20 thoughts on “The Power of Porn: Attention, Hyperfocus and Dissociation

  • March 4, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    Interesting piece. I’d suggest the brain region linking everything you have described is the frontal lobes – our so-called higher order processing, gives us our personality, and what makes humans humans region. Frontal lobe dysfunction can result in perseveration, distorted thought processes, impaired mood, self-focus, and a slew of other traits noted in addicts. Co-morbidity often exists in psychiatric illnesses. So it makes sense that anything that impairs frontal lobe function will lend a person more susceptible to addiction (arguably a byproduct of or resulting directly in frontal lobe dysfunction). Medical and psychological, neurological and psychiatric combined approaches are helpful, to prevent studying a disease in isolation, and aid in treatment.

    • July 14, 2016 at 3:30 pm


      aside from working on my addiction (the ever present difficulty), would you recommend seeing a medical professional? I went to a therapist for about six months. She was helpful, but I think unwilling to accept the notion that my answer may lie in healing the addiction and strengthening my Prefrontal Cortex. Instead, she took a sort of “mindfulness and acceptance” approach, encouraging me to accept peacefully my situation and even explored the notion that I might be an addict for life. I did not resonate, as I truly believe there is a way for me to strengthen my PFC, either with medication or with some sort of CBT, and so increase focus, decrease disassociation. In short, get my life back. Do you have any thoughts or suggestions? I would be SO grateful to hear.

  • March 4, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    Excellent article. Interestingly, some ex-porn users report radically improved ability to concentrate after they unhook from porn: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cupids-poisoned-arrow/201212/no-porn-better-working-memory
    To follow on Babs’ comment, addiction appears to cause hypofrontality, so this may be why addicts’ concentration improves as they heal their addictions. Many ex-porn users also report radical improvements in ability to pick up social cues: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cupids-poisoned-arrow/201209/porn-masturbation-and-mojo-neuroscience-perspective. In short, there’s a chicken-and-egg question perhaps. It’s not clear that treating these folks for the disorders you see will help as much as healing their addiction will help.

    • March 4, 2013 at 8:11 pm

      Another great comment. I agree with your last point and I think that’s why Carnes has called sex addiction an attention deficit disorder. Also why mindfulness works so well with addiction.

  • March 6, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    I have aspergers sydrome and view porn although a bit less now. I have recked a computer because of viruses from porn sites which is embarrassing taking it to be repaired at a computer shop. The reason I view porn is its the nearest thing i’ll get to a girlfriend. At the age of 47yrs old i’ve never had a relationship and sex. When my parents are not longer around I will commit suicide by hyperthermia or make up something from household chemicals. The world of women has only brought me 2 very painful rejections. I actually asked them for a date and got turned down and hundreds of rejections from dating sites over the years. I have been damaged by women. They are so materialistic and like men who are bits of rough eg a bit criminal, got big careers, very good looking, good socialisers like the leader of the pack etc. Now I find women my own age to old and they seem like grans. Years ago when I was 19yrs old I looked only 16 and that put girls of, now my age puts women of. I would like to meet a nice woman in her late twenties or early thirties. Going with someone in the 40s seems like failure. I go through depression, torment and have suicidal thought every day. Pills will not solve my problems. I’ve seen psychologists, doctors, occupational therapists, relate officers etc and am no closer.

    • April 22, 2013 at 2:21 am

      No idea if you’ll read this, Paul, but I’ll give it a shot anyway.

      I recognize your thought patterns, because they sound a lot like my own. Despair and pain were–and to some degree, still are–my constant companions. Mine were born from an admixture of personal failure and philosophical nihilism. Basically sex addiction and taking modernism bullshit too seriously. Suicidal thoughts were my norm, but something held me back. If my pain mattered, them surely my consciousness of that pain mattered, right? My life mattered. If all existence were just blind, meaningless pain, I’d lose all my motive to commit suicide, because life was the only place where I realized life is meaningless (a logical absurdity). Yeah, my life was effed up because of crappy decisions I’d made, and changing my habits would be painful, but it’s the only logical thing to do.

      • July 14, 2016 at 3:26 pm

        Read Camus.

