Monthly Archives: October 2012

The Marvelous “Dopamine Rush” of Porn Addiction/Dorothy Hayden, LCSW

Understanding certain ideas about the biochemistry of your brain, how porn affects your brain and how your brain affects your addiction allows you to steer your ship more skillfully when you’re going through the detoxification process of getting off porn.

The central point is this:  porn has over-stimulated your brain and your brain has changed, resulting in a decrease in your sense of overall well-being, not to mention your ability to be sexual with a real-life partner.

The super-stimulation of artificial sexuality does the same thing to your brain that drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine do.  Your reward receptors get full of the neurochemical dopamine and you feel great.

Every type of reward that has been studied, in fact, increases the level of dopamine in the limbic system of the brain.  The limbic system is the primitive part of the brain that ensures survival, governs emotions, and is the seat of all desires and drives.  This is the area of the brain where all addiction happens.  When the limbic system is out of balance, you’re all about avoiding pain/discomfort and you aim at the experience and re-experience of pleasure.

YOU’RE NOT REALLY ADDICTED TO PORNOGRAPHY, YOU’RE ADDICTED TO THE “DOPAMINE RUSH” YOU GET FROM IT.

The “erotic haze” you’re able to stay in for hours and hours is fueled by dopamine spikes in the limbic part of your brain.

So the great thing about the “dopamine rush” is that you feel euphoric for lengthy periods of time.  Time passes by while you’re immersed in a separate world, free from physical or emotional discomfort.  Problems, frustrations, irritations don’t exist.  All that exists is you getting  your needs met.  The focus is entirely on you, you have perfect control over other “people”.  Nothing beats it.

Now for the downside.

I had a gay uncle whom I adored as a child and young woman.  In contrast to the dullness of life in the drab suburbs, Uncle Ray sparkled.  He lived in the glorious isle of Manhattan in an enchanting apartment in Gramacy Park.  He took me to the theater and to the best restaurants.  He introduced me to music.  He had Stuben glassware on his table and ate from fine china.  He had nothing, if not taste, style and humor.

Towards the end of his life from the AIDS virus, he had become seriously addicted to cocaine.  He stopped working at his lucrative job to become a dealer.  When we’d meet for dinner, his garb was dirty and crumbled in contradistinction from his past dashing and elegant way of dressing.  When once I went to his apartment, no longer the enchanting home in GramacyPark, I had to wade through knee-high trash and garbage.  There were layers of dirt under layers of dirt.  He no longer held any interest in the theater or in music or in living the “gay” life.

He had long ago lost his appetite and he looked emaciated.  The desire for cocaine satiation had become stronger than the need for food and water.  His very survival instincts had been shut down.

How are we to understand the transformation from a vibrant, fun, successful human being to a marginalized person whose inner life was marked by restlessness, agitation and paranoia?

NEXT:  What happened to Uncle Ray?: the downside of euphoria

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Can Internet Porn Really Be An Addiction?

Many people still believe that you can only become addicted to substances that cause tolerance and withdrawal.  It seems I’m always looking at internet posts and comments that claim that it’s not an addiction, it’s an “excuse for bad behavior”.  I’ve read synopses of the book “The Myth of Sex Addiction” which indicate to me that the author doesn’t know the first thing about sex addiction.If you’re still unsure about whether or not you have an addiction, consider four very simple characteristics of addiction, and ask yourself if you experience them in relation to porn.

Then go on to ask your self about tolerance (the need for more novelty or more time on the computer to get the same “rush”) and withdrawal (how you’re feeling when you’re not looking at porndepressed, anxious, restless?)  You make the diagnosis.

In case you’re still not sure, consider the most recent research.  Only last year,The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) released their new definition of addiction.  It stated that it’s about biochemistry, which was discussed in my last post.  Dopamine spikes in the brain release a protein called “DeltaFosB”.  Excessive dopamine causes this substance to accumulate in the brain’s reward circuitry which turns on a binge mechanism which then causes a number of other cellular and chemical alterations.

If we could scan the brain of any individual and it shows an accumulation of DeltaFosB, that person is an addict.  It doesn’t matter if it’s sexporngambling,heroin or alcohol — if you have the requisite brain chemistry, you’re an addict.
In other words, addiction is one disease (condition) not many.  Sexual behavior addictions exist and are caused by the same measurable brain changes found in substance addiction.
The ASAM study then went on to state that these alterations in brain chemistryhave the following effects:

  • Desensitization
  • Sensitization
  • Hypofrontality
  • Dysfunctional stress circuits

I’ll discuss each of these factors in more detail in the upcoming post.
If you’re interested in treatment, contact me at
dorothyhayden1231@gmail.com for a free 30-minute phone consultation.
http://www.yourbrainonporn.com
http://www.sextreatment.com

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The Biochemistry of Porn Addiction-How Your Brain Gets Hijacked

