Your Brain on Porn

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Start here for a brief overview of concepts & science

This article is a short synopsis of some key concepts. For the science behind it, please follow all the links and read this page. Some links go to our articles, which in turn link to studies. For a more in-depth understanding and further evidence see The Research Page. For specific content explore Porn FAQs.

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What happens when you drop a male rat into a cage with a receptive female rat? First, you see a frenzy of copulation. Then, progressively, the male tires of that particular female. Even if she wants more, he has had enough. However, replace the original female with a fresh one, and the male immediately revives and gallantly struggles to fertilize her. You can repeat this process with fresh females until he is completely wiped out.

This is called the Coolidge effect—the automatic response to novel mates. Interestingly, men ejaculate more motile sperm and they do it more quickly when they view a novel porn star. This powerful automatic response to erotic novelty is what started you down the road to getting hooked on internet porn.

Studies reporting relationships between porn use or porn/sex addiction and sexual dysfunctions, lower brain activation to sexual stimuli, and lower sexual satisfaction

Reality Check - Regardless of what you may read in some journalistic accounts, multiple studies reveal a link between porn use and sexual performance problems, relationship and sexual dissatisfaction, and reduced brain activation to sexual stimuli.

Let's start with sexual dysfunctions. All studies assessing young male sexuality since 2010 report historic levels of sexual dysfunctions, and startling rates of a new scourge: low libido. Documented in this article.

Brain Studies on Porn Users

This page lists all the studies assessing the brain structure and functioning of Internet porn users. To date every study offers support for the porn addiction model. The results of these 24 studies (and upcoming studies) are consistent with 150+ Internet addiction brain studies, many of which also include internet porn use. All support the premise that internet porn use can cause addiction-related brain changes, as do recent neuroscience-based reviews of the literature:

  1. Neuroscience of Internet Pornography Addiction: A Review and Update (2015). The review also critiques two recent headline-grabbing EEG studies which purport to have "debunked" porn addiction.
  2. Sex Addiction as a Disease: Evidence for Assessment, Diagnosis, and Response to Critics (2015), which provides a chart that takes on specific criticisms and offers citations that counter them.
  3. Neurobiology of Compulsive Sexual Behavior: Emerging Science (2016) - Excerpt: "Given some similarities between CSB and drug addictions, interventions effective for addictions may hold promise for CSB, thus providing insight into future research directions to investigate this possibility directly."
  4. Should Compulsive Sexual Behavior be Considered an Addiction? (2016). Excerpt: "Overlapping features exist between CSB and substance use disorders. Common neurotransmitter systems may contribute to CSB and substance use disorders, and recent neuroimaging studies highlight similarities relating to craving and attentional biases. Similar pharmacological and psychotherapeutic treatments may be applicable to CSB and substance addictions"
  5. Neurobiological Basis of Hypersexuality (2016). Excerpt: "Taken together, the evidence seems to imply that alterations in the frontal lobe, amygdala, hippocampus, hypothalamus, septum, and brain regions that process reward play a prominent role in the emergence of hypersexuality. Genetic studies and neuropharmacological treatment approaches point at an involvement of the dopaminergic system."
  6. Compulsive Sexual Behaviour as a Behavioural Addiction: The Impact of the Internet and Other Issues (2016). Excerpts: "more emphasis is needed on the characteristics of the internet as these may facilitate problematic sexual behaviour." and "clinical evidence from those who help and treat such individuals should be given greater credence by the psychiatric community."

Gary's TEDx talk - "The Great Porn Experiment"

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No longer intimidated by women, Huge decrease in depression, Rising in confidence, Not being a judgmental Dick, Seeing everyone as 3 dimensional people

I'm on day 60 here and I wanted to speak a bit on my experience so far. The first thing I can say is that for any guys out there who this was a real problem for, you are going to have to be patient on this journey because I'm still day 60 and I've seen a dramatic shift in my mindset and a lot of benefits, but I feel like there is still a lot more to come.

Age 27 - From Hardmode to Wild Sex

water fall

I went through a breakup at the end of 2014 and decided to do hardmode in 2015 in order to create a new lifestyle for myself. A couple months into hardmode I began transforming. I started going out more, doing new things and meeting many new people.

Day 50, feeling awesome!!!

I can't believe I made it to day 50. I'm no longer gloomy all the time, I rarely feel depressed, one can say that I'm emotionally stable. 40 days in, I lost my insomnia, and been sleeping like a dog, finally!!! Here's what I've been doing so far: