“Does pornography change the brain? If so, how?”
This is a very important question, and one that has a lot of debate about it right now. Some individuals believe that pornography is not addictive, and other individuals believe that it is addictive and that it can alter the brain. Studies are being done that assess how the brain is influenced.
Let’s put this in perspective. We know for a fact that when individuals view pornography they have various chemicals released into their system. These chemicals have been found to be released both when a person is anticipating doing pornography or viewing pornography. The specific chemicals include epinephrine, testosterone, endorphins (which is endogenous morphine), oxytocin (which is a bonding peptide strongly associated with feelings of love), dopamine, sertonin, and phenylethamine.
When these chemicals are released into your system, Dr. Patrick Carnes said, “prolonged use alters the individual’s brain chemistry until they require the excitement in order to feel normal.”
So does pornography change the brain? Absolutely! Those chemicals, which are natural chemicals produced in your body, are being released in unnatural amounts. Individuals viewing pornography one or two or even three times in a day are increasing their need for those chemicals.
The pornography changes the brain if you constantly have those chemicals; the body anticipates it. If it doesn’t get them, then there are problems. The brain becomes needy and dependent on the chemicals that it’s used to.
On the website lightedcandle.org, there is as statement that says this,
“The brain is the functioning turnstile that helps us decide on moral issues. It prompts us to act, think, love, run, flee, or fight. The brain is designed to be flexible and pliable. What we choose to watch and act on is firmly imprinted on our brain. When a person is exposed repeatedly to pornography, the brain is stimulated and releases chemicals. This cocktail of chemicals builds a dependency within the brain driving feedback loops that require more and more stimulation to sustain the high.”
Individuals who are regularly viewing pornography will find themselves quickly going through more and more material. Seldom will they go back to the same images that they have seen before because they are looking for more and more and more stimulation. The problem with Internet pornography is that one can consume literally hundreds or thousands of pictures in one sitting, whereas before, someone may have had a Playboy, or whatever magazine it may be, and they may get a few images, but nothing in comparison to what they can get today.
I think that’s an important part, the brain struggling to sustain a high. But remember, the release of chemicals also causes the brain to shut down specific functions, to rewire pathways, set expectations, and weight decision-making. That is ultimately why individuals viewing pornography start acting in a way that they never would have considered before.
Moral judgment can be impaired. Emotional impairment can also occur. They may find themselves becoming more angry, more irritable, more grumpy. Those are common behaviors I have seen with my clients who deal with a pornography addiction or pornography consumption problems.
There are numerous studies currently under way to study the effects of pornography on the brain. In the end, we don’t have definitive answers to how it alters the brain. However, you can expect that if a person is constantly being exposed to unnaturally high levels of chemicals, you will see changes in that person.
I want to thank you for asking your very important question. For more help with pornography addiction, please visit my site at treatingpornaddiction.com. You can have your life back.