The Biochemistry of Porn.  Porn changes your brain and your brain effects your addiction

Heavy users of porn often arrive at a certain mind/body place characterized by:

  • Distress about escalation to more extreme porn
  • Delayed ejaculation
  • Copulatory impotence (can get it up for porn, not partners)
  • Frequent masturbation, little satisfaction
  • Worsening social anxiety or lack of confidence
  • Growing erectile dysfunction, even with extreme porn
  • Morphing porn tastes that don’t match sexual orientation
  • Inability to concentrate, extreme restlessness
  • Depression, anxiety, brain fog

These are symptoms that arise from addiction-related brain changes in your neurochemistry resulting from a depleted dopamine and dopamine receptors supply. The reward circuits in your brain contain structures that influence emotions, moods, cognitive function, stress response, the autonomic nervous system, and the endocrine system — all linked to low dopamine and low dopamine receptors.

“Gotta Have It NOW” – The Effects of Dopamine Binges

The desire and motivation to have sex arises from a neuro-chemical called dopamine.  Dopamine amps up the primitive part of the brain – the reward circuitry.  It’s where we experience cravings and pleasure, and where we get addicted.  Every time you indulge in a porn binge, your brain is awash with high levels of dopamine.  You don’t really seek sex; you seek a “dopamine rush.”

The evolutionary purpose of dopamine is to motive you to do what serves your genes.  The bigger the squirt of dopamine, the more you crave something.  No dopamine and you just ignore it.  Sexual arousal and orgasm are the biggest natural blasts of dopamin available to your reward circuitry.  One of dopamine’s nicknames is the “molecule of addiction.”

In fact, the actual sense of “reward” comes from opioids released into the brain.  The reason that you never really feel satisfied looking at porn is because dopamine is all about seeking and searching for reward, the anticipation of pleasure rather than the experience of pleasure.  Dopamine induces wanting, craving, looking for. It’s wanting run amok.  It’s the “gotta have it, gotta have it” mechanism that runs in your brain. Being in a state of continual craving was defined by the Buddha as “suffering.”

Novelty and More Novelty

Dopamine seeks novelty.  As the thrill of a new porn image or scene begins to become routine, dopamine plummets and you begin to get the side effects mentioned above.  To avoid those unwanted states, you become more glued to the internet to get another dose of dopamine.  The problem is that the “same-old-same-old” doesn’t do the trick.

When researches showed the same erotic film repeatedly, test subjects’ reported a progressive decrease in sexual arousal.  Habituation set in and dopamine levels declined.  After many viewings of the film, the researchers showed novel erotica and the subjects and their penises sprang to attention.  Novelty had given their brains a shot of dopamine.

Internet porn is compelling because novelty is just a click away.  When you were once satisfied to see a well-formed bottom, you now need a novel “mate,” unusual scene, bondage/discipline, women with animals, kiddie porn, acts of severe brutality against women, — you fill in the blank.

When a person has unlimited access to this artificial super-stimulating reward system, the brain adapts.   This is addiction.  It’s not addiction to sex, per se, it’s an addiction to increasingly novel pixels on a computer screen.

Your “arousal template” is changed.  Your partner no longer turns you on.  You experience porn-related erectile dysfunction.  It’s part of the “pain of the pleasure” – part of the devastating effects of continually watching Internet porn.

If you’re interested in treatment, contact me (dorothyhayden1231@gmail.com) for a free 30-minute phone consultation.

http://www.yourbrainonporn.com

http://www.sextreatment.com

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Why You Love Your Porn Addiction

Shame is the constant companion of the porn addict.  Usually, in your pre-porn days, there were certain life experiences that you experienced in your family, your teachers or your peers that put the seed of shame embedded in your psyche.  Then you enter into the world of porn addiction and “shameful” sexuality and the shame intensifies because of your behavior.

Shame puts a blanket over aliveness, vitality and sexuality.  Most negative feelings — depression, anger, anxiety, a sense of worthlessness, “less than” or inadequacy — are derivatives of shame.

It is the desire to be free of these negative feelings that drive you to the porn.

After a point, porn becomes your exclusive way of managing your inner states. The more you’re involved with porn, the fewer coping mechanisms you have for dealing with reality in healthy ways.

Intense and escalating sexual arousal instantly relieves unwanted inner states.  Your feelings are somehow threatening to you and you want them to go away NOW.  The deal here is control.  If you can control your moods, everything will be fine.  If, through involvement with Internet pornography, you can everyone to do as you wish, you’ll feel safe.  Everything is fine, as long as you have control over your moods.

Sexual arousal is the opposite of shame and depression.    Shame involves a feeling of being repulsive to others, while sexual arousal involves a sense of being connected to others.  Shame evokes an image of being judged from the outside.  Sexual excitement feels more like a powerful current in which one is swept up.

