Is Your Brain Addicted To Porn?

A big question from Big Think:

Not long ago, scientists thought of the brain as being “hard-wired.” Neural networks are formed at a young age and remain inflexible throughout the rest of one’s lifetime, they believed. But one of the great discoveries of recent decades is that the brain remains highly adaptable, or plastic, even in old age. On its own, the brain seems to compensate for certain diseases and brain damage like Alzheimer’s by rewiring around damaged areas. But there is a dark side to this phenomenon of “neuroplasticity”: unhealthy behaviors are just as likely to alter the brain as are healthy ones. Addictions are a prime example. “All addiction involves long-term, sometimes lifelong, neuroplastic change in the brain,” says Norman Doidge, psychiatrist and author of The Brain That Changes Itself.

In his book Doidge catalogs some amazing stories of personal triumph, but he also discusses how neuroplasticity can be hijacked by one of society’s most pervasive addictions—porn addiction. “The addictiveness of Internet pornography is not a metaphor,” he says. “Not all addictions are to drugs or alcohol. People can be seriously addicted to gambling, even to running,” he says. So why not pornography? “All addicts show a loss of control of the activity, compulsively seek it out despite negative consequences, develop tolerance so that they need higher and higher levels of stimulation for satisfaction, and experience withdrawal if they can’t consummate the addictive act.” Porn addicts exhibit all these qualities, he says.

And the numbers support this diagnosis. According to Online MBA, 40 million Americans are regular visitors to porn Web sites. And in the U.S. $2.84 billion is spent on pornography yearly. And as with most addictions, the habit has intensified over time. Society’s taste in pornography has skewed further and further towards the extreme as internet porn has become more widely accessible: “Hardcore pornography now explores the world of perversion, while softcore is now what hardcore was a few decades ago, explicit sexual intercourse between adults, now available on cable TV. The comparatively tame softcore pictures of yesteryear—women in various states of undress—now show up on mainstream media all day long, in the pornification of everything, including television, rock videos, soap operas, advertisements, and so on.”…

[continues at Big Think]

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  • Hamsanath437

    learn some nlp and meditation and stfu

  • Hamsanath437

    learn some nlp and meditation and stfu

  • jjlboyer

    amazing book. a must read in my opinion. touches on a lot more than just porn addiction, but he does use this example very well in describing neuroplasticity in the brain and how you can manipulate your mind through repetitive actions or thinking.

  • jjlboyer

    amazing book. a must read in my opinion. touches on a lot more than just porn addiction, but he does use this example very well in describing neuroplasticity in the brain and how you can manipulate your mind through repetitive actions or thinking.

  • Vox Penii

    One of the curious things about logic is that you can arrive at a true conclusion even if the premise of an argument is flawed — so you’ve got to be careful not to completely dismiss an idea if a premise seems odd. for example, the traditional argument against pornography went something like this: God the Almighty commands that sexuality should be prohibited to a married couple [premise], therefore, pornography is bad because it contradicts God’s commandment [conclusion].

    in this case, though the premise is fatally flawed: I’m not religious because there’s no persuasive evidence, IMHO, that God(s) exist(s). however, it’s a mistake to assume that the absence of God means that porn is okey-dokey. Though the premise is flawed, the conclusion is still somewhat accurate: pornography can be baaaaad news in many different ways.

    for example, the article mentions how, in the internet era, “pornography has skewed further and further towards the extreme.” When I used to work evenings, I’d listen to Loveline on the drive home from work, and Drew Pinsky often mentioned how he was seeing more and more evidence of porn’s destructive effects (there are some Pinsky haters, but I like him: on top of his media appearances, he’s a full-time medical doctor with an addiction specialty and peer-reviewed research). Pinsky mentioned how the things that turn us on, sexually, are more or less cast in mental cement by the time we’re 18 or 19 years old. For guys of Pinksy’s generation, Playboy was the standard: sexual arousal and satisfaction required, in most cases, only a nekkid and willing woman. But on Loveline, he was taking innumerable heartbreaking calls from 15 year olds raised on extreme internet porn who couldn’t find sexual satisfaction without anal intercourse, gagging, spitting and other sex acts considered deviant not too long ago…

  • Vox Penii

    typo correction in the first paragraph. make it:

    “God the Almighty commands that sexuality should be prohibited TO ANYONE OTHER THAN a married couple”

    d’oh!

  • Liam_McGonagle

    Yes.

  • Anonymous

    Yes.

  • oman28

    So many addictions. Now porn too?
    I think it’s different to drug addiction though.For example nicotine addiction is extremely physical. From the moment you stub out that cigarette the nicotine levels plummet causing your body to litertally tense up. It increases until your body is so stressed that you must intake nicotine. When you do your body relaxes and you feel good
    I would call myself a porn addict but it doesn’t affect me in this way

    • Haystack

      That sounds like the difference between a physical and a psychological addiction.

