Porn Harms – Part 2

Pornography affects the human brain in a variety of ways. The brain is constantly rewiring itself as it learns and grows. It used to be thought that after childhood the brain stoped changing, but recent research is showing that even as aging adults, the brain has the ability to change. Like a habit can be stopped and a new habit formed, time, practice and repetition leads to rewiring the brain.

So how does looking at pornography change and rewire the brain? Imagine a pathway in your lawn where someone keeps walking across your grass. The first few times the shortcut is used, it is not noticeable. So you may not even be aware that it is happening. But in time, if the person using the shortcut does so day after day, soon the grass is trampled and stops growing in the path, and becomes very visible. The pathway begins to “demand” it be used instead of the sidewalk. In the same way, neuropathways form in the brain and a habit is formed. Then the habit leads to compulsion and an addiction is formed.

Try this – have you ever tried to brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand? It is very hard to change a habit that you have done for a long time. Neuropathways very quickly, like a millisecond, know what to communicate to the body in order to brush your teeth. You may not consciously even think about it. That is the brain’s way of being efficient so new information can be learned.

Looking at pornography at first involves curiosity and intentional choices and actions are made to turn on the smart phone or computer, then open up an app or search engine, type in a desired word or phrase and then view the pictures, videos, or chat room dialogs.

The pleasure center in the brain is triggered by the physical and emotional feelings that are enjoyable. In turn the reward center in the brain remembers what was done to obtain these pleasurable feelings. The brain signals that it wants to do this again. It is much like the need to eat food to survive. When you eat a meal, there is a pleasurable feeling of satisfaction that occurs as you push back the empty plate and your tummy says, “I’m full.” Your brain remembers this feeling and four hours later as the tummy growls, your brain’s reward center signals, “Time to eat again.” So you go looking for another meal or snack. This is how we survive.

Pornography soon becomes just as important as the need for food. And the brain’s reward center will demand that you look at porn for extended time periods instead of eating. As the addiction develops and grows, you find yourself beginning to let go of other things that you need for survival, such as relationships, work, safety and sleep.

Chemistry in the brain makes this all happen. The brain is made up of billions of cells that communicate with each other by using neurotransmitter molecules. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that actively affects the reward center, conveying the message, “This feels good, let’s do this again.”

Viewing pornography along with having an orgasm by masturbating generates a new neuropathway. The more this pathway is used, then other pathways begin to be ignored and not be used. An example would be experiencing arousal with your partner. In time, only the pornography will bring about sexual arousal and your partner will no longer be able to do the same. Doctors are having a huge surge in male patients ages 18-40 asking for medication to help with their erectile disfunction. Most likely these men are viewing pornography on a regular basis. The fact is their brain has been rewired to only experience arousal with images and not their partner.

Another phenomenon that occurs with pornography is that the images on the screen over time no longer provide the same “high” as they used to. This is because the brain signals that there is too much dopamine signals happening too often, so less dopamine is made as well as the receptors that receive the dopamine signal are fatigued and stop functioning.

The person who is addicted to pornography begins to look at porn more frequently in order to feel that “high” pleasurable feeling. But it just doesn’t last like it used to. So, research is showing that porn viewers begin to seek out different types of porn that have novelty and newness. Frequently the viewer will seek out gay/lesbian/transgender pornography, which increases the riskiness and adds the neurotransmitter adrenaline. The “high” returns.

Yet, in time, this no longer works as tolerance develops. So risk is increased again by viewing bondage, dominance, sadism and masochism (BDSM) pornography. Violence in pornography becomes the norm in order to get the same “high.” The reward center in the brain keeps demanding more and more, never being satisfied.

To hear what the experts are saying about pornography’s effect on the brain, view this short video –

Ultimately as an addiction progresses and the need for more continues to grow, the viewer of porn will begin to want to act out in the real world with someone what they have been viewing. Listen to Elizabeth Smart share her story of how her perpetrator viewed porn and then “made her hell even worse.”

Part 3 will focus on how pornography affects relationships.

2 thoughts on “Porn Harms – Part 2

  1. pmantelli

    Thank you for sharing this Carol. It breaks my heart that we have a society that doesn’t get how harmful this is. The Elizabeth Smart story is a perfect example…
    I pray that you are making a difference by helping others.

    Liked by 1 person

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