The Stages of Pornography Addictions - 2

The Stages of Pornography Addiction – 2

Why is pornography so addictive?  Well, there are many reasons for this.  Today we are going to discuss how and why exposure to pornography can develop into an addiction. 

In general, all addictions share some commonalities specific to the brain.  When a person is exposed to something pleasurable, a chemical called dopamine is released in the brain.  Dopamine makes you feel good and the hippocampus in your brain remembers how good it felt.  Oftentimes, this “good feeling” can provoke you to repeat the same behavior, despite negative consequences, to feel that pleasure again. So, you keep coming back for more and more.  Often times, it results in your not being able to stop, and you can get hooked. 

Exposure to pornography surges the reward circuit or pleasure center in the brain.  In the height of an addiction, a person will “binge” on the gratification of looking at porn.  However, over time, the brain no longer gets the same amount of pleasure, resulting in a craving for more and more pornography or virtual sex experiences.  It also erodes one’s willpower to stop because of the hyper reactivity to porn and the pleasure they get out of it.  Pornography addiction could be considered a form of “chemical brain damage.” People can become dependent on pornography for physical and emotional satisfaction. 

So, what are the short and long-term effects of pornography addiction?  Some symptoms that often go unrecognized as part of this addiction are: depression, anxiety (specifically social anxiety), memory/concentration impairment, and a lack of functioning in daily living (i.e., dropping out of school, getting fired from a job, etc.) to feed the addiction.  Longer-term issues can include lower sex drive, lack of sexual desire with partner and erectile dysfunction for men.  In fact, Gary Wilson stated in his TEDx Glasgow talk entitled, “The Great Porn Experiment,” that porn is “killing sex performance” and men are discovering that they are having an increase problem of erectile dysfunction due to their addiction. 

Today, I’ve given you a general overview about the addiction phase.  Stay tuned for more information tomorrow regarding the escalation phase of the pornography addiction cycle.

Written by Emily Freeze, MPH, MA, LMFTA

Emily Freeze, MPH, MA, LMFTA is a marriage and family therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Emily enjoys doing individual counseling, couples counseling and family counseling. Emily specializes in women's issues, specifically maternal mental health and reproductive mental health.

Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield.