By Penny Hoffmann
As No-Nut-November has passed and the end of this year births a new one (new year new me, am i right), it is important to discuss the effects that pornography has on the human body.
The internet powerfully influences its viewers, whether it be through social media or search engine results.
Psychologist Susan Weinschenk states that the neurochemical “dopamine causes us to want, desire, seek out, and search,” and that opioid receptors cause the feeling of pleasure. When it comes to addiction, “the dopamine system is stronger than the opioid system… we seek more than we are satisfied.”
One thing that has become easier to access is pornography. Viewing pornography is like a drug; it can lead to an addiction, and what gives you a dopamine kick the first time is not enough the next time, and thus how much content that is required to grant dopamine increases over time.
This excess release of dopamine results in an accumulation of Delta-FosB, which is a molecular switch. All addictions require Delta-FosB. This accumulation causes brain alterations and promotes a cycle of binging and craving. One suffers from increased craving but a numbed pleasure response. Everyday pleasures do not satisfy the person anymore. The more addicted one is to pornography the more extreme forms of pornography one craves, as shock, surprise or anxiety can elevate dopamine levels, and the more one thinks about pornography. Some people report experiencing a rush, rapid heartbeat, or even trembling when they think about viewing the content. In short, dysfunctional prefrontal circuits, or a chemical imbalance, results in a tug-of-war-like feeling.
A study (Seok and Sohn, 2018) found that sex addicts (those who display “problematic hypersexual behaviour”) had grey matter deficits in their temporal cortex. Gray matter is responsible for brain synapses, which is the transfer of information from one cell to another. The temporal cortex is the part of the brain that handles vision, memory, sensory input, language, emotion, and comprehension.
Poorer functional connectivity between the temporal cortex and precuneus and caudate was also present in the addicts. The precuneus is responsible for tasks such as visuo-spatial imagery, episodic memory retrieval and self-processing operations, whilst the caudate is a feedback processor, meaning it is responsible for storing and remembering past experiences and using them to influence future decisions.
When scientists examined former internet pornography addicts they discovered these brain changes were reversing themselves.
A survey done by the Italian Society of Andrology and Sexual medicine in 2011 states that internet porn is killing young men’s sexual performance. Number brains are sending weaker signals to reproductive organs and over time it becomes impossible to achieve erections.
It takes young men 4-5 months to recover from porn-induced erectile dysfunction, compared to 2 months for older men. The reason it takes longer for younger men is because they were not involved with the type of pornography that exists today: internet porn. Also, young men are at their peak dopamine levels and neuroplasticity, and are the most vulnerable to addiction.
In “ Neuroscience of Internet Pornography Addiction: A Review and Update (Love et al., 2015)” a thorough review of the neuroscience literature relating to internet addiction sub-types (including internet pornography), it is stated that “many recognize that several behaviors potentially affecting the reward circuitry in human brains lead to a loss of control and other symptoms of addiction in at least some individuals. Regarding Internet addiction, neuroscientific research supports the assumption that underlying neural processes are similar to substance addiction… Within this review, we give a summary of the concepts proposed underlying addiction and give an overview about neuroscientific studies on Internet addiction and Internet gaming disorder. Moreover, we reviewed available neuroscientific literature on Internet pornography addiction and connect the results to the addiction model. The review leads to the conclusion that Internet pornography addiction fits into the addiction framework and shares similar basic mechanisms with substance addiction.”
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