Your Brain on Porn

Parenting the Internet Generation Ebook Cover

Watching just 5 hours of porn has been proven to significantly change people's sexual beliefs and attitudes. Find out 5 distinct ways that porn warps your brain, as well as 5 biblical ways to renew your mind and find freedom.

39 thoughts on “Why is Porn Addictive?

  1. One thing about porn: those images never go away whether you continue to look at it or not. What happens when people get into gross porn i.e. Kiddie porn: will people who look at that kind turn INTO CHILD MOLESTERS WHETHER THEY WERE MOLESTED or NOT?….we still have to continue the WAR on porn.

    • @Zipporah – No. Not all men who are into child porn actually molest children, but those who supply the world with child porn are already molesting children. Child pornography is too tame a phrase for it. Really we should call it “crime scene images of child rape.”

  2. This is perfect! Men need to know what they are up against in this fight. It is essentially and fundamentally a drug addiction (depending on how long they have been viewing porn).

    Like any addiction there is much more than just the physiological aspect. The psychological and spiritual pieces need to be addressed as well. But is seems like we tend to over-emphasize these two, to the determent of the ‘chemical’ fight.

    There is a great book that I have found can help understand and counter the ‘chemical’ fight, it’s called Spark and it is written by renowned psychiatrist Dr.John J. Ratey.

  3. Great article. It helped me realize why my wife and I having sex pretty frequently has been so good for our marriage. It has chemically bound us together in ways that wouldn’t have happened if I had taken my needs to porn.

  4. Luke, thank you for this post. I expected long ago that there must be some chemical activities going on when any person looks at porn. That explains why people find it so difficult to leave porn behind them.
    God bless you.
    Herman of bibledifferences.net

  5. Excellent article on what happens in the brain. But what about the heart?

    Is this not, at it’s core, the result of a free choice to engage in sin? At what point do we depart from sin and tell someone it’s a chemical imbalance? When, just maybe, we should depart from the strictly clinical explanations and address the problem where it lies – sin, and the need for repentance and the support of the church community.

    YES – counseling is appropriate and needful, but we should keep the proper perspective even when our sinful choices have resulted in physical affliction.

    Counseling was of little use and subsequent effect in my life until I was sufficiently convicted and brought to repentance.

  6. Anonimo, sorry, but there is a very good reason why “heartache” is called that. Our human souls are located in the brain and heart. Research it.
    That’s one of millions of useful things my God taught me. ;D

  7. When a man stops watching pornography and relys only on their spouse for all sexual experiences, how long does it take for oxytocin and vasopressin releases to then “bind” him to his spouse?

    • Right away. New neural circuits are created and strengthened in each sexual encounter. This does not mean the old neural circuits go away. They still remain, but new ones are formed. Dr. William Struthers likens this to a Grand-Canyon-like gorge that is carved in the mind after years of watching porn: over time the movement of water and wind carved out the Grand Canyon, just like the repeated use of porn carves a rut in our minds. But we can go back up to the “water source,” if you will, and move that stream down the other side of the mountain to carve a new gorge: a.k.a. build intimacy with your spouse. Then the habit just needs to be reinforced with time and repetition. The old ruts in the brain might not lessen to any great degree, but someone can build the habit of choosing the “good rut” over the bad.

    • Great question. Just as sure as these neurochemicals and transmitters are used to draw a man to porn, they are also used to draw a man to a real woman. Using the analogy of the Grand Canyon mentioned in the post: just like all canyons, ruts in the brain have been created by a process of erosion over time. Neural paths have been carved and those are not easily undone. BUT what can happen is NEW paths can be created. NEW habits can be formed to replace old ones.

      You might really enjoy reading our book, The Porn Circuit. The book talks at length about why porn is addictive. Men and women who immerse themselves the plan outlined in this book, with a personal hope for freedom, will begin a process of change that can create within them positive desires, fresh competence, and steadfast willpower. The old mental ruts will remain, but can be ignored for new positive habits.

    • This article is amazing. I myself am struggling with porn addiction. I started watching it when I was in 5th grade, I am now graduated and about to turn 20 years old. I’ve tried quitting many many times but always come back. Now I have a girlfriend and porn effects that and my life even more. I am dedicated to quit this chemical and physical dependence by doing alternative healthy things to fulfill what my brain desires. Thank you for the article, I’ll definitely be reading one of your books.

