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Porn addiction is often less recognized and less treated (Image via 9to5Google)
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The word addiction is most commonly linked to drugs or alcohol, but there’s another dangerous addiction that is less treated and less known: porn addiction.

With the anonymity of the internet, it’s easy for people to dive into any virtual rabbit hole. One of the rabbit holes includes watching porn online. Back in the VHS era, if a person brought up porn in a conversation they were considered a pervert, but the reality is that porn was a social taboo.

Anyone could walk into a movie-rental store and in the corner of the room, there would be a section protected by a swinging door with a notice saying: 18 and over. Nowadays anyone can access pornography online for free without having to physically prove that they are over 18 years old.

Now, typically what people do on their own private time is their business; however, watching porn becomes a problem when it starts interfering with school, work or family life. Porn addiction becomes easy because of its accessibility on the internet, where anyone can view it from their cell phone.

Porn addiction happens after the brain has become accustomed to firing bursts of dopamine, a brain chemical that relates to reward-motivated material, with every view of pornography. According to Dr. Don Hilton, a neurosurgeon, addiction happens when there are, “high, but brief, bursts of dopamine in response to an addictive substance or activity.”

When an activity, like watching porn, happens on a consistent basis, dopamine is fired off into the brain strongly and becomes affiliated with triggers that relate to viewing instead of just the act of watching porn itself.

So, anything associated by the viewer to watching porn becomes a cue to a sudden dopamine release. A cue can be anything such as boredom, a sexy picture online or a porn stars name. Anything that happens regularly before the act of watching porn has the ability to become a trigger.

Dr. Hilton also mentions in his article, “Correcting Misunderstandings About Neuroscience and Problematic Sexual Behaviors,” that “Sexual arousal is also unique because it activates precisely the same reward system nerve cells… do [with] addictive drugs.” That means that an addiction to porn could be just as bad as an addiction to cocaine.

Another doctor, Dr. Mary Anne Layden, who currently works out of the Center for Cognitive Therapy Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, holds the belief that pornography is not just addictive, but that it is teaching people bad concepts of sex.

It changes the sexual attitudes of men, women and children, and instills a false perception of what healthy sexuality is supposed to be like. She argues that images play a powerful role in human conditioning and learning, which explains porn’s addictiveness and powerful role as a teacher.

Porn
The Pornhub logo (Image via Mashable)

Pornhub, one of the largest online pornography websites, states that in 2017 it had 28.5 billion visits to its website. This translates to 81 million daily visits and the 3,732 of petabyte data transferred in the last year is enough to fill the storage of every iPhone in the world right now.

In addition, a quick glance at Pornhub’s top-trending searches can show what Dr. Layden was referring to when she accused porn of being a bad teacher. Pornhub’s top searches of 2017 include porn depicting incest-themed videos within the stepmom, stepsister and mom categories.

Now even with those numbers, it is easy to doubt the reality of the danger posed by too much porn, but a huge amount of celebrities have been outspoken against the abuse of porn. In the past, Terry Cruz, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Rashida Jones have all disavowed porn individually.

Cruz has stated before, in a series of videos entitled “Dirty Little Secret,” that he struggled with porn for “years, years, years, my dirty little secret was that I was addicted to pornography.”

For Cruz, like with many other addicts, porn addiction started leaking into other aspects of life. It started to affect his life on sets and at home. “If day turns into night and you are still watching, then it’s a problem, and that was me.” Cruz’s wife even considered leaving him at one point and he had to change his addictive habits to save his marriage.

Gordon-Levitt wrote and directed the film “Don Jon” and he mentions in an interview about the movie that he “grew up working as an actor and [he’s] always paid attention to how the media influences love and sex.” In the film, Don Jon and Barbara have these unrealistic expectations of what their relationship is supposed to be like due to media’s influence on them.

Don Jon is addicted to porn and expects his sex life to be that way and Barbara has expectations of love similar to Hollywood romance films. The film is not solely about porn, but it accurately depicts the bad habits that come from watching it too frequently.

In 2015, Jones produced “Hot Girls Wanted” on Netflix, which unveiled some of the exploitative aspects of the porn industry and how culture is going through a type of “pornification.” But she does believe that there is a difference between “sexuality and sexualization.”

Now she admits to watching porn but includes that most of the porn on tube sites host porn that is violent toward women. She believes that there should be more porn produced by women, for women.

If you know of anyone struggling with an unhealthy porn habit or even addiction, there is help out there for them.

In 2009, the organization “Fight the New Drug” was created by a group of college students who were all at some point affected negatively by the use of pornography. Their website allows people to sign up and provides individuals with opportunities and research-based resources to help them make an informed decision on their porn-viewing habits.

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