Does watching too much porn affect your brain?

Does watching too much porn affect your brain?

The availability of pornography or explicit videos and images has never been more accessible. The volume of content available online is staggering, so it comes as no surprise that research by Ofcom, shows that half of the adult population in the UK watch porn online. 

There are some individuals, however, that can’t seem to get enough and watch upwards of several hours each week. But what effect is this having on the body and the mind

Martin Preston, Founder & Chief Executive at Private Rehab Clinic Delamere is warning users of the harmful impact watching too much pornographic content can have on your brain. 

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“Pornography impacts the brain in a similar way to an addictive drug, by causing an ever-increasing amount of dopamine, bringing with it feelings of pleasure. Over time, the body can build up a tolerance and produce progressively less dopamine. 

As time goes on, pornography users will often increase the amount of content they view or watch more extreme content to chase that dopamine rush or “high”. 

Dopamine, however, isn’t the only neurochemical that is released when people view pornographic content. In fact, oxytocin, a chemical released during sex, and known as the ‘love hormone’ is often released. The neurochemical release provides a feeling of attachment and calmness and it in some cases can intensity erection and ejaculation.

The release of oxytocin when watching porn is often a reason why many naturally have a strong desire to watch content – and in some cases become addicted. 

Users often become addicted to novelty and the fantasy of viewing new content, in unrealistic scenarios and new experiences on the screen.

Prolonged exposure to pornographic content can affect the brain and users will often form an attachment to explicit content and not a person. This is why users often start to experience difficulty in achieving erection or orgasm with a physical partner.”

What are the key signs of porn addiction?

It can be hard for someone to identify a porn addiction within themselves. Equally, it is difficult for someone to determine exactly when watching pornography, even frequently, has developed into a genuine addiction.

Sex becomes less satisfying

When a person develops a porn addiction, their sex life in the real world can become less satisfying, as it can never fulfil the ‘idea’ of sex that is influenced by pornography. 

A person’s expectations of sex can become entirely unrealistic, and they can even find themselves pushing for riskier forms of sex such as suffocation or strangulation. A person might even seek out sex with multiple partners in an attempt to live out the sexual fantasies conceptualised by pornography.

Prioritising porn

Someone struggling with a pornography addiction will almost always consider watching porn to be one of their priorities and therefore disregard their everyday tasks.

This is where porn consumption begins to negatively impact the individual’s life. They can experience depression and exhaustion, at the same time as falling behind in their daily routine and social life, as a direct result of their porn habits.

Taking more risks to watch porn

Once a person becomes addicted to porn, they may begin taking increasingly riskier opportunities to view pornographic content.

A porn addict may find themselves watching porn in the workplace or a public setting such as public transport. Despite knowing that the consequences of being caught such content in public would be severe, the individual may find that they are unable to resist the temptation. The taboo act of watching porn in a risky setting may even provide the individual with an added thrill.

Feelings of frustration

If a person is feeling ashamed or frustrated with the amount of pornography they are watching, but find themselves unable to limit their time spent watching porn, then it is likely they have a porn addiction.

However much an addict might be aware that what they are doing to themselves is harmful and unhealthy, they will struggle to be physically able to stop themselves from doing it.

Financial impact

It is clear that a person has developed a genuine problem with porn consumption when it begins to affect them financially.

If a person is spending large amounts of money on pornography, to the point where they are even prioritising spending on porn over other expenses such as rent, bills, food and family, then their relationship with porn has unhealthily developed into an addiction.

With the rise in popularity of subscription sites making porn even more accessible, and possibly even more acceptable, it is now easier than ever for porn consumption to have a financial impact on people’s lives.

Delving into the taboo

When a person has consumed an overload of pornographic content, the idea of ‘regular’ less extreme pornography may no longer provide the satisfaction that it once did.

A porn addict is more likely to begin viewing progressively more violent, controversial or taboo forms of porn, as they chase the feeling of a dopamine release. The problem that porn addicts will experience is the same as with any substance abuse. They will have a  sense of reward or relief that porn may provide will never be completely fulfilling, and the problem will only worsen unless it is properly addressed.

Porn as a coping mechanism

A sign that someone may be suffering from porn addiction is when they begin to use porn consumption as a means to cope with other health conditions.

A person suffering from insomnia may get addicted to porn as a result of watching pornographic videos to distract from the fact that they cannot sleep. Likewise, a person suffering from depression or anxiety may view watching porn as a means of escapism and get addicted that way. However, overly obsessive porn consumption can only make these pre-existing conditions feel worse in the long run.

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