Wael Ibrahim – Founder of The Aware Academy Global
Pornography is defined as professionally produced acts or explicit, graphic images or videos of masturbation, close-up genital penetration, oral sex, and other sexual acts intended to arouse the viewer sexually. It is one of the top content categories on the internet, and its growing audience is overwhelmingly male. Most consumers of porn are 70% males and 30% females ages 10 – 30+ years old. In an earlier study, 86% of respondents agree that porn can educate people, while 72% disagreed and insisted that porn provides a harmless outlet for fantasies.
So when does it become an addiction?
Addiction represents a pathological but powerful form of memory and learning (Kauer, Malenka 2007). Studies in addiction demonstrate a decrease in the brain’s various areas, which are particularly associated with frontal volitional control and the reward-salience regions. It gives experts confidence to suggest that the same brain activities in reward, memory, and motivation are associated with substance abuse and pornography a lot.
Porn addiction is progressive. It may start as a “harmless behavior” such as porn consumption while masturbating, but it could lead to other risky and dangerous sexual behaviors over time. Porn addiction is not included as a disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fifth Edition (DSM -5). However, overwhelming number of studies believe that it could lead to compulsive sexual behaviors or hypersexual disorders. If that happens, it could lead to paraphilia such as voyeurism, sexual sadism and masochism, fetishism, frotteurism, and exhibitionism. Hyper-sexuality disorder is an excessive preoccupation with sexual urges or behaviors, sexual fantasies that lead to disruption and neglect of health and personal care, interests, relationships, activities, and responsibilities.
Researchers suggest that porn addiction can co-occur with personality disorders such as Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Also, engaging in extreme sexual behaviors as a form of self-harm is one of the diagnoses of BPD, while recurring thoughts and repetitive behaviors are found in people with OCD. These disorders are more susceptible to addiction because of emotional sensitivity and hypervigilance to abandonment issues, loneliness, and emptiness.
EFFECTS OF PORN CONSUMPTION
Can porn addiction be harmful? In theory, it can be detrimental when it interferes with personal, interpersonal, social, emotional, physical, and mental functioning. However, some studies found the perceived positive effects of porn consumption. These effects are reported on homosexual respondents in terms of sexual knowledge, attitudes toward sex, enjoyment, interest in sex, and understanding of their sexual orientation (Hald, G. et al., 2012). In heterosexual relationships, on the other hand, most of the responses include improved sexual communication, more sexual experimentation, and enhanced sexual comfort (Kohut et al., 2017).
Although there are positive effects, as mentioned above, there are still many reasons why porn consumption is not suitable for the body, mind, and interpersonal relationships. Psychological effects include anxiety, low sexual desire, compulsion, repetitive behaviors, moral incongruence, depression, and emotional numbness. Then as for the physical effects, it includes premature ejaculation, hijacking of dopamine production, and much less pleasure.
Lastly, the social effects may include male aggressive behavior against women and children and decreased rape awareness sensitivity in both men and women. About 86% of rapists admit using porn at or immediately before committing the crime. It also degrades romantic relationships in a sense that could lead to infidelity.
THE BENEFITS OF QUITTING PORNOGRAPHY
Quitting porn consumption and masturbation affects an individual’s physical and mental health and improves one’s quality of living. Porn and masturbation are usually tied together. A recent survey of a Reddit Community called No-Fap Challenge, which is committed to quitting porn consumption and masturbation for seven days, has helped researchers better understand the effects of pornography. Some of those physical and mental health benefits are as follow:
- Increase testosterone levels by 45.7%
Studies show that people who are engaged in porn addiction have lower testosterone levels than normal individuals. It affects the sex drive, causes the person to gain weight, and reduces muscle mass. One study showed that at least 45.7% of testosterone increases after seven days without masturbating.
- Higher energy levels and an increase in productivity
Almost 67% of No-Fappers admit that they feel more energized and productive.
- Cured sexual dysfunctions
Studies confirm that most porn users have porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED) and delayed ejaculation.
- Improved sex life
Various sources suggest that people with porn addictions have lower sex drives and difficulty maintaining normal sexual relationships. Quitting porn can have an improvement in one’s ability to maintain a healthy sex life.
- Boosted confidence and self-esteem
Battling with pornography is a horrible feeling and leads to shame and guilt. Losing confidence or self-esteem is common for people who have a pornography addiction. Taking control back of someone’s life will prove that he can quit porn and boost self-esteem.
- Relationship improvements
Porn addiction can severely affect interpersonal relationships, especially those in a romantic relationship, as it can be upsetting and damaging to both parties. Quitting porn can mend the relationship by focusing and giving time and importance to the loved ones.
- A heightened sense of morale
Porn and masturbation are done in private. Thus, social withdrawal and isolation take place. A sense of morale helps porn users realize that excessive porn consumption is wrong and harmful.
HOW TO QUIT PORN?
Nine out of ten viewers said that they are having a hard time quitting porn. Not everyone has the same situation, but most studies suggest that rebooting and rewiring the brain helps. Porn addiction, just like any other addictions, can be altered in the reward circuitry of the brain. It can be done by desensitization, hypofrontality, and sexual conditioning. Giving the mind a rest from artificial sexual stimulation is the quickest way to reboot. However, sensual contact with a real person can be beneficial, as long as there are no porn fantasies involved.
There is no definitive way of quitting porn addiction. What most success stories have in common are the following tips:
- Admission of addiction is a sign of seeking help.
- Check with a mental health professional about the condition.
- Avoid all types of erotic contents.
- Replace bad habits with healthy physical habits instead.
- Have a porn-accountable support system.
- Change the environment.
Remember that no reboot and recovery is instant. The healing process is not linear in any form of withdrawal. There will be intense cravings and relapse, of course, but with proper guidance from a mental health professional and the determination to finally let go of the excessive porn consumption, results in various functioning areas can be seen gradually.
While there are still ongoing studies about the positive and negative effects of quitting porn, it is crucial to understand that porn consumption can be very harmful. It gives temporary gratification but leaves damaging impacts on various functionalities of life. If there are signs of porn addiction, it is always best to reach out to a professional.
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