  • April 22, 2013 at 2:10 am

    Glad to see increasing attention paid to this. As a 26 yo guy who has battled porn addiction for years, I hope there’s a push to pass along this advice to the current crop of young chaps growing up in the smartphone age. It would have spared me much shame and embarrassment to know the risks of viewing pornography.

    Interesting ties between ADHD/autism and sex addiction. I don’t think I have any type of clinical behavioral abnormality (besides the weirdness inherent to every human being), but I have noticed a marked lack of focus and ability to function socially in the midst of a porn binge. I feel numb to everything, and my experiences don’t stick to me or resonate as they should. My mind becomes a metaphorical cold, concrete wall: hard and unchanging, as well as stuck where it is. I can’t appreciate another person’s beauty or wit because I can’t notice them. Methinks it’s some kind of unconscious shame at what I’ve done in secret, and it’s a terrible state. I’ll be in this funk for so long that I’ll start to believe it’s really what my personality has changed into.

    But then I’ll go for a stretch of a month or so without relapsing. This normally coincides with religious inspiration of some kind. Or a turn at poetry or philosophy. I’ll be able to understand nuance and make timely witticisms in the presence of an attractive female (the ultimate test) without backsliding into smutty thoughts about her. Self-control makes one feel so alive. It’s about this time I get a girlfriend and eventually start a sexual relationship again, but then we’ll break up or whatever and I’ll be back at the computer filling the newfound urge, and destroying my mind all over again.

    This kind of article helps a lot, though, so thanks for writing it.

    • October 18, 2014 at 10:06 am

      Thanks for sharing how different you feel on and off porn. Perhapsit will help me feel more forgiving of my husband who hid his online orn habit from me for 12 years. I asked if he thought about porn videos while having sex with me and if he had not been caught, would he have continued with his secret life till one of us died; he answered yes to both. However, I recognize now his increased distance, isolation and depression were results of integrating the shame of his habit into his self image. His slide away from me was so gradual that I attributed it to advancing in age and the self rcrimination from being afraid to find a job that he hated less. He is no longer “under its spell” and is generally happier and more connected to me and other humans. The damage from lying to me cannot be undone, but hearing an insider’s take on how different you feel on and off the garbage will cause me to be a little less personally offended.

      • August 6, 2016 at 7:16 am

        I posted this when I still believed he had given up porn the first 2 years together as he claimed during Discovery week. All my new Sanon companions rolled their eyes, smiled and asked if I really believed this because it was an obvious lie to them. Eventually he admitted they were right. It’s the lies that hurt most.

    • July 14, 2016 at 3:31 pm

      I relate so perfectly to this.

      • August 6, 2016 at 7:57 am

        In the year leading up to him getting fired, he was so distant that I felt obligated to formally thank him for taking good care of me and our dogs. About once a month my appreciation was offered with an unreciprocated hug. It was liking shaking hands with someone I barely knew. He never touched me as he walked by, he rarely started a conversation. So glad he got busted. At least it explained the sour depression of our household. Can’t believe he wasted money on marriage counseling for MY alleged anger problem while he was keeping a big sexual secret. Unforgivable.

  • June 1, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    The ties between ADHD, Bi-polar disorder, and PTSD are staggeringly obvious. Their symptoms are extremely similar, and difficult to differentiate.
    I have many times been assessed in two different medical communities for mental health.
    Some have said BPD. Some have said PTSD, Some have said ADHD. I think personally, it’s all three. I also think that I was high functioning Autism and just never diagnosed. Of course – I’m no expert, just the person who tries to continue living through a whole notta help.
    From what I’ve seen, I predict that within 10 years ADHD will be enveloped within the Autism Spectrum, it’s the only that makes sense to my mind. I think BPD and PTSD are simply the by-products of environment and experiences that those with ADHD/ASD have assembled over their lifetime.

