The study, conducted by Valerie Voon at Cambridge, studied 19 compulsive porn users and 19 non porn users in the same age range. They studied the subjects’ brain activity while being exposed to pornographic material. The study found that the compulsive porn users’ brains lit up in the reward circuit very similar to how it does in cocaine addicts. The non porn users did not exhibit this brain activity when exposed. The study also found that all subjects had roughly equal sexual desire, dispelling the myth that porn addicts are just hyper sexual. What is noteworthy is that the compulsive porn users had much higher wanting and craving of porn than the non porn users. This condition is referred to as incentive motivation and is a key element of addiction disorders. You can read more about the study at Your Brain On Porn.
Coupling this development is a recent German study which found that increased porn use lead to decreased gray matter in the brain's reward circuit. This creates desensitization and correlates with weakened will power in the frontal cortex. This research helps to explain how porn addicts develop desensitization to sex and sexual images and eventually develop porn-induced erectile dysfunction. The decrease gray matter and reduced will power also helps to explain the cycle of addiction. With weakened will power it becomes even harder to stop watching porn, thus trapping users in a cycle they can't escape. This is very similar to what happens with drug addicts.
Calum: “I can’t find a way to stop. I’ve tried getting rid of my smart phone. Getting rid of easy ways to get on to porn. But then I’ll just get an urge and I’ll go into toilet and I’ll visualize it instead.” Martin: “Does that piss you off?” Calum: “Yeah, of course. You’ll get times where you’ll just sit down and think to yourself, why have I just done what I’ve done? Why? You get a high and then you just get down straight afterwards.” Martin: “And how do you get over that low?” Calum: “Do it again”. Martin: “So you’re always chasing the low away with the next high.” Calum: “Yeah” Martin: “Well that sounds like a drug addiction to me.” Calum: “Yeah, it is… because, I can’t stop it.”
Calum is not alone. Calum’s description of his addiction resonates with what many addicts experience with alcohol, drug, or porn addictions. His cycle of highs and lows, as well as his inability to quit, is also exactly what I experienced personally when I was addicted. This firsthand account is a telling example of the psychology of porn addiction.
All this new information is furthering the evidence that porn addiction is real. Not only that, but it’s igniting more interest and questions on the topic. We will continue to see more and more research on this topic in the coming months and years. In the meantime, have any good sources you’ve found? Please share them in the comments.