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Stručný prehľad a koncepty vedy popisujúce porno závislosť

Tento článok je krátka synopsa niektorých kľúčových konceptov. Pre vedu, ktorá za tým stojí si preklikaj všetky linky a prečítaj túto stránku. Niektoré linky idú k mojim článkom, ktoré potom odkazujú na vedecké články. Pre hlbšie porozumenie a ďalšie dôkazy si pozri stránku výskumov. pre špecifický obsah si prečítaj porno faqs.

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Čo sa stane, keď pustíš samca krysu do klietky s vnímavou samicou krysy? Po prvé, vidíš šialené párenie. Potom postupne, sa samec unaví a nabaží tejto konkrétnej samice. Aj v prípade, že ona chce viac, on mal dosť. Avšak, nahraď pôvodnú samicu čerstvým „mäskom“ a samec okamžite ožije a galantne sa snaží, aby ju oplodnil. Tento proces môžete opakovať s čerstvými samicami, kým samec nie je úplne zničený.

Toto sa nazýva Coolidge efekt – automatickú reakciu na nové samice. Je zaujímavé, že muži ejakulujú oveľa pohyblivejšie spermie a robia to oveľa rýchlejšie, keď prezerajú na novú pornohviezdu. Táto mocná automatická reakcia na erotickú novinku je to, čo ťa poslalo dole z kopca k závislosti na internetovom porne.

Ako tá laboratórna krysa, máme primitívny mechanizmus v našom mozgu vyzývajúci nás k oplodneniu dvojrozmernej ženy, muža (alebo čokoľvek) na obrazovke. (Poznámka: Coolidge efekt sa tiež vyskytuje u žien Štúdie ukazujú, že keď dostane príležitosť, lovkyňa-zberačka žena nie je o nič menej promiskuitná ako muži.).

Primitívne obvody v mozgu riadia emócie, pohnútky, podnety a podvedomé rozhodovanie. Robia svoju prácu tak efektívne, že evolúcia nevidela zmysel v tom, že ich treba zmeniť veľmi odvtedy ako sa ľudia stali ľuďmi.

Pre vás, krysy a všetkých cicavcov, túžba a motivácia k sexu vyplýva z veľkej časti z neurochemickej látky nazývanej dopamín. Dopamín sedí na vrchole primitívnej časti mozgu – obvode odmeny. To je miesto, kde zakúšame chute a potešenie a kde sa stávame závislými.

Pradávny obvod odmeny vás núti robiť veci, ktoré ďalej zlepšujú vaše prežitie a odovzdávanie vašich génov. V hornej časti zoznamu našich ľudských odmien sú jedlo, sex, láska, priateľstvo, a novosti. Jedná sa o tzv „prírodné upevňovače“, ako kontrast k návykovým chemickým látkam.

Evolučný účel dopamínu je motivovať k tomu, čo poslúži tvojim génom. Čím väčšia je odmena, tým viac budete chcieť niečo. Žiadny dopamín a vy to jednoducho odignorujete. Čokoládová torta a zmrzlina-veľký výbuch. Zeler, veľmi máličko dopamínu. Sexuálna stimulácia ponúka najväčší prírodný výbuch dopamínu pre vaše obvody odmeny v mozgu. Jeden z prezývok dopamínu je dokonca „molekula závislosti“, pretože tá hrá ústrednú úlohu vo všetkých závislostí.

Aj keď dopamín je často označovaný ako „molekula potešenia,“ to nie je technicky presné. Dopamín je predovšetkým o hľadaní a vyhľadávaní odmien, očakávanie, chcenie. Dopamín poskytuje motiváciu a pohon nasledovať potenciál odmeny či dlhodobých cieľov. Aj keď je to kontroverzné, zdá sa, že najväčšia odmena alebo dobrý pocit vyplývajú z opioidov. Zjednodušene povedané – dopamín je „chcenie“, opioidy sú „matie niečo rád“.

Ako psychologička Susan Weinschenk vysvetľuje, neurotransmiter dopamín nespôsobí ľuďom zaživanie radosti, ale skôr spôsobuje správanie, ktoré vyhľadávajú. „Dopamín spôsobuje, aby sme chceli, túžbu, hľadanie,“ napísala. Je to opioidný systém, ktorý spôsobí, že človek cíti potešenie. Napriek tomu, „dopamínový systém je silnejší, než je systém opioidov,“ vysvetľuje. „Snažíme sa viac ako sme uspokojení.“ Závislosť môže byť považovaná ako chcenie, ktoré prechádza do amoku.

Novosť, viac novosti, ešte viac novosti

Dopamín baži po novosti. Nové auto, práve natočený film, najnovšie hračky … sme všetci závislí na dopamíne. Rovnako ako so všetkým novým vzrušenie opadne ako dopamín klesne.

Tu je, ako Coolidge efekt funguje: obvod odmeny u krýs strieka menej a menej dopamínu s ohľadom na aktuálne samice, ale vytvára veľký nárast dopamínu pri objavení sa nových samíc. Znie ti to povedome?

Nie je prekvapením, že krysy a ľudia si nie sú až tak odlišní pokiaľ ide o odpoveď na nové sexuálne podnety. Napríklad, keď austrálski vedci (graf) opakovane zobrazili rovnaký erotický film, penisy testovaných osôb a subjektívne reporty odhalili progresívny pokles sexuálneho vzrušenia. Ďalej len „rovnako starý rovnaké staré“ jednoducho nuda. Priviknutie si znamená klesajúci dopamín.

Po 18 zhliadnutiach, rovnako ako skúšobné predmety zhodne potvrdili, výskumníci im pustili úplne novú erotiku na 19. a 20. zhliadnutie. Bingo! Subjekty a ich penisy vyskočili do pozoru. (Áno, ženy vykazovali podobné účinky).

Internetové porno je obzvlášť lákavé pre obvod odmeny, pretože ďalšia novinka je vždy len na jedno kliknutie ďaleko. Mohlo by to byť nová  „samica,“ neobvyklý scéna, podivný sexuálny akt, alebo- _______ doplň si sám. S niekoľkými otvorenými záložkami naraz a klikaním niekoľko hodín, môžete zažiť viac nových sexuálnych partnerov každých desať minút, než naše predkovia lovci a zberači zažili za celý život. Výskum potvrdzuje, že očakávania odmeny a novosti zosiľňujú jeden druhého k zvýšeniu vzrušenia a preprogramujú limbický mozog. Internetové porno je to, čo vedci nazývajú nadprirodzený stimul. Ide o podnety, ktoré sú prehnané (možno umelé) verzie bežných podnetov, ktoré my mylne vnímame ako mimoriadne hodnotné.

