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Ditch Porn - It's Playboy on (Dopamine Draining) Steroids - Happier Human
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Ditch Porn – It’s Playboy on (Dopamine Draining) Steroids

Porn is evil.

It’s not because I’m deeply religious or a jealous girlfriend that I say that (I’m actually an irreligious male).

It’s because porn is addictive and harmful.

In fact, porn is harmful because it is addictive.

I’m not talking about American Psychiatry Association addiction; I’m talking about biology gone wrong addiction – the kind that makes your life less happy.

If you are one of the many Americans that watch porn on a regular basis, take the simple test below for ‘life less happy’ addiction. If you don’t watch porn, imagine that you are one of your friends that does.

If you were sufficiently motivated:

  1. Could you avoid eating spinach, apples, lettuce, bananas, & berries for one month?
  2. Could you avoid drinking soda and consuming high-fat, high-calorie food for one month?
  3. Could you avoid watching porn for one month?

I don’t know how you answered #1 and #2, but I do know how the average person would respond: 68.3% of Americans over the age of 20 are overweight.1 At some point in their life they were motivated to avoid unhealthy foods. Probably multiple times, possibly every year. And yet they failed.

68.3% of adult Americans are addicted to unhealthy food.

In the same way that smoking addicts find themselves drawn to cigarettes, food addicts find themselves drawn to snacks and soda. The actual number of food addicts is lower than 68.3%, because many people are overweight because they don’t exercise, but the point remains – even if a psychologist may not classify them as addicts, they are biologically compelled towards harmful behavior, which to me is the definition of addiction that matters.

Addiction can be caused by more than just harmful chemicals like nicotine and alcohol.

But that’s food. How can I possibly claim the same of porn? Let’s start with myself.

I won’t pretend to be a saint.

I don’t fit any clinical definition of addiction, but I would have failed my own test. I’m healthy and fit, but would not be able to avoid all high-calorie/high-fat food for one month.

After being alerted to the dangers of porn, even of ‘moderate’ consumption, by Your Brain On Porn, I decided to quit.

The sex I had during that time period was the best in my life.  But after three weeks, I went back.

Evolution has not prepared your brain for today’s Internet pornInternet porn addiction is not a “sex addiction” – it’s an Internet addiction. Although masturbation is often involved, this is an addiction to novel pixels on a screen.” -Uncle Bob

Dopamine and our reward circuitry gone astray.

Dopamine is the neurochemical of pleasure and motivation.  Does thinking about time alone with your significant other create excitement? That’s dopamine. Does thinking about a new car, house, or promotion create excitement? That’s dopamine.

Thousands of years ago, dopamine drove us towards activities that ensured our survival and the propagation of our genes. But as Uncle Bob said, that was before – our bodies weren’t designed for our modern-day environment of abundance.

Let’s talk about sex.

Our bodies motivate us to have sex by releasing dopamine. Once we’ve had sex and gotten too tired for more, we can actually still be goaded to have more, but only in response to new, receptive sexual partners.2345 It’s called the collidge effect.

The reason this matters is best illustrated by another study.

Each subsequent time a man was exposed to the same erotic film, his arousal decreased. The minute he was introduced to a different film with a different women, his arousal shot back up.

You can see this visually below. The yellow band was when the subject was shown the new female.

But why is this a problem?

The brain releases dopamine in response to novelty.

In the world of high-speed internet, a single google search is all that stands between an impressionable 15 year old and millions of dopamine-releasing naked females.

For you female readers who don’t know how it works, porn users don’t search out a single stimuli and then masturbate; they masturbate with one hand while clicking between tabs with the other.

Back in 1970, when a man had a surge of excitatory dopamine, his only choice was his imagination or a still Playboy page (which he would have already looked at many times). Now a single click will provide a new, moving image.

Pop – dopamine!

Each click releases a surge of dopamine. The surge in dopamine further stimulates novelty seeking behavoir.

The porn, internet underground is a massive dopamine pill.

Here is the root of the problem: if you have an over-abundance of dopamine, your body will adapt by decreasing your number of dopamine receptors.  That’s called tolerance, and it makes us less sensitive to pleasure and creates a host of other problems.6

If you’d like a more complete account of the neuroscience, I suggest this overview.

In carefully controlled moderation, porn releases dopamine, makes us feel good, and that’s that.

In not so carefully controlled moderation, porn releases so much dopamine that it desentizes us. There’s a reason that Men’s Porn Use is Linked to Unhappy Relationships, but I think it has more to do with sensitization than with self-esteem, as that study suggests.

Let’s keep it simple. If you can control your porn consumption (that is, abstain for a month if you wanted to), you’re probably fine. If you can’t, that probably means your’re at least partially addicted.

 

This is post 6 of the Month of Happiness. Check out the rest!Day 1: Psychostimulants: They might give you happiness; they might give you a heart attack
Day 2: How to Harness the Power of Laughter: An Easy, Effective, and Infinite Source of Joy
Day 3:  Three Good Things, A Small Gratitude Exercise for a Large Boost of Happiness
Day 4: The Right Way to Fake a Smile For Health and Happiness
Day 5: Emotional Contagion: 5 Ways to Get Your Environment to Work for You
Day 6: Ditch Porn – It’s Playboy on (Dopamine Draining) Steroids
Day 7: Why I “Remain” an Introvert, Though the Science Suggests Extroverts are Happier
Day 8: Yoga – It Isn’t Just for Female Hipsters
Day 9: Watch More TV; It Makes You Happy!
Day 10: Kaizen: Accomplishing Big Goals with Tiny Steps
Day 11: Omega-3 Supplementation – Good For The Heart & Vitamin Shoppe’s Bottom Line
Day 12: Good Sleep: Not Optional for Happiness and High Performance
Day 13: One Tab at a Time: 7 Tips to Browse the Web More Mindfully
Day 14: Optimism, The Blind Man’s Gamble
Day 15: A Story of Change, The 5 Willpower Techniques That Create Action
Day 16: Zest, The Spice of Life… or is it?
Day 17: Exercise: Better than Zoloft
Day 18: Relaxation: The Magic Tonic That Cures Headaches & Relieves Indigestion
Day 19: Spirituality for the Irreligious – Getting the Benefits Outside the Cathedral
Day 20: Meditation – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Beautiful

 

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