Monthly Archives: November 2012

Internet Porn Eats Away at Your Soul. You Know it, Don’t You?

Dr. Jeffrey Swartz is one of my favorite writers.  He’s been working at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital for about 40 years (!) treating OCD specifically.  One of his books, “Brainlock – a Four-Step program for Treating OCD” offers a compelling approach to not just OCD but ALL behavioral compulsions, in particularly sexual behaviors.  Here’s the link to an article I wrote about his approach:http://sextreatment.com/behavioral-mod-sex-addiction.

He’s recently written a book called “The Mind and the Brain”.  Great stuff.

In it, he makes a clear distinction between the Mind and the brain.  There is an interplay between these two parts of our being and each influences the other.  The effective coordination and connection of the Mind and the brain is what brings balance and meaning to our lives.

The message I want to deliver in writing about the biochemistry of porn addiction is that eventually the pre-frontal cortex of the brain gets damaged.  This is the part of us that manages “executive functioning”.  Your ability to see reality, make decisions, make changes that affect your destiny, organize yourself internally and externally, to focus, to concentrate.  In other words to have a sense of “agency” in your own life.  Becoming the captain of your own ship.  We all really crave that, don’t we?

Along with damage to “executive” functioning, the biochemistry of porn addiction alters our Minds.  The Mind, as opposed to the brain, holds our “higher selves”.  It is what contains higher consciousness which is able to distinguish right from wrong.

Addiction occurs when the physical brain has taken control of the Mind.  The Mind is our higher intelligence part gets frustrated about the loss of control over your behavior.  The physical brain has no concept of right or wrong.  It’s primary function to survive and it does this exclusively by driving you towards pleasure and away from pain.

The biochemical, physical brain has a huge ability to capture control of the mind, which is our higher essence.  It can subject it and hijack it.  Really, the physical brain, part of the limbic system which drives us toward pleasure, can influence the human will and influence how you think, feel and act.  Certainly, this is porn addiction,  Certainly, this is the shackling of the human spirit.

The physical, biochemical part of the brain demands and compels you towards  certain compulsive behaviors regardless of what the Mind or conscience says. I believe there’s something inherent in our souls that feels it wrong to view the private sexual acts of others.  The sexual act is designed to be a private expression of care and connection.

In other words, the Mind, the electrical (according to Dr. Swartz) intelligent part of us simply doesn’t feel good about participating in internet porn.

In all my years of personally treating people entwined in sex and porn addiction, never has there been anyone who feels good after a porn binge.  NEVER!

Viewing internet pornography leaves in its wake feelings of frustration, shame, anxiety and depression.  These feelings are the direct result of the biochemical changes in your brain, specifically the sudden drop in dopamine levels, the occur with persistent involvement with porn.

In addition to the chemical changes that influence our feelings and general state of well-being, in the deepest part of ourselves, the Mind, the conscience, the “witness”, or our Higher Power observes the loss of control of a destructive behavior and acts as the ultimate judge of lower selves.

I re-print an e-mail from a client:

I am sick to my core about my involvement in internet porn.  I am at the bottom of a hideous pit.  I’m in terror that there may be no hope of recovery for me.  I simply am compelled by an irresistible impulse to go into the “Erotic Haze“.  What’s wrong with me?  Why can’t I change?”

Pornography eats away at your soul.  You know it does.

The client mentioned above did find sexual recovery.  Along with acquiring the skills he needed to resist the “irresistible impulse”, he is working on the internal issues that drove him to pornography  in the first place.

He is learning better coping skills to deal with his feelings so his has other options than going to the “Erotic Haze” for soothing and safety.  He is more reality-oriented and finds himself more able to receive healthy pleasure from his interpersonal interactions, from hobbies and recreations and to a renewed commitment to working toward his meaningful, realistic goals.  He feels great.

So can you.  Find recovery now.

http://www.sextreatment.com

National Subcommittee Investigation into Pernicious Effects of Porn: It Changes Your Brain Chemistry!

This from a National subcommittee  (Dec, 2011) on the adverse effects of porn addiction.  The group reporting comprised mental health professions.

It’s so nice to have my ideas validated in print!!

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Thanks to the latest advances in neuroscience, we now know that emotionally arousing images imprint and alter the brain, triggering an instant, involuntary, but lasting, biochemical memory trail.This applies to so-called “soft-core” and “hard-core” pornography, which may, arguably, subvert the First Amendment by overriding the cognitive speech process.

