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Watch Porn to Screw Up your Brain and Screw Up Your Relationship

Dr. Butch Losey

Watch Porn to Screw Up Your Brain

The changes in the brain due to porn viewing are varied and complex.


Changes in reward and pleasure | Nucleus Accumbens

The areas of the brain most affected by porn use are those associated with reward and pleasure, such as the nucleus accumbens, ventral tegmental area, and the prefrontal cortex. These areas are responsible for the release of dopamine and other neurotransmitters. Additionally, the amygdala, which is responsible for fear and anxiety, is activated in response to pornographic stimuli.


It is not necessarily "bad" for porn to affect the parts of the brain associated with reward and pleasure. In fact, this is how the brain is designed to work - pleasurable experiences, including sexual pleasure, activate the reward system in the brain, releasing chemicals like dopamine that contribute to feelings of pleasure and happiness. However, excessive consumption of porn can lead to significant problems. Research has suggested that overconsumption of pornography may lead to changes in the brain similar to those that occur with substance abuse disorders. This may result in a person becoming desensitized to the pleasure they experience from porn, leading them to seek out more extreme or novel forms of pornography in order to achieve the same level of pleasure.


Increased desire for pornography | Dopamine flooding

When someone is exposed to pornography, their brain is flooded with dopamine. This can lead to an increased desire for more pornography, and can also lead to changes in the brain's structure and function.


Changes with memory formation | Hippocampus

Research has found that the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory formation, is smaller in people who view a lot of pornography. This could suggest that the brain is attempting to make room for the influx of new images and ideas associated with pornography. Additionally, the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in decision-making and impulse control, is less active in people who view a lot of porn. This could suggest that they lack the ability to control themselves when presented with sexual stimuli.


Changes in the physical structure of the brain | Reduction of gray and white matter

There is some evidence that over-consumption of pornography may lead to changes in brain structure and function. However, it is important to note that the research in this area is still in its early stages and more research is needed to fully understand the effects of pornography on the brain.


One study found that men who watched a lot of pornography had less gray matter volume. The researchers concluded that there was a correlation between "reported pornography hours per week" and gray matter volume reduction. Another study found that pornography consumption was also associated with changes in the structure of the brain's white matter, which is responsible for transmitting information between different regions of the brain. This may indicate that regular exposure to pornography can lead to changes in the brain's ability to process and integrate information, which can affect decision-making and behavior. It is not clear if these changes in brain structure and function are reversible or not.


Changes with cognitive functions | Prefrontal Cortex

The prefrontal cortex is an area of the brain that is responsible for higher-level cognitive functions, such as decision-making, planning, problem solving, and impulse control. Studies have shown that regular porn viewing can cause changes in the structure and function of the prefrontal cortex, which can lead to a range of cognitive and behavioral changes.


Changes in the prefrontal cortex can lead to increases in impulsivity, risk-taking behavior, and attention deficits. It has also been linked to changes in sexual arousal and reward-seeking behavior, as well as changes in social and relationship functioning. For example, some studies have found that regular porn viewers have difficulty forming and maintaining meaningful relationships, and are more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior.


Another way that pornography can affect the brain is by desensitizing the individual to sexual stimuli. Over time, a person who regularly consumes pornography may need increasingly more intense or extreme stimuli in order to feel sexually aroused or satisfied. This can lead to a cycle of addiction, where the person feels like they need to keep consuming more and more pornography in order to feel the same level of pleasure or satisfaction.


Changes with increased aggression | Lateral Septum

The lateral septum of the brain is an area of the brain that is associated with reward processing and social behaviors. It has been found that porn viewing can lead to changes in the lateral septum, including increases in dopamine and GABA, two chemicals that are associated with reward processing. This can lead to an increased desire for rewards, such as more porn viewing.


It has also been found that these changes can lead to increases in aggressive behavior, such as physical aggression and hostile behavior. This is because the changes in the lateral septum can cause an increase in impulsivity, which can lead to an increase in aggressive behavior. Thus, porn viewing can lead to changes in the lateral septum that can lead to an increase in aggressive behavior.


Associations to intimate partner violence | Lateral Septum

These changes in the lateral septum of the brain can also lead to an increase in intimate partner violence. Since changes in the lateral septum can lead to an increase in impulsivity and aggressive behavior, there is increased risk for men perpetrating intimate partner violence. This does not hold true for women, who may use pornography less than men.


