Aversion to Real People Among Porn Addiction Risks

Posted on June 5th, 2015

Aversion to Real People Among Porn Addiction RisksThere is still a lot of controversy about porn addiction. While most experts agree that it exists, there is still only limited data on its effects, and these issues have led to it not being officially recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. However, some believe that porn addiction isn’t the only thing we should be worried about when it comes to online pornography, with a recent PsychCentral blog pointing to sexual conditioning in particular as potentially leading to several issues. Finding out more about the state of research on pornography’s effects helps you understand the other potential consequences of excessive porn use.

Other Effects of Porn Use

Online recovery forums focusing on pornography provide some evidence of the other effects porn can have. Self-reports indicate that some have struggled with sexual dysfunctions like anorgasmia, delayed ejaculation, erectile dysfunction and loss of attraction to real people. These symptoms improved when the individuals stopped viewing online pornography. Research suggests that as many as a third of men aged 18 to 30 believe that they are addicted to porn or are unsure if they’re addicted, and another study shows that more than half of 16- to 21-year-old males in Canada have sexual problems: 27 percent reported erectile dysfunction and 24 percent report low libido. These figures are higher than the corresponding ones for middle-aged men. Although it isn’t definitive, it undoubtedly appears as though something else is going on.

Streaming Porn, Adolescence and Dopamine

Internet porn has been termed a “supernormal stimulus,” meaning that it’s an exaggerated version of a stimulus we’re all pre-programmed to seek out: sexual arousal. Sexual stimulation releases the highest natural quantities of dopamine, the brain chemical central to most drug and process addictions. When dopamine is elevated long-term, it leads to brain changes associated with addiction, such as hyper-reactivity to cues (like a smoker desperately wanting a cigarette after seeing someone light up on TV, for example), loss of self-control, reduced ability to cope with stress and lowered response to everyday sources of pleasure.

In 2006, YouTube-like porn sites became more common, and the explosion in instantly-available material is arguably one of the key factors in the increase in sexual dysfunctions and pornography addiction. These sites enable users to skip from one short clip to the other, keeping their dopamine levels elevated at the maximum natural levels for even longer. The process of searching for the “right” clip and anticipating the content of the chosen videos also raises dopamine. If the stimulation provided by a specific video is waning, users can just click onto another one. This wasn’t possible when Playboy and VHS tapes were the only sources of porn, or even on a dial-up connection.

This is all particularly important for adolescents because their brains are set up differently than those of adults. The adolescent brain is tasked with establishing neural “wiring” for everything related to sex so he or she can eventually reproduce, and as a result of this, the resting dopamine levels in adolescents are lower than for adults. However, in response to a stimulus, the amount of dopamine released in adolescents is considerably greater than in an adult exposed to the same thing. In short, teens are particularly at risk of addiction to online porn and everything that comes with it.

Sexual Conditioning

Exposure to porn in adolescence increases the risk of “sexual conditioning,” in both conscious and unconscious forms. The conscious sexual conditioning can be thought of as “learning” about sex based on porn. As you may expect, this has led to many unusual ideas about what couples are supposed to do. For example, one study asked 16- to 18-year-olds about anal sex and found that while neither males nor females enjoyed it, both genders felt as if they should do it. The main reason given for this was that men wanted to copy what they saw in pornography.

Unconscious sexual conditioning concerns the associations online porn viewers (particularly adolescents, who likely only have limited—if any—real-world experience) build up without realizing it. Those who watch a lot of porn associate sexual arousal to screens very closely, becoming so accustomed to isolation, constant novelty and watching others engage in sex that the real thing begins to feel alien and unusual. This unconscious association may lead to the sexual dysfunctions found in such high numbers in research; the constant diet of online pornography literally “spoils the appetite” for real-world experiences.

More Than Addiction

The research on porn addiction is limited, and it must be said that the research on the potential effects of unnatural sexual conditioning is even more limited; in fact, it’s never been directly investigated. However, as the evidence for pornography addiction continues to grow, it is only a matter of time before investigators look specifically at the non-addiction effects of pornography. At present, the self-reports of sexual dysfunctions related to pornography are all we have to go on, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that addiction isn’t the only problem online porn can cause, and when it is studied specifically, more people will be forced to start taking the risks of porn more seriously.

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