Once our neurochemical pathways are established they are difficult or impossible to delete. Erotic images also commonly trigger the viewer’s “fight or flight” sex hormones producing intense arousal states that appear to fuse the conscious state of libidinous arousal with unconscious emotions of fear, shame, anger and hostility.

These media erotic fantasies become deeply imbedded, commonly coarsening, confusing, motivating and addicting many of those exposed.

How does this “brain sabotage” occur? Brain scientists tell us that “in 3/10 of a second a visual image passes from the eye through the brain, and whether or not one wants to, the brain is structurally changed and memories are created’we literally ‘grow new brain’ with each visual experience.”

Children and others who cannot read can instantly decode and experience images … . In fact, erotic (any highly arousing) images commonly subvert left hemisphere cognition. [Emphasis in original.]

Dr. Satinover emphasized that modern science debunks the dangerous illusion that pornography is merely “_expression in the trivial sense that a fall from the Empire State Building is a mere stumble–since it’s hitting the ground that’s fatal. Or, that cigarettes don’t cause cancer, it’s the burning smoke that’s the problem.”

Here is what I mean: Like cigarettes, that particular form of _expression we call pornography, unlike all other forms of _expression, is a delivery system that has a distinct and powerful effect upon the human brain and nervous system. Exactly like cigarettes, and unlike any other form of _expression, this effect is to cause a powerful addiction. Like any other addiction, the addiction is both to the delivery system itself–the pornography–and to the chemicals that the delivery system delivers. [Emphasis in original.]It may seem surprising that, at this juncture, I should speak of “chemicals,” when one might be thinking instead of “sex.” But, in fact, modern science allows us to understand that the underlying nature of an addiction to pornography is chemically nearly identical to a heroin addiction: Only the delivery system is different, and the sequence of steps. That is why heroin addicts in particular give up sex and routinely compare their “rushes” to “orgasms.”

The pornography addict soon forgets about everything and everyone else in favor of an ever more elusive sexual jolt. He will eventually be able to find it only among other “junkies” like himself, and he will place at risk his career, his friends, his family. He will indulge his habit anywhere and everywhere, at any time. No one, no matter how highly placed, is immune. And like all other addicts, the pornography addict will lie to cover it up, heedless of risk or cost to himself or to others.

Dr. Layden included the anti-social effects of pornography consumption in her testimony:

Those who use pornography have also been shown to be more likely to engage in illegal behavior as well. Research indicates and my clinical experience supports that those who use pornography are more likely to go to prostitutes, engage in domestic violence, stranger rape, date rape and incest. These behaviors should not be surprising since pornographic videos containing all of these themes are readily available and the permission-giving beliefs of these pornographic videos reinforced by the orgasm say that all these behaviors are normal, acceptable, common and don’t hurt anyone.

Dr. Weaver acknowledged that while “research directly assessing the impact of pornography addiction on fami1ies and communities is limited, … there is a large body of social science research evidence that can inform our discussion.” It reveals: “The manifest content of pornography has been extensively examined, for example, revealing that (1) pornography’s dominant theme is one of unrestrained human sexual promiscuity and (2) it’s devoid of coercion and violent action. … Further, the findings of numerous studies suggest that pornography consumption promotes sexual deviancy, sexual perpetration and adverse sexual attitudes.

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The Hijacked Brain of the Porn Addict

Recently Harvard Health Publication published an article entitled, “How Addiction Hijacks the Brain.”

The article states that it is now a scientific consensus that “The brain registers all pleasures in the same way, whether they originate with a psychoactive drug, a monetary reward, a sexual encounter, or a satisfying meal. In the brain, pleasure has a distinct signature: the release of the chemical neurotransmitter dopamine.”

When we gain a better understanding of how our brain chemicals work and affect us then we can see how porn addiction is indeed a chemical addiction.

The chemical dopamine is the “I got to have more of it” chemical. Let’s take a look at how this chemical applies to porn addiction issues, which include the viewing of pornography and chronic masturbation.

Acting out episodes begin in the brain with a stimulating thought. That thought can be generated from either a memory of a pleasurable experience or an environmental cue from outside the brain through the eye. It is also helpful to understand that as far as our senses go the human eye is the most powerful. Or as author John Median in his book, “Brain Rules” states, “Visual perception doesn’t just assist in the perception of our world. It dominates the perception of our world.” In either case a burst of dopamine is released which leads one to automatically seek more of it.

