Sunday, October 26, 2014
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Is Internet porn addiction officially a thing?

Isaac Abel, a writer for The Atlantic, recently detailed his battle with Internet pornography.

Is Internet porn addiction officially a thing?

Screenshot via "Don Jon," HitRecord Films.

Isaac Abel, a writer for The Atlantic, recently detailed his battle with Internet pornography. He's been off the stuff for four years, but that hasn't necessarily made his "struggle" any easier. In a piece posted late last week, Abel takes a look at the science (really) behind his "addiction."

According to Wilson's theory, Internet porn perverted this evolutionary mechanism. It tricked my brain into thinking that I had the opportunity to procreate with limitless new mates, prompting repeated "hits" of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with reward and motivation. These persistent spikes of dopamine triggered the release of another chemical -- ΔFosB -- that's necessary for binging on rewards like sex and food.

The science behind the problem, though, is difficult to put a finger on. This is, in part, because Internet porn comsumption is so rampant that a controlled study isn't really feasible because adult males who have never seen Internet porn are unicorns. As in, they don't exist.

It's true, but that standard might not be feasible here. In 2009, University of Montreal professor Simon Lajeuness tried to set up such a study, but was thwarted because he "could not find any adult men who had never viewed sexually explicit material."

In lieu of such a study, Wilson and Robinson link to a slew of studies that show how the underlying brain changes observed in all addicts have already been seen in the brains of overeaters, compulsive gamblers, video gamers, and more recently in "Internet addicts" (including porn-watchers).

Later, Abel examines whether or not "addiction" is even an apt term to describe his affliction and goes on to suggest that the lack of proper terminology for his struggle intensifies his problem. He wants to know what he's suffering from.

The earlier the use, the more profound the effects and the more difficult to treat. Maybe if this is officially recognized, I'll know if I'm a recovered porn addict, a porn abuser, or an early-stage recreational user experiencing an internalization of porn-based eroticism that has profoundly impacted what sexual stimuli I find salient (still searching for that shorter term). But for now, I'm allying myself with addiction.

Abel's entire piece is worth a look, even if only because someone publicly admitting his addiction to porn is rare and incredibly interesting. Plus, commentary on porn addiction seems to be having a moment, right now. Even Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Scarlett Johansson are joining the party.  [The Atlantic]

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