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Can Porn Cause Brain Damage?

Dr R. Y. Langham

Aug 01, 2022

Most people have an idea of how porn can destroy your life – i.e., relationships, self-esteem and self-confidence, finances, sexual health, etc., but most people do not know that it can also damage your brain. Porn is powerful, so powerful that it can cause addicts to turn away from the people, who love them in favor of people on a screen – people they do not know and probably will never know. Porn is so all-consuming that it literally takes over your life, causing havoc and leaving a shell of the former person in its wake. 

Porn addicts no longer think clearly – and porn is to blame. To porn addicts, porn is the most important thing in the world. It is an addict’s love interest, strict boss, best friend, stress reliever, and virtual lover. Nothing else matters once porn consumes your mind and body. You no longer care about your real-life partner’s feelings. No, all you care about is getting your “fix.” There is no room to think about anything else besides porn – all day and all night. So, now that you know that porn can cause brain damage – now what? 

You have so many questions like, “Does porn always cause brain damage?” “Is there any way you can prevent your brain from being damaged or destroyed by porn?” “What causes the brain damage?” “How is the porn-induced brain damage treated?” If you are an avid “porn user,” it is normal to wonder, during one of your moments of clarity, about the negative effects of excessively using porn. It is also normal to wonder how porn is affecting your brain. “Is it clouding your brain and judgment?” If so, how can you stop porn from destroying your mind? 

The good news is you can take steps to stop porn from damaging your brain – starting with seeking porn addiction help. In this article, you will learn how porn damages the brain, and how you can stop it from destroying your life.

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I’m Not a Porn Addict – Am I?

Well, if you are spending the majority of your time watching porn – at the expense of other, more important tasks, like taking care of your child, spending time with your partner or spouse, going to school or work, washing clothes, cleaning your home, paying bills, or even taking baths or showers, then you are likely a porn addict. Porn addiction is loosely defined as an inability to stop using porn, despite the consequences, such as poor judgment. 

In other words, if porn is negatively affecting your life in any way, you have a problem with porn. And, if you have a problem with porn, you will most likely need porn addiction treatment to kick your “habit.” So, if porn is ruling your life, you are likely an addict, who needs porn addiction help.

How is Porn Affecting My Brain?

Do you feel like you have become a different person since becoming engrossed in porn? Do you not recognize yourself these days? Have you been exercising poor judgment lately – not thinking too clearly? If yes, there is a reason why you feel like a shell of your former self. Your “heavy porn use” is causing changes in your brain. More specifically, viewing porn is creating neuropathways in your brain that link your “porn use” to sexual satisfaction, relaxation, entertainment, happiness, connection, pain relief, etc. 

Once these neuropathways are formed, you gain a new “habit,” which in this case is porn addiction. Surprisingly, using porn can alter your brain chemistry and activity. Brain imaging tests suggest that people, who view excessively view porn, show increased brain activity in the areas of joy, excitement, sexual arousal, and sexual satisfaction when shown porn. These same positive emotions are not found when porn addicts or “heavy porn users” are shown romantic or sexual pictures of their real-life partners. 

Using porn not only disrupts your frontal lobe functioning but also “desensitizes” your mid-brain reward system – with porn being the “reward.” In other words, it causes your brain to crave porn, so when you finally get it, you experience a “high.” More specifically, you experience pleasure, relief, happiness, and joy, which is what causes you to keep returning to it. Brain damage from “heavy porn use” can lead to an inability to focus on tasks, anxiety, depression, poor motivation and memory, anger or rage, mood swings, brain fog, irritability, and/or mental confusion.

Can Porn Change the Way I Feel About My Romantic Partner?

Absolutely! 

Porn can trick you into thinking your romantic partner is no longer attractive or desirable. It can also trick you into thinking your partner look and “perform” like a “porn star,” even if that is unrealistic. Because your partner does not resemble the women and men on porn sites, your feelings may change for your real-life, romantic partner. Porn distorts how you “see” things. Porn can even make you question if you should be with your partner – or if you should seek someone, who can “perform” like the actors on porn sites. 

Porn is deceptive. It can even change your perception of love and healthy sex. It can skew your brain so badly that you no longer feel passion for your partner. More specifically, you no longer see him or her like you once did – with love, lust, and everything in between. Porn can make you believe that it is your new love interest, and that is all you need to be happy – but that is not true. Keep in mind that what you are seeing on the screen is just “smoke and mirrors.” It is not real. Your brain has been “trained” or “wired” to feel like you need porn to function or feel good about yourself. 

Note: It is important to also mention how porn can cause porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED) can cause you to question if there is something inherently wrong with you. It can also cause you to experience shame and guilt at not being able to “perform” in the bedroom. This shame and guilt (caused by your “heavy porn use”) can cause you to turn more heavily towards porn because real-life sex increases your stress and anxiety, possibly leading to performance anxiety on top of PIED. 

The fear of your real-life partner finding out you are unable to complete sex acts can cause you to emotionally withdraw and isolate from your partner out of fear he or she will not accept you, criticize you, or leave you. This is porn playing tricks on you. If you explain to your partner that you are struggling with PIED, he or she likely provide you with some much-needed porn addiction support. 

In other words, your partner will likely be there for you, through thick and thin. But you have to communicate with him or her first. However, if you do not share what is happening with you with your real-life partner, he or she will feel unloved, undesirable, unattractive, unwanted, and betrayed.

