For many pornography use may not present a problem. However, compulsive or addictive viewing, creating or accessing of pornography often results in negative consequences for oneself or loved ones.

In 2018, the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases released their classification list (ICD-11). Their list included compulsive sexual behavior – commonly called sex addiction as a mental health disorder. The ICD-11 defined compulsive sexual behavior disorder as a “persistent pattern of failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses or urges resulting in repetitive sexual behaviour.”

Is Pornography A Problem?

Compulsive or addictive use of pornography (to escape stress or alter mood) impacts the neurobiological, emotional, and psychological response of our brain’s reward circuitry. This response–similar to alcohol, drugs, gambling or gaming, creates brain changes associated with addiction:

  • Sensitization (Strengthening of memory circuits related to the behavior)
  • Desensitization ( Decline in reward due to porn use creating a numbed pleasure response)
  • Hypofrontality (Weakening of the brain’s impulse control circuits correlates with less grey matter in the reward circuitry)
Impact of Pornography

Pornography provides an unlimited source of sexual arousal and stimulation, but distorts expectations of IRL (In Real Life) partners and relationships. Overtime compulsive or addictive use increases emotional and sexual distance in a relationship.

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have made their way into modern-day relationships and sexual experiences. The boundary between IRL (In Real Life) relationships and VR/AR is blurring.

While these techno-sexual developments have provided many individuals and couples exciting new sexual opportunities, these same advances have introduced a level of inappropriate sexual exposure to vulnerable youth and adolescents. This cohort that struggles to navigate dating or lack experience in handling emotions and relationships may find VR/AR an alluring, yet inappropriate, alternative to human interaction. The comfort of virtual relationships increases with the ease of being able to control them with a click “on” or “off”, and makes living IRL more difficult to navigate.

Compulsive or addictive pornography has the potential to damage a person’s health. Along with potential impacts on hygiene, diet and personal relationships, the consequences can include diminished arousal and erection (in men). This numbing of arousal may be due to a decrease in men’s satisfaction with their own bodies, overstimulation of compulsive masturbation, or increased insecurity or anxiety during sex.

Those who view pornography may need to progressively increase sexual stimulation to feel and remain aroused. Research in support of the link between excessive pornography use and erectile dysfunction argues that porn can desensitize sexual response. Over stimulation (compulsive masturbation) or the excessive use of sex toys can desensitize nerves in our sexual organs. This overstimulation makes it more difficult to become aroused. For some men they find it difficult to hold an erection or achieve climax due to the need for increased physical stimulation.

Impact To Children and Adolescents

Children and adolescents who compulsively view pornography are at heightened risk for negative impacts to their development. In The Journal of Pediatric Health Care, “To better understand how and what children learn about sexuality from pornography, it is crucial to consider the cognitive processing ability of the individual. […] The incomplete development of the child and adolescent brain may contribute to engaging in risky behaviors, which may, in turn, affect the extent to which pornography is sought and then, in turn, acted upon (Collins et al., 2017). Child and adolescent brains are immature.”

Research into internet pornography addiction has documented differences in brain activity between patients who have compulsive sexual behavior and healthy volunteers.

Help For Pornography

Call Today and reach out for help! Individual therapy, EMDR, and group therapy may be useful to resolve underlying or related trauma.