How Porn Impacts the Brain

How Porn Impacts the Brain

How Porn Impacts the Brain

This is the first in a series on pornography and its impact on marriages, families and communities.

Numerous studies indicate that porn is a very significant problem in the U.S. In fact, the Justice Department estimates that 9 out of 10 children between 8 and 16 have seen online porn.

Furthermore, at an American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers meeting, two-thirds of the attendees said excessive interest in online pornography contributed to more than half their divorce caseload. A leading Fortune 500 company study found that men spent 62 percent of their computer time on cybersex sites.

Here are additional statistics:j

  • More than 25 million Americans visit cybersex sites weekly and 60 percent of all website visits are sexual in nature, according to the Sexual Recovery Institute of Los Angeles.

  • According to a May 2004 Internet traffic study by, people visit porn sites three times more often than Google, Yahoo! and MSN Search combined.

  • About 3 to 6 percent of Americans (20 million people) are sexual addicts, according to Dr. Patrick Carnes at the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals.

“Rarely does someone’s participation remain at just looking at porn,” says Dr. Mark Laaser, author of The Pornography Trap. “They begin with looking at porn, then they move to self-stimulation and then onto pursuing the things they are looking at. There is definitely a progression from soft porn to harder porn.

"While some believe soft porn has a disinhibiting effect and could be helpful in relationships, I have never seen a case where pornography has been helpful to a marriage,” he says. “It always winds up negatively. Porn is designed to make you dissatisfied. It is not designed to help you feel content with your marriage partner.”

Many have joined the fight against pornography, including an organization called Fight the New Drug. Fight the New Drug is a non-religious and non-legislative organization that exists to provide individuals the opportunity to make an informed decision regarding pornography by raising awareness on its harmful effects using only science, facts and personal accounts.

Laaser says research shows that the endorphins released in the brain while looking at pornography are 200 times more potent than morphine and more addictive than cocaine. Researchers believe porn addiction may be harder to break than a heroin addiction. Why? It's because the brain stores images and can recall them at any moment.

According to Fight the New Drug, porn physically changes the brain over time. When one looks at porn, there is a surge of the chemical dopamine that feels really good. Dopamine helps create new brain pathways that essentially lead the user back to the behavior that triggered the chemical release. Porn users can quickly build up a tolerance as their brains adapt to the high levels of dopamine released by viewing porn. Even though porn is still releasing dopamine into the brain, the user can’t feel its effects as much.

“It is as though we have devised a form of heroin - usable in the privacy of one’s own home and injected directly to the brain through the eyes,” says Dr. Jeffrey Satinover of Princeton University, describing porn’s effect to a U.S. Senate committee.

In porn, everything from the way people look to how and why they have sex is not real. Unfortunately, porn addicts often obsess over chasing some fantasy so much that they miss out on actual relationships. Porn kills love.

Click here to learn more about warning signs and where to find help.