Pornography has been termed “the high fructose corn syrup of sex” (pornography). It’s easy access via the internet has been likened to “everyone now having a Playboy magazine under their bed” (temptation). I’ve referred to pornography as a “silent killer” and “silent epidemic.” Many people who struggle with a pornography habit do so alone. A lot of people keep it a secret for obvious reasons; and the mainstream is rarely of any help to people who do publicly acknowledge they have a problem.
Today, I’ve transcribed a fascinating montage, interspersed with narration, that refers to pornography as “digital cocaine.” While pornography is a behavioral addiction, the author argues that it has a lot in common with universally acknowledged substance addictions. Unlike the latter, “many doctors and researchers don’t even believe [pornography addiction] is an actual medical condition.” The author talks about how pornography can take away one’s desire for human connection and intimacy. It can lead to emotional withdrawal, exacerbate mental health issues, like depression, cause life motivation to plummet, and damage relationships and romantic partners.
People with unresolved emotional trauma, or current major life stressors, like an unhappy or abusive relationship, are at an elevated risk of getting addicted. The good news for the author is that recovery from pornography addiction is possible. Many people who were once addicted have gotten free and are now living abundant lives. (See the Testimonies section for countless such stories..)
Jordan Peterson, for his part, prescribes the creation of a life vision “more compelling than pornography. . . And so you need a story that you can tell yourself that’s really deeply thought through about why this is not appropriate for you.”
Check out the complete clip and transcript down below!
People who spend too much time watching pornography—they have trouble performing with regular sex. The reason is that just like with alcohol, you might start out with some beer, maybe some wine. You progress to hard liquor, mixed drinks, and finally you’re just drinking the Vodka right out of the bottle. The same with pornography. You start out with tame stuff, and little by little you go up to more and more extreme acts. When you’re with a real human being, it just doesn’t do it anymore, and so a lot of people have erectile dysfunction. They don’t even want to have sex with real people.Daniel Lieberman, M.D.
Viewing porn excessively can often be overlooked as harmless, but when innocent sexual urges start to take hold of your free will, demanding they be fulfilled, even when they make you lose control, it’s time to reel it in. On the bright side, despite how overwhelming the condition can get, porn addiction can be managed with determination and the right help. And as you keep going, you’ll find that it gets easier. The important thing to remember is that you are not alone. People have recovered from porn addiction and are thriving in their lives now.Be Inspired
For more, see Jordan Peterson Explains The Dangerous Effects Of Porn (The Roommates). You can also visit the complete archive of articles on integrity.
Huberman: Pornography is a serious issue.
Nash: It consumed my life. It started taking up more and more time, more and more energy, and then me pushing the boundaries.
Peterson: It’s all pleasure with no responsibility. That’s deadening. . .
Porn addiction, unfortunately, is not yet a diagnosable medical issue, but many argue it should be, because it can be just as damaging as an addiction to alcohol or drugs.
Huberman: Because of the way that it taps into these very primitive systems. It’s as serious, in my mind, as some of the other drugs of abuse, like the opioid crisis. . .
People addicted to porn constantly crave erotic displays to the point where it takes over everything else in their life: their job, home, family, hobbies, and aspirations all take a backseat as they are overtaken for their need for escapism through pornography. In some cases, they might start watching porn in public places, like at work, or in public buses and trains.
But why does it matter how often someone watches porn? Well, even if they don’t think it affects them, it certainly affects the people around them. Any type of addiction has an influence on your life and the people you love. Is it interfering with your relationship? Does it disrupt your day? Does it cause you to disengage with your feelings and care little for actual human connection and intimacy?
Studies have shown that many who frequently consume porn tend to pull away emotionally from their partners. They start keeping secrets, lying, and occasionally enter depressive states after a session of overconsuming porn. This, in turn, hurts their partner. When they sense their significant other drawing away, preferring porn over real intimacy, it’s a crushing blow to their self-esteem. They start to question their abilities in bed, the interest of their partner, and even their attractiveness.
Lieberman: People who spend too much time watching pornography—they have trouble performing with regular sex. The reason is that just like with alcohol, you might start out with some beer, maybe some wine. You progress to hard liquor, mixed drinks, and finally you’re just drinking the Vodka right out of the bottle. The same with pornography. You start out with tame stuff, and little by little you go up to more and more extreme acts. When you’re with a real human being, it just doesn’t do it anymore, and so a lot of people have erectile dysfunction. They don’t even want to have sex with real people.
