When people come into my office, one of the hidden components to the struggle with pornography is their invisible loyalty to the act. The invisible loyalty to pornography lies in the brain.
The value that is assigned to an addictive stimulus (pornography) depends on how much dopamine is released when the stimulus (pornography) is encountered. With food dopamine output is 150% of normal production, the widely excepted addictive drug nicotine is 200%, with sexual intercourse increase of dopamine is up to 250% of normal release. With pornography it is upwards of 300% the normal release.
There are three things pornography does to the human brain.
The first biological process, sensitization begins when a stimulus source (pornography) is associated with high levels of dopamine in the brain and it becomes hyper sensitive to this resource. Everything about it becomes magnified. In the case of pornography, the images become seared into memory creating super memories that the brain recalls regularly to stimulate the desire to seek for the resource. When a trigger is recognized I body creates stimulation excitement and motivation to seek and you with the stimulus i.e. pornography.
Through a process with pornography, desensitization refers to a general dial down of responsiveness to all other present pleasures. This process happens due to increased and prolong dopamine production from another source i.e. pornography, cocaine, other drugs. When high dopamine resources such as pornography are encountering, dopamine output floods the body. This becomes overstimulation. Our brains do not like being over stimulated. As with most biological processes are brain seek a state of homeostasis or normality. In the fact to prevent damage and reduce stimulation our brains retaliate by reducing the ability to receive stimulation. Changing how our bodies deal with stress or excitement, otherwise known as desensitization, does this.
Altered stress system
Another process that takes place in tandem to do the development of the other biological changes during the formation of a pornography have it or addiction is an alteration of bodies norm normal stress response. This system normally promotes worry about taking care of family, school and social obligations. Prolonged exposure to pornography hijacks the body stress response to promote pornography seeking and engage in behaviors that are unhealthy. When the body senses that triggers related to pornography are occurring, the body starts to release stress hormones, these hormones have significant effects on heart rate, blood pressure, and other systems. In order to normalize and the stress response then increases. The individual must engage in pornography seeking behavior. The person must regulate the stress. This is analogous to the seatbelt alarms that are now in most cars. The alarm keeps ringing in an attempt to promote enough discomfort for you to decide to put your seatbelt on. For porn addicts the stress and discomfort felt from an altered stress system makes avoiding pornography very difficult.
These three elements sensitization, desensitization and stress systems are impacted from pornography on our brain. The role and development that one takes to counter act all rituals of pornography can be explored with help of a therapist. Moreover, learning more about the brain will help empower you too.
Dr. Ryan Westrum is a sex therapist who specializes in pornography addiction and helping clients heal. You can contact him at 952-261-5269 or firstname.lastname@example.org.