About This Site
This site is secular, although everyone's views are welcome. It is primarily science-based, and no one here is trying to ban porn. This is not a commercial site. We created the site because we don’t like people suffering needlessly simply because they lack critical information for improving their circumstances themselves. (To contact YBOP admins you must create an account)
This site focuses on porn’s effects on the brain—male or female. However, since this has been predominantly a male challenge (and the self-reports are overwhelmingly from men), the site has a definite male slant. However, addiction is addiction, and more females are starting to report Internet porn problems. If you are female, you may want to see Articles of Special Interest to Women.
Although we don’t offer a structured program, we do share suggestions as to how others have reversed the unwanted effects of heavy porn use.
This site will help you understand exactly how today’s extreme Internet porn can alter the brain. Armed with that knowledge, you’ll realize that some primitive circuitry in your brain is just trying to do its job when it pushes you toward porn. And you’ll see how to outsmart it and restore your balance.
This site grew out of 15 years of research analysis on the effects of sex on the brain, and nine years of listening to recovering porn addicts. There’s a vacuum of critically important information about porn's effects on the brain. It is lost in the gulf that exists between the folks who see porn use as immoral, and the mainstream who sees Internet porn as no different from Dad’s Playboy magazines.
In our view, porn use isn’t a moral issue. Yet, to the human brain, Internet porn is as different from erotic magazines as “World of Warcraft” is from checkers. The ability of this unique supernormal stimulus to alter the brain has major implications for the user (especially during adolescence).
You can start anywhere on the site, but it's important to understand your predicament. To get the basics, watch the series Your Brain On Porn, or read the overview on the front page. Next you may want to continue to "Articles" or "Videos" from the list below (which are the menu items at the top of the page).
- Support: Links to other helpful websites. YBOP has no forum.
- Rebooting: Read the basics before you get started. Browse the rebooting accounts. Note - YBOP's policy is to not censor content of the rebooting stories or other self-reports.
- Tools for Change: Tools you can use to help you in your recovery, starting with rebooting and rewiring your brain. Contains many personal accounts and tips.
- Porn FAQ's: Here we (and porn users) answer the most commonly asked questions. Contains many personal accounts.
- Videos: View our presentations, and other videos on addiction and porn addiction.
- Articles: Porn related articles in six categories, covering a diverse range of subjects important to you. Written for the general public, with easy to understand science and porn users' stories.
- Research Page: Contains articles, excerpts and research that relate to porn addiction and recovery, as well as a Humor section. Also see the audio-visual presentations appear.
- See Questionable & Misleading Studies for highly publicized papers that are not what they claim to be.
It's great to see so many visitors bounce back as they integrate the information here. Once they understand their options, they steer for the results they want. As we say, “Balance, not perfection, is the goal.” No one here cares what you do with your genitals. We do care that you are accurately informed about your brain. Welcome.
What is YBOP claiming?
1. Internet porn addiction exists.
2. All addictions entail a constellation of shared fundamental brain changes, which have been documented in both substance and chemical addictions, and which are reflected in a specific set of signs & symptoms.
3. Porn-induced sexual dysfunctions exist.
4. Internet porn is inducing morphing sexual tastes in some users.
5. Internet porn is inducing various other symptoms (loss of attraction to real partners, social anxiety, depression, brain fog, lack of motivation and withdrawal symptoms) in some users.
6. Many who give up Internet porn often notice gradual improvement in items 3-5. The only variable they appear to have in common is Internet porn use.
7. Intense arousal has the power to condition sexuality, particularly adolescent sexuality, as a matter of neuroscience.
Is there any scientific foundation for these claims? Yes. In fact, it is "pseudoscience" to suggest that porn addiction does not exist. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (3000 addiction doctors and researchers) agrees that "sexual behavior addictions exist" and involve the same mechanisms and symptoms as other addictions. Social anxiety, depression, lack of motivation, brain fog and withdrawal symptoms are common in all addictions. Medical experts and recent studies have confirmed that porn-induced erectile dysfunctions exist. We suspect porn-induced sexual problems are widespread as recent research has documented a 1000% or more rise in erectile dysfunction rates in men under 40. Low libido rates are up 400%. Such shocking statistics are likely related to the fact that adolescent brains are particularly plastic and hyper-responsive to reward.
Where is the scientific support for the suggestion that Internet porn addiction exists?
See this 2015 paper by two medical doctors: Sex Addiction as a Disease: Evidence for Assessment, Diagnosis, and Response to Critics (2015), which provides a chart from that takes on specific criticisms and offers citations that counter them. For a thorough review of the neuroscience literature related to Internet addiction subtypes, with special focus on internet porn addiction, see - Neuroscience of Internet Pornography Addiction: A Review and Update (2015). The review also critiques two recent headline-grabbing EEG studies which purport to have "debunked porn addiction (see this page for critiques and analysis of highly questionable and misleading studies). This short review, Neurobiology of Compulsive Sexual Behavior: Emerging Science (2016), stated:
"Given some similarities between CSB and drug addictions, interventions effective for addictions may hold promise for CSB, thus providing insight into future research directions to investigate this possibility directly."
A 2016 review of compulsive sexual behaviors (CSB) by neuroscientists at Yale and Cambridge universities - Should compulsive sexual behavior be considered an addiction? - concluded that:
"Overlapping features exist between CSB and substance use disorders. Common neurotransmitter systems may contribute to CSB and substance use disorders, and recent neuroimaging studies highlight similarities relating to craving and attentional biases."
