It wasn’t all that long ago that people tended to giggle about pornography, thinking of it in the familiar image of a teenage boy smuggling a “girlie” magazine into his room. But pornography is no laughing matter, and it’s no longer about a handful of magazines hidden behind the drugstore counter.
To say that pornography has experienced an explosion is a gross understatement. At this moment, internet users can access 4.2 million — that’s 4.2 million — pornographic websites. And 40 million American adults are regular visitors to those sites. Among 18- to 24-year-old men, about 70 percent visit porn sites in a typical month.
So what’s the big deal — it’s just harmless looking at dirty pictures, right? If you think that’s the case, consider that more than half of divorces involve one spouse’s use of internet porn. Consider that the average age of first exposure to online porn is 10 or 11 years old. And if you don’t find either of those facts chilling, consider that you can find 150 sex ads for children posted every day in Indianapolis alone.
You may not think of pornography as an addictive substance, but it has the same effect on the brain as drugs and alcohol. Viewing online porn causes the brain to release dopamine, a chemical that causes a pleasurable feeling. That encourages the viewer to return to porn again and again, leading to increases in levels of dynorphin, which builds tolerance and demands more stimulation for the same reward, much as an alcoholic must consume more and more to achieve the same effect. And thanks to technology, it’s all too easy to find more.
At the same time, pornography also has psychological effects. Like other addictions, it offers an escape for the user, removing him (or her … yes, women are affected, too) from true feelings. He or she doesn’t have to delay self-gratification, which can lead to psychological dependence and obsessive-compulsive behavior, denial, and eventually, a level of control that transcends logic and reason.
Pornography becomes a form of “false intimacy,” replacing the legitimate human need for connection and meaningful relationships with others in an illegitimate way. When a spouse becomes a habitual consumer of porn, it drives a wedge between the couple, replacing the healthy intimacy that keeps marriages strong.
If you worry that porn is becoming too strong a habit for you, or if you sense that it’s begun to interfere with your marriage or other romantic relationship, don’t delay. Just like other addictions, it’s dangerous and will only get worse without intervention. If you wonder whether there’s a problem, there probably is. One of our professional counselors can listen to your situation, and help you determine the steps needed to restore healthy behavior. Contact us today.
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