The limbic region of the brain simply works on the premise of avoiding pain and seeking pleasure. Unless it is managed by the higher function brain, the pre-frontal cortex , it can hijack the rational part of the brain. One of the things that is critical to understand about the limbic survival part of the brain is that it has no morals or values. These higher functioning and more evolved attributes work through the higher functioning rational part of the brain – the pre-frontal cortex.

In essence we have two brains that work in concert with each other. Pornography hijacks the rational part of the brain and can lead you into behaviors that are confusing and hard to make sense of.

The problem with the limbic system is that it really doesn’t have any moral boundaries. It simply wants more and more and makes you more thirsty until it leaves you exhausted and empty.

“One can never get enough of what one doesn’t need, because what one doesn’t need will never fully satisfy them.”

Research has indicated that the likelihood of something becoming an addiction is directly related to three things.

The speed with which the activity promotes dopamine release,
The intensity of that release and
The reliability of that release.

Internet pornography hits all three areas and, as such, it is surely the “crack cocaine” of sexuality.

What Do You and my Uncle Ray Have in Common?



This photo has nothing to do with my cocaine-addicted uncle.  I’m hoping to play on your sympathies for not having posted for so long due to the hurricane.  Forgiven?

When last we were together, I described the decline of that mad-capped, handsome guy, my gay Uncle Ray.  Once sophisticated and fun-loving, he died a shell of the man I had known him as because of the dreaded drug, cocaine.  How could this have happened, I queried my readers at the end of the last post.  Well, it happened because of the biochemistry of drug addiction.  Why do you care, say you, about me and my once-hapless uncle?

You might care because the insidious erosion of the chemicals in his brain, his neurotransmitters, to be exact, underwent the same process that YOU, my friend, may be undergoing through the long-term, continual use of INTERNET PORNOGRAPHY.

It’s as natural as air he breathes for a man to look at an attractive woman, or a still photo of a female, to become physically aroused.  From an evolutionary perspective, how would we expect otherwise?  After all, it is the nature of men to “want” to impregnate as many fertile females as possible.  The instant a man sees something erotic, the limbic center (the part that feels pleasure and feelings) of his brain receives a squirt of the neurotransmitter “dopamine“, and he feels, well, good.  Nothing complicated or mysterious.

Enter the decade of the 1980’s when the high-speed internet computer became a commodity, with its accessibility, affordability, and anonymity and BLAM… human sexuality has never been the same.  Mother Nature’s tried and true method starts to break down when there’s artificial overstimulation.  In a single evening, a man looking at online porn will expose himself to more erotic images than his primitive hunter-gatherer ancestors would experience in a whole lifetime.  From the brain’s point-of-view, even a half hour of porn is an overwhelming binge of stimulation.  A client of mine (funny guy) once remarked that since the internet became a reality, he can now look at 300 vaginas before he even gets out of bed in the morning.

The reason this is so important is that the male brain is highly sensitive to such artificial stimulation.  If fact, modern suppliers of online pornography actually design their products so as to hijack men’s thinking processes.  In this way, contemporary porn is actually a “visual” drug, designed to be as addictive as possible by over-stimulating a vulnerable part of the male brain.

The frequent ejaculations brought on my relentless porn viewing creates a biochemical roller coaster involving high levels of dopamine and a protean within the brain called FosB, which lingers in the brain far longer than the “drug” and actually causes anxiety and despair.  In fact, the same area in the brain which is activated during ejaculations is the same area activated by using cocaine.

Men who use pornography regularly are clueless about what is actually happening to their thought processes and to their biochemistry.  All they know is that they find themselves looking at more and more pictures, or more and more deviant pictures, while enjoying it less and less.  This is because too much stimulation of the pleasure center of the brain leads to two significant consequences:

  • Increasing neurotransmitter insensitivity, creating tolerance.
  • Chronic dopamine depletion, creating psychological distress along with the generalized feeling that “something is missing.”

Dopamine depletion also impairs the quality of emotion-based decision-making.  When dopamine is low, people find it difficult to resist short-term rewards, even when such behavior can lead to serious long-term consequences.  Bathing your brain in dopamine has another side-effect besides blissful euphoric states:  in a manner I don’t quite understand, it erodes the grey matter part of your brain, the neo-cortex which is the higher functioning part of the brain.  The neo-cortex is what makes us uniquely human — separates us from the beasts, as it were, by enabling us to have consciousness, to problem solve and to think rationally.

