I just finished the message I will bring to our church in two weeks entitled, How Porn Changes your Brain (for the worse). It’s part of a larger series on sex. With my prior interest in the brain and my recent research on the brain and porn, I’m amazed at how deadly porn can be not only to marriages and our walk with Christ, but to the brain. Consider what science is now telling us.
Until recently the research on how porn impacts the body and brain have been correlative. That is, from a scientific perspective, studies did not show that porn use directly caused these problems (although common sense told us otherwise). The correlative evidence, however, is quite damning in itself. The problem has been that researchers have had trouble finding college students (the most often chosen group for guinea pigs in research) who have not used porn. And, even if they did, it’s questionable the ethics of introducing someone to porn.
However, new research is now showing clear causal relationships of porn use to damage to the brain. In fact, the variable (use or non-use of porn) is now becoming more available as a large number (over 75,000) of former porn addicts have formed an on-line community called NoFab. Through surveys, they are posting how their lives have changed for the better after getting off porn. Also, a recent German study has shown a clear causal connection between even moderate porn use and damage to the brain.
Here is what research now indicates that porn does to our brains and bodies.
- It becomes addictive. Overstimulation of the brain system that releases the pleasure neurotransmitter dopamine (which internet porn spurs in massive amounts) results in the buildup of the molecular switch protein called deltaFosB, an ingredient common in most addictions.
- It impairs memory and concentration.
- It numbs you to other pleasures of life and real sex in marriage (called desensitization). You develop a tolerance and need for greater and greater stimulation because real sex has become dull.
- Sensitization. Because your reward system has been hammered, you have an amped up attraction to porn that can tempt you to view it through even simple cues like seeing your computer monitor. Your brain goes into autopilot and your reward circuit says, “Do it now!”
- It diminishes impulse control and willpower. The fight between clear thinking and temptation is heightened and you have less willpower to say, “No!”
- It increases sensitivity to stress. Even minor stresses can lead to cravings and relapse because they activate powerful sensitized pathways.
- It literally shrinks your brain. Studies actually show that even moderate amounts of porn can shrink grey matter in areas associated with cognitive function related to our ability to focus. Porn users report pervasive brain fog.
- It causes depression and low energy because it interferes with normal dopamine production and signaling.
- You become more susceptible to risky behavior. Since porn addicts need a bigger and bigger hit they gravitate to more degrading kinds of porn and risky behavior to get that hit with diminished fears of experiencing negative consequences (i.e., getting caught).
- Erectile dysfunction. Porn users become less sensitive to real sex with their spouses and need more and more stimulation to get aroused. Ex-porn addicts report that porn created significant sexual problems, specifically ED.
That’s the bad news.
The good news, however, is that because the brain is plastic, porn users can break free from porn and change their brains back to a healthy view of sex and sexuality. With Christ’s power, men (and women) can find freedom from the devastating effects of porn.
In my Tuesday post I recommended a great site that offers help. Here’s the link again. If you struggle with porn, please check out that web site.