Nadmerná stimulácia

Bol to nositeľ Nobelovej ceny Nikolaas Tinbergen, ktorý pred rokmi zaužíval termín nadprirodzený stimul. Zistil, že vtáky, motýle, a iné zvieratá by mohli byť oklamané k preferovaniu falošných vajec a partnerov. Vtáčie samice, napríklad, sa snažili sedieť na Tinbergenových väčších-než-skutočné, naživo si všimnuté, sadrové vajíčka, zatiaľ čo ich vlastné bledé, mramorované vajcia zahynuli nezaopatrené.

Ľudia, podobne ako vtáky, oceňujú hodnotu stimulu aktiváciou obvodu odmeny. To je dôvod, prečo sexuálne vzrušenie uvoľní najvyššie hladiny dopamínu a opioidov – reprodukcia je najdôležitejšia úloha pre vaše gény.

S internetovým pornom to nie je len o nekonečných sexuálnych novostiach, ktoré nenechajú na pokoji náš systém odmien. Dopamín má tiež na svedomí aj vzplanutie iných emócií a reakcií, všetkých ktoré sa často objavujú v popredí pri používaní internetového porna:

Erotické slová a obrázky tu boli s nami po dlhý čas. Rovnako tak neurochemické návaly z nových partnerov. Napriek tomu novosť nového Playboy-a vyprchá tak rýchlo ako otočíte na druhú stránku. Povedal by niekto o Playboy-i alebo softcore videách, že sú „šokujúce“ alebo „spôsobujúce úzkosť?“ Predčilo by ktorékoľvek z vyššie uvedených očakávania počítačovo gramotného chlapca vo veku 12 rokov? Ani jedno z toho sa nedá porovnať z „vyhľadávaním a hľadaním“ na Googli prostredníctvom viacerých taboch naraz po novom porne. To, čo robí internetové porno tak jedinečným je, že držíš hladinu dopamínu vygradovanú na maximum len s jedným kliknutím myšli alebo prsta na obrazovke.

Mnoho z týchto rovnakých emocionálnych stavov (úzkosť, stud, šok, prekvapenie), ktoré nielen, že zdvihnú dopamín, ale každá z nich môže tiež zvýšiť stresové hormóny & neurotransmitery (noradrenalín, adrenalín, kortizolu). Tieto stresové neurochemikálie zvýšujú vzrušenie, zatiaľ čo zároveň zosilňujú už aj tak silné účinky dopamínu. Postupom času si však mozog užívateľa porna môže začať mýliť pocity úzkosti či strachu s pocitmi sexuálneho vzrušenia. To pomáha vysvetliť, prečo niektorí užívatelia porna vyeskalujú do viac a viac šokujúceho alebo úzkosť pripomínajúceho typu porna – akoby bol potrebný ďalší neurochemický vzruch len preto, aby nastalo sexuálne vzrušenie alebo orgazmus.

Čo robí porno takým unikátnym stimulom?

Je zrejmé, že dnešné porno je pre každého ľahký prístup, je k dispozícii 24/7, zdarma a v súkromí. Toto poskytuje nekonečné novosti. Spôsob, akým sa bežne používa udržuje dopamín v zvýšenej úrovni počas abnormálne dlhej doby, takže internetové porno je jedinečne presvedčivé a potenciálne návykové. Tí, ktorí sa zhodujú, že porno závislosť je veľký problém často porovnávajú internetové porno s návykovými látkami alebo videohrami. Kým zvykové/zlozvykové závislosti a závislosti na látkach majú niektoré veci týkajúce sa zmeny mozgu spoločné, zlyhávajú riešiť veľký problém súčasnosti (o ktorom sa nehovorí): vystavujeme obvody mozgu sexua tieto obvody sú citlivo zraniteľné počas dospievania (a do nejakej miery zraniteľné po zvyšok života).

Povedané inak, neexistujú žiadne vrodené obvody pre alkohol, kokaín, alebo videohry. Zatiaľ čo všetky môžu zvýšiť dopamín v obvode odmien (potrebnú pre zmeny v mozgu vďaka závislosti), žiadna z týchto vecí nemá silu utvárať našu  šablónu pre sexuálne vzrušenie. Internetové porno to však dokáže. Môže zmeniť alebo tvarovať naše rozsiahle mozgové obvody pre sexualitu a reprodukciu.

Vzhľadom k tomu, orgazmus je náš najsilnejší prírodný posilňovač správania a reprodukcia je hlavný účel našich génov, naše mozgy sa snažia zapamätať všetko asociované s týmto silným zážitkom. To robí tak, že povytvára asociácie k vyvrcholeniu, čo by v prípade použitia porna zahŕňalo: Voyeurizmus, vyhľadávanie/hľadanie, nekonečné novosti, fetiše, viac porno hviezd naraz, viac kariet prehliadača, podivné praktiky, šok, prekvapenie, úzkosť, atď.

(Poznámka: Nechceme riešiť psychologický dopad na mladých ľudí eskalujúcich na hardcore porno – predstaviteľné i nepredstaviteľné.)

Iné vlastnosti, ktoré odlišujú internetové porno od iných potenciálne návykových látok a chovaní:

