The Brain Battle

Have you ever made the promise: “I will never watch porn again”?

Yeah, me too.

Somehow, no matter how hard I try, I am shamefully drawn back to the allure of pornography and lust.

Why??

I’ve tried to “pray more”. I’ve tried to “have more faith” – nothing seems to work.

It is key to understand the scientific WHY behind sexual addiction. Without knowing why we are addicted, we will not sufficiently prescribe a cure.

In this blog, I will take an amateur’s dive into looking at a brain that is sexually addicted.

It is important to understand the following:

  • Neurons that fire together, wire together.
  • Each time you repeat a thought or an action, you create neurological pathways in the brain, causing these patterns of thought to become subconscious and programmed in your mind.
  • These neurological pathways program your thought life and actions, so that they become second nature.
An example of neurological pathways in the brain

Okay – lets start with some (a lot of) definitions:

  • Dopamine: Type of neurotransmitter your brain uses to send chemical messages between nerve cells. Plays a major role in how we feel pleasure.
  • Oxytocin: Hormone known for the stimulation of the uterine muscle for contradiction and secretion of milk. Emotional bonding drug – It is sometimes referred to as the “love hormone,” because levels of oxytocin increase during hugging and orgasm.
  • Amygdala: Part of the brain – responsible for the fight or flight response. Kicks in and creates anxiety and apprehension to protect. Ignited through association with our past.
  • Prefrontal Cortex: Part of the brain that controls our decision making, self-control, problem solving, etc.
  • Limbic System: Intricately involved in emotional and behavioral responses – especially when it comes to survival instincts. The Amygdala is part of the Limbic System.
  • Endorphins: Neurochemicals. Endorphins are involved in our natural reward circuits and are related to important activities like eating, drinking, physical fitness, and sexual intercourse. Endorphins also surge during pregnancy. They minimize discomfort and pain and maximize pleasure. 
  • Serotonin: Serotonin impacts every part of your body, from your emotions to your motor skills. Serotonin is considered a natural mood stabilizer. It’s the chemical that helps with sleeping, eating, and digesting.

Okay – now that we have those definition out of the way, we can talk about how Porn effects our brain (these definitions will be referred to frequently).

When orgasm occurs: Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin and Endorphin chemicals are released in the brain (among others of course). These are the “firing of neurons” discussed earlier that form pathways, programming our thought lives.

-Dopamine gives a sharp focus and a sense of craving that says “this is what I need right now” and gives a great sense of pleasure.

-When Oxytocin is released, it helps lay down long term memories for cells. They bind a person’s memories to the object that gave him or her pleasure.

-Endorphins give a natural feeling that hits the body like a wave and gives a natural “high”.

-Serotonin levels are increased, bringing a sense of calm and relaxation.

None of these chemicals are bad in theory. However, when used outside of marriage in the use of pornography, they can be devastating.

When dopamine floods the brain, the brain cuts down on other dopamine receptors (what trigger feelings of dopamine). This fixates the brain on only the few receptors producing copious amounts of dopamine – the porn receptors. Soon, usual activities that would release dopamine (being out in nature, intense workouts, hugs, etc.) aren’t enough to trigger dopamine. So when the body feels a need for dopamine, porn is the place to go.

This dependency on porn for dopamine release literally rewires your brain, as pathways for porn dopamine releases become strong, neural pathways for insufficient dopamine releases fade away. Porn literally rewires your brain.

Now, for the Limbic System (including the Amygdala) and the Prefrontal Cortex. When we fear, how anxious thoughts that come from association with our past – the Limbic System kicks in.

The Limbic System takes over our reasoning (Prefrontal Cortex) and makes decisions based on our survival. Simply, pornography decouples the Prefrontal Cortex from our decisions and floods the Limbic System with dopamine.

A brain that has struggled with porn addiction and a brain that has struggled with heroin addiction look the same on neural scans.

This is a dangerous, deadly addiction that will rob you of the everyday joys of life and hook you to a computer monitor for hours on end.

“Porn happens to be fantastic at forming new, long-lasting pathways in the brain. In fact, porn is such a ferocious competitor that hardly any other activity can compete with it, including actual sex with a real partner. That’s right, porn can actually overpower the brain’s natural ability to have real sex! Why? As Dr. Norman Doidge, a researcher at Columbia University, explains, porn creates the perfect conditions and triggers the release of the right chemicals to make lasting changes in the brain”

Fight the New Drug

So, what is there for us to do against such powerful chemicals? It starts with admitting there is an issue. You must be able to bring into light what you have hidden in the dark. Next, you need to join a support group (see my first post for options). I am not a counselor, in fact, I’m still in the middle of this struggle and not free from lust and pornography. However, I have committed to being honest and open and have joined a support group specifically focused on eradicating lust and porn from my life.

You can do it. We can do it. Together.

For more reading, try these resources:

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