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The problems of porn addiction, and how to beat it.

by: Duke Cheston
Class of 2010, Biology

…The Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire

-Kipling.

If you’re a male college student and you’re reading this, I can say with near certainty that you have seen pornography before. In fact, chances are pretty high that you’re addicted to it: about 70 percent of American men between the ages of 18 and 24 visit porn sites in an average month. And men aren’t alone: about one in three porn viewers are women.

Why does it matter? Well, if you use pornography on a regular basis, you may have noticed it starting to affect your life, causing all kinds of social, mental, and even sexual problems. If you haven’t noticed any effects, you probably will—and sooner than you might expect.

If you’re addicted to porn, you probably fall into one of two categories.  The first type of porn addict doesn’t yet realize that there’s a problem, thinking, “It’s just pictures. How could looking at pictures be harmful?” If this is you, the side effects of your porn habit—relational problems, lost time, difficulty focusing, and problems being intimate with a real woman—will eventually clue you in on the reality of the destructiveness of pornography. You will want to quit eventually, and you might as well quit now before things get worse.

The second type of porn addict realizes there is a problem and would like to quit but so far has not been able to break free from it. Like the dog that returns to its vomit in Kipling’s poem (and in the book of Proverbs), you haven’t been able to shake the habit. If that’s you, part of the problem may be that you don’t yet realize how serious it is. You may even be a bit self-righteous, if your parents taught you to wait until marriage for sex but treated porn as if it weren’t that bad (and, full confession, that was me).

But the unfortunate truth is that if you’re abstinent from sex but addicted to porn you are likely worse off in terms of your future relationships than your roommate who “sexiled” you out of your dorm room on a few Thursday nights. Having a couple of sexual partners before you meet your wife would not be nearly as bad as bringing a porn habit into your marriage.

Psychologists tell us that internet pornography is qualitatively different than your dad or uncle’s old Playboy magazines; it affects you in much more drastic ways. It is, in fact, one of the most addictive substances out there, working in a manner similar to cocaine.

Like other drugs, it gives you a high, releasing potent endorphins in your brain. The release can temporarily relieve stress, anger, and depression. But because your brain can change over time in response to stimuli—it is capable of “neuroplasticity”—the release diminishes over time and more and more stimulation is required to achieve the same effect. This is why, if you’ve been addicted for a while, you may have noticed a desire to look at more “hardcore” porn, things you previously thought you would never want to look at.

So if you are addicted and have tried to quit, give yourself a bit of credit. You’re struggling with an addiction as powerful as many street drugs.

Unfortunately, though, that doesn’t make it any less destructive. The warping of your mind that keeps you coming back for more has a number of side effects. It can lead to social anxiety, poor memory, and being “weird” around girls.

But the symptom most likely to get your attention is—and I’m not making this up—erectile dysfunction. Yes, as in not flying the flag at full mast. “Performance concerns,” if you will.

The reason this happens is because pornography is mentally stimulating, more than anything in the “real” world. Our brains are wired to become aroused when we recognize a potential new mate, and internet pornography floods our brains with thoughts of potential new mates. No matter how attractive your real-life partner is, she can’t compete with all of the women on the internet. Your brain loses its sensitivity, and your penis eventually follows suit.

“Widespread youthful ED has never been seen before,” noted psychologist Gary Wilson, who operates the website “Your Brain on Porn.” Because of the rapid spread of free internet pornography, scientists are now only just catching up in our understanding of porn’s effects on the brain.

But, despite the lack of scientific understanding, it’s clear that your brain can heal. Neuroplasticity, the same phenomenon that allows your brain to be physically restructured into the brain of a porn addict, means that your brain can return (mostly) to a healthy state. Quit porn long enough, and pretty much all of the symptoms will disappear. Your brain and your business will be back in action.

If you want to quit, it won’t be easy, and you’ll probably need help. Porn use is one of those things that tends to fester in the darkness, so expose it by enlisting the help of someone—a friend, trusted adult, or partner—to help keep you accountable. There are Internet groups, such as the “Fapstronauts” on Reddit.com, devoted to helping people quit porn. There is even software (some for free, such as at X3Watch.com) that will report any “suspicious” websites you visit in a monthly email report that gets sent to a trusted friend. If you’re serious about quitting, get help.

How long it takes to kill a porn addiction is highly variable; some suggest it takes about 90 days. So here’s my challenge: get a friend to join you in giving up all sexual activity (including “self-love”) for 90 days. You may feel worse before you feel better, and you can expect withdrawal symptoms. But don’t worry: “Use it or lose it” does not apply in this situation. Your junk won’t shrivel and fall off. In fact, you’ll be a lot healthier on the other end.

Walk in the light, my friends. It’s warmer here.

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This article’s pictures can be found at: http://federalistreview.com/2012/03/ and http://www.picstopin.com/851/binary-numbers-facebook-cover-green-computer-/http:||coverlayout*com|facebook|covers|binary_numbers_green|binary_numbers_green*jpg/.