A recent Time Magazine cover story addressed the subject of pornography with a subheading explaining that young men who have grown up with porn are becoming advocates for turning it off. The article explains that many men who had ample access to free pornography over the internet have found that pornography has stunted their abilities to form deeper relationships and that they are increasingly drawn to pornography as if it were a drug that was controlling their lives.
Your Brain on Porn
Researchers are discovering that exposure to pornography can cause a person’s brain to release dopamines in the same manner that certain drugs cause that release, effectively short-circuiting and rewiring that person’s brain reward system. That system developed over tens of thousands of years of evolutions to allow man to instinctively distinguish things that could benefit him and aid in the propagation of the species. As man gained an ability to think logically, his dopamine reward system did not disappear. That system, however, is subject to being co-opted and manipulated by both addictive substances and visual images such as pornography. When a brain is exposed to too much of either those substances or images, it begins to demand more and more of the same as it develops a tolerance to increasing levels of dopamine.
Those higher dopamine levels are also responsible for creating new protein-based pathways in an individual’s brain that help a person to remember that something is good. Thus, in every sense, pornography manipulates a person’s brain to demand more of the same stimulus to generate the same response. Younger individuals whose brains have not yet developed to their full capacity are particularly susceptible to this manipulation.
Internet Pornography is Addictive
The good news is that pornography addiction has serious adverse effects for only a sub-group of individuals who consume large amounts of internet pornography. Those adverse effects include, for example, job loss, divorce, and serious financial problems. Still, addiction levels fall on a continuum and the earlier levels of pornography addiction are marked by impairments or inabilities to develop deeper interpersonal relationships that are more fulfilling than the simple physical release that pornography might afford. Those earlier levels are amenable to treatment with counseling and therapy.
Technology does provide assistance in that therapy. Individuals who are experiencing pornography addiction can install blocking software that keeps pornography off of their internet-connected devices, and that reports their pornography consumption to a therapist for later counseling purposes. Therapists can also help to uncover deeper reasons for a person’s susceptibility to pornography addiction, including relationship or abuse situations that affected early childhood development.
One positive aspect of the prevalence of pornography addiction is the willingness of individuals both to admit that they might have a problem and to discuss that problem more openly.
The Last Resort Recovery Center near Austin, Texas, is open and available to have that discussion with you if you fear that you are addicted to internet pornography. Please call us at 512-360-3600 for a confidential consultation and for information on how we can help you to attack your addiction to internet pornography.