How Pornography Deregulates Healthy Dopamine Levels in Men

  Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Porn addiction is a heavily debated topic in psychology. From early research on sexual deviancy by Dr. Sigmund Freud to new world technology consisting of real-life robots you can be intimate with – notes on sex and the brain are unceasing. The world revolves around sex. At least, for some people, it does. It is an excellent time to let you know that porn addiction and sex addiction are not the same things. Although both are categorized as needing to indulge in compulsive sexual behavior to satisfy oneself, sex addicts desire interpersonal commitment (having sex with a person), where porn addicts receive satisfaction from porn alone. Think of it like this: Sex addicts are eager to meet new probable candidates who can engage in sexual conduct with them. Porn addicts do not go out looking for people. It's more of solo activity. 

Why is Porn Addictive?

Scientists are still unsure whether to classify porn as a thing that people could get dangerously addicted to. Although it was found that around 50 to 99 percent of men are addicted to porn, many start at an early age. A study suggests, porn addiction circulates the company of men more than women anywhere, as statistics show that 20% of men admit to viewing pornography even at work. Now, with high-speed internet and better picture quality, anything is possible online. Pornography has been present in each decade leading up till now, but now it is extremely easily accessible due to the internet. So there is no surprise that this quick, least interactive, and efficient method of pornography brings many men to their point of satisfaction each and every time. Not to mention, a lot of porn out there is free. It also provides anonymity which is a bonus for most men that may suffer from social anxiety or shyness. 

So why do we throw out the term "addiction" whenever the subject of porn comes up? Yes, it's not a drug, but it is similar to many things people are addicted to. Gaming, online shopping, etc., are examples of activities that make people happy and are accessed through the internet. Not unlike drugs, all these things have another thing in common. They all produce dopamine. Dopamine, your body's natural compass for pleasure and satisfaction – of course, it would be involved. Sexual stimulation by watching porn will increase dopamine levels indicating desire behind a person's libido. This has also been proven in behavioral experiments done on rats. It is the anticipation of reaching orgasm that drives up dopamine levels. Cambridge University neuropsychiatrist Dr. Valerie Voon has shown that people that consider themselves porn addicts develop changes in the brain in the same area, indicating that this addiction affects the brain similar to drugs. These changes have been mapped through neuroimaging processes identical to research conducted on other forms of substance abuse disorders.

The Not So Desirable Effects of Porn Addiction

Men generally watch porn alone, while women tend to watch with their partners. This and the fact that the porn industry is a highly political and controversial subject, addiction study has more research on the adverse effects of porn addiction on men's life, relationships, and psychology. 

Firstly, like with other forms of addiction that raise dopamine tolerance, porn addiction does as well. Dopamine chases after novelty. If you're going after the same intensity of stimulation, eventually, you will need to up the ante to reach higher levels of dopamine. Men addicted to porn can then only reach their desired satisfaction through a computer screen, grudgingly ignoring the more social route. Hence, pornography has a significant role in inhibiting the proper regulation of dopamine in the body.

Secondly, porn exhibits a deviant form of sex in the context of many scenarios. It is an affliction of many men when they find out that these fantasies may not come true in real life. It forces them to prefer porn where a more twisted story may play out. It can make them view women or other men as objects of desire. 

Thirdly, being confined to a room with four walls, computer ready to go does not invite a lot of opportunity for social interaction, especially among women. People addicted to porn may have trouble talking to the opposite gender, much less initiate some form of sexual relations. Especially if it's in the spur of a moment. This makes men feel cast out and shunned, forcing them into bouts of anxiety, loneliness, and depression. Depression makes them long more for release that can only be achieved through these activities. 

Men who started watching porn at a young age usually face the reality of being burnt out by sex and masturbation by the time they are adults. This also holds a heavy influence on the relationships these men build-out of a computer screen. In adult male relationships, they may compare their significant other to an adult film star, paving the way to unrealistic expectations. This can breed resentment amongst partners for not reaching the desired point of a sexual high.

Choosing To Go To Therapy

This subject may be like a vast gray area with no set dimensions or authority. This, however, does not mean that you can't go to therapy for porn addiction. Like with many psychotherapies in place, today, Behavior Modification or CBT holds the crown for efficacy. 

Sex therapy entails becoming aware of triggers and behavioral changes to control impulses and desires. CBT involves talking therapy where the patient is asked to assess their situation and list their emotions and feelings when desire pulls the trigger. They are, in essence, told to establish mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of living in the moment, examining one's feelings and emotions strictly as they come. It involves being here in the now and letting the past be a thing of the past.

Starting a journal to record every detail about your progress is a welcome complementary action to receiving therapy. It helps one stay mindful and is a great way to pen down your thoughts to become more concrete. You can use it for affirmations to guide you on your journey. You can create a mind map of experiences that have led you to this point. It can also help you make notes for your upcoming therapy sessions, ensuring you're making the best use out of seeking help from a mental health professional. Journaling is a personal and private exercise for the benefit of the patient. Hence, it is essential, to be honest in the thoughts you put down, as they can represent you. 

Some therapists recommend group therapy. It is believed that relaying your experiences with other people that can understand where you're coming from can boost up recovery. Generally, as humans, we don't like being alone in our trials and tribulations. Hence the company is welcome. Especially when the healing is around social taboo such as sex, it is comforting to be in a space that does not invoke judgment or shaming. 

Talking therapy can also help people pinpoint the exact nature of these sexual fantasies and addiction to pornographic imagery. It can enable them to work through past sexual trauma or bad experiences built up to the current obsession. Sex therapy allows people to confront the reasons behind the comorbidities of anxiety and depression that form along the way. It provides patients with a new outlook on sex and sexual practices. It may also resolve body issues or problems regarding social interaction (or lack thereof). 

Another alternate form of therapy includes the substitution of the coping mechanism that is built through the addiction. Jacob Kountz, a therapist at Kern Wellness Counseling in Bakersfield, CA, suggests providing porn addicts other ways to cope with triggers that lead to them banking on these fantasies. A prominent indicator for addiction is sacrificing every other facet of your life if it aids you in achieving your fixes. Through this practice, the addict can learn to find more worthwhile things to focus energy back on, such as family or their career. They can reconnect with things that make them happy and fulfilled. 

These various forms of therapy still have a long way to go as we learn more about the addiction itself. Watching porn once or twice a week does not make you an addict. However, if you feel as if much of your life is being sacrificed as a result of this, then it is suggested to seek help. Sex is a very natural part of life and should be treated as such, without shame. If anything, healthy and safe sex practices can help one find oneself by testing out their own set of limits and desires. 

Health Disclaimer

JournalOwl is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, medication, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptoms or conditions. JournalOwl is not authorized to make recommendations about medication or serve as a substitute for professional advice. You should never disregard professional psychological or medical advice, or delay in seeking treatment, based on anything you read on JournalOwl’s website or platform.

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