what does porn do to your brain ?
As humans, we have a complicated mind and body system.
It’s not easy to figure out how our brain reacts to certain aspects of life. Wouldn’t it be so much easier if we were born with an instruction manual? To tell us what makes us tick and what doesn’t.
What has a positive effect on our brain and what doesn’t?
But, thanks to science and research today we do know the effects of various activities and commodities on our brain and body.
Thankfully science has also figured out, how internet pornography affects the human brain and body. Now that we have this information, it’s never too late to learn. It’s a complex matter, but like a car, we don’t have to know everything about the engine to learn how to drive it safely.
Now, internet porn has changed the porn scene completely.
There is a stark difference in porn through the ages. With the far and wide reach of the internet, porn is everywhere. Anyone with a decent enough smartphone can easily access porn with just the click of a button.
As a result of this internet, porn affects the brain in a much more direct and unconscious way. Compared to the effect it would’ve had on our predecessors.
It has been designed specifically using highly sophisticated technological persuasion techniques to change our thoughts and behaviour. These techniques can make users addicted and lead to escalation to more extreme genres of porn.
Today, porn addiction, or problematic pornography use, affects approximately 5–8% of the adult population globally.
People who are addicted to cyber-porn spend at least 11–12 hours viewing porn online every week, though this amount can be much higher. Why is this happening?
The Cause For Porn Addiction
A survey conducted by the American Neuroscience Association showed that 1 in 6 people in the United States has mild or serious symptoms of porn addiction.
It also provides data that people in the age bracket of 14 – 36 are more prone to develop a porn addiction today in developing countries.
The majority of the people interviewed admitted to watching porn only as a guilty pleasure in the beginning. But, as time passed, they found themself spending more and more time on the internet looking at pornographic material.
This is because watching porn is a highly escalating behaviour.
If you’re used to indulging in porn once a week and it has brought you immense satisfaction so far, you’ll notice after some time that just watching it once a week won’t satisfy your needs anymore.
How does this work?
Frequent porn consumption leads to escalation. This is a result of porn’s addictive nature. The more porn you watch, the more you crave it.
But, what’s interesting here is that you’ll crave larger doses of it each time. With passing time, porn consumers need increasing doses of porn material to feel the same level of satisfaction they felt the last time they watched it.
Today you might feel satisfied after watching one porn video, but in two-three days’ time, you’ll find yourself consuming three videos per day.
This process of escalation does not merely apply to the amount of porn you watch.
It also includes the kind of porn you choose to watch.
One usually starts with softcore porn and within a few months ends up seeking out more extreme and hardcore porn. As the escalating behavior comes into force, porn consumers crave more and more porn but start enjoying it less and less at the same time.
Effect Of Porn On The Brain
Are you wondering why is porn so powerfully addictive? What makes it an escalating behavior? What are the effects it has on my brain? We have all the answers for you!
The simple answer would be, porn works in similar ways to drugs. How the effect of a drug can differ from person to person, it’s the same with pornography.
Like addictive substances, porn scenes cause hyperstimulation, which leads to extremely high levels of dopamine secretion in your brain.
This is highly unnatural. Higher the indulgence, the higher the level of dopamine secreted. This messes up the dopamine reward system in your brain.
As a result, your brain stops responding to other natural sources of pleasure. As this becomes a habit, your brain slowly starts associating porn with dopamine.
This is how the cravings begin.
The Main Culprit
The one thing that pornography affects the most in the human brain is the dopamine level.
Dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter. Your body makes it, and your nervous system uses it to send messages between nerve cells. Also known as the chemical messenger.
Dopamine plays a role in how we feel pleasure. It’s a big part of our unique human ability to think and plan.
It helps us strive, focus, and find things interesting.
The real issue with pornography and dopamine is that pornography is so accessible thanks to the internet. To understand this we must consider the Coolidge Effect, which states that over time, sexual desire will decrease with a single mate and increase with a new one.
According to this theory, sexual desire increases from a “newness” factor. Now, bring pornography into the equation.
We have an affinity to want “new” things because they produce more dopamine–more excitement–and with pornography the options for new people is endless.
Pornography literally changes our brain to desire more pornography, just like drinking soda will make you want more soda, or that having candy will make you want more candy.
Our brains become “wired” to have pornography and to seek it out.
In conclusion, knowing that your impulse to view pornography has a strong tie to the way your brain is wired will help with the recovery process. Quitting pornography isn’t just about abstaining from it, but is about rewiring your brain to stop craving those dopamine hits.
The Salk Institute performed a study this year which investigates the effects of dopamine on the decisions of mice.
The study tracked mice as they made decisions requiring triggering two different levers to get a reward based upon how long the levers had disappeared. If the triggers disappeared for 2 seconds the mice were rewarded for pushing the left trigger and at 8 seconds they received a reward from the right trigger.
The scientists realized that the mice were quickly picking up when to switch sides to get the treat.
Using real-time brain scans the scientists were able to discern that the mice were making the decisions in correlation to the dopamine release. This suggests that dopamine has more to do with ongoing decisions as opposed to the initial learning process.
The idea that dopamine is actually aiding decision-making helps explain what happens during addiction or when we choose behaviors that counteract our beliefs, especially at the risk of negative feelings (guilt, shame, etc.).
These findings also suggest that altering the dynamic relationship between dopamine and actions would allow addicts to have better control of their actions.
The craving for dopamine is so strong that it can overcome our body’s defense mechanisms against performing unrewarding behaviors.
