Internet porn addiction

The internet has been heralded as a revolution and one of the most important inventions of the 20th century. At a touch of a button we have access to infinite amounts of information. Many of us enjoy catching up with friends on social media, watching films, buying, selling and spending hours surfing the net.

Enter the world of internet porn! Previously, porn nestled uncomfortably on the top shelf at the newsagent or stuffed under the mattress. We’re all told 'a bit of porn’ can liven up your sex life and many would agree, however researchers are questioning the consequence of high speed internet and the proliferation of internet porn. For instance, porn users don’t have to hang around embarrassingly to buy a magazine, or wait for the surreptitious brown envelope to pop through the letter box. Men especially during adolescence have their own personal cinema of porn on their computers and smart phones. At a touch of a button they can view several porn films at once.

"Perfectly normal" I hear you say. Well, actually no. While the odd session of porn may never hurt anyone, research has shown that internet porn is actually doing more damage, both neurologically and psychological to adolescent males who are habitual porn users.

The human brain has a remarkable reward circuitry which learns and changes with experience. The central area of this structure is the subcortical structures that lies just above and behind the eyes.  When a stimulus is viewed as exciting, these structures are stimulated, causing a neurotransmitter known as dopamine to be released.  

Dopamine is especially important in the part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens which is central executive of human pleasure. When dopamine is released and enters the pleasure region, it makes us desire, seek out and search. In particular this neurotransmitter likes novelty and surges when we’re curious, shocked, anxious or surprised. 

Again, "perfectly normal" I hear you say. Yes, in moderation the release of dopamine in males viewing porn is normal. But research has found that it is the amount of dopamine released and the length of time the brain is exposed to such surges, that is having some catastrophic consequences on habitual porn users.

Research in Italy has found from CAT scans of habitual porn users who have reported sexual dysfunction, that the grey area of the nucleus accumbens is reduced. This suggests that the dopamine which signals sexual excitement is reduced to such a degree the males reported erectile dysfunction. None of these males had any pre-existing organic disorder and they were all young (under 40 years of age) and thus, erectile dysfunction is rare in such groups. 

Interestingly, in a UK study they found that males reported having a diminished sex drive in physical relationships. However the problem eased when viewing porn. Moreover, research has found that teenagers experiencing sexual problems has doubled.

What does this research tell us? One theory is that the high speed and high resolution of internet porn, is over-exciting the reward circuitry of the brain. This is causing huge surges of dopamine and thus diminishing ‘natural produced dopamine' which is released normally. These huge surges of dopamine cause receptors to become de-sensitised to normal physical sexual relationships, leading to sexual dysfunction. In essence, porn addicts find physical sex boring as they do not have an array of explicit imagery and thus cannot ‘set the scene' of their sexual urges to climax and often develop uncharacteristic fetishes to keep them aroused. 

Why are adolescents and young men more at risk from becoming addicted to porn? This is down to the plasticity of brain. The brain in someone younger is still malleable and changing, especially in the reward circuitry. As the dopamine is released, they lay down the foundations of behaviour.

Is habitual porn use an addiction? Research suggests it is. For instance, habitual porn users report suffering withdrawal symptoms when trying to abstain or ‘reboot’ with one of the major symptoms being ‘flat lining’ or loss of erection. This can last from a couple days to up to six months. Moreover, there is a correlation between the age of a male when he first became addicted to porn and the return of his erection. Usually males who start using porn in adolescence experience a longer time to return to ‘baseline’ (normal erections). Other symptoms include depression, shaking, inability to sleep, loss of concentration and social withdrawal.

How can hypnotherapy help? Hypnosis can assist greatly with ‘unlearning’ the cravings or addictions of porn. This can be done with direct suggestions, indirect suggestions, guided imagery to parts therapy, or in really deep seated porn addictive behaviour, regression. Hypnosis is excellent in relaxing people and thus reducing the anxiety and stress associated with cravings and addiction. More importantly, hypnotherapy can address the underlying problems that fuel the addiction such as low self-esteem, boredom, anxiety and/or a lack of confidence. 

Remember with any addiction or craving you develop, you can ‘unlearn’ the bad habits. A hypnotherapist may be one of your greatest assets to help you break an addiction, especially one involving internet porn. 

Hypnotherapy Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

Share this article with a friend

Written by James Tiley BA (Hons), MSc, PGCE, Dip Hyp CS

James Tiley is a hypnotherapist based in Stevenage, Hertfordshire who originally he trained in Psychology, and was a researcher at both Cardiff and Bristol Universities. He specialises in hypnosis for IBS, weight-loss and helping with quitting addictions and habits.… Read more

Written by James Tiley BA (Hons), MSc, PGCE, Dip Hyp CS

Show comments

Find the right hypnotherapist for you

All therapists are verified professionals.