  1. Štúdie odhalili, že video porno je oveľa viac vzrušenie stimulujúce než statické porno.
  2. Na zvýšenie sexuálneho vzrušenia (a zvýšenie upadajúceho dopamínu) môže človek v sekunde zmeniť žáner počas masturbačného „sedenia“. Nemohol tak urobiť pred rokom 2006 a príchodom stránok z porno-videami.
  3. Inak ako fotky nahých ľudí, videá nahrádzajú tvoju predstavivosť a môžu tvarovať tvoje sexuálne chuťe alebo trajektóriu (hlavne u dospievajúcich).
  4. Porno je uložené v tvojom mozgu, čo umožňuje kedykoľvek si ho vybaviť, keď potrebuješ „dávku“.
  5. Inak ako jedlo alebo drogy, pre ktoré existuje limit konzumácie, neexistujú žiadne fyzické limity pre konzumáciu internetového porna. Prirodzený mechanizmus zasýtenia v mozgu nie je aktivovaný pokiaľ nenastane vyvrcholenie. Dokonca potom, keď užívateľ môže kliknúť na niečo vzrušujúcejšie sa stane vzrušeným opäť.
  6. S jedlom a liekmi môže človek eskalovať (ukazovateľ procesu závislosti) väčším konzumovaním. S internetovým pornom môže človek stupňovať závislosť obama spôsobmi: s viacerými novými „partnerkami“ a zobrazením nových a neobvyklých žánrov porna. To je celkom bežné, aby sa užívateľ zaťal pohybovať k väčším a väčším extrémnostiam porna.
  7. Užívatelia začnú sledovať porno. Dospievajúci mozog je na svojom vrchole produkcie dopamínu a neuroplasticity mozgu, takže je veľmi náchylný k závislosti a sexuálnej zmene postojov. Pre zajímavosť: dospievajúce zvieratá produkujú vyššie hladiny DeltaFosB v reakcii na drogy a prírodné odmeny.

Sexuálna stimulácia a návykové drogy majú podobné mechanizmy

Sexuálna stimulácia a návykové látky aktivovujú presne rovnaké nervové bunky obvodov odmeny. Zapnutie rovnakých nervových buniek, ktoré vytvárajú sexuálnu stimuláciu pomáha vysvetliť, prečo meth, kokaín a heroín môže byť tak návykový.

Je zaujímavé, že narkomani heroínu často tvrdia, že podanie dávky opisujú ako „pocit ako pri orgazme“. To, čo podporuje ich dôkazy je že ejakulácia má podobné efekty ako závislosť na heroíne, keď aktivuje rovnaké nervové bunky obvodu odmeny. Konkrétne ejakulácia zmenšuje rovnako produkciu dopamínu nervových buniek, ktoré sa zmršťujú pri chronickom užívaním heroínu. To neznamená, že sex je zlý. Jednoducho nám to vysvetľuje, že návykové drogy kazia presne rovnaký mechanizmus, ktoré nás ženú do spálne si zašpásovať.

Okrem toho, ako sex a užívanie drog vedie k akumulácii DeltaFosB, proteínu, ktorý aktivuje gény zapojené so závislosťou. Molekulárne zmeny, ktoré vytvára, sú takmer identické pre obe veci: sexuálnu aklimatizáciu a chronické užívanie drog. Či už je to sex alebo užívanie návykovej látky, vysoké hladiny DeltaFosB preprogramovávajú mozog a ten dožaduje „TO“, nech už to „TO“ je čokoľvek.

Inými slovami, návykové látky si podmaňujú rovnaké mechanizmy mozgu, ktoré sa vyvinuli, aby bol sex tak príťažlivý. V skutočnosti, návykové drogy ako pervitín a heroín sú presvedčivé, pretože si podmaňujú presne rovnaké nervové bunky (a mechanizmy), ktoré sa vyvinuli, aby bol sex tak príťažlivý. Sex má z evolučného hľadiska reprodukčnú – rozumej najsilnejšiu – funkciu pre jednotlivca.

POKRAČOVANIE ZAJTRA !!!

Preto tak veľmi diskutované témy, ako je napríklad aj tento komentár, padajú tak ďaleko od stromu: „Fakt je, že veľa aktivít zvýšuje dopamín, takže internetové porno nie je o nič viac návykové než sledovanie západov slnka alebo hranie golfu.“ To je citát od akademického sexuológa (s veľmi povrchným chápaním ). Rovnako tak v odpovedi na článok od Zimbardo & Wilson uviedla sexuologička Marty Kleina, že reakcia mozgu na sledovanie porna nie je iná, než sledovanie západu slnka:

„Okrem toho, náš mozog reaguje rovnakým, pozorovateľným, spôsobom, keď sa maznáme s vnúčaťom alebo si vychutnávame západ slnka.“

The Klein claim was long ago tested and debunked, in a 2000 fMRI study:Cue-induced cocaine craving: neuroanatomical specificity for drug users and drug stimuli. The study had cocaine addicts and healthy controls view films of: 1) individuals smoking crack cocaine, 2) outdoor nature scenes, and 3) explicit sexual content. The results: cocaine addicts had nearly identical brain activation patterns when viewing porn and viewing cues related to their addiction. (Incidentally, both cocaine addicts and healthy controls had the same brain activation patterns for porn.) However, for both the addicts and controls, brain activation patterns when viewing nature scenes were completely different from the patterns when viewing for porn. Goodbye silly talking point!

The important take-away concept is that drugs can activate the „sex“ neurons and trigger a buzz without actual sex. So can internet porn. Golf and sunsets cannot. For that matter, nor can good old rock & roll.

Addiction is not required for either porn-induced brain changes or negative effects

OK you get it: Internet porn is a unique supernormal stimulus and a „dopamine-producing machine.” The usual question is:

What are the possible consequences of all this dopamine?”

However, the more accurate question is:

What are the possible consequences all this dopamine in response to one type of stimulus? (in this case internet porn and a computer screen).“

While the consequences are many, the following brain changes play a central role in the myriad symptoms and conditions seen:

1) Sexual conditioning – which manifests in two general ways:

  • One type of sexual conditioning can be summed up as – “This how people have sex, and this is how I should do it.” Most research & popular articles focus on this type of sexual conditioning, especially in adolescents. Although extraordinarily important, YBOP focuses on the second type of sexual conditioning.
  • It can be summed as – “This is what turns me on.” This deeper, more ingrained form of learning might include: watching porn being more exciting than real sex, or needing to click from video to video to stay sexual aroused, or the never-ending list of porn-induced fetishes users report.

2)Addiction-related brain changes – of which there are many. These complex brain changes are on spectrum and can occur without developing a full-blown addiction (as in this study on porn users).

Here’s an important concept: Both sexual conditioning and addiction share the same key brain change, occurring in thesame structure, which is initiated by the same biological signal.

  • The brain change is called ‘sensitization’ (but full blown addiction involves additional brain changes as well)
  • The structure is the reward center (nucleus accumbens).
  • The primary signal, is of course, dopamine.

Sensitization occurs when the brain wires together the sights, sounds, smells, sensations, emotions, and memories associated with a big reward, such as masturbating to porn – creating a pathway that can blast our reward center in the future. When activated by cues or triggers, this pathway creates powerful, hard to ignore, cravings.

