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Why Porn Makes Your World Smaller

Many people recognize that they turn to porn in times of stress or difficulty, but did you know that habitual porn use actually makes your life seem less worth living?

Here’s why (and what you can do about it).

I’ve written previously how a powerful cocktail of neurochemicals is released during porn use that produce feelings of calm, connection, and vitality. Because of this, with repeated porn-use, our brains learn to turn to porn to bring these sensations when we need them.

For example, if you’ve used porn for some time, then when you feel stressed today, your brain will likely urge you toward porn as a way to produce calm; when you feel lonely, your brain will urge you toward porn to feel connected; or when you feel weary, your brain will urge you toward porn to feel alert. 

None of this is because your brain is bad, rather it’s simply doing what it’s been taught.

But there’s a problem. This on-demand way of producing feelings of calm, connection, or vitality actually produces more of the neurochemicals than your brain is designed to handle. Subsequently, your brain initiates a kind of safety protocol in order to bring your neurochemistry back to normal. It begins to shut down a number of its neuroreceptors, so although the feel-good neurochemicals are still pumping, your system is no longer receiving too many of them.  

Problem solved? Not quite.

As I shared in my post last week, the neurochemicals that are released during sexual intimacy are also produced during many other important, normal, healthy activities and relationships in your life. So, when fewer of your brain’s neuroreceptors are active, those things that once brought you a sense of life and love cease to satisfy you. For example, time spent with a good friend may have once filled you with a sense of being loved, but now the idea of getting together sounds like a bother. Or although a walk used to help you calm down after a stressful day, now you just feel distracted and stressed the whole time.

When normal, healthy activities and relationships cease to help you regulate your emotions, what is there left to do? You have two options, really:

The first option is to use more porn, watch more intense porn, or engage in riskier sexual behaviors. Sadly, this is a course that many take without ever realizing what’s happening. They just know that now they’re crossing lines they once never imagined they’d cross, and doing things they never thought they’d do. Sadder still, when those neurochemicals are released in greater measure or greater frequency, the brain again initiate the safety protocol and shut down more neuroreceptors. And on and on it goes.

The second option is to leave porn behind for good. Just as the brain adapted to the on-demand flood of neurochemicals by shutting down neuroreceptors, once that flood of neurochemicals ceases to over-stimulate, the brain will again work to bring your neurochemistry back to normal, this time by bringing neuroreceptors back online.   

This takes time, and some sex-addiction recovery experts have compared this experience to the withdrawal symptoms a drug-addict goes through when becoming sober. So for a time, expect to feel more tired, irritable, hungry, less hungry, depressed, or stressed. If you’ve begun abstaining from porn, these feelings aren’t bad news, rather they’re a sign that your system is detoxing.

One last thing: Can you see God’s heart in all of this for you? Despite what the world may say, God’s prohibitions against sin are not because he’s a killjoy, but rather he wants you to be free to experience real joy, real connection, and real life. What’s more, where your healthy pursuits of life and love still leave you wanting, that too is a sign—a sign you were made for a life and love bigger than this world has to offer. Porn promises to deliver that, but in the end it actually makes your life smaller.

Jesus’ invitation, on the other hand, is life overflowing, infinite love, and joy eternal.

If we can help you on this journey, please let us know.

For you,

Josh

5 thoughts on “Why Porn Makes Your World Smaller”

  1. Josh – you have once again hit nail square on the head. I’ve been struggling with this for years. Thanks for sharing this message. <

    1. You’re welcome, David. For a good read on this, you might want to check out Dr. William Struther’s book Wired for Intimacy or Mark Kastleman’s book The Drug of the New Millennium.

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