We feel shame in response to imagined contempt from the outside.  We feel aroused in response to another’s desire.  Shame makes us want to hide.  Excitement makes us want to come out and play.  Helplessness and depression makes us want to give up, while sexual excitement makes us love life, however temporarily.

Sexual arousal is the perfect salve for feelings of inadequacy, emptiness, shame and depression.  You can understand why it’s so hard for a porn addict to walk away from a behavior that seems to feed his many sexual and psychological needs.

This self-transformation from a frog into a price through the use of sexual arousal is the core dynamic of sexual addiction You can see the pressing need to reverse shame-based feelings weave itself into every phase of the sex addiction cycle.

I think “sex addiction” or “porn addiction” are misnomers.  It’s not really the sex act that keeps you in the perpetual snarl of the addiction cycle.  It’s the state of being sexually aroused that you’re addicted to.  Let’s start a new name for sex addiction.  Let’s call it “sexual arousal addiction” because that’s what it really is.

If you’re interested in treatment, contact me (dorothyhayden1231@gmail.com) for a free 30-minute phone consultation. 

http://www.sextreatment.com

Porn addiction therapy, nyc

Sex addiction therapy, nyc

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What Makes Internet Porn Unique?

People have long-talked about the compelling aspects of Internet porn as it’s accessibility, affordability,and anonymity.  They call it the “Triple A engine” of porn.

New research has indicated that the way pornography addicts us is the elevated dopamine (the “feel good” endorphin in the brain) levels which make Internet porn compelling and potentially addictive.  The desire and motivation to have sex arises from dopamine.  It “buzzes up” the primitive part of the brain where the reward circuitry lives.  Cravings and pleasure come from amped up dopamine.  It’s where all addiction stems from.

Addiction recovery sites often stress that the addictiveness of porn is due to masturbation/orgasm being linked to exciting/shocking visuals.  Certainly that plays a part, but it’s an incomplete view of the power of porn.  Here are a few more considerations of what sets Internet porn apart from other addictions:

  • It provides intense novelty.  You can link to hundreds of new sexual partners in a second.  Often, sex with a “real” partner pales by comparison.
  • There are no physical limitations to consumption,  unlike food, alcohol or drugs.  The brain’s satiation mechanism are not activated unless you climax.  Even then, you can click to something to arouse you again.
  • With food and drugs, one can only achieve more effect by increasing consumption.  Using porn, you can escalate both with new “partners” and by looking at visuals that are always new and unusual.
  • Internet porn doesn’t activate your body’s aversion system.  With food, for example, you can only eat so many donuts.

What role does masturbation play in porn addiction.  Surprisingly, a small one. Many clients have told me that they evade orgasm.  Frequent ejaculation inhibits dopamine, and thus the libido for several says.  Porn addicts want to go on and on and on, sustaining the experience of sexual arousal at the expense of masturbating to orgasm.

http://www.sextreatment.com

Porn Addiction Therapy, NYC

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The “First Step” Towards Sexual Recovery

“Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
James Baldwin 
 
 
“We admitted we were powerless over compulsive sex and that our lives had become unmanageable.”

The first part of the first step is miraculous for those who can attain a certain attitude.

Any great human truth contains paradoxes.  In sexual recovery, you have to lose to win.  You have to accept defeat to achieve victory.  You have to die to be reborn.  You have to surrender your will in order to achieve control.

After you accept the First Step on a very deep level, the war is over.  You can stop fighting.  The insanity has ended.  You’re free.

Freedom from addiction is a marvelous feeling.  You’ve been let out of prison and you can see the blue sky that’s been masked for a very long time.

The price for that freedom is so utterly simple.  Each day that you wake up, the one thing you know is that you can’t engage in certain sexual behaviors SAFELY.  The fact that you’re powerless over sex becomes the core of your reality and the structure of your day.

Denial breaks down and you can see that to act of the impulse to sexualize has far-reaching and devastating consequences.

I know for myself that when I don’t embrace the first step and surrender to my powerlessness over alcohol, the second part of the first step — that my life becomes unmanageable – begins the insanity all over again.

The admission of the first step, unconsciously, understands that a part of your personality is immature.  Sex/porn addiction is totally a narcissistic, self-centered experience.  Your infantile ego is crying out for MORE!!  More for ME!!  MY needs, MY wants, MY pleasure.

Embracing the first step sets you off on the gradual process of working the other eleven steps.  Once you embrace the life-view of the 12th step, you realize that happiness is not in the addiction, but rather in having a generous and compassionate attitude towards all you come in contact with.

You’ve moved from the pain of active addiction to living a life of meaning, connection and mastery.

 

 

If you’re interested in treatment,  feel free to contact me at dorothyhayden1231@gmail.com for a free 30-minute phone consultation.

http://www.sextreatment.com

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