Watch Porn to Screw Up Your Relationship


Exposure to pornography has been linked to a decrease in the ability to form and maintain meaningful relationships, as well as a decrease in satisfaction with one's real-life sexual relationships. A comprehensive study of 20,000 adults found that adults who had watched porn in the year prior to the study were more likely to be divorced, more likely to have had an extramarital affair, and less likely to report being happy with their marriage or happy overall. The researchers also found that, for men, pornography use reduced the positive relationship between frequency of sex and happiness.


Expectation for the sexual relationship

Pornography can create unrealistic expectations. Many people who watch pornography may begin to have unrealistic expectations about their own sexual experiences and the behavior of their partners. Some people may start to expect their partner to look or behave a certain way, or to be interested in certain sexual activities, based on what they have seen in pornography.


Pornography can also shape a person's attitudes towards sex and relationships by presenting a distorted view of human sexuality. It can create a distorted view of what is normal or acceptable in a relationship, leading to feelings of inadequacy or pressure to live up to certain expectations.

These expectations can be difficult or impossible to meet, which can lead to frustration and disappointment in the relationship.


When discussing unrealistic expectations, the distorted view of what is expected in intimate relationships, consider a few other links between intimate partner violence and over-consumption of pornography:


1) Aggressive acts against women in pornography occur in roughly 87% of the scenes, and 95% of the time when these acts are committed, women respond with expressions of pleasure or neutrality. Pornography acts as a form of sexual education, teaching the lesson that female sexual partners ought to enjoy physical acts such as hitting, gagging, slapping, or nonconsensual sex.


2) Behaviors like threatening, isolating, gas lighting and more, are hallmarks of domestically abusive relationships. Sometimes abusers use couple-made pornography or nude images to coerce or punish victims in abusive relationships by threatening to, or actually, sharing them on the internet.


3) Pornography use by domestic abusers can increase the odds of sexual assault. In a study of 271 battered women, it was found that 30% of the abusers reportedly used pornography.


Reduced intimacy

Some people who watch pornography may find that it becomes a substitute for real-life intimacy with their partner. This can lead to a decrease in emotional and physical connection between the partners, which can be damaging to the overall health of the relationship.


Communication

Using pornography as a way to satisfy sexual desires can lead to a breakdown in communication between partners about their own needs and desires. This can create a disconnection and lack of understanding between the partners.


Infidelity

Some people who watch pornography may begin to seek out new sexual experiences. This may be because pornography can lead to a distorted view of relationships and may reduce the satisfaction that individuals get from their real-life sexual experiences.


Another possibility is that pornography use may be a symptom of underlying relationship problems, rather than a cause of infidelity. Factors, such as a lack of communication, resentment, and intimacy in a relationship, also contribute to the risk of infidelity.


Balancing the perspective just a bit

It is important to keep in mind that while there are negative effects of pornography over-consumption on the brain and your relationship, it is also possible to consume pornography in a responsible and healthy way as part of a consenting couple's relationship. It is important for couples to communicate openly and honestly about their use of pornography and to consider the potential effects it may have on the relationship.


Dr. Butch Losey is a couples's therapist, author and speaker on couples therapy topics. He has offices in Cincinnati Ohio, Lexington Kentucky and Scottsdale Arizona. He can also meet with couples virtually in Ohio, Kentucky and Arizona.


Bibliography


Doran, K. & Price, J. (2014). Pornography and Marriage. Journal of Family & Economic Issues; Dec2014, Vol. 35 Issue 4, p489-498.


Drapes, M. et. al. (2020). Gray matter volume differences in impulse control and addictive disorders—An evidence from a sample of heterosexual males. Journal of Sexual Medicine, Vol 17(9), Sep, 2020. pp. 1761-1769.


Jongsma, K., & Timmons Fritz, P. (2022). The Role of Pornography Use in Intimate Partner Violence in Different-Sex Couples: A Prospective Longitudinal Study. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 37(21–22).


Kühn, S. & Gallinat, J. (2014). Brain Structure and Functional Connectivity Associated With Pornography Consumption The Brain on Porn. JAMA Psychiatry; Jul2014, Vol. 71 Issue 7, p827-834.


McNamara (Halverson), H. (2018). Three Ways Domestic Violence Is Connected to Pornography. National Center for Sexual Exploitation. Extracted December 26, 2022 from https://endsexualexploitation.org/articles/three-ways-domestic-violence-is-connected-to-pornography/

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