Porn addiction falls under the category of natural addictions. Other natural addictions include compulsive gambling and obesity. These addictions were once thought to be different from drug addictions. However, modern research has shown that these natural addictions have a similar effect on the brain as do drug addictions.
According to Donald L. Hilton Jr., MD in “Understanding the Addictive Nature of Pornography” from the Combating Pornography website “it now appears that all addiction is a derangement in the pleasure control and reward areas of the brain.” Essentially, the brain reacts to the overload of pleasure it is receiving from viewing pornography and begins to cut back on the rewards it is giving out. At the same time, the pleasure-seeking part of the brain desires the rewards it was once getting. The addict therefore has to increase the activity to get the same rewards. Ultimately, this process within the brain makes addiction recovery extremely difficult.
Hilton states that “when we overuse pleasure centers, the cells that produce dopamine are overworked, and in what may be a defensive reaction, the brain decreases the amount of dopamine available for use and also causes shrinkage in the cells that produce the dopamine and in the frontal control areas.” He continues “Paradoxically, the pleasure cells in the nucleus accumbens may actually enlarge in the addicted state because they have less dopamine available for pleasure and are seeking to extract every possible molecule.”
As a result, Hilton suggests normal pleasures are not enough to satisfy the craving for dopamine. Simply put, addicts have an altered pleasure meter in their brain. The brain can be brought back to a normal pleasure vs. reward relationship. However, it requires a commitment on the part of those struggling with porn addiction and the help of trained professionals. Hilton indicates that the craving caused by the “newly reset pleasure thermostat in the brain is likely key in the desire to relapse.”
Although recovery is difficult, porn addiction can be overcome. Addicts must first make the decision to change. After they make that commitment, they will need to seek out help from trained professionals. Enrolling in a sexual recovery treatment program is an effective choice. These programs have trained specialist in the field of porn addiction. In addition to seeking out professional help, there are some simple things that individuals can do to help deal with this addiction They include:
• Talking about the issues in detail with a trusted friend or therapist who will be as honest with you as you are honest with them
• Making an addiction prevention plan to carry out when tempted
• Putting tracking devices on your smartphone and computer so others (best not a spouse) can monitor your online behavior
• Knowing the signs of sex addiction; both the general signs and those specific to you
• Knowing the stages of porn addiction
Readjusting the pleasure/reward “thermostat” in the brain can be a challenging process for those struggling with porn addiction. However, there is hope for people who are working to recover from porn addiction. Participating in a recovery program along with following the basic tips will enable porn addicts to successfully recover in time.