  • February 1, 2015 at 4:09 pm

    Excellent article!
    I agree with Michelle, there is so much similarity between the various disorder.
    I personally have been diagnosed as ADHD, OCPD and PTSD.
    Here are a few thoughts based on my personal experience:
    – I agree with you that some people are more vulnerable to any type of addiction. I think that you should add OCPD to your list. The OCPD symptoms of a need for order quest for perfection makes them particularly vulnerable. Pleasurable behaviors can quickly become a habit/addiction.
    – I think that studies should look at overall “Internet addiction;” Not just porn addiction. I went through several phases of Internet addiction; pornography, online stock trading and sports.
    – I believe that the Internet has created severe problems with respect to being able to “shift attention.” This is especially true when we have access to our work from anywhere.
    – Studies are now showing that many cases of ADHD are actually cases of sleep deprivation. I was diagnosed as ADHD at the age of 49 in 2006. However, I found out four years later that I had severe sleep apnea. I was prescribed every ADHD medication available and not of them helped me. They made me more aggressive at multitasking, but at the end of the day I hadn’t gotten any more done.
    – ADHD diagnosis rates in children are increasing and I think that sleep deprivation and Technology (computer, phone and Internet) should be looked at as causal factors. Technology is creating a bombardment of stimulus.
    – I can relate to “hyperfocus.” I called it “going into the tunnel” when I had to concentrate for hours on a project.
    – PTSD creates another layer of addiction problems with disassociation/”self-medicating.”
    – I have learned a lot since I started behavioral treatment in December 2005. It has been a frustrating journey; unable to find a medication that would help. Most of the medications have confusion and insomnia side effects. It is impossible when you’
    are dealing with multiple disorders.

  • February 1, 2015 at 4:57 pm

    There has been speculation that Steve Jobs and other great minds all relied on an “obsessive component” that fueled their drive and creativity..Indeed, I found that my ability to hyperfocus was an asset during most of my career.
    However, with the traumatic events of a divorce and other stress, my OCPD went into overdrive and I became a perfectionist that analyzed everything to the nth degree;
    “analysis paralysis.”

    This is a good article on Steve Jobs another great minds.

    BTW, I have done research on emotional abandonment which concludes that children compensate for emotional abandonment with perfectionism. My mom had anxiety and depression issues from her decision to place her four-year-old child up for adoption This occurred 10 years before she married my dad. She spent a lot of time in bed and she was not emotionally available to me when I was growing up. My divorce after 34 years of marriage opened a lot of psychological wounds related to emotional abandonment.

    • July 14, 2016 at 3:35 pm

      Very, very true. My “Hyperfocus” has been incredibly useful for me in my life, allowing me to accomplish great things with relative ease. But once I quit watching porn, something in my mind “broke”, and it’s like my mind, ever since, has been spiraling away, out of control. I get so caught up on the tiniest little thing, I can obsess and analyze for hours.

  • July 14, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    I am a recovering pornography addict, and I very much resonate with this article. Thank you for posting! I have been a life-long user, getting hooked at the early age of 11, and using heavily all the way until I was about 23. Still struggling with relapse. My life has become somewhat of a nightmare since stopping — high anxiety, and most intensely, dissociation a la DP/DR. Don’t know if my brain just sort of “checked out” b/c the trauma of cutting off the dopamine fix was too great?

    Anyway, I myself have often wondered if I have Asperger’s or high-functioning autism. Since quitting porn, I go through periods of extreme social awkwardness. I seem constantly to be lost in my own world — time becomes difficult, conceptually, to grasp. My ability to comprehend big ideas seems to be pretty much shot. I have to be very procedural about everything I do, because I no longer possess the ability to manage a task based on its overarching, or transcendental principles, but rather must focus on each step. This is quite the contrast to how I was before I stopped the porn. Before, I was very social, very successful, a top student, etc.

    Thank you for this article. If anything, it confirms that I’m not alone, and that other sex-addicts, who chronically abuse their frontal lobes, struggle with the same sort of things.

  • July 14, 2016 at 3:39 pm

    Also interesting to note is that dopamine-inducing activities (like porn), seem to bring me ever-so-slightly out of the fog and dissociative state, which implies that the problem really is with dopamine signaling in the PFC. Coffee, for example, (which has a “positive” affect on dopamine), helps me feel more like I”m in my body, and helps me relate to people. I recently fell in love, as well, and had more “good days” in the past three months than I have for the past two years.

    • August 6, 2016 at 7:29 am

      Yay for love. All relationships take work in the area of emotions, especially for those of us with intimacy disorders. I looked at a Gottman book the other day and he emphasizes repeatedly disclosing emotions during conflict to get to the underlying emotional threat causing the disagreement. The two wrong alternative approaches to conflict are to atack or avoid. It takes courage to admit those vulnerable emotions we would rather push down and later medicate away!


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