Written by guest expert in process addiciton and certified counselor, Erik Goldfield
Decades ago, addiction was viewed as an individual affliction; there’s something inherently wrong with this individual, he/she has weak morals. This, in turn, conjured up images of destitute heroin users and alcoholics lurking in the shadows and selfishly endangering their families and loved ones. Later on, addiction was viewed from more of a socio-cultural lens. Different cultures, different views; such as Irishmen and women drinking at wakes, affluent privileged whites using cocaine, while impoverished minorities smoked crack. Addiction was once absolutism personified by addicts and their drugs of choice; narcotics, alcohol, and opioids. Today, addiction is something else. It’s a global brand. It’s porn, gambling, and video games, all just one click of a button away. The new face of addiction is not the dad that sneaks off at night to have a round of beers or whiskey at the local pub, but your son who glosses over thousands of sex scenes every day on the computer.
Our brains are meant to deal with positive reinforcement in gradual terms, not immediate. The age old expression, “If you work hard for something, it’s more rewarding” is essentially true, in the sense that our dorsal striatum (brain’s reward system) becomes more highly stimulated when it has been 1) anticipating something for a long while, and 2) not reinforced on a regular and constant basis. Countless studies, including one performed by the University Of Cambridge (2014), indicate that the gray matter area and reward center of the brain in people who play video games several hours a day, and/or watch porn for at least an hour per day, are nearly identical to those of long time opioid, narcotic, and alcohol addicts. People who play video games several hours a day and/or watch porn the same amount have a higher tolerance and greater need for this continued behavior to achieve the same “high”. Every time you click a button on your video game controller your brain is reinforced. This constant reinforcement, (especially seen in fighting and first person shooter games) creates a tolerance to any positive stimulation. People who play video games for hours and then experience something positive afterward may not even process it as positive at all, and become “mind numb” to external stimuli.
This is even more so the case with porn, as reproduction is our body’s most powerful biological need. Porn not only taps into our bodies’ biological needs, but also our reward center by creating constant, streaming positive reinforcement and arousal; something Kuhn and Gallinat (2014) refer to as the Coolidge effect. By viewing hundreds, if not thousands, of images and/or videos of erotic novelty, males will naturally have a powerful and automatic response that is shown in the brain as being similar to trying heroin for the first time. Porn essentially has evolved into the most addictive and overused substance in the world. What makes porn so dangerous is that it’s easily and privately accessible from anywhere in countless variations and not only triggers a huge release of dopamine in your brain, but also triggers your primitive brain into falsely thinking that you have become an Alpha male (as an animal or primitive man who has many female mates would be considered). Porn addiction is progressive and can have several serious side effects, such as sexual dysfunction, depression, lethargy and sleep regression, anger related issues during withdrawal, and not to mention the collateral damage it can have on relationships, and social functioning.
With modern day technology, parents have to become ever more vigilant in monitoring their child’s usage. A recent national survey done in December of 2015 indicated that 97% of boys and 62% of girls had watched porn before the age of 18. While overexposure with girls was less common, over 80% of the boys had become what researchers classified as “addicted” in that they watched at least once a day thereafter. The highly addictive components of porn, combined with how readily accessible it is, has put teenagers and even adolescents at risk. Click-click, bang-bang video games, click-click masturbate with porn, and surges of dopamine have now created an addict. Overexposure to either video games or pornography is dangerous and changing the way we as providers view addiction. Our generation’s new face of addiction isn’t a middle aged man with a five o’clock shadow beard and dark circles under his eyes, it’s a teenager; staring at a screen.
Some signs that someone you love may be addicted to either video games or porn are:
- Give countless excuses why they can’t get off their video game system when asked
- Are reluctant to part with their phone for any length of time
- Spend hours alone in their room isolated from social interaction
- Lying to friends or family about the amount of time spent playing
- Preoccupied thoughts and conversations about playing or watching porn
- No past history in internet browser due to deletion
- Feelings or irritability when unable to play or be in front of the computer
- Inability to stop watching porn despite past negative consequences
- Increased amount of time playing video games or wanting to be in front of the computer
- Loss of interest in personal or social relationships.
If someone you know displays more than one or two of these symptoms, there is a good chance they are addicted to porn and/or video games. In this case, you can seek out confidential treatment at a mental health clinic, or join a group for the specific addiction. More information on clinics and recommended groups are included below.
Group and Clinics for Sex or porn and video game addiction treatment:
Dr. Morgan Enright: 704-706-9451
Both Video game & porn addiction:
South Charlotte Family Counseling: http://www.southcharlottefamilycounseling.com
Kühn S, Gallinat J. Brain Structure and Functional Connectivity Associated With Pornography Consumption The Brain on Porn. JAMA Psychiatry. 2014;71(7):827-834. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.93
University of Cambridge. (2014, July 11). Brain activity in sex addiction mirrors that of drug addiction. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 11, 2016 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140711153327.htm