Dear Dr. Walt,
I’m wrestling with an addiction to Internet pornography. My therapist says that pornography changes brain chemistry. Is this true?
—Addicted in Alaska
The short answer? Yes. Absolutely. My wife, Barb, and I have written two chapters about the brain and sex in our book, His Brain, Her Brain: How divinely designed differences can strengthen your marriage. Pornography can have a devastating effect on brain chemistry, and we’re not alone in that opinion.
The research of Cambridge neuropsychiatrist Valerie Voon demonstrates that the brains of habitual porn users shows similarity to the brains of those addicted to drugs or alcohol. Dr. William Struthers, author of Wired for Intimacy, points out that viewing pornography actually weakens a region of the brain known to be responsible for moral and ethical decision making and willpower.
The most amazing thing to me is that science demonstrates sexual pleasure is at its very highest when one has sex with, and only with, one’s spouse. Together, a married couple can experience a oneness, a high, an alertness of sexual pleasure, and a deep calm afterwards (due to the chemicals norepinephrine, endorphins, and serotonin in the brain). With each sexual encounter, a married couple is emotionally bonding to each other (secondary to the brain chemicals oxytocin and vasopressin).
Scriptural counseling and restricting sex to one’s spouse can help weaken a porn addiction. Over time, an abnormal craving for sex outside of marriage can be transformed into a desire for and pleasure with one’s spouse (based on the brain chemical dopamine). As this transition occurs in your marriage, be sure that you and your spouse are continuing to work with your Christian therapist. Understanding the Scripture and the science of sex can be a powerful and pleasurable combination.
This Q&A will be published in the November 2016 edition of Today’s Christian Living.
© Copyright WLL, INC. 2016. This blog provides a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.