Porn Addiction

addiction-internet-pornWith the advent of high speed broadband and a thriving porn industry, a problem which affects many but is unrecognised and unreported is addiction to internet porn. The urge to have sex is driven by an old part of the human brain, along with other urges that relate to survival (such as eating). This part of the brain was effective 100 million years ago when food was scarce and the survival of the human race depended on having sex with multiple partners and reproducing genes. The internet has developed quickly but the human brain is still living in ancient times in many ways. It can’t cope with the over-abundance of highly calorific food and sex (super-normal stimuli). Also, this old part of the brain is unable to tell the difference between what is real and visual images.

The brain ensures survival by producing pleasure hormones that drive us to repeat experiences, in particular dopamine. When the old brain meets the super-normal stimulus of internet porn it has no way of knowing that masturbating to a visual image won’t lead to reproduction of genes. The brain is flooded with dopamine. If the same video clip were watched over and over it would become boring. The brain is also designed to seek novelty. This is possible when the next image/video is just a click away. Studies on rats have shown that a male rat will show desire to mate with a female rat but the desire declines. However, if a new female rat is introduced the male’s desire will increase and he will mate with the new rat. This is called the Coolidge Effect.

When the brain is over flooded with dopamine, dopamine receptors are shut down and activities feel less pleasurable. This means that to get the dopamine high the time spent on the activity needs to be increased or novelty has to be introduced. This is the tolerance and escalation that is seen in all addictions.

If you are reading this article you may already be worried about your use of porn. You may be wondering how you would know if you were addicted or not. You are the only person who can decide if you are addicted and you may find the following list helpful. If you can say yes to at least 2 of these signs you may like to consider that you have a problem.

Signs of Addiction

  • Tolerance – has the content become more extreme, even illegal?

  • Withdrawal – if you don’t view porn do you experience physical or emotional withdrawal e.g. agitation, anxiety, depression, cravings, anger?

  • Porn Induced Erectile Dysfunction (PIED) – difficulty having sex with a partner due to lack of/reduced erection or delayed ejaculation (but able to get an erection and ejaculate with porn)?

  • Difficulty controlling use – is your viewing taking up more time?

  • Negative consequences – have you continued viewing despite knowing that there are negative consequences e.g. mood, self-esteem, health, job, family?

  • Neglecting/Postponing activities – e.g. social, recreational, work, household?

  • Desire to cut down – have you thought about cutting down? Have you made unsuccessful attempts to cut down?

  • Spending significant time or emotional energy – e.g. obtaining, using, hiding, planning or recovering from porn (including thinking about schemes to avoid getting caught)?

Many people are struggling with porn addiction but have been unaware there is such a thing or feel too ashamed to seek help. If you would like to talk this over with someone who isn’t going to judge or dismiss you and who isn’t emotionally involved, counselling is an option. Counselling is a place to explore what led to use of porn and the effects it has.

For further information see:

yourbrainonporn.com