Porn Addiction Explained

Porn addiction is just as real as an addiction to heroin or cocaine. It causes similar changes to the brain, and it's almost as difficult to shake. Porn addicts pathologically pursue reward and relief through viewing explicit images. They suffer from cravings, behavioral control issues and the inability to abstain. They are blind to the significant problems that porn brings into their lives. At its worst, porn addiction completely suppresses natural sexual response. It also destroys intimacy between partners and shatters valuable relationships.

How Porn Addiction Changes Your Brain

When people are addicted to pornography, their brains physically change in three essential ways:

  1. Numbed pleasure response. Scientists have discovered a reduction in striatal D2 dopamine receptors, which is a desensitization of the brain's reward circuitry. More pornography becomes necessary to stimulate the same pleasure response.
  2. Increased cravings. A porn addict experiences changes in the brain's pre-frontal cortex. The more intense the stimulus, the more the addict craves it.
  3. Reduced impulse control. In addicts, the brain's frontal cortex gray matter shrinks by between 10 and 20 percent. This shrinkage reduces impulse control and makes the addict less able to see the potential consequences of his actions.
Psychology Today notes that an intense focus on the hunt for visuals and then the viewing of provocative images releases dopamine in the brain. After a while, dopamine release overrides natural satiety mechanisms and rewires the brain in ways that are difficult to reverse.

Consequences of Porn Addiction

Porn addiction doesn't only affect the addict. The damage can spill over into the lives of partners or spouses.
  1. Suppressed sexual response. Often, porn addicts find that they can't respond normally in real-life sexual situations. They may have difficulty getting erections or may find themselves unable to climax without the presence of porn.
  2. Dissatisfaction with "vanilla" sex. Because porn desensitizes the brain's pleasure response, many men develop a skewed sense of what should be happening in their bedrooms. According to a Huffington Post U.K. article, 63 percent of sex therapists believe that porn increases a man's expectations of sex with his partner.
  3. Shattered relationships. Many partners feel that using porn is equivalent to having an affair. If a couple is having sexual problems because of porn and the addict's partner discovers a hidden porn stash, she often feels betrayed by his sexual disloyalty. In addition, she often thinks that her body is inferior to the perfect bodies in many porn images. She blames that inferiority for her partner's addiction, particularly if he has difficulties with normal sexual response.


  4. According to the Journal of Adolescent Research, nine out of 10 college-aged men use Internet porn. The journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking reported that one in five adolescents is already hooked on porn. Pornography is a $10 billion industry in America. The temptation won't be going away anytime soon.