  8. It is good to see that someone cares enogh to help curb such a problem that really cheapens A person attitude toward sex, I have had an adiction to looking a porn to reassure myself that my small amount of sexual interaction has been a minimal amount , I wish you luck in your fight againsed people poisoning there minds with this rubbish that makes people feel left behind if they don’t or haven’t participated , all crimes whether againsed there own body or for material gain are because people feel they have to cheat , lm not saying I have the answer, because everybody is different and very complex ,I only writing this to maybe help someone seeking advice which there seems to be very little kind regards j.

  9. My partner has an addiction, we have the most amazing friendship, relationship but this sexual desire 24/7 just drives me crazy, its now causing heartache. I try to put the ‘positives’ of our relationship infront of this ugly senario but Im finding it hard to let it pass my mind.
    He takes any opportunity that I turn my back to revert to watching it, literally I jump in the shower, hes watching, i cook tea he watching, we watch it during intercourse too otherwise its not a desired result for him.
    Ive read so many forums, all say it gets harder before it gets easier. Do i really want to succumb to unhappiness and resent with this man I love so much??
    He was an unfaithful husband in his last relationship, it makes me wonder if it was because his ex wife didnt accept his addiction (should we accept it thou is my question) which drove him to seek alternative measures.
    Just reaching out for some extra advice please…..

    • Hi K,

      I’m so sorry to hear about your husband. I’m curious: have you conversed with your husband much about your feelings? How much does he know about your distain for this?

      You are right to be concerned. His behavior is not only an insult to you, but it is killing his libido. Porn is one of the foremost causes of impotence today. (From a brain-science perspective, what’s happening is your husband is desensitized to other pleasures, even sex, but is hyper-sensitive to porn.) I highly recommend you get a copy of this book (it’s free) and read it. It will help you wrap your mind around your husband’s problem.

    • I understand excactly what you are going thru.my husband is also addicted.his ex girlfriend encouraged watching porn since she watched a lot herself.to me it feels like iam sharing my husband.i think it has gotten better with my husband,i dont think he watches as much as he used to,but he still does.i also sometimes think about leaving him because of that,but besides watching porn he is a very good husband

  10. Our 15 year old son recently told us he has been looking at porn for the past ten months. He has agreed to only use the Internet when we are around (software is dowoadwd and passwords are changed) I ama biology teacher and found this brain article fascinating, what are your recomendations for a teen who cannot replace this addiction with a wife?

    • Hi Cindy,

      Great question. First, I would urge anyone reading this not to replace porn with a spouse—at least not in the sense where we expect a spouse to live up to our porn expectations. I assume you don’t mean that, of course, but wanted to make sure it was stated explicitly.

      First, from a biological perspective, it is important for anyone who is really hooked on porn to understand that just as sure as the brain can be hijacked by porn, the brain can also return to a more natural state. It is a very plastic organ. This article talks some about how that works and how to rewire your brain.

  11. Porn has been something thats been driving me really crazy.
    I totally agree with all you explanations here.
    I have sought ways, prayed and still praying. I know this is sin and I shouldn’t give heed to it, but it just beats me.
    Whenever I find myself in it, it ruins my days.
    I am totally determined to get it dealt with before a woman comes into my life.
    The discipline to abstain in certainly a spiritual battle – THAT MUST BE WON. Amen!
    The more we yield to good when the pressure comes, the weaker the tendency to yield to porn.
    Thanks for this great article.
    It has broaden my knowledge.
    God bless you.

  12. I agree with the comments in this blog post. I would also like to add that much of Internet pornography that I’ve encountered depicts women as enjoying violence and abusive behavior. The sex in porn seems to be bordering on physical and sexual assault, and it doesn’t even have to be “extreme porn”. Just google “porn”, find a random porn site, and after a few clicks, you can find violence against women. Pornography seems to have a weird obsession with oppressing women. So many times I’ve encountered a man in a free online porn video who is holding the woman’s head while she’s performing fellatio, as if he wants to control the movement of her head, giving her less freedom to move freely. I never really understood how some men could get sexually aroused from seeing suffering, unless they interpret and rationalize the suffering as an expression of their sexuality.