Is all of this starting to sound like a nine letter word that begins with “A”?

I’ll give a few hints: highly pleasurable, loss of control, continued use despite adverse consequences, lack of impulse control, tolerance?  AND, when you burn out your dopamine receptors from overstimulation, NOTHING seems pleasurable to you anymore.  Simple smells, sights, babies laughing, your girlfriend’s smile —  no pleasure, no joy, just depression, anxiety.  Get it yet?  The nine-letter word?  Now you’ve got it —  ADDICTION!!

Perhaps by now you see the similarity between me and my uncle:  you repeated a pleasure experience enough times so that your brain rewired itself to accommodate the binge/withdrawal  fun house mind of an active drug addict.  Except it’s not so much fun, right?  (I know, I know…I’ve been there with you.)

Not only is internet porn a drug addiction, it’s starting to look to me like it’s the quintessential drug of addiction.  More on that with upcoming posts.

An old Chinese proverb comes to mind:  “When the cock stands up, the brain sits down.”  I never knew how true that was until I studied up for this post.

Continue reading

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Pornography putting viewers to deviant tendencies

Standard Digital News: Bringing Your World To You

 

—Throughout history, there have always been sins of the flesh and lustful men and women. Dr Kizito Lubano tells how the sheer access to sex and sexual material has exploded the number of people who suffer from this addiction When Bernard first came open about his sex addiction, he drew attention to a condition many would rather live with, in the closet. Bernard reveals that during his second marriage, he had multiple affairs; some casual, while others lasted months. In his bedside drawer, were hundreds of pornographic materials, which he kept away from his wife’s knowledge. He wasn’t surprised when he contracted HIV in his second marriage. Now he is going through counseling to heal himself from an addiction that has destroyed his life. Bernard represents a group of people who doctors say surfer from addiction to sex, a condition akin to other known addictions like getting hooked to drugs, alcohol or cigarettes. The 1960`s sexual revolution paved the way for those who revile monogamy to drive the boundaries of shame out of society. Sexual behavior is now totally acceptable no matter what form it comes in. The problem is, because there are no real boundaries for such behavior, it has found some form of acceptance in society, and threatening to spill outside societal norm. There are two generally recognized forms of pornography, one with the label “soft-core” and the other “hard-core.” In the United States, the Supreme Court has equated hard-core pornography with obscenity. Anything else may loosely be called “indecent” material, or soft-core porn. Sexual material of all kinds is easily accessible through television, movies, music videos, and the Internet. Is this relentless intrusion of sexualized imagery harmless, as many would have us believe? Effects on adults Despite what its defenders say, pornography has profoundly negative effects on people’s views of sexual behaviour. Researchers at the National Foundation for Family Research and Education (NFFRE) conclude that “exposure to pornography puts viewers at increased risk for developing sexually deviant tendencies.” Perhaps this explains the increase in deviant behaviour in youths. According to the report, “the Rape Myth; belief that rapists are normal, is very widespread in habitual male users of pornography.” “The repeated use of pornography can interfere with the ability to enjoy and participate in normal marital intimacy,” says Dr Victor Cline, a specialist in treating sex addiction, who has noticed a recurring progression in the use of pornography.  Damage to the youth Statistics show that the primary consumers of pornography are boys between the ages of 12 and 17. In fact, for many, pornography is their primary source of sexual education. This has very disturbing ramifications. “Teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases like HIV and Aids,” notes one report, “are completely non-existent in porn, giving a false belief that there are no adverse consequences to behaviours depicted in pornography.” Some researchers say that exposure to pornography can also affect the natural development of a child’s brain. Dr Judith Reisman, president of the Institute for Media Education, concludes: “Health-based neurological observations about the instinctual brain-imprinted response to pornographic sights and sounds indicates that viewing pornography is a biologically significant event that overrides informed consent and that is harmful to children’s ‘plastic’ brains, because it compromises their grasp of reality and thus their mental and physical health, their well-being, and their pursuit of happiness.” Effects on relationships Pornography shapes attitudes and influences behavior. Its messages are enticing primarily because they are fantasy and thus presented as more exciting than the real thing. “Individuals using pornography set themselves up for unrealistic expectations leading to damaged relationships,” notes one report. Pornography can destroy trust and openness, an essential quality in any marriage. Because it is primarily viewed in secret, pornography use often leads to deception and lying. Mates feel betrayed. They do not understand why their marriage partner no longer finds them desirable.

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