Pornography is not always seen as an addiction the same as with other drugs. Studies show the same release of chemicals occurs in the brain with viewing pornography as with other drugs. This release causes a pleasurable high which can cause the brain to rewire itself.
Inside the brain is a “reward pathway,” whose job it is to reward an individual for doing something positive or good. The reward is a release of feel good chemicals in the brain called dopamine. Oxytocin is another chemical which can be released. When the chemicals are released, they help people to feel pleasure, bond with others and motivate individuals to return to the same activities to continue doing it and produce more good feelings. In the case of addiction, the reward pathway becomes corrupted.
Pornography triggers the release of dopamine creating an artificial ‘high’ for the person viewing the material. The release creates a desire to continue seeking the pleasurable experience time and again, in spite of an individual’s attempts to keep it under control. As a person looks at pornography, more pathways get wired into the brain which make it easier for the person to return to using the stimulation which feeds into a vicious cycle. The constant overload of chemicals causes other brain changes as well which builds tolerance as the brain adapts to the high levels of dopamine release. Over time, the individual will not feel the effects and requires more of it with higher levels of frequency to maintain the same release of pleasurable feelings.
There are five steps identified as a process towards addiction to pornography. It looks different than drug addiction, yet there are similarities. To understand the addictive process, the steps can include:
Early exposure – many addicted individuals are males who become addicted very early on, often in the teenage years. Pornography is freely available on the internet, smartphones and in magazines which provide relatively easy access to almost anything a person wants to read or watch.
Addiction – the ability to stop looking or pursuing pornography is unstoppable and it becomes a regular part of life. After a while, it is a daily habit from which a person cannot quit or get away.
Escalation – an individual will look for more graphic pornography to feed the addiction. This creates more release of dopamine which fuels the escalation. Any pornography which was not of interest early on may become more interesting and exciting.
Desensitization – a numbing effect happens to a person viewing images or videos. Graphic material does not feel exciting at this point and the person becomes desperate to feel the same thrill without being able to find it.
Sexual acting out – men will make the jump from viewing pornography to the real world including acts of violence against women, seeking prostitutes or even rape to fulfill the fantasies and feel the same high.
Hired Power has trained counselors ready to assist you if pornography addiction has taken over your life. There is hope, and help available.
Call today at 800-910-9299 for more information.