What Should I Do If Porn is Damaging My Brain?

Breaking the link between “heavy porn use” and happiness, sexual arousal, sexual satisfaction, etc. In other words, untrain your brain to view porn as a “reward.” You will also need to talk to someone about your “porn use.” Moreover, it is important to seek porn addiction treatment for your “heavy porn use.” Truthfully, you probably will not be able to conquer your porn addiction alone. You will need a strong support system and the right tools in your toolbox to beat porn. 

If you want to stop porn from damaging your brain you will need to alter your neuropathways again. More specifically, you will need to find something healthy and positive to replace your “heavy porn use.” In other words, you need to develop new “habits.” You will need to find a way to experience “natural highs” without porn. Will it be easy? No, it will not, but it will be worth it.

How Can I Prevent Porn-Induced Brain Damage?

Well, porn addiction is treated in a variety of ways, such as with porn addiction therapies, like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), however, other therapies may be used if comorbid addictions or conditions occur. These therapies may include individual therapy, couples/marriage counseling, group therapy, trauma therapies (TMDR or TMS), grief therapy, etc. 

When therapy is ineffective, medications may be used to treat underlying conditions that could be triggering or worsening the “porn use.” For instance, if depression is spurring the “porn use,” an antidepressant may be prescribed. The most common antidepressants for porn addiction are SSRIs. Sometimes, natural remedies and self-help tools are added to a porn addiction treatment plan. 

These natural remedies and self-help tools may include semen retention exercises, the NoFap Challenge, mindfulness meditation, podcasts, journaling, self-help workbooks, motivational boards, webinars, support groups, forums, hotlines, and online porn addiction recovery programs, like Stop Together. Making the appropriate lifestyle changes are also important for combating porn addiction. These lifestyle changes may include changing your diet, getting more exercise, getting plenty of sleep, finding a job or hobby, and spending quality time with your real-life partner, loved ones, and friends.

Besides quitting porn, you could also practice brain exercises to help you regain what you lost to porn.

Listed below are brain-boosting exercises you can do once you have completed porn addiction treatment:

  • Aerobics – Aerobic exercises not only improve blood flow to your brain but also increases the size of your hippocampus, the part of your brain that is responsible for your memory and learning.
  • Weight-Training – Weight-training, specifically training and resistance training, performed once or twice a week for 12 months or more can improve your memory and other cognition. Lifting weights can also provide a distraction from porn, by giving you something else to focus on, such as your form, and reps, which in turn triggers the neural circuits in your brain.
  • Yoga – Yoga can sharpen your mind after combating porn addiction. In fact, 12-60 minutes of yoga (once or twice a week) can significantly improve verbal memory (the inability to remember and recite words), and visual-spatial memory (the ability to recall locations). Never practiced yoga, no problem! Learning new skills helps to create new neuropathways or “habits,” which is important for recovering porn addicts.
  • Dancing – Dancing involves moving. Moving can increase the amount of dopamine and serotonin (hormones/neurotransmitters) in the body. These two hormones can trigger a “natural healthy high” unlike the “artificial high” that occurs with “porn use.” In other words, dancing can make you feel good, while also helping your stay fit and healthy. It is a good distraction if or when you experience urges to view porn. And, guess what? Dancing can also improve your memory and help you learn more easily.
  • Complete Jigsaw Puzzles – It does not matter if you’re completing a 100-piece jigsaw puzzle or a 3,000-piece jigsaw puzzle, the goal is to sharpen your mind. According to a 2018 study, completing jigsaw puzzles not only protects you against visuospatial cognitive aging but also helps you think more clearly. Completing a jigsaw puzzle involves trying to determine where the puzzle pieces go within the overall picture. Thus, this exercise is a good way to challenge your brain.
  • Learn New Words – Learning new words is crucial for repairing the porn-induced damage to your brain. An extensive vocabulary can make you sound worldly and intelligent. And, guess what? Learning new words can be stimulating, creating a “natural high” that does not involve porn. So, next time the urge to view porn arises gather up a couple of friends (or go it alone) and create some competitive and fun vocabulary-based brain teasers/games. According to researchers, several brain regions (i.e., visual and auditory processing) are involved in increasing and improving your vocabulary.
  • Learn a New Language – According to a 2012 review, learning a new language, like Spanish or French, can be beneficial for your brain, especially while recovering from porn addiction. Many employers seek people, who can speak more than one language.

    And, knowing additional languages can be extremely beneficial when traveling to other countries or communicating with various ethnic groups. Researchers suggest that bilingualism can improve your memory, visual-spatial skills, and creativity.

    Studies also suggest that being fluent in more than one language (bilingualism) may help you switch more easily between tasks. Thus, it is never too late to benefit from learning a new language. Researchers also suggest that learning a new language can improve your memory and cognitive functions.

  • Become a Teacher – One of the best ways to repair the brain damage caused by porn is to become a teacher. In other words, teach something to someone else. Teaching a skill on information to someone else not only requires that you explain the concept and context to the other person, but also correct any mistakes the “student” makes. 

    For instance, if you are an expert coder, teach that skill to a friend or create a coding class for multiple “students.” Teaching someone or a class is a good way to distract yourself so you are not thinking about porn all of the time. It can also boost your self-esteem and self-confidence and sharpen your mind, so you think more rationally. 

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