    One thing that I would like to mention here is that the blogger may want to focus on men and women as consumers of pornography and take that with equal seriousness. While most porn consumers seem to be men, there are women that consume porn. In that light, one may wonder how some women can handle the grotesque nature of sexuality that porn has to offer.

    • Absolutely, Dewinter. There was a study done released in the journal Violence Against Women about the top-selling mainstream pornography. Of the hundreds of scenes viewed, 88% of scenes contained acts of physical aggression, and 49% of scenes contained verbal aggression. In 73% of the instances, men were the aggressors, and when women were the aggressors, most of the time they were being aggressive to another woman. In 95% of the scenes, the person receiving the aggression reacted neutrally or positively to it. Because pornography is a consumer-driven product, the lines between violence and consent are constantly being blurred.

      As for articles for women addicted to porn, I recommend you look here. This is a list of our most popular stuff for women.

    • depends in what you are searching for. there is a entire section of porn dedicated to femdom or dominant women. in this case the man is the submissive figure. and is oppressed.

  13. Since I was young I’ve wanted to be a woman and have pretty much always felt entirely wrong in my own skin as a a man. I don’t find sexual pleasure in watching porn but instead find myself watching porn fantasizing about looking as the porn stars do but without the sexual acts. I fantasize about being the opposite sex without the porn as well sometimes when I see women even out in public without any form of sexual connotation. Admittedly not as often or strongly as when I watch porn. Over the course of 5 years when I first started, I would watch porn sometimes up to 9 times a day fantasizing about being myself but as a woman similar to the women on the screen. Recently in my past relationship I’ve been unable to quit watching porn no matter how hard I try and it has completely destroyed it. Would it still be addictive or do I simply have poor impulse control?

    • Hey there. I’d say if you’re having an experience around porn and sexuality that seems different from the norm, then you might want to talk to a counselor about that. And, if you’re wanting to stop watching and can’t and it’s destroying relationships, then I don’t know if it matters whether you define it as an addiction or poor impulse control! It’s just time to get some help. I’d start looking for a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT), since this is their specialty, and they’ll be able to help you sort through whatever it is and get on the road to recovery. Peace, Kay

  14. Please will someone help me. My husband of 15 years is a porn addict. I had no idea. I found out in late July and the shock has been overwhelming; I have been in a fog of disbelief, anger, depression and desperation ever since. He started about 3/4 years into our marriage. He had a history of porn consumption as a boy/teenager (which, I, also didn’t know about). He seems to have a fetish for stockings/lingerie which led him into it. I did know that he had a problem with sex and we had tried to tackle it. He was diagnosed with low testosterone and had been to the doctors for patches etc. Eventually he gave up and turned to his old (first) love of porn instead. As seems to be common, his “addiction” escalated to the point where he was looking at homemade videos of sex with several men and one woman; often where the woman was questionably consenting. He was also looking at free-to-air TV channels. And masturbating to it all. We rarely had sex and when we did it was forced. He is now in therapy and seems desperate to change. But my lingering worry is that he will never be able to conquer it fully. So, my question is: are there any men out there who have kicked this habit for good? We have a three year old daughter. Right now the future seems so bleak for us both.

    • Hi Clare,

      Well, it sounds like your husband is getting help, which is good. In my experience, even under the best of circumstances, recovery does take a while. And it’s about so much more than “not looking at porn”–it really is about him getting into his own pain and shame and working on that. Plus his willingness/ability to connect to you and build emotional trust in the relationship again. Here’s an article about building emotional trust.

      My husband is doing really well. It took probably 5 years before he felt like porn had lost its power over him. He’s at the place now where if he sees porn, he can say, “Not what I want in my life” and that’s the end of it. Here’s a bit of his story and his advice for recovery. You might like to read our free download, Hope After Porn, where several women share their stories in recovery.

      The one thing I would say to you is this: make sure you get help for YOU. So many women in this situation will meet the clinical criteria for PTSD, and so many women get very little help, since all the resources go into helping the husband and saving the marriage. There’s nothing wrong with helping the husband and saving the marriage! But don’t neglect your own recovery. Find a counselor, just for you, who can help you process your emotions and build healthy boundaries. Find a local support group. And check out the online resources at Bloom–there are forums, classes, and other recovery tools for you there.

      I hope your husband continues in recovery with all success! But, whatever he chooses, you choose to be healthy for you.

      Peace to you, Kay

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