Bingeing on drugs or natural rewards (porn, junk food) induces high levels of dopamine, which your primitive brain interprets as: “This activity is really, really valuable – and you should do it again and again.” Of course, nothing’s more important to your primitive brain than spreading your genes – even if your higher brain realizes it’s just a screen. Dopamine helps us remember and repeat what (it assumes) furthers our genes’ survival. It accomplishes this through rewiring the brain.

Your hijacked binge mechanism: Dopamine induces DeltaFosB

A „binge mechanism“ is an evolutionary advantage in situations where survival is furthered by overriding normal satiety. Think of wolves, which need to stow away up to twenty pounds of a single kill at one go. Or our ancestors, who needed to store high-quality calories as a few extra pounds for easy transport to survive hard times. Or mating season, when there’s a harem to impregnate. In the past, such opportunities were rare and passed quickly. (Update: compulsive eating circuit found.)

Our environments have drastically changed. The Internet offers endless mating opportunities, which your primitive brain perceives as real because you find them so arousing. As any good mammal would, you automatically attempt to spread your genes far and wide, but there’s no end to your mating season.

Click, click, click, masturbate, click, click, click, masturbate, click, click, click. Day in and day out, never giving your brain a well deserved rest. This can kick your binge mechanism into overdrive. Evolution never prepared your primitive brain for this kind of nonstop stimulation.

Excess consumption (food or sex) is the signal to your primitive brain that you have hit the evolutionary jackpot. With continued daily over-consumption, high levels of dopamine trigger the production of the protein DeltaFosB. Continued over-consumption of natural rewards (sex, sugar, high-fat, aerobic exercise) or chronic administration of virtually any drug of abuse causes DeltaFosB to slowly accumulate in the reward circuitry. DeltaFosB activates certain genes which initiate several brain changes, includingsensitization.

Overconsumption → Dopamine → DeltaFosB → Sensitization

It’s important to understand that addictive drugs only cause addiction because they magnify or inhibit mechanisms already in place for natural rewards. One of DeltaFosB’s evolutionary purposes is to motivate us to „get it while the getting is good!“ It’s a binge mechanism for food and reproduction, which worked well in other times and environments. With the advent of supernormal versions of natural rewards, however, it makes addictions to junk food and internet porn as easy as 1-2-3.

Sensitization: A Pavlovian super-memory is formed

Learning, memory, and habits can be summed up in the old, but true, saying – „Nerve cells that fire together, wire together.“

The rewiring behind addiction arises partly from DeltaFosB, which strengthens the connections between nerve cells, making it easier for them to communicate. While DeltaFosB acts on the reward circuit, stronger nerve connections are behind all learning. This process is called neuroplasticity. The more intense the experience, the stronger the connections. The stronger the connections, the easier it is for electrical impulses to travel along this new pathway.

If habitual porn viewing has caused addiction-related brain changes, you have forged a rut in your brain. Just as water flows through the path of least resistance, so do impulses, and thus thoughts. As with any skill, the more you practice the easier it is do. Soon it becomes automatic, without any conscious thought. You’ve formed a deep pornography rut in your brain called a sensitized neural pathway.

Sensitized pathways can be thought of as Pavlovian conditioning on turbos. When activated by thoughts or triggers, sensitized pathways blast the reward circuit, firing up hard-to-ignore cravings. Several recent brain studies on porn users assessed sensitization, and all reported the same brain response as seen in alcoholics and drug addicts (studies reporting sensitization in porn users: 1,2,3,4, 5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14)

DeltaFosB slowly degrades, and is back to normal levels about 2 months after an addict last uses. Even though DeltaFosB is no longer present, the sensitized pathways remain, perhaps for a lifetime. Remember, the purpose of DeltaFosB is to promote the rewiring of the brain, so that you will experience a bigger blast from whatever you have been overconsuming. This memory, or deeply ingrained learning, lingers long after the event. Addiction isn’t damage – it’s pathological learning.

When does one cross the line?

Many ask the obvious question: „How much is too much?“ This question presumes that porn’s effects are binary. That is, you either have no problem, or you are a porn addict. However, porn-induced brain changes occur on a spectrum and cannot be classified as black and white, either/or. Asking where one crosses the line ignores the principle of neuroplasticity: the brain is always learning, changing and adapting in response to the environment.

Studies reveal that even a small amount of supernormal stimulation can rapidly alter the brain and change behavior.

For example, it took only 5 days to induce marked sensitization to video games in healthy young adults. The gamers weren’t addicted, but elevated brain activity aligned with subjective cravings to play. In another experiment, nearly all the rats given unrestricted access to „cafeteria food“ binged to obesity. It took only few days of junk food gorging for the rats’ dopamine receptors to decline (reducing their satisfaction). Less satisfaction drove the rats to binge even more.

As for Internet porn, this German study on men not addicted to porn found addiction-related brain changes and less brain activation to porn correlating with more porn consumed. An Italian study found that 16% of high school seniors who consumed porn more than once a week experienced abnormally low sexual desire. Compare that to 0% of non-porn users reporting low sexual desire. The take away is that addiction is not required for either significant brain changes or negative effects.

Put simply, sexual conditioning, sensitization, or other addiction-related brain changes, occur on a spectrum. Also realize that our brain is constantly learning and adapting to the environment. Internet porn, being a supernormal stimulus targeting innate sexual circuits, shapes the brain and alters perception.

This is why posing such questions as „„What is the definition of porn“?“ or „How much porn use constitutes an addiction?“ are misleading and irrelevant. The former is like asking whether it’s slot machines or blackjack that leads to a gambling addiction. The latter is like asking a food addict how many minutes she spends eating.

The reward center (nucleus accumbens) doesn’t know what „porn“ is. It only registers levels of stimulation through dopamine spikes. This is physiology, not morality or sexual politics.

Drug addictions aren’t the only addictions

It’s common knowledge that dopamine-raising substances, such as alcohol or cocaine, can create addictions. Yet only about 10-20% of humans or animals that use addictive drugs (except nicotine) ever become addicts. Does this mean the rest of us are safe from drug addiction? Perhaps. When it comes to substance abuse, both genetics and childhood stressplay significant roles.

