My Cart

Close

Welcome to Psych2Go

This is your Brain. This is Your Brain on Porn. How Watching Porn Changes Your Brain.

Posted on June 12 2018

I would venture to guess that there are very few people in this world who have not been exposed to pornography. Paint Bottle states that 30 percent of all data transferred online is porn and this number is increasing every week.

With pornography, only a few clicks away at any given time, opinions, studies, and attitudes about the imagery abound. Regardless of your thoughts or attitudes about porn, the research is firm. Excessive porn watching affects the brain.

The Porn Drug

The chemicals released by the brain when a person watches porn, mix together and make a fantastic pleasure cocktail. It is made up of dopamine, norepinephrine, oxytocin, vasopressin, endorphins, and serotonin.

Whenever you have a gratifying experience, your brain releases high levels of the “happiness drug” or neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is a major player in the brain’s reward system. It creates vivid memories and creates a strong desire to relive the stimulation.

Dopamine is usually a good thing. It keeps us healthy and happy, and it is an intricate part of what allows us to form relationships and fall in love.

However, when the pleasure stimulus is frequent or prolonged, the brain receives an oversupply of dopamine. Over time, as is the case with all addiction, your brain becomes desensitized to dopamine, and the brain no longer recognizes the pleasure signals. The next time the viewer gets the “porn crave,” a bit of dopamine released in the brain tells the user: “Remember where you got it before? Go there and get more.”

Another chemical at play is norepinephrine. When released this chemical creates alertness and focus. It acts in the same way adrenaline does for the body. It informs the brain to get ready because something is about to happen.

Oxytocin and vasopressin are hormones that help form long-term cell memories. The hormones bind a person’s memories to the object that gave him or her pleasure.

Endorphins are the body’s natural opiates and create a high. A sense of pleasure that takes over the entire body.

A release of serotonin comes after sexual release that brings a sense relaxation and calmness.

Sam Black in The Porn Circuit states that the system works as it should when having sex with your spouse. “Together you can experience a high, and alertness of sexual pleasure and the deep calm afterward.”  Each sexual embrace creates an emotional bond with the person (oxytocin and vasopressin). He states that over time, craving for sex is transformed into a desire for one another (dopamine).

Porn short-circuits this system.

Porn becomes a drug when it becomes obsessive. If all you do day after day is watch pornography, search for pornography, and watch more pornography, instead of taking care of daily business, then you have an addiction and porn is the drug. Eventually, your brain fatigues and stops the production of dopamine. You are left wanting more but are unable to find the same level of pleasure, and as a result, you seek out more intense pornography.

Porn on the Brain

The effects of porn on your brain will be somewhat different based on who you talk with. Everyone has an opinion. Neurobiologists, psychologists, sociologists, psychiatrists, and the like study the topic but use different methodologies which bring about different outcomes.

Another problem with addressing the effect of porn is that a large part of the research done on pornography is 20-25 years old. That was nothing like the pornography of today. Technology has more than doubled the amount of pornography consumed by young people.

A few more recent studies do exist, but the results are not entirely clear. Still, there are some take-aways from research that we can’t ignore. For example, people who watch porn often:

  • Have their first sexual experience at a younger age
  • Have more sexual partners
  • Feel more pressure to try things seen in porn films
  • Disassociate feelings and emotions from sex
  • Have trouble getting aroused with real partners
  • Have unrealistic expectations about sex
  • Have distorted views of sex and relationships

Cambridge Neuropsychiatrist Valerie Voon, who was featured in the documentary, Porn on the Brain in 2013, stated that the brains of habitual porn viewers show great similarity to the brains of alcoholics. There is a part of the brain that plays a role in the reward system called the ventral striatum. This part of the brain lights up when an alcoholic sees a picture of a drink as it does when a habitual porn watcher sees porn.

With porn, your brain remembers where the sexual high was experienced.  Rather than forming a connection to a person, your brain forms a connection to a pornographic experience so every time you feel desire, you become focused and must get back to the porn.

The Problem with You and Porn

The sex circuit is intended to work with another person. When you short-circuit it with pornography, you are setting yourself up for the possibility of several problems including:

  • Impotence with your spouse
  • Frequent masturbation (when you neglect other responsibilities)
  • Little satisfaction with masturbation
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Escalating need for more bizarre or novel porn

Porn is not inherently a problem. It is a problem when it consumes you to the point of interrupting your daily life. When that happens, porn brings these issues along for the ride.

If you think you have a problem with pornography, it is possible to change, and you can reclaim your sex life. To learn more, you can download this free book, The Porn Circuit: Understanding Your Brain and Break Porn Habits in 90 Days.

 Written by Lyn Geist for Psych2Go

References

Carstensen, M. (2017, February 16). This is what porn does to your brain. Retrieved from New York Post: https://nypost.com/2017/02/16/is-watching-porn-harmful-to-your-health/

Gilkerson, L. (2014, February 3). Brain Chemicals and Porn Addiction: Science Shows How Porn Harms Us. Retrieved from CovenantEyes: http://www.covenanteyes.com/2014/02/03/brain-chemicals-and-porn-addiction/

Unk. (2017, March 3). Watching Porn Affects the Brain, Things Will Never Be the Same Again. Retrieved from Sputnik: https://sputniknews.com/art_living/201703171051684961-porn-alters-brain/