Pornography Addiction and the Brain


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Research has been conducted about how pornography affects the brain. More than ten years ago, porn was deemed an ‘erototoxin,’ the theory being that the brain itself may be damaged while watching porn. Speculation ensued that future brain studies may reveal a surge of neurochemicals and hormones were released when someone watches porn and has negative effects on the brain. Recent studies are coming to light which validate this connection.

Brain Scans

Valerie Voon conducted research for a documentary on the effects of porn on the brain. It led her to conclude that the brains of habitual users of porn show similarities to brains of alcoholics. A brain structure called the ventral striatum plays a significant role in the reward system of the brain or reward pathways. It is the same part which lights up when an alcoholic sees a photo of a drink. The cingulate cortex is weakened over time by viewing porn which is the region of the brain responsible for moral and ethical decision making and willpower.

Brain Chemicals at Work

Various hormones and neurotransmitters are at work when a person views porn and each one in the neuro-cocktail contributes to the problem:

  • When having sex or watching porn, dopamine is released into the brain center responsible for emotion and learning. It supplies pleasure and next time the person craves sexual pleasure, dopamine is released and tells the person where to find the fix.
  • Norepinephrine is released which creates alertness and focus. Adrenaline does something similar in that it anticipates eagerly what is about to happen.
  • Sex or porn can trigger releases of oxytocin and vasopressin. The hormones help lay long-term memories for cells. This ‘binds’ a person’s memories to the object which gave that person sexual pleasure.
  • Endorphins are released, a natural opiate, which creates a high
  • Sexual release brings serotonin levels to a point of calmness and relaxation

Being Hijacked by Porn

Multiple issues arise when porn is used including the bonding of a person to an experience which is not real. The brain remembers where the high was experienced and each time it is desired, the desire will be focused on porn. An unnatural high is created which focuses on surges of brain chemicals and eventually the brain fatigues. This stops the production of dopamine which leaves the viewer wanting more but cannot reach satisfaction so the individual seeks out more intense highs (tolerance). This neurochemical and behavioral imbalance can lead to impotence, frequent masturbation without satisfaction, anxiety, fatigue, lack of motivation, inability to concentrate and escalation of tastes for more bizarre or novel porn styles.


Sustain Recovery provides care for adolescents who need a unique approach to treatment for addiction. The minimum stay is 90 days but many stay longer to get the necessary support and provide for individual needs. Call us to find out how to get help for your adolescent seeking recovery support.


  • Leo

    Need help with porn and masturbating addiction
    I’m Broken
    Please help

  • Lawrence Cruz

    I suffer from anorgasmia because of my porn addiction. I can stay erect but not climax with a real woman. My partner. No one told me about this during childhood. It may not be as bad as erectile dysfunction. But to get off I usually end up having to watch pornography just to relieve tension. It’s horrible.

  • David Werner

    I want to leave porn as much as possible

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