Yet when it comes to unrestricted access to super-stimulating versions of natural rewards, such as junk food, or evenvideo games, the answer is no, although certainly not every user gets hooked.

Several animal studies have shown that junk food is more addictive than cocaine, (rats prefer sugar to cocaine) and that overeating to obesity can bring aboutaddiction-related brain changes. In fact, when rats are given unlimited access to „cafeteria food,“ nearly 100% binge to obesity. The obese rats’ brains and behaviors mirror those of drug addicts. These same rats don’t overeat on regular rat chow, just as hunter-gathers don’t get fat on their native diets.

This helps explain why 35% of adult Americans are obese and 70% are overweight, even though none of them want to be. With our brain’s reward circuit lighting up, we can easily slam down 1500 calories in burgers, fries and milkshakes. Try slamming down 1500 calories of dried chewy venison and boiled roots in one sitting (or in one day).

Today’s high fat/sugar foods and internet porn (you’re reading this) have the potential to hook even more people than do drugs. These supernormal versions of natural rewards can override our brain’s satiation mechanisms—the “I’m done” feeling—because concentrated calories and fertilization opportunities are your genes’ top priorities. The reason highlystimulating versions of food and sex can hook us—even if we’re not otherwise susceptible to addiction—is that our reward circuitry evolved to drive us toward food and sex, not drugs.

To say this another way, there are no innate circuits for seeking heroin, alcohol, or cocaine. Yet there are various brain circuits devoted to seeking out and consuming both food and sex. And, while we like a good meal, sexual arousal and orgasm release the highest levels of rewarding neurochemicals (dopamine and opioids). That’s as it should be: reproduction is our genes’ #1 job.

Behavioral & chemical addiction share many of the same fundamental mechanisms & brain changes

Recent research reveals that behavioral addictions (food addiction,pathological gambling, video gaming, Internet addictionand porn addiction) and substance addictions share many of the same fundamental mechanisms leading to a collection of shared alterations in brain anatomy and chemistry.

This is not surprising as drugs can only enhance or inhibit existing physiological functions. The specific way a drug alters cellular function is called its „mechanism of action“. All drugs and behaviors that can potentially cause addiction share one important mechanism of action: elevation of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens (also called the reward center).

Addiction-related brain changes include:

  1. Sensitization(„A super memory of pleasure“): Rewired nerve connections cause the reward circuitry to buzz in response to addiction-related cues or thoughts. This Pavlovian memory makes the addiction more compelling than other activities in the addict’s life. Cues, such as turning on the computer, seeing a pop-up, or being alone, trigger intense cravings for porn. Some describe a sensitized porn response as ‘entering a tunnel that has only one escape: porn’. Maybe you feel a rush, rapid heartbeat, even trembling, and all you can think about is logging onto your favorite tube site. These are examples of sensitized addiction pathways activating your reward circuit, screaming, ‘Do it now!’ (Studies reporting sensitization in porn users: 1,2,3,4, 5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15)
  2. Desensitization („A numbed pleasure response“): Among other changes, dopamine and opioids decline, as do certain dopamine receptors and opioid receptors. This leaves the individual less sensitive to pleasure, and „hungry“ for dopamine-raising activities/substances of all kinds. Desensitization often manifests as the need for greater and greater stimulation to achieve the same buzz (‘tolerance’). Some porn users spend more time online, prolonging sessions through edging, watching when not masturbating, or searching for the perfect video to end with. Desensitization can also take the form of escalating to new genres, sometimes harder and stranger, or even disturbing. Remember: shock, surprise or anxiety can jack up dopamine. (Studies reporting desensitization in porn users: 1,2,3,4,5)
  3. Hypofrontality („Willpower erodes“): Alterations in frontal-lobe gray matter and white matter correlate with reduced impulse control and the weakened ability to foresee consequences. Hypofrontality shows up as the feeling that two parts of your brain are engaged in a tug-of-war. The sensitized addiction pathways are screaming ‘Yes!’ while your ‘higher brain’ is saying, ‘No, not again!’ While the executive-control portions of your brain are in a weakened condition the addiction pathways usually win. (Studies reporting „hypofrontality“ in porn users: 1,2, 3,4,5, 6, 7)
  4. Dysfunctional stress circuits – which can make even minor stress lead to cravings and relapse because they activate powerful sensitized pathways. (Studies reporting dysfunctional stress responses in porn users: 1)

Are these the only brain changes? No. Each of these broad-brush indicators reflects multiple subtler addiction-related cellular and chemical alterations—just as the scan of a cancer tumor wouldn’t show associated subtler cellular/chemical changes. Most of the subtler changes can’t be assessed in human models due to the invasiveness of the technologies required. However, they have been identified in animal models. See this review describing brain changes in both drug and behavior addictions: Natural Rewards, Neuroplasticity, and Non-Drug Addictions (2011)

More pleasure seeking leads to less pleasure (desensitization)

As sensitization and cravings compel you to use porn, overstimulation of the reward circuitry leads to a localized rebellion. The nerve cells bombarded by dopamine say „enough is enough.“ If someone continues to scream, you cover your ears. When dopamine-sending nerve cells keep pumping out dopamine, the receiving nerve cells cover their „ears“ by reducing dopamine (D2) receptors. To make matters worse, D2 receptors help put the brakes on over-consumption, so their loss means cravings are harder to resist. Desensitization also involves a decline in both dopamine and opioids. Finally, a 2014 brain study on porn usersfound that greater porn use was associated with greater desensitization (loss of reward circuit grey matter, less sexual arousal).

The cycle of desensitization mimics other addictions:

bingeing→ cravings→ numbed pleasure response→ cravings→ bingeing escalates→ further decline in dopamine, opioids and their receptors→ further desensitization…

And soon you are hooked on porn, because nothing else is anywhere near as interesting to your brain. From your genes’ perspective, it’s the perfect design—to keep you fertilizing frantically—before this „valuable mating opportunity“ slips away.

Desensitization numbs you to everyday pleasures, while sensitization makes your brain hyper-reactive to anything associated with your porn addiction. Over time, this dual-edged mechanism can have your reward circuitry buzzing at the hint of porn use, but less than enthused when presented with the real deal. Desensitization is not „damage.“ Your nerve cells could rebuild lost dopamine or opioid receptors in a flash. Rather, desensitization represents a negative feedback system in overdrive (probably maintained by epigenetic changes).

