Can Pornography Be Addictive?

There are many people, I mean professionals, who argue that it cannot be addictive. These people believe that to be addictive a substance has to be physically addictive and cause withdrawal when the substance has been stopped. These people like to see addiction in a very restricted and narrow sense. All addictive behaviors, be they chemical or process, reside in the body. The major place where addiction lies is in the brain. If we take a psychoactive substance, like alcohol, we feel a change in mood. We also feel a change in mood when we experience certain sights, smells and sensations. A beautiful sunset will change your mood. Certain experiences will give us an even more powerful mood change. A good-looking person that stimulates our arousal template creates a mood altering event. The smell of freshly baked cookies. That is why cookie companies pump chemicals into the air so that we will desire a cookie. Most people have fond memories of their childhood and cookies.

Many events in life create very powerful mood altering feelings. What happens when we experience something we like our brain releases dopamine. Dopamine effects the pleasure center of the brain. Dopamine is not a place for chemical, it is the reward seeking chemical. It tells us we like what we are doing and we want more of it. This begins to set up a cycle of wanting to do more and more of what we are enjoying. This in and of itself is not addiction. Addiction takes place when our brain comes to believe that we need more and more dopamine and the other chemicals that create the mood that we like. This situation leads us to take more risks and seek these feelings and moods above everything else. There are a lot of biochemical and social and psychological factors that lead from enjoying a behavior to it becoming addictive.

Pornography is an easy thing to become addicted to. Most people enjoy looking at naked good-looking people. And pornography usually starts out with people looking at good-looking naked people. The power of pornography lies in its ability to seduce us into looking at more and more exciting situations. One of the most powerful forces that leads us to do anything his novelty. Novelty stimulates the brain and releases more dopamine. So we can start out looking at nudes and then get tired of that. But there’s always something more tempting, more obscure, more tantalizing to look at. The grotesque, ugly perverted can stimulate a curiosity. The novelty of these new scenes created desire to keep looking until we are bored. But wait, there is always a new novelty with the next site. This creates a cycle for the brain to keep seeking new experiences, and hence, new changes in mood.

Another aspect, is what happens to gamblers. The near win is highly seductive. For instance, in a slot machine one can get two cherries and then a bar. But just above the bar is an icon of cherries. I near win. This is been found to be more seductive and reinforcing them wins themselves. Hence, those loose and random slot machines seem to come up with more near wins them with statistically happen with pure randomness. I have had clients tell me of a similar experience with pornography. The picture is almost perfect, but there’s something in the photos that isn’t quite right for full sexual gratification. Hence pornography, also practices the same reinforcing behaviors that advertisers, gambling establishments and any other enticing enterprises employ.

In pornography, the addiction deals with an attachment to pixels. People seek images that stimulate. It does not follow, however, that the person looking at these photos wants to do the same sexual activities seen in the photos. Hence many times people end up looking at photos that are illegal and get arrested for downloading the sites but would themselves never actually engage in those activities personally. The life of the pixels, and images are themselves the addiction. With high-speed Internet the experiences novelty elevates exponentially. This can have many effects physiologically and psychologically. But that will be a topic of another blog.

Father Deacon Jan Veselak, LAC

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