We talk a lot about the doom and gloom of porn addiction. How it will affect our brains, ruin relationships, etc, etc. That information can be important and help us create better strategies for our recovery but let’s be honest; it can also be really depressing. So let’s look at the other side of the equation, most of the science that supports how harmful porn can be also proves that recovery is possible. More than possible; biological.

 

  • Once porn is left behind, the brain pathways it created will start to fade. ● Doidge, Norman. The Brain that Changes Itself. New York: Viking, 2007. —

Have you heard the “feed the right wolf” analogy? If not, it’s pretty simple.

If there are two metaphorical wolves locked in a power struggle, you can decide the outcome by choosing to feed one or the other. As one influence or “wolf” becomes stronger the other becomes weaker. This is exactly what happened when we started getting involved with porn, we kept feeding it and it got stronger. If we turn the tables it can be our way out.

As we build positive influences into our lives and gain more and more distance from pornography the pathways in our brain that tell us we need it will start to shrink. It will be slow but it will happen.

  • When a brain that has become accustomed to chronic overstimulation stops getting that overstimulation, neurochemical changes in the brain start happening. As a result, many users report withdrawal symptoms. ● Avena, N. M. and P. V. Rada. “Cholinergic modulation of Food and Drug Satiety and Withdrawal.” Physiology & Behavior 106, no. 3 (2012): 332–36. —

This might sound bad but it is actually very good. Like a marathon runner who learns to love the burn because it means they are growing stronger and faster we can celebrate the pain. Withdrawal sucks and it can be frustrating but it means our brain is changing. Instead of looking at it as evidence of how messed up you are think of it like burning calories or soreness after a workout.

And guess what? People have found that when they approach their withdrawal symptoms with this type of positivity they find them less powerful and shorter. So it’s a win-win.

  • The brain can regain sensitivity to healthy, everyday activities. ● Lisle, Douglas and Alan Goldhamer. The Pleasure Trap. Summertown, TN: Healthy Living Publications. —

One of the main parts of our brain that is affected by porn use is our reward center. Basically what happens is that thing gets over-clocked. This results in it producing less of the the “happy chemicals” (dopamine, serotonin, adrenaline, etc) and also becomes less responsive to them. Which means it takes more to make us feel good.

If we eliminate porn as our main source of these chemical releases our brain will start looking for new ones. We need start to connecting to positive things in our live that support our physical, emotional, mental and social health. These connections might start off small but they will grow and eventually replace the old neural pathways.

  • Research indicates that damaged frontal lobes can recover once constant overstimulation stops. ● Kim, Seog Ju, In Kyoon Lyoo, Jaeuk Hwang, Ain Chung, Young Hoon Sung, Jihyun Kim, Do-Hoon Kwon, Kee Hyun Chang, and Perry Renshaw. “Prefrontal Grey-matter Changes in Short-term and Long-term Abstinent Methamphetamine Abusers.” The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmocology, 9 (2006): 221–28.

Addiction can cause actual brain-damage, the most common of which is frontal-lobe shrinkage. This is the part of the brain that deals primarily with choice, logic and reasoning. This change is one of the main reasons scientists believe addictions can become so powerful, it’s like we’re missing the part of our brain that helps us make good choices.

What’s the silver lining?

It grows back!

Like anything it takes time but victory after victory will make a difference. The coolest part is that as our brain gets healthier it can theoretically get easier. Recovery teaches us core principles and builds specific habits that support the development of that decision-making part of our brain. Think of it like a muscle that gets bigger and stronger the more you use it.

All it takes is practice.