Defeat Lust & Pornography Man thinking about memory loss caused by porn.
Defeat Lust & Pornography 5 minute read

Does Porn Cause Memory Loss?

Last Updated: June 28, 2023

By now, many people know that porn can affect their brains, but did you know that porn has been linked to memory loss? Over the past decade, a growing body of research has demonstrated that porn causes serious problems with working memory.

Let’s take a closer look at the connection between porn and memory loss and see what we can learn from the latest studies—and what to do about it if you believe porn may be wrecking your recall.

(For general information on how porn affects the brain, see Brain Chemicals and Porn: How Porn Affects Your Brain).

A Look at the Research on Porn and Memory Function

Anecdotally, we have many accounts of people losing track of time, forgetting important tasks, or otherwise being unable to focus because of porn. Here are just a couple of the many comments we have received from our readers about the effects of porn on memory:

“My mom tells me something and less than a minute I’ll forget … I couldn’t imagine I have Alzheimer’s or dementia.”

“I really need your help on this because it’s been affecting my mind, not able to concentrate and also forgetting things easily at work and at home.”

Maybe you or someone you know has a similar experience with porn. But is there any peer-reviewed research exploring the effect of porn on memory? Yes, there is—quite a bit. A study conducted in 2012 revealed that watching pornography hurts working or short-term memory. Study participants showed pornographic images demonstrated much poorer recall than participants showed non-pornographic images.1

A 2019 study examined the association between pornography addiction and verbal memory. It utilized the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test, which is widely used in psychological testing for verbal memory. It tests the recall of lists of words. The study concluded that regardless of sex and attention levels, porn addiction may impair recent verbal memory in young individuals.2

Furthermore, a meta-analysis in 2021 found consistent results across numerous studies, supporting the conclusion that pornography negatively affects short-term memory.3

LEARN MORE PORN STATISTICS

The Link Between Pornography and Memory

What is it about pornography that causes memory problems? At a basic level, the powerful visual stimulation of porn tends to absorb people’s attention at the expense of everything else. Most of the psychological tests we noted above demonstrate this dynamic.

However, there’s more to it than that. Several additional factors may contribute porn’s effect on memory.

Dopamine and Addiction

Pornography consumption triggers the release of dopamine and other neurochemicals associated with reward and pleasure. Over time, however, watching porn can disrupt the brain’s natural reward system, leading to patterns of addiction. Addiction can impact cognitive function, including short-term memory.

For a more detailed look at the addictive nature of porn, see Why Is Porn So Addictive? 4 Reasons It’s Tough to Resist.

Cognitive Overload

Modern pornography, with its intensity, unlimited variety, and novelty, can quickly overwhelm the brain’s cognitive resources. That’s why some neuroscientists refer to it as a a “superstimulus.” Prolonged exposure to superstimuli diverts attention from other cognitive tasks, including memory encoding and retrieval.

Simply put, the human brain wasn’t designed to consume hours of porn. When subjected to this kind of stimulation, it overloads the brain’s resources and can short-circuit memory formation.

Emotional Disturbances

Consuming pornography may evoke intense emotions, such as guilt, shame, or anxiety, particularly when it conflicts with personal values or beliefs. These negative emotions can contribute to cognitive impairments, including memory difficulties.

Habitual Distraction

Pornography is a distracting habit that makes it difficult to focus on daily activities and responsibilities. The more porn diverts your attention, the more likely it may affect your ability to remember important things. I’ve spoken with people who have sacrificed important relationships, academic success, and six-figure salaries for the distraction of pornography.

To learn more about the ways that porn affects overall mental health, see Why Quitting Porn Will Improve Your Mental Health and So Much More.  

Can I Fix My Memory if It’s Been Obliterated by Porn?:

We see plenty of evidence suggesting that porn impacts memory, particularly short-term memory. The addictive nature of pornography, cognitive overload, emotional disturbances, and habitual distraction all contribute to this phenomenon. Find out more about the effects of porn. One commenter on our site remarked:

“[This] information is so helpful in this battle for the soul, and have no doubts, it is a battle for the soul. The hardest part is when you come out of the fogginess, and your brain clears, you become aware… Aware of all the time that was wasted.”

If you’re someone who’s experienced the ravaging effects of porn on memory, you’re probably wondering if there’s hope to regain your mental clarity and recall. Good news: Yes, there is! The brain has wonderful plasticity and cutting out porn from your life can reverse many of its negative effects. Another young man commented on our blog:

“After I confessed my struggle to my Christian parents, I was finally able to break free, think clearly, and have colossal boosts in memory.”

Perhaps like many, you’ve tried to stop watching porn but have been unable to quit. You are not alone. And finding like-minded people to support you on your journey away from porn is crucial. It may also be helpful to seek support from professionals, such as therapists or counselors specializing in sexual addictions.

For help getting started, check out our post, How to Quit Porn: 6 Essential Steps by noted sex addiction therapist Dr. Doug Weiss.


1 Christian Laier, Frank Schulte, and Matthias Brand, “Pornographic picture processing interferes with working memory performance” Journal of Sex Research 50 (2013): 642-52. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2012.716873

2 Pukovisa Prawiroharjo, Hainah Ellydar, Peter Pratama, Rizki Edmi Edison, Sitti Evangeline Imelda Suaidy, Nya’ Zata Amani, and Diavitri Carissima, “Impaired Recent Verbal Memory in Pornography-Addicted Juvenile Subjects,” Neurology Research International (2019). https://doi.org/10.1155%2F2019%2F2351638

3 J. Castro-Calvo, V. Cervigón-Carrasco, R. Ballester-Arnal, and C. Giménez-García, “Cognitive processes related to problematic pornography use (PPU): A systematic review of experimental studies,” Addictive Behaviors Reports 13 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.abrep.2021.100345

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