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Wednesday, 13 April 2016 14:52

It’s Time to Take Porn Addiction Seriously

By Alexandra Katehakis, MFT, CSAT-S, CST-S, Senior Fellow at The Meadows

Is porn addiction real? These words have echoed throughout the sex addiction treatment community for years but are increasingly becoming faint traces as neuroscience points us in the direction of valid findings that suggest brain plasticity exists throughout the life span. These findings educate us to the fact that healthy brains can be significantly altered due to excessive internet pornography usage, rendering us ill.

A recent Time magazine article titled, “Porn and the Threat to Virility” set us straight with the answer to the above question through testimonials—not from the academic community, but from young males who have lived a porn-saturated life.

How Internet Porn Changes the Brain

Exposure to internet porn at a young age reams new neural pathways in the adolescent brain, undergoing major reconstruction due to hormonal levels spiking as boys make their way into manhood. Billions of new synaptic connections are made, making them vulnerable to wiring their brains to pornographic images, painting an unrealistic picture of sexuality and relationships.

Sadly, when faced with the opportunity to be sexual with a real human being, their expectations are dashed in comparison to the pixelated images in their brains; or worse, they find themselves impotent and unable to perform.

Using Porn as a Drug

Valid studies are cited in the Time magazine article, most notably from the University of Cambridge that reports porn may trigger compulsion in the brain of a sex addict much the way heroin triggers a drug addict. By correlating sex addiction with drug addiction, researchers have put to bed the long-standing argument that heavy use of porn is merely a sign of a "high sex drive." Far from it, says Dr. Valerie Voon, the study's main author.

"There is no question [these people] are suffering," she explains. "They are unable to control their behaviors."

And indeed, one of the most compelling findings was that younger patients were the most vulnerable to pornographic images, which stimulated their ventral striatum, the part of the brain that is responsible for reward-based decision-making. Although more data is needed, Voon suggests a relationship between excessive pornography consumption and erectile dysfunction in heavy porn using males. Overcoming Internet Porn Addiction

Despite the research, naysayers insist there’s no actual proof that the brain is negatively impacted by excessive internet pornography use and that the only sexual problem is the stigma attached to it. But this is like saying the solution for clients who complain about repeatedly losing relationships, or calling in sick to work due to out-of-control porn use is to not feel bad about it.

This line of thinking causes harm by serving to exile patients who want healing from sexual addiction. In fact, the subjective experiences of the men in the Time magazine article provide better evidence than scientific study does, even though it’s different. Mental health professionals who put their clients at the center of their work, and who leave the academic and political battles aside, successfully treat sex addicts in spite of twisted arguments and accusations that pornography and sex addiction are not real, or that treating them is “sex negative.”

Help is Available

If you are someone you know is struggling with internet porn addiction, don’t lose hope. They are well-qualified sex addiction therapists available who understand this disorder and will listen to you without judgment. Call us at 855-333-6076, or reach out to Gentle Path at The Meadows for more information.

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