If these two neuroplastic changes could speak, desensitization would be moaning, „I can’t get no satisfaction“ (low dopamine signaling), while sensitization would be poking you in the ribs and saying, „Hey buddy, I got just what you need,“ which happens to be the very thing that caused the desensitization.

A numbed pleasure response (desensitization), combined with a deep brain pathway leading to cravings and short-term relief (sensitization), is what drives most addictions.

Escalation and rewiring

Developing tolerance (numbed pleasure response) means an addict needs more of his/her „drug“ to get the same effect. Heavy porn users sometimes notice that as tolerance builds for their earlier tastes, they move in new directions in their search for intense arousal. Many seek out what shocks them—perhaps because „forbidden“ and „fear-producing,“ plus sexual arousal, offer a bigger brain-chemical kick…at least for a time.

Porn addiction escalation is like running on a hamster wheelSo, it’s not unusual to start out your porn career with an image of a famous hottie’s fine butt—and months later find you have „progressed“ to girls with goats or violent rape scenes. Keep in mind that that when an addict escalates to new genres or logs more hours of use in search of satisfaction, he is driven by desensitization. His fundamental sexual orientation has not changed.

The more intense the associated events (orgasm + video), or the more they are repeated, the stronger the wiring. Each experience wires the new tastes into the brain. If your sexual tastes have changed so has your brain.

Definition of addiction?

Some still believe that only chemicals, not behaviors such as internet porn use, can cause addiction. However, neuroscientists who study the effects of addiction on the brain know differently. Experts in the field define addiction in many ways. A simple model for understanding addiction is to apply the four Cs:

  1. Compulsion to use
  2. Continued use in spite of adverse consequences
  3. Inability to Control use
  4. Craving – psychological or physical

Addiction may be accompanied by physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms. Many heavy porn users are surprised by the severity of their withdrawal symptoms, which overlap with those experienced by cocaine addicts and alcoholics.(Take this quiz to see if the addiction process is taking hold in your brain.)

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM): ‘Sexual behavior addictions exist!’

The real addiction experts, the American Society for Addiction Medicine, emphasize this simple concept based on decades of research: Exhibiting the signs, symptoms and behaviors associated with addiction indicates the underlying brain changes have occurred.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) hammered what should have been the final nail in the porn-addiction debate coffin in August, 2011, ten months after YBOP went online. America’s top addiction experts at ASAM released their sweeping new definition of addiction. The new definition echoes the major points made on this website. Foremost, behavioral addictions affect the brain in the same fundamental ways as drugs do. In other words, addiction is one disease (condition), not many.

For all practical purposes, this new definition ends the debate over whether sex and porn addictions are „real addictions.“ ASAM explicitly states that sexual behavior addictions exist and must be caused by the same major brain changes found in substance addictions. In fact, a newly created behavioral addiction category appears in the new DSM-5, and, in time, Internet addictions will have to be added to bring the DSM into alignment with addiction research (see – National Institute of Mental Health director says the DSM is flawed and outdated.)

Those who shout „pseudoscience“ at the mention of internet porn addiction either have a political agenda or are unaware of recent advances in addiction neuroscience. Here’s a excellent peer-reviewed journal article of where addiction neuroscience is with respect to porn addiction: Pornography addiction – a supranormal stimulus considered in the context of neuroplasticity (2013).

Brain studies confirm what we already knew

Numerous brain studies on porn users have been published since the „start here“ article first appeared in January, 2011. All lend support to the porn addiction model:

  1. Brain Structure and Functional Connectivity Associated With Pornography Consumption: The Brain on Porn (2014)
  2. Neural Correlates of Sexual Cue Reactivity in Individuals with and without Compulsive Sexual Behaviours (2014)
  3. Enhanced Attentional Bias towards Sexually Explicit Cues in Individuals with and without Compulsive Sexual Behaviours (2014)
  4. Novelty, Conditioning and Attentional Bias to Sexual Rewards (2015)
  5. Neural Substrates of Sexual Desire in Individuals with Problematic Hypersexual Behavior (2015)
  6. Sexual Desire, not Hypersexuality, is Related to Neurophysiological Responses Elicited by Sexual Images (2013)
  7. Modulation of Late Positive Potentials by Sexual Images in Problem Users and Controls Inconsistent with „Porn Addiction“ (2015)
  8. HPA axis dysregulation in men with hypersexual disorder (2015)
  9. Increased sensitivity to erotic reward cues in subjects with compulsive sexual behaviors (2015)
  10. Ventral striatum activity when watching preferred pornographic pictures is correlated with symptoms of Internet pornography addiction (2016)
  11. Altered Appetitive Conditioning and Neural Connectivity in Subjects With Compulsive Sexual Behavior (2016)
  12. Preliminary investigation of the impulsive and neuroanatomical characteristics of compulsive sexual behavior (2009)
  13. Neurobiology of Compulsive Sexual Behavior: Emerging Science (2016)
  14. Watching Pornographic Pictures on the Internet: Role of Sexual Arousal Ratings and Psychological-Psychiatric Symptoms for Using Internet Sex Sites Excessively (2011)
  15. Pornographic picture processing interferes with working memory performance (2013)
  16. Sexual Picture Processing Interferes with Decision-Making Under Ambiguity (2013)
  17. Cybersex addiction: Experienced sexual arousal when watching pornography and not real-life sexual contacts makes the difference (2013)
  18. Empirical Evidence and Theoretical Considerations on Factors Contributing to Cybersex Addiction From a Cognitive-Behavioral View (2014)
  19. Cybersex addiction in heterosexual female users of internet pornography can be explained by gratification hypothesis (2014)
  20. Prefrontal control and internet addiction: a theoretical model and review of neuropsychological and neuroimaging findings (2015)
  21. Implicit associations in cybersex addiction: Adaption of an Implicit Association Test with pornographic pictures. (2015)
  22. Symptoms of cybersex addiction can be linked to both approaching and avoiding pornographic stimuli: results from an analog sample of regular cybersex users (2015)
  23. Getting stuck with pornography? Overuse or neglect of cybersex cues in a multitasking situation is related to symptoms of cybersex addiction (2015)
  24. Trading Later Rewards for Current Pleasure: Pornography Consumption and Delay Discounting (2015)
  25. Sexual Excitability and Dysfunctional Coping Determine Cybersex Addiction in Homosexual Males (2015)

