I’ve decided to take a much needed week off from blogging, as I’m currently attending, along with many wonderful colleagues, the US Journal Training Conference on Sex and Love Addiction in Brooklyn. Jeff Schultz, a talented sex addiction counselor from the Phoenix area, has agreed to step in.

—Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S

Guest post by: Jeff Schultz
www.sonorancounselingservices.com

Jeff SchultzIs there a difference between the person who carries on with one secret sexual affair after another and the person entranced by Internet pornography?

Are sexual behaviors like affairs, sex with prostitutes, and anonymous sex a greater risk of harm to an individual or a relationship, or is pornography the greater risk?

Sex and pornography addiction both wreak havoc on individuals and relationships, yet we tend not to see Internet porn as being much of a “high risk.” Somehow, it can feel less threatening than, say, sexual massage or phone sex.

But the truth is that Internet porn addiction is the most common out-of-control sexual behavior for those addicted to sex.

It’s not just “guys being guys” and it’s not “just porn.” It’s Internet Porn and it’s powerfully addictive.

In my work as a Certified Sex Addiction Counselor abuse of Internet pornography is a part of the story for nearly all of my clients, and it’s the whole story for many.

Why is it that more sex addicts “fix” with Internet pornography than with other sexual behaviors? What makes it so addictive?

Sex is Survival

Job number one for the brain is to keep us alive.

Fortunately, we have some very old brain structures that focus on this goal. These structures jump into action when they perceive survival threats and they literally take control of our thinking in order to protect our lives.

For this primitive part of the brain, killing for food, eating and drinking, and having sex always come first. Our morals and values are a far lower priority when our survival is at risk. Staying alive has to come first.

Naturally, sex is as much a survival behavior as eating and drinking since the survival of our DNA requires conception. And so, nature rewards us for having sex by making it feel good, and it rewards us even more for having sex with new partners.

Survival Odds Improve with New Sex Partners

It makes sense from a survival perspective. Sex with multiple partners increases your odds of genetic survival, so we get a bigger dose of pleasure with each novel sexual experience. More pleasure equals more motivation.

When cavemen roamed the earth, sexual opportunities were few, but important. Nature gave us enough extra pleasure to make the search for new sexual partners motivating. The system worked and our genetic heritage survived until today.

Now, however, in a couple of minutes surfing Internet porn, our ancient brains can see more novel sexual opportunities than the caveman could see in many lifetimes.

Internet Porn is Infinite Sexual Novelty

Is it a surprise that Internet porn is so addictive? Every porn image or video is a new sexual opportunity to the brain, and each one sets off a powerful surge of feel-good stuff. With Internet porn, the brain is awash with pleasure hormones.

But our primitive brains weren’t wired for this much stimulation. It’s simply too much to handle. So, our brains begin a search for balance.

Internet Porn Leads to Desensitization and Craving

The brain protects itself from these surges of pleasure hormones by putting up a kind of shield. A new balance is thus achieved in the reward system of the brain, and those powerful Internet images and videos of old lose some of their power. The brain gets back to a balance, but it also gets desensitized to sexual pleasure.

Now it takes more arousal intensity to feel the same level of pleasure as before. And it’s not just sexual pleasure that is affected. The Internet porn user can get desensitized to pleasure more generally.

He or she just stops feeling much pleasure in things that used to feel great.

Internet porn can still deliver, though. There remains a huge volume of novel content to discover. It just takes more variety or more time to feel the old “high,” or arousal.

What we see is the beginning of a powerful dependency on Internet porn that leaves normally pleasurable experiences in the dust.

Porn-Induced Impotence

Without new sexual intensity at home, real sex with a real partner fails to bring the needed arousal to keep the equipment functioning. When the equipment begins to fail, we call the problem “porn-induced impotence.”

The porn user becomes desensitized to “old” sexual experiences, which cease to be as arousing or powerful. Now it takes more intense novelty to get turned on—the kind of novelty that Internet porn can consistently deliver.

The Bottom Line

We would be wise to take a careful look as a society and culture at what we think and say about pornography—especially Internet pornography.

There are huge numbers of men and women who are now addicted to porn that never would be if it weren’t for the Internet. My sex addiction counseling practice proves this to me daily.

Internet pornography is every bit as high a risk of harm to individuals and relationships as any other addictive sexual behavior, and it’s far more prevalent.

***

Jeff Schultz, LPC, CSAT, is a sex addiction counselor and founder of Sonoran Counseling Services in Phoenix, Arizona. Read more of Jeff’s work at Sonoran Counseling Services Blog. Jeff can also be found on

 


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Porn Addiction and Sex Addiction: What’s the Difference? (Opinion) (April 4, 2013)

From Psych Central's World of Psychology:
Best of Our Blogs: April 5, 2013 | World of Psychology (April 5, 2013)






    Last reviewed: 5 Apr 2013

APA Reference
Weiss LCSW, R. (2013). Porn Addiction and Sex Addiction: What’s the Difference?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2014, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/sex/2013/04/porn-addiction-and-sex-addiction-whats-the-difference/

 

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