  • Anonymous

    So many addictions. Now porn too?
    I think it’s different to drug addiction though.For example nicotine addiction is extremely physical. From the moment you stub out that cigarette the nicotine levels plummet causing your body to litertally tense up. It increases until your body is so stressed that you must intake nicotine. When you do your body relaxes and you feel good
    I would call myself a porn addict but it doesn’t affect me in this way

  • Haystack

    That sounds like the difference between a physical and a psychological addiction.

  • mole_face

    Anything claiming that gambling or porn are physically addictive is peddling manipulative bullshit. It’s puritanical anti-porn nonsense dressed up as science. The pathways for reward and pleasure in the brain are there for a reason and to activate them via non-drug means isn’t the same as activating them via drugs. Any emotion or state of mind involves a correlating chemical expression in the brain – the whole point of addictive mood-altering drugs is that they artificially activate receptors activated normally during feelings of elation, empathy, well-being, etc. It isn’t inherently immoral to activate those parts of the brain naturally, and to pathologize the means by which the brain expresses all pleasure is manipulative. The idiotic moral crusades of previous decades are now always propped up with transparent junk science. It rubs people the wrong way when they’re told to change their “immoral” habits like gambling, pornography, alcohol and video games – but if you convince them they have a disease, they’ll be more likely to turn themselves in for reprogrammi- er, i mean “rehab” to address the issue.

    • Gary Wilson

      Framing this argument as moral or religious is a typical straw man argument. You couldn’t be more wrong about addictions. It’s established by addiction rearchers, that all addictions, both natural and chemical, involve specific changes in the same neural pathways( reward circuitry) and the same underlying mechanisms (sensitization, desensitization, hypofrontality).

      In fact. the new DSM will include pathological gambling as an addiction, due to brain studies over the last 10 years which have confirmed the same brain changes occur in gambling addicts as occur with drug addicts. Recent brain scans on compulsive eaters have also shown these same changes.

      The head of NIDA, Dr. Nora volkow, one of the top adiction researchers in the world, disagrees with you, fuzzgun (this from More Addictions, Less Stigma):

      QUOTE: “NIDA director Nora Volkow also felt that her institute’s name should encompass addictions such as pornography, gambling, and food, says NIDA adviser Glen Hanson. “She would like to send the message that [we should] look at the whole field.”

      This is a question to Eric J Nestler, one of the top 5 addiction researchers in the world (you can find this on his website – Nestler Labs):
      QUESTION: Do these changes occur naturally in your brain without the influence of a drug of
      abuse?
      ANSWER: It is likely that similar brain changes occur in other pathological conditions which involve the excessive consumption of natural rewards, conditions such as pathological over-eating, pathological gambling, sex addictions, and so on.”

  • fuzzgun

    Anything claiming that gambling or porn are physically addictive is peddling manipulative bullshit. It’s puritanical anti-porn nonsense dressed up as science. The pathways for reward and pleasure in the brain are there for a reason and to activate them via non-drug means isn’t the same as activating them via drugs. Any emotion or state of mind involves a correlating chemical expression in the brain – the whole point of addictive mood-altering drugs is that they artificially activate receptors activated normally during feelings of elation, empathy, well-being, etc. It isn’t inherently immoral to activate those parts of the brain naturally, and to pathologize the means by which the brain expresses all pleasure is manipulative. The idiotic moral crusades of previous decades are now always propped up with transparent junk science. It rubs people the wrong way when they’re told to change their “immoral” habits like gambling, pornography, alcohol and video games – but if you convince them they have a disease, they’ll be more likely to turn themselves in for reprogrammi- er, i mean “rehab” to address the issue.

  • Gary Wilson

    Framing this argument as moral or religious is a typical straw man argument. You couldn’t be more wrong about addictions. All
    addictions, both natural and chemical, involve specific changes in the same
    neural pathways( reward circuitry) and the same underlying mechanisms (sensitization, desensitization, hypofrontality). In fact. the new DSM will include pathological gambling as an addiction, due to brain studies over the last 10 years which have confirmed the same brain changes occur in gamblin addicts as occur with drug addicts. Recent brain scans on compulsive eaters have also shown these same changes.

    The head of NIDA, Dr. Nora volkow, one of the top adiction researchers in the world, disagrees with you, fuzzgun (this from More Addictions, Less Stigma):

    QUOTE: “NIDA director Nora Volkow also felt that her institute’s name should encompass addictions such as pornography, gambling, and food, says NIDA adviser Glen Hanson. “She would like to send the message that [we should] look at the whole field.”

    This is a question to Eric
    J Nestler, one of the top 5 addiction researchers in the world (you can find this on his website – Nestler Labs):
    QUESTION: Do
    these changes occur naturally in your brain without the influence of a drug of
    abuse?
    ANSWER: It is likely that similar brain changes occur in other
    pathological conditions which involve the excessive consumption of natural
    rewards, conditions such as pathological over-eating, pathological gambling,
    sex addictions, and so on.”

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