The above studies provide very strong support for hypotheses put forth by YBOP a few years ago. The findings include:

  1. The 3 major addiction-related brain changes: sensitization, desensitization, and hypofrontality.
  2. More porn use correlated with less grey matter in the reward circuit (dorsal striatum).
  3. More porn use correlated with less reward circuit activation when viewing sexual images.
  4. More porn use correlated with disrupted neural connections between the reward circuit and prefrontal cortex.
  5. Addicts had greater prefrontal activity to sexual cues, but less brain activity to normal stimuli (matches drug addiction).
  6. 60% of compulsive porn addicted subjects in one study experienced ED or low libido with partners, but not with porn: all stated that internet porn use caused their ED/low libido.
  7. Enhanced attentional bias comparable to drug users. Indicates sensitization (a product of DeltaFosb).
  8. Greater wanting & craving for porn, but not greater liking. This aligns with the accepted model of addiction – incentive sensitization.
  9. The younger the porn users the greater the cue-induced reactivity in the reward center.
  10. Higher EEG (P300) readings when porn users were exposed to porn cues (which occurs in other addictions).
  11. Less desire for sex with a person correlating with greater cue-reactivity to porn images.
  12. More porn use related with lower LPP amplitude when viewing sexual photos: indicates habituation or desensitization.
  13. Dysfunctional HPA axis which reflects altered brain stress circuits.

To summarize the current state of addiction neuroscience:

For political reasons, brain research isolating internet porn addicts from plain old Internet addicts has been very slow in arriving. In addition to the above brain studies on porn users, over 150 brain studies on „Internet addicts“ have been published, and all have found the same fundamental brain changes as seen in drug addicts. The studies did not assess what percentage of research subjects were addicted to internet porn. However, it would be illogical to conclude that high levels of internet porn use cannot change the brain, when junk food, video games, gambling, and „the Internet“ have already been proven to do so.

While slow to arrive, every single neuroscience based study published (or in the press) on internet porn users supports the premise that internet porn use can cause addiction-related brain changes. So do recent neuroscience-based reviews of the literature:

  1. Sex Addiction as a Disease: Evidence for Assessment, Diagnosis, and Response to Critics (2015), which provides a chart that takes on specific criticisms and offers citations that counter them.
  2. For a thorough review of the neuroscience literature related to Internet addiction subtypes, with special focus on internet porn addiction, see – Neuroscience of Internet Pornography Addiction: A Review and Update (2015). The review also critiques two recent headline-grabbing EEG studies which purport to have „debunked“ porn addiction.
  3. Neurobiology of Compulsive Sexual Behavior: Emerging Science (2016) – Excerpt: „Given some similarities between CSB and drug addictions, interventions effective for addictions may hold promise for CSB, thus providing insight into future research directions to investigate this possibility directly.“
  4. Should Compulsive Sexual Behavior be Considered an Addiction? (2016). Excerpt: „Overlapping features exist between CSB and substance use disorders. Common neurotransmitter systems may contribute to CSB and substance use disorders, and recent neuroimaging studies highlight similarities relating to craving and attentional biases. Similar pharmacological and psychotherapeutic treatments may be applicable to CSB and substance addictions“
  5. Compulsive Sexual Behaviour as a Behavioural Addiction: The Impact of the Internet and Other Issues (2016).Excerpts: „more emphasis is needed on the characteristics of the internet as these may facilitate problematic sexual behaviour.“ and „clinical evidence from those who help and treat such individuals should be given greater credence by the psychiatric community.“
  6. Neurobiological Basis of Hypersexuality (2016). Excerpt: „Taken together, the evidence seems to imply that alterations in the frontal lobe, amygdala, hippocampus, hypothalamus, septum, and brain regions that process reward play a prominent role in the emergence of hypersexuality. Genetic studies and neuropharmacological treatment approaches point at an involvement of the dopaminergic system.

The above studies and reviews are supported by decades of extensive addiction research which has found:

Finally, many recent studies have reported  relationships between porn use or porn/sex addiction and sexual dysfunctions, lower brain activation to sexual stimuli, and lower sexual satisfaction.

What about studies that refute porn addiction?

There are none. Perhaps you have read headlines or articles describing studies that claim to refute porn addiction. Check out the names of the studies. I guarantee you will find one of these three papers:

  1. Sexual Desire, not Hypersexuality, is Related to Neurophysiological Responses Elicited by Sexual Images (2013)
  2. Modulation of Late Positive Potentials by Sexual Images in Problem Users and Controls Inconsistent with „Porn Addiction“ (2015)
  3. The Emperor Has No Clothes: A Review of the ‘Pornography Addiction’ Model, by David Ley, Nicole Prause & Peter Finn (2014)

Nicole Prause is the lead author on studies 1 and 2, and is the second author on paper #3. Contrary to the authors’ claims, studies one and two actually support the porn addiction model. This page contains the YBOP analysis along with three peer-reviewed critiques of study #1. This page contains the YBOP analysis along with three peer-reviewed analysis of study #2. All of the peer-reviewed analysis are in agreement with the YBOP critiques.

What’s going on here? Nicole Prause, by her own admission, vehemently rejects the concept of porn addiction. For example, a quote from this recent Martin Daubney article about sex/porn addictions:

„Dr Nicole Prause, principal investigator at the Sexual Psychophysiology and Affective Neuroscience (Span) Laboratory in Los Angeles, calls herself a “professional debunker” of sex addiction.“

In addition, Nicole Prause’s former Twitter slogan suggests she may lack the impartiality required for scientific research:

„Studying why people choose to engage in sexual behaviors without invoking addiction nonsense“

Finally, it should be noted that Nicole Prause offers (for a fee) her „expert“ testimony against „sex addiction“ (page since removed – see WayBack Machine). It seems as though Prause has been selling her services to profit from the claimed anti-porn addiction conclusions of her two EEG studies (1, 2), even though peer-reviewed critiques say both studies support the addiction model.

The third paper is not a study at all. Instead, it claims to be a „review of the literature“ on porn addiction and porn’s effects. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The lead author, David Ley, is the author of The Myth of Sex Addiction and the Nicole Prause is the second author. Ley & Prause not only teamed up to write paper #3, they also teamed up to write aPsychology Today blog post about paper #1. The blog post appeared 5 months before Prause’s paper was formally published (so no one could refute it). You may have seen Ley’s blog post with the oh-so-catchy title: „Your Brain on Porn – It’s NOT Addictive“.

