There are certain habits that society has turned a blind eye to now and again. They have become taboo for many, especially due to the media storm that covers and exaggerates each topic. One of these habits is pornography. Although its nature has always been controversial, pornography has risen to the top of collective awareness due to its flourishing success in the digital world. Whereas renting or buying physical copies of the material was both embarrassing and inconvenient, the anonymity and instantaneousness provided by online access has removed these social obstacles and increased the usage. Now the number of American viewers has doubled since 2007 according to the latest reports.
The behavior is widespread and most likely surpasses the current data since admitting to pornography use is a very personal matter. While its presence on the Internet is ubiquitous, the effects of its constant exposure to users has not been accurately explored. Many sources state the current landscape of pornography-related studies is lacking and it’s impacts of viewers need to be investigated.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) also does not include an official classification of the proposed disorder due to a lack of evidence. At the very least, progress within this field should observe or reclassify the habit as a sexual addiction for a larger scope of implications.
There was a study in 2011 that reviewed the addiction model of pornography from a neurological perspective. From its examples of past trials and examinations, one particular observation did show a link between sexual experience and a change in neuroplasticity. Similar to a suffering individual’s dependency on drugs or alcohol, the overall theory states that pornography also rewards its viewers on a neurological level that reinforces the behavior in a cyclical manner. This is also the conceptual framework that is reported by media outlets, which leads to the use of critical labels such as “porn addict” gaining traction among public rhetoric. However, many of these studies lack concrete evidence.
Although this belief has made its mark on the perception of pornography, research over recent years has begun to build a substantial counterpoint to the argument. A 2013 paper examined the exact effects of sexual imagery through the use of electroencephalography or EEG to measure the electrical activity in the brain. By observing the brain’s natural response to engaging stimuli, the study found that there was no connection between people who report difficulty controlling porn use and reacting to the sexual imagery. Another detailed observation in the same year claims that an erratic tendency to consume pornography may resemble a behavioral compulsion instead of an addiction. After interviewing the sample of participants, the U.K. researchers also found that key characteristics such as neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness and “obsessional checking behaviors” had a high association with pornography use. From these collected findings, the authors suggest the heightened exposure to pornography on the Internet may reflect a susceptibility to compulsive problems in general.
Other scientific sources have continued to criticize the limitations and biased influences of pornography addiction research. A 2014 study compares the relationship between researchers in the treatment field and businessmen in the porn industry to the idiom, “The Emperor has no clothes.” The phrase alludes to the fact that a powerful and successful industry supports treatments for pornography addiction while a lack of evidence exists. Until more findings are gathered and backed up, the authors advise that doctors and other professionals address behaviors without attaching the label of addiction.
The latest reports of pornography’s psychological effect have also taken developmental aspects into account. Analyzing the first-hand accounts from the Youth Internet Safety Survey, the study found that approximately 87 percent of youth looking for sexual images on the Internet are 14 years old or older, which is categorized as an average period of sexual exploration and curiosity. Overall, the results posit that the societal worry about excessive amounts of children viewing pornography online and suffering from behavioral defects may be overstated.
From this growing library of research, one could see that an addiction model may not cleanly contain the scope and nature of chronic pornography consumption. However, it is still important for people to recognize the actual, serious trends and side effects of excessive porn use. Although addiction may not be the most accurate definition, the behavior does display compulsive symptoms that should be addressed in some way.
At Sovereign Health of California, multiple residential facilities and the experienced staff that populate them provide healing support for various types of behavioral compulsions. If you or a loved one suffers from a severe lack of impulse control, contact a member of our team over the phone or through live chat to get help today.
Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer