Believe it or not, studies show that those of us who make more frequent use of pornography or pornography addiction have brains that are less connected, less active, and even smaller in some areas. Thanks to modern science, now we know that the brain goes on changing throughout life, constantly rewiring itself and laying down new nerve connections, and that this is particularly true in our youth.
There’s some pretty fierce competition between brain pathways, and those that don’t get used enough will likely be replaced. Use it or lose it, as they say. Only the strong survive.
That’s where porn comes in.
Porn happens to be fantastic at forming new, long-lasting pathways in the brain. In fact, porn is such a ferocious competitor that hardly any other activity can compete with it, including actual sex with a real partner. That’s right, porn can actually overpower your brain’s natural ability to have real sex! Why? As a researcher, explains, porn creates the perfect conditions and triggers the release of the right chemicals to make lasting changes in your brain.
Porn is an escalating behavior because as some users develop tolerance, the porn that used to excite them starts to seem boring. Predictably, they often try to compensate by spending more time with porn and/or seeking out more hardcore material in an effort to regain the excitement they used to feel. Many users find themes of aggression, violence, and increasingly “edgy” acts creeping into their porn habits and fantasies. But no matter how shocking their tastes become, you can bet there will be pornographers waiting to sell it to them.
When porn enters the brain, it triggers the reward center (like we talked about before) to start pumping out dopamine, which sets off a cascade of chemicals including a protein called DeltaFosB. DeltaFosB’s regular job is to build new nerve pathways to mentally connect what you’re doing (i.e. the porn you watch) to the pleasure you feel. Those strong new memories out compete other connections in the brain, making it easier and easier to return to porn.
As porn users become desensitized from repeated overloads of dopamine, they often find they can’t feel normal without a dopamine high. Some report feeling anxious or down until they can get back to their porn. As they delve deeper into the habit, their porn of choice often turns increasingly hard-core. And many who try to break their porn habits report finding it “really hard” to stop.