Why your brain is primed for addiction

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Just ran across a great article in the New Scientist online journal. It talks about current research being done on the “soft addictions” (addiction to behaviors, such as gambling or sex, as opposed to chemicals). It’s a great article, and I’m going to quote it at length here, and offer some of my own commentary.

Several studies of the brain and behaviour back the idea that there’s very little biological difference between what goes on in the head of a gambling addict and that of a crack addict. A growing number of researchers believe that the same processes lie behind all addictions, behavioural or chemical, whether it’s gambling or shopping, computer gaming, love, work, exercise, pornography, eating or sex. Continue reading Why your brain is primed for addiction

APA Task Force Report on the Sexualization of Girls

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The American Psychological Association has recently released a report from their task force, which has been studying the sexualization of girls, and the effect this is having not only on girls, but also on women and men. It’s a great report, and has some helpful information. Let me give a brief summary of some of the key points.

What is sexualization?

First off, what do we mean when we say that girls are “sexualized?” Here is how the report describes it … Continue reading APA Task Force Report on the Sexualization of Girls

How to tell if marital infidelity is related to sex addiction

How can you tell if an extra-marital affair is the result of sex addiction? It should go without saying that marital infidelity can be the result of many factors. But could the staying spouse also be a sex addict? How can you tell? What do you look for?

Dr. Robert Huizenga has a brief article listing the signs of sexual addiction, aimed at helping spouses determining if “infidelity is attached to sexual addiction.” Here’s a synopsis of his points:

  1. Sex takes on an inflated role or value, and acting on the sexual impulse is a frequent activity.
  2. There is evidence of acting out sexually in multiple ways, ie. porn, strip clubs, multiple sex partners, etc.
  3. Sexual activity is bound by fear: of ‘being found out,’ being abnormal, losing family, spouse, job and respect.
  4. A promise/failure cycle. Promises such as “I won’t do it again” are made out of remorse and fear, but later broken.
  5. Affair partners are used as objects for personal gratification, without real intimacy.
  6. Sexuality is often confused with other needs and is used to regulate mood.
  7. The person lives in a distorted world. They have a great capacity to rationalize their behavior, deceive others and may lead a dual life.

Everything I (didn’t) need to know about sex I learned from pornography

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The Eight Lies of Pornography

Where did you learn about sex? Who told you how it works, what to do, and what the opposite sex wants? In our workshops we often ask where participants learned about sex when they were growing up. Very few people recall learning anything substantive about sex from their parents, church, or school. Most people say they learned about sex from their friends and from popular culture (movies, TV, and music). But after a little prodding, a different picture comes out. Most of the people we work with learned about sex from pornography.

That’s scary, because pornography doesn’t deal in truth. Pornography is not made to educate, but to sell. Pornography deals in fantasy, and will offer whatever will attract and hold the audience. Porn thrives on lies — lies about sex, women, marriage and much else. I recently came across an article by Gene McConnell that – among other things – gave a list of some of those lies. While I appreciate the article, and the list generated there, I have adapted and changed it a bit, Continue reading Everything I (didn’t) need to know about sex I learned from pornography

Porn industry continues to grow

porn logoFrom a recent article on the growth of the porn industry, we get some bad news and some good quotes. First the bad news: the porn industry continues to grow at a frightening pace. California-based Adult Video News predicted revenue of US$12.6-billion in the year 2005 for the industry. Of that number, US$4.28-billion is predicted from sales and rentals of porn DVD’s, even though the price of a porn film has dropped 20% in the last year–to less than US$50.

** Addendum (4/17/07)  Included in a list of pornography stats on their site, I found this:  “At 13.3 billion a year, the  2006 revenues of the sex and porn industry in the  U.S. are bigger than the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball combined. Worldwide sex industry sales for 2006 are reported to be 97 billion. Continue reading Porn industry continues to grow

More on the effect of pornography on the brain

As a follow up to yesterday’s post, here are two more links with information from Dr. Judith Reisman, referred to there.

1. The first is an excerpt from her senate testimony, given in 2004.

2. The second is a link to her white paper, with some in-depth information about how pornography affects the brain. It’s great information, but I include the link with a couple of caveats: First, the white paper contains some sexual images that may be triggering for an addict. The images are cartoons from pornographic magazines, and especially graphic ones are blurred, so as not to be any more offensive than they already are. But be warned. Second, much of her attention is focused on the normalization of child pornography — and the dangers thereof — whereas my concern is about the effect of pornography in general. That said, here is the link to “ The Psychopharmacology of Pictorial Pornography: Restructuring Brain, Mind & Memory & Subverting Freedom of Speech”.

John Harmer: porn re-wires teen brains

Two posts in a row linking to the same site. I can’t help myself, they’re posting good stuff! The latest post from Mothers Against Pornography Addiction is a report on a book by John Harmer, The Sex Industrial Complex. Here’s what they say:

Can pornography actually damage the teenage brain?

That’s one of the assertions lawyer and former California legislator and Lt. Governor under Governor Ronald Reagan, the Hon. John L. Harmer makes in his latest book, The Sex Industrial Complex. Exploring MRI research gathered by Dr. Judith Reisman, president of Arizona’s Institute for Media Education, the book claims that exposing a young person’s developing brain to pornography rewires neural connections to create a lasting addiction to pleasure-inducing brain chemicals Reisman refers to as Erotoxins. “Pornography creates a chemical addiction in the same way cigarettes and alcohol do,” said Harmer.

In his book, Harmer cites sources from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the British National Addiction Centre to describe how dopamine, a key drug released by the brain during arousal, has the same effect as cocaine or speed and can create the same addictions in the brain.

For children and teens, Harmer feels that the addiction could be even stronger and more damaging. The amygdala, the part of the brain that controls fear and other “gut” reactions, develops at a much younger age than the more cognitive frontal lobe, and cites information from the National Institute of Health that says the amygdala is used more often to process images even into the teenage years. Because of this, Harmer said, when teenagers look at porn the images are not only linked in the brain to feelings of lust, but to other “gut” responses that the teen might be feeling such as anxiety or shame.

As an addiction forms, lust becomes permanently linked with the more negative emotions. “Studies have shown that the human brain is the last body organ to mature,” he said. “The teenage brain is at risk because it’s a long way from being fully developed.”

I want to learn more about this. What Harmer is saying certainly makes sense. We talk in the men’s sex addiction workshops that I coordinate for Faithful and True Ministries about the phenomena of imprinting. When he have strong sexual/pleasurable experiences at a young age that help us medicate painful feelings, they become imprinted on our brain. We learn that this is a good solution to the bad feelings that we’re trying to escape, and thus sexual behavior begins to emerge as a coping mechanism.

Do we “believe in” porn addiction?

An anonymous author on the (very good) Mothers Against Pornography Addiction blog recently posted a bit of a rant about her frustration with the ongoing question of whether porn addiction is “real.” In the past 10 years, she points out, awareness has grown about this issue, but there still is an undercurrent of resistance to “believing in” porn addiction.

The awareness has expanded and information is more readily available. There are entire online programs geared toward the recovery of addicts, websites dedicated to information about the addiction, postings online by well educated psychologists that validate the reality of pornography addiction, counselors now specialize in sex and porn addiction recovery.

And yet still most information is written from the point of view to convince readers that this is real. I have to wonder if while porn addiction is obviously exploding all over our world why it is that convincing people it exists is still necessary.”

You have to read the post … she has great insights and a genuine passion that doesn’t come through in the brief excerpts I have included here. Of special interest is Continue reading Do we “believe in” porn addiction?

finding intimacy and freedom from pornography and sex addiction