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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