The feeling of being disconnected from those you love and your personal life can impact your self-esteem and make you hate yourself. Feeling ongoing guilt and shame becomes as normal as depression, and you become aware that your life has lost control. Unfortunately, your only escape from this out-of-control life has become pornography. This addiction, and the following lifestyle changes all have a neurological impact on the brain.
Huberman: You ever notice when you get on the phone and you’re scrolling Instagram, it’s a lot of fun. Like, this stuff is cool. You’re seeing people. And then sometimes you’re on there and you’re like, “This doesn’t feel good but I’m doing it anyway. I’m just doing it.” That’s exactly how people talk about their drug use. That’s exactly how people talk about alcohol use. That’s exactly how people talk about gambling. You imagine this high, but the high doesn’t show up, and that’s your dopamine depleted.
Porn, like cocaine or alcohol, are hyper-stimulating triggers that lead to an unnaturally high amount of dopamine secretion. Repetitive secretion of dopamine damages the reward system and leaves it unresponsive when there’s something real to be happy about. It’s like when you set up a reward system for studying. You get to eat a cookie every time you complete a chapter. But if you can’t control yourself and finish the entire jar of cookies before you’ve even started, you have ruined the reward system, and are no longer motivated to study. This is the same reason why people addicted to porn find it so challenging to achieve arousal when they’re with a partner. The desensitization of the reward system sets the stage for sexual dysfunctions to develop, further facilitating depression and anxiety. What’s worse is, they can’t stop.
Research shows that compulsive porn consumers want to and need to watch more porn, even when they don’t like it and know they shouldn’t do it. The disconnect it between liking it and wanting it causes dysregulation in your circuit, further pushing you into depression. It’s seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. How do you stop? First, you have to understand why it began.
Binging on porn over time leads to mental health problems, but the addiction is also born of previous traumas that your brain is trying to soothe using porn. It becomes a tool for people to get back in touch with their bodies and manage their memories and emotions. Unfortunately, thrill-seeking of any kind is not a healthy coping mechanism. An addiction occurs when the person has an underlying condition, or if they’re suffering through an unhappy or abusive relationship.
Porn, like alcohol, can provide escapism for dissatisfaction, fear, and unhappiness. Cultural norms also play a heavy influence. Ideas of how people should look, and the ideal body type can give people complexes and make them feel bad about how they look or enjoy sex. Watching pornography disengages them from their feelings, providing that same escapism, even if they feel worse after the fact. There is no denying that porn addiction, like any other addiction, has an adverse effect on your quality of life. It can get debilitating, and for those who want to get out of the rut but can’t, life can feel especially hopeless.
Even research doesn’t provide a specific proven treatment for pornography addiction simply because many doctors and researchers don’t even believe it’s an actual medical condition. So, what do you do?
Peterson: Porn isn’t the issue. The issue is you’re not living your life the way you want to. So you need a vision of life that’s more compelling than the porn. And you need a counter-vision, too, that frightens you, you know, because otherwise, porn is obviously extremely gratifying in the short-term, but you seem to be suffering from the medium-to-long-term consequences of its use. And so you need a story that you can tell yourself that’s really deeply thought through about why this is not appropriate for you. How’s it hurting you. And how’s it minimizing you, and perhaps making you embarrassed and ashamed and more socially isolated, and all of that.
Quitting porn is a difficult journey for everyone. Everyone has different reasons and circumstances. Some might find it extremely hard. Others might let it go more quickly. Either way, there are 3 key steps to start the journey.
The first, recognize the problem. Nobody, not even a therapist, can help if you don’t acknowledge the problem.
Second, you have to find a way to stop. This would mean eliminating all your porn from all devices and breaking any links that supply it.
And third, which might need more help for a therapist, direct your energy toward strengthening your mind and body.
Viewing porn excessively can often be overlooked as harmless, but when innocent sexual urges start to take hold of your free will, demanding they be fulfilled, even when they make you lose control, it’s time to reel it in. On the bright side, despite how overwhelming the condition can get, porn addiction can be managed with determination and the right help. And as you keep going, you’ll find that it gets easier.
The important thing to remember is that you are not alone. People have recovered from porn addiction and are thriving in their lives now. We aim to bring awareness and normalize the stigma around such issues. So if this helped you, or you think it might help someone else, go ahead and share the video.