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A Silent Addiction: Is Porn Ruining Your Life?

by Jenny Graves
Is Porn Ruining Your Life?

While most people are more than happy to give their opinion on tobacco use, alcoholism or whether marijuana should be legal, bring up porn consumption and the conversation will suddenly shift.

Our nation’s attitude to pornography seems an ambiguous one: half-hearted condemnation, embarrassment and the resignation that, well, it just can’t be avoided anymore.

That’s right – researchers have a hard time even beginning to understand the effect pornography has on people’s brains, hearts and bodies because typically, they can’t find any control group of people who don’t routinely view porn.

A new breed of modern man is living with a silent addiction.

He may carefully watch his diet macros, keep to a smart budget, meditate and have a shelf of self-improvement books (say that 5 times fast!). He may have strong values and opinions about other addictive behaviors, and shun recreational drugs, but every single day, he visits any one of the millions of porn sites, watches a clip or three and jerks off.

Harmless right?

Some experts think we’re deluding ourselves – and before you assume their opinions are just old-fashioned religious hysteria around sex, consider that many of them are more alarmed at the state of your brain and not your mortal soul.

Is Porn Ruining Your Life?

This is your brain on porn

Humans have evolved complex neural reward systems that keep us moving towards things essential for our survival – food, sex, warmth. Every time we encounter a positive stimulus, we’re rewarded with a flood of feel-good neurotransmitters that keep us going back for more.

In most environments, chasing this pleasure forms part of sane, social behaviors like working hard, forming mature relationships with others and learning to get along with our fellow human beings.

Addiction is a disease of this reward system. Your brain can't tell the difference between pornography and any other sexual stimulus. For men in particular, regularly viewing pornography can remove a big chunk of the impetus to get out in the world, to meet people, to make things, to learn… or do anything really.

Porn is supremely convenient, abundant beyond your wildest dreams, always novel, cheap and consequence-free. And just as an alcoholic becomes numb and needs greater and greater amounts of alcohol to feel anything, a porn addict needs more and more stimulation until “regular” sex with another human being barely registers on his radar at all. Doctors are now witnessing one of the most ironic results of widely available porn: skyrocketing rates of erectile dysfunction in young, healthy men.

Is Porn Ruining Your Life?

Are you addicted?

Moderation, as our grandparents knew, is the key. Ask yourself if you’re being truly moderate or if you’ve allowed porn usage to undermine the rest of your life:

  • You require more porn or are using it more often
  • You feel a sense of shame around your habits
  • You feel your porn usage is taking the place of other healthy behaviors – like sex with a partner, studying or socializing
  • You watch porn when you’re depressed, anxious or bored – which you seem to be more and more these days
  • You’re experiencing decreased sensitivity, fatigue or sexual dysfunction
  • You prefer porn to any other form of sexual stimulation

We’re all adults, here.

Porn use is ultimately nobody’s business but your own. But you may be surprised at what you find if you decide to take a break from porn for a while to see how your body and mind respond. Deciding to cut out or drastically reduce your porn consumption can feel a bit like trying to avoid water in the ocean, but it can be done.

Seek the help of a cognitive-behavioral therapist to help crack your addiction, or use the internet for something better: seeking out other real humans and connecting with them via support groups or chat forums.

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A Silent Addiction: Is Porn Ruining Your Life?

time to read: 3 min