Dr. Dawn-Elise Snipes | HealthGreatness

Internet pornography provides never-ending novelty, and the ability to instantly click your way from vanilla images to something far darker or more shocking.  Unfortunately, like crack cocaine and methamphetamine, microwaves and extreme sports your body was never meant to be exposed to such intense, seemingly never ending gratification.  The result, floods of happy chemicals (dopamine) followed by extreme drought.  The result can be lack of motivation, depression, inability to become aroused with a live partner, relationship issues, and even addiction.

While pornography addiction is still not an “official” diagnosis, the problem behavior and consequences are still very real.  The following are the symptoms of addiction—

  • Spending more time planning, engaging in and/or recovering from the behavior than intended

o   Do you spend more time that you would like thinking about, planning, hiding or engaging in use of internet pornography?

  • Unsuccessful efforts to cut down

o   When exposed to new things, our brain dumps dopamine.  This is our motivation chemical.  Over time, normal activities fail to cause the dopamine release, so we lose motivation to do, well, just about anything.

  • Needing more of the substance or activity, or increased intensity in order to get the same high

o   In addition to daily activities failing to motivate us, the same images will start to lose their motivating power.  This is why people ramp up their use.  Once we feel that dopamine rush the first time, we often “chase” the rush.

  • Forgoing important activities to engage in the activity or use the substance

o   In order to chase the rush, and get our brains to secrete enough dopamine to feel normal, we start to ignore important activities.

  • Continued use despite experiencing negative consequences

o   Repeated releases of excessive amounts of dopamine cause our brains to change in order to protect themselves from overstimulation.  These changes cause loss of motivation, depression and sexual dysfunction which can cause emotional problems and problems in our relationships, and at work.

The take-home message is that our brains change in response to overstimulation.  These changes are reversible with time and treatment.  If sexual dysfunction is the result of compulsive use of internet pornography, drugs designed to treat erectile dysfunction will probably fail to work.  This is because motivation and arousal arise from chemical actions within our brains.

The first step is to let your brain rest and recover.  That means no sexual activity for at least 30 days. Many people say it takes 60 to 90 days.  To get through this initial “detox” or “withdrawal” phase is difficult.  Some of the best strategies are those used in dialectical behavior therapy and include radical acceptance, urge surfing, and distraction.