This is why many men and women (yes women do watch porn as well) will continue to watch pornography even though they know that is wrong or why a drug addict will continue to use it even at the expense of their own health.
In Simple Terms:
The moment you stop feeding your brain this content, the dopamine also stops and that’s when things can get ugly.
It can lead to various sexual dysfunctions and mental health disorders. Compulsive porn consumers have reported higher depressive symptoms, generally lower quality of life, and proper health compared to those who don’t consume porn regularly.
People who identified as engaging in compulsive sexual behaviors showed more reactivity in the brain compared with those who identified as non-compulsive.
Thus, viewing pornography, especially when it becomes compulsive in nature, activates the same underlying brain networks as alcohol and other drugs.
The desensitization of our reward circuitry sets the stage for sexual dysfunctions to develop, but the repercussions don’t end there.
Studies show that changes in the transmission of dopamine can facilitate depression and anxiety.
In agreement with this observation, porn consumers report greater depressive symptoms, lower quality of life, and poorer mental health compared to those who don’t watch porn.
The other compelling finding in this study is that compulsive porn consumers find themselves wanting and needing more porn, even though they don’t necessarily like it.
This disconnect between wanting and liking is a hallmark feature of reward circuitry dysregulation.
Following a similar line of inquiry, researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Berlin, Germany, found that higher porn use correlated with less brain activation in response to conventional pornographic imagery.
This explains why users tend to graduate to more extreme and unconventional forms of porn.
Pornhub analytics reveal that conventional sex is less preferred.
Only 16% of regular Pornhub users gravitate towards conventional, violence-free videos.
Today themes of violence and incest are more popular. These themes are increasingly popular in American Christian neighborhoods.
Porn vs Drug Addiction
As the desensitization and escalation increase so does the level of addiction. The journey to becoming addicted to pornography often follows the same pattern as drug addiction.
For example, at some point, a person is exposed to pornographic images and begins to experiment with pornography. This doesn’t help when in today’s world porn is everywhere.
From the video games, we play to the movies we watch to even the social media websites we’re a part of.
Even though there might not be outright sexual content on these platforms in most cases, there is slight sexual imagery everywhere they look. We live in a world where everything is highly sexualized, it’s especially hard for the current generation because this is the world they’re growing up in.
This is what they see every day and it can have some serious negative effects on their mind and body. This increases the possibility of porn addiction marginally among the younger generation.
The Damage Caused
There is a strong link between porn addiction and mental health.
Addiction is linked to depression, anger, and anxiety.
Once you become self-aware of your addictive nature, the feeling of being out of control causes a large amount of mental distress. It can make a person go from being an extreme social butterfly to avoiding every social gathering/event. This is a result of social anxiety.
In simple words, social anxiety is feeling uncomfortable around other people.
People who experience it can feel that they don’t really have much to add to conversations. Pornography and addiction to porn can cause social anxiety for the following reasons:
- It creates a sense of constant discomfort. Most addicts shy away from speaking up about their addiction. As a result daily life is clogged with an undying sense of guit and discomfort.
- 58% of porn addicticts globally have been disgnosed with depression according to the data collected by the Salk Institute. People with pornography or any similar addiction, often use their addictions as a temporary getaway from their feelings. Especially negative feelings like anger, sadness, loneliness or even boredom. This habit can easily lead to serious cases of depression.
- Addiction disconnects you from the society. The deeper you dive into an addiction, the looser your connection gets with friends and family. As social beings, we are wired to have relationships and build connections with the people around us. Addiction takes this away from you.
- The study says, 1 in 4 of the addicts admitted to feeling lonely. Increased pornography use gives rise to loneliness and loneliness, in turn, leads to increased pornography use. This has led to chronic loeliness in many cases.
What it does to the body:
Erectile dysfunction is more common among porn-addicted men, according to survey findings presented by the American Urological Association earlier this year.
They also show less satisfaction from sexual intercourse. For the study, researchers surveyed 312 men, aged 20 to 40, who visited a San Diego urology clinic for treatment.
Only 3.4 percent of the men said they preferred masturbating to pornography over sexual intercourse, the survey found.
But, the researchers did find a strong link between porn and sexual dysfunction.
The lead researcher Dr. Mathew Christman says, “The rates of organic causes of erectile dysfunction in this age cohort are extremely low, so the increase in erectile dysfunction that we have seen over time for this group needs to be explained, we believe that pornography use may be one piece to that puzzle.”
“Internet pornography, specifically, has been shown to be a supernormal stimulus of this circuitry, which may be due to the ability to continuously and instantaneously self-select novel and more sexually arousing images,” he added.
Watching too much internet porn can increase a person’s “tolerance,” the same as with narcotics, Christman explained. Regular porn watchers are less likely to respond to regular, real-world sexual activity, and must increasingly rely on pornography for release.
This is a major issue many face.
Apart from this porn addiction can also lead to decreased counts of testosterone and higher cases of insomnia. An addiction lie this fries up the human brain and body, draining all the energy and will to live from the person.
Watching porn has been linked to a multitude of problems for individuals and wider society – but for every study maligning it, another clears its name.
Often, the evidence is mixed, and the research methods and sample sizes of studies have their limitations.
Will the future of ever-more immersive porn may bring with it more risks? I believe this article should answer that for you. Pornography and the entire industry that is based around it are problematic. It is currently causing more harm than good.
From the research conducted and the information gathered, we can clearly see the negative effect of porn.
Is it not time for us to do something about this problem? Share your thoughts in the comments down below.