I can recall my introduction to porn being; for lack of a better word, innocent. While watching a celebrity gossip program on E! News one night, the host was talking about something and casually mentioned the word, pornography. He did this probably three times before my inquiring mind wanted to know what the word meant. So I grabbed my laptop.

Until this point, I had already become familiar enough with my own body; again, through my own curiosities. So, as I discovered what this content was and coupled it with already being able to successfully masturbate, a new level of pleasure was unlocked until it became my addiction for the next fourteen years.

While it is believed that both of these concepts do benefit the mind and body, the darker side of this type of indulgence deserves some recognition too. Through research and personal reflections, we will unpack the complexities and science behind this sexual addiction. As we understand more, we can break the personal stigma of shame and naivety that has sought to keep many people; including myself, silent about porn addiction.

The Psychology of Behavioral Addiction

Addiction is defined as a chronic condition that involves the search and consumption of a substance or particular activity despite its harmful effects. Experiencing addiction does not mean you are a weak-willed person. It happens as the chemistry in your brain is altered to cater to your newfound impulsive behaviors.

Addiction is categorized into two groups: substance and behavioral which both trigger the limbic center of the brain. When the brain’s ability to change becomes desensitized, sexual addictions can occur. Brain maps that are related to sexual activity and normal arousal cannot compete with the new transmitters that are developed through watching pornography because of the specific dopamine release that is connected to that particular experience.

Individuals who naturally do not produce enough dopamine experience reward deficiency syndrome, further determining how they experience pleasure. So, for those who may engage in overindulgent activities associated with shopping, gambling, or even eating; the brain is simply trying to make up for the underproduction and signaling of those comforting neurons. This is why some people experience a varying cycle of addiction, even after having overcome a particular one.

The Effects of Explicit Content on Children 

 As a twelve-year-old chasing euphoria, the effects of what porn could do to my developing mind were never a concern so I found a way to feed my addiction as often as possible. Remember, particular dopamine pathways that are associated with addiction release neurons in the brain that specifically relate to pleasure, reinforcement, reward-seeking, and learning (Neurobiology of Porn Addiction).

porn addiction

While a child’s brain is constantly releasing high amounts of dopamine as they consume pornographic material, their underdeveloped prefrontal cortex is being affected. Now, this sector of the brain will not properly signal the reward center to stop engaging long enough for a rational decision to be made. As a result, an impaired cortex causes those impacted to choose instant gratification more often which leads to reinforcing these addictive behaviors.

Such obscene materials lead children to have perverted views of what healthy intimacy and relationships are supposed to look like. The common narrative of most of this content reinforces that “women often play hard to get” and that it’s a man’s role to pursue a woman, even when she protests. It perpetuates the idea that sex should be violent and objectifying to be enjoyable.

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How Porn Addiction Effects Your Well-being  

The easiest way to allow “casually viewing” porn to become an addiction is to remain quiet about it. It thrives on secrecy that is rooted in shame. Very quickly, that shame shifts to complacency that leads you to believe that porn is something you do not want to live without.

 This same mindset even caused me to habitually act out over the years because I knew what porn could do for me. Oftentimes, I could view this material without being aroused whatsoever and would commonly start my day or end most of my nights with it. Before I knew it, I was a *highly functioning addict.

 Other effects may include isolation that leads to or increases social anxiety, interference with one’s responsibilities, and a lack of emotional intimacy.

Resources for Remission

 A porn addiction is something that you will never be able to withstand on your own, but you can live despite it. Relying on community through therapy and trusting those closest to you with this secret are vital keys to a transformed life. Whether you stumbled into this addiction; it resulted from trauma; or you use it to cope, it does not have to keep you in chains.

By simply understanding potential triggers and using resources like the ones provided at Addiction Help, you can begin the journey toward stability. In your everyday life, starving your addiction will not be enough either. Substituting the urge to watch porn with another productive activity will build your nervous system to recognize pleasure in other things.

Conclusion

 It is unfathomable to know what any parent feels upon discovering that their child has found pornography, but understand that this is a journey that you and your child are taking together for the first time. Because the internet and social media are primary mediums for exposure today, parents can protect their children by filtering content through monitoring software like the ones discussed in Time’s review of these parental control apps.

And I have to thank my parents for how they have shown up for me over the years. As they consistently reminded me of how I should be respected in relationships and always made room for conversations to happen, they have done their best to understand this addiction while always remaining open and loving.

Wherever you may be on this journey, I am proud of you and hope that every day becomes a little easier. Intentionally maintain grace for yourself and watch how things begin to change.

We encourage everyone in the K&T community to join this conversation in the comments section below. Have you ever been impacted by addiction? Let us know what has helped you to navigate it. As we continue to share what we know, help us foster a more informed, powerful, and sensitive community.

*Linked article correlates to substance abuse, but can still apply to behavioral addiction.