteem and low sexual satisfaction.

    Untreated porn addiction may lead to broken relationships, low self-esteem, feelings of guilt, school or work problems, and financial issues.

  • How long will it take me to recover from my porn addiction?

    +

    The initial treatment for your porn addiction may only last a matter of weeks, but the changes you make within this time can last a lifetime.

    Once you leave treatment, you will likely need to make lifestyle changes, planned with your therapist, to create a life in which you are oriented toward recovery, including steps such as setting boundaries with yourself and others, attending 12 step meetings, meditating and exercising and making a commitment to working on your recovery consistently for at least a year, for the best outcome.

  • How do I stop being addicted to porn?

    +

    Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer when it comes to overcoming your porn addiction. Even if you go through treatment, it’ll still take time to recover, and the temptations may not immediately go away.

    However, your best shot at stopping your porn addiction is through professional help. There’s no reason you need to try and fight your addiction alone and isolated.

    With professional treatment, you’ll not only get the tools you need to recover, but you’ll have the support you need to make this a lifelong change.

  • Am I addicted to porn?

    +

    Even if you understand the signs that go along with porn addiction, it still may be difficult to determine if you’ve really got a problem.

    However, most addiction treatment centres are willing to answer any questions you have or provide clarity if you’re unsure whether you have a problem.

    You can always give us a call to ask your questions.

    We would be more than happy to help.

  • What if I’m unable to seek treatment in person?

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    With the advances in technology and secure platforms, virtual treatment is a good option. We do offer virtual programs to help treat porn addiction.

    Our online rehab for porn addiction lasts four weeks, includes three virtual therapy sessions per week as well as specific skills groups each morning.

    You’ll also get a clinical consult with a psychologist as well as lifelong aftercare programming once you graduate from the program.

    Keep in mind that, even if you choose to treat your porn addiction virtually, you’ll still have the same time commitment as inpatient treatment – and you’ll still receive the same level of care from our medical professionals.

  • Are there any support groups I can join for porn addiction?

    +

    While everyone’s addiction is different, you don’t have to face treatment or recovery alone.

    There are thousands of people out there struggling with porn addiction, and a support group can be a great way to find some of them.

    At Trafalgar Addiction Treatment Centres, we can help you find the right support group – whether it’s an in-person group that meets near you or people across the country who support each other online.

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