Ley religiously denies both sex and porn addiction. He has written 20 or so blog posts attacking porn-recovery forums, and dismissing porn addiction and porn-induced ED. Read more about Ley & Prause and their collaborations here. Interestingly,David Ley also profits from denying sex and porn addiction. At the end of this Psychology Today blog post Ley states: „Disclosure: David Ley has provided testimony in legal cases involving claims of sex addiction.

The following is a very long analysis of paper #3, which goes line-by-line, showing all the shenanigans Ley & Prause incorporated in their „review“: The Emperor Has No Clothes: A Fractured Fairytale Posing As A Review. It completely dismantles the so-called review, and documents dozens of misrepresentations of the research they cited. The most shocking aspect of the Ley review is that it omitted any study that reported negative effects related to porn use or found porn addiction! Yes, you read that right. While purporting to write an „objective“ review, these two sexologists justified omitting hundreds of studies on the grounds that these were correlational studies. Guess what? Virtually all studies on porn are correlational . There are, and pretty much will be, only correlational studies, because researchers have no way to find „porn virgins“ or keep subjects off of porn for extended periods in order compare effects. (Thousands of guys are quitting porn voluntarily on various forums, however, and their results suggest that removing internet porn is the key variable in their symptoms and recoveries.)

For quick refutation of the naysayers’ pseudoscience watch Gabe Deem’s video: PORN MYTHS – The Truth Behind Addiction And Sexual Dysfunctions

Internet porn addiction is not sex addiction

Sex addiction requires real people; porn addiction requires a screen and an Internet connection. The majority of guys we see started on internet porn long before any sexual contact: young guys who rewired their adolescent sexuality to clicking, searching, voyeurism, multiple tabs, HD streaming hardcore – long before their first kiss. Does this sound like a Tiger Woods-esque addiction? No.

Any debates on porn addiction should therefore exclude all mention of sex addiction or how  „normal male behavior“ is being pathologized. When did normal sexual behavior evolve into staring at a screen, masturbating with your non-dominant hand while clicking through scene after scene, searching for „the one“ to finish off? Watch a great talk given at the 2015 Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health (SASH) annual conference: Porn Addiction Is NOT Sex Addiction.

Can masturbation play a role in this addiction?

Of course, but masturbation is not required. That said, frequent ejaculation in animals leads to several brain changes that inhibit dopamine, and thus libido, for several days. Under normal circumstances, sexual satiety (defined differently for each species) leads to males taking a time out from sexual activity. Sexually satiated porn users may override these inhibitory mechanisms by escalating to more extreme porn, or spending more time watching. Both goose dopamine. Pushing past „I’m done“ signals can lead to the accumulation of DeltaFosB. Certainly, eating to obesity causes the accumulation of DeltaFosB. However, without the lure of internet porn, how many guys would just give it a rest? Most all. For more, see Does Frequent Ejaculation Cause A Hangover?

Note: Many debates about porn addiction (existence or effects) I’ve seen devolve into debates about masturbation. This is nonsensical and completely muddies the discussion. YBOP is only concerned with internet porn use, not the pros, cons, or frequency of masturbation.

Many symptoms, one cause: Neuroplastic brain changes

Bummed guy in bedPeople arrive here with lots of different symptoms, which they’re not always sure are due to their heavy porn use. Confusion is understandable because the symptoms look so different:

There’s good reason to believe these symptoms can often arise from addiction-related brain changes, as the reward circuit contains structures that influence emotions, moods, cognitive function, stress response, the autonomic nervous system, and the endocrine system. For example, many of the above complaints such as social anxiety, depression, low motivation,ED, and concentration problems, have been linked to low dopamine and low or altered D2 receptors. For the neurobiology of the many benefits ex-porn users experience, see Porn, Masturbation and Mojo: A Neuroscience Perspective.

Rebalancing the brain (Rebooting)

If this phenomenon is underlying your symptoms, you need to restore the sensitivity of your reward circuit, weaken sensitized addiction pathways, and strengthen executive control. We call this process rebooting.“ The best way to reboot is to give your brain a rest from all intense artificial sexual stimulation—including porn, fantasizing about porn, chat rooms, erotic stories, surfing for pictures—until it bounces back to normal responsiveness.

Those addicted to porn often find the rebooting process easier and faster when they drastically reduce or eliminate masturbation. This abstinence from masturbation and orgasm isn’t a lifestyle; it’s a temporary method for deepening recovery and reducing relapses into porn. Obviously, this process is initially very difficult. The brain can no longer rely on the artificially intense „fix“ of dopamine (and other neurochemicals) associated with heavy porn use.

In addition to desensitization, porn use strengthens nerve connections linking the short-term relief of internet porn with any trigger your brain associates with porn (sensitization). Triggers such as being home alone, sexy images, or stress and anxiety, can activate your brain’s porn rut. The only way to weaken these subconscious links is to stop using (reinforcing) that brain pathway, and seek your mood medicine elsewhere. Eliminating porn and porn fantasy leads to „un-wiring“ andeventual weakening of sensitized pathways and cravings.

The other half of the rewiring process involves spending time with real potential mates. Affectionate contact is healthful for both partners and can help you rewire your arousal to real people. When to have sex? After a time-out (the length of which varies depending upon individual circumstances), some guys find that resuming sexual activity with a real partner is especially helpful, as long as they (and their partners) don’t try to force ejaculation until it happens naturally.

Eliminating porn use often strengthens your executive control, which resides in your frontal cortex (behind your forehead). Assessing risk, making long-range plans, and controlling impulses are under the control of the frontal cortex. The term hypofrontality is often used when describing how addictions weaken and inhibit these self-control circuits. It takes time, and consistency, to return these circuits to full working order.

Remember: Your freedom lies in rebalancing your brain. Then you can choose whether you will activate your porn-arousal pathway or some pathway that yields results you prefer. Needless to say, rebooting doesn’t guarantee you can safely use internet porn in the future. The human brain remains vulnerable to a downward spiral from too much of any intense stimulus, and your brain has a sensitized porn pathway, which can always be reactivated.

Many have stopped using porn and recovered their lives. So can you.


For a more in-depth understanding of the science behind internet porn addiction, read these articles in sequence (follow the embedded links for citations):