And a 2016 review by neuroscientists from the Max Planck institute - Neurobiological Basis of Hypersexuality - concluded;
"Taken together, the evidence seems to imply that alterations in the frontal lobe, amygdala, hippocampus, hypothalamus, septum, and brain regions that process reward play a prominent role in the emergence of hypersexuality. Genetic studies and neuropharmacological treatment approaches point at an involvement of the dopaminergic system."
By US Navy doctors: Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review with Clinical Reports (2016). It’s an extensive review of the literature on porn-induced sexual problems. The review provides the latest data revealing a tremendous rise in youthful sexual problems. The paper also examines the neurological studies related to porn addiction and sexual conditioning. The doctors provide 3 clinical reports of men who developed porn-induced sexual dysfunctions.
In addition, all published brain and neuropsychological studies support the claims made by YBOP (for an updated list see: Brain Studies on Porn Users)
- Brain Structure and Functional Connectivity Associated With Pornography Consumption: The Brain on Porn (2014) - A German study which found 3 significant addiction-related brain changes that correlated with the amount of porn consumed. It also found that the more porn consumed the less activity in the reward circuit, indicating desensitization, and increasing the need for greater stimulation (tolerance).
- Neural Correlates of Sexual Cue Reactivity in Individuals with and without Compulsive Sexual Behaviours (2014) - The first in a series of studies. It found the same brain activity as seen in drug addicts and alcoholics. It also found that porn addicts fit the accepted addiction model of wanting "it" more, but not liking "it" more. One other major finding (not reported in the media), was that over 50% of subjects (average age: 25) had difficulty achieving erections/arousal with real partners, yet could achieve erections with porn.
- Enhanced Attentional Bias towards Sexually Explicit Cues in Individuals with and without Compulsive Sexual Behaviours (2014) - Findings match those seen in drug addiction.
- Novelty, Conditioning and Attentional Bias to Sexual Rewards (2015) - Compared to controls porn addicts preferred sexual novelty and conditioned cues associated porn. However, the brains of porn addicts habituated faster to sexual images. Since novelty preference wasn't pre-existing, porn addiction drives novelty-seeking in an attempt to overcome habituation and desensitization.
- Neural Substrates of Sexual Desire in Individuals with Problematic Hypersexual Behavior (2015) - This Korean fMRI study replicates other brain studies on porn users. Like the Cambridge University studies it found cue-induced brain activation patterns in sex addicts which mirrored the patterns of drug addicts. In line with several German studies it found alterations in the prefrontal cortex which match the changes observed in drug addicts.
- Sexual Desire, not Hypersexuality, is Related to Neurophysiological Responses Elicited by Sexual Images (2013) - This EEG study was touted in the media as evidence against the existence of porn addiction. Not so. This SPAN Lab study, like #5 below, actually supports the existence of porn addiction. Why? The study reported higher EEG readings (P300) when subjects were exposed to porn photos. Studies consistently show that an elevated P300 occurs when addicts are exposed to cues (such as images) related to their addiction. However, the study had no control group for comparison, which made the findings uninterpretable. In line with the Cambridge studies, this EEG study reported greater cue-reactivity to porn correlated with less desire for partnered sex. Neither finding matched the headlines. Read more.
- Modulation of Late Positive Potentials by Sexual Images in Problem Users and Controls Inconsistent with "Porn Addiction" (2015) - Another SPAN Lab EEG study comparing the 2013 subjects from the above study to an actual control group. The results: compared to controls porn addicts had less response to photos of vanilla porn. The lead author, Nicole Prause, claims these results debunk porn addiction, yet these findings align perfectly with Kühn & Gallinat (2014), which found that more porn use correlated with less brain activation in response to pictures of vanilla porn. In other words, "porn addicts" were desensitized and needed greater stimulation than non-addicts. Read more.
- HPA axis dysregulation in men with hypersexual disorder (2015) - The Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis is the central player in our stress response. Addictions alter the brain's stress circuits leading to a dysfunctional HPA axis. This study on sex addicts (hypersexuals) found altered stress responses that mirror drug addiction.
- Compulsive sexual behavior: Prefrontal and limbic volume and interactions (2016) - Compared to healthy controls CSB subjects (porn addicts) had increased left amygdala volume and reduced functional connectivity between the amygdala and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex DLPFC.
- Increased sensitivity to erotic reward cues in subjects with compulsive sexual behaviors (2015) - This upcoming fMRI study compared reward center activity of controls to compulsive porn users. Compared to controls compulsive porn users had far greater reward center activity and attentional bias when exposed to sexual cues. Both findings align with the two Cambridge studies (above), and the accepted model of addiction - incentive sensitization.
- Ventral striatum activity when watching preferred pornographic pictures is correlated with symptoms of Internet pornography addiction (2016) - Finding #1: Reward center activity (ventral striatum) was higher for preferred pornographic pictures. Finding #2: Ventral striatum reactivity correlated with the internet sex addiction score. Both findings indicate sensitization and align with the addiction model. The authors state that the "Neural basis of Internet pornography addiction is comparable to other addictions."
- Altered Appetitive Conditioning and Neural Connectivity in Subjects With Compulsive Sexual Behavior (2016) - A German fMRI study replicating two major findings from Voon et al., 2014 and Kuhn & Gallinat 2014. Main Findings: The neural correlates of appetitive conditioning and neural connectivity were altered in the CSB group. According to the researchers, the first alteration - heightened amygdala activation - might reflect facilitated conditioning (greater "wiring" to previously neutral cues predicting porn images). The second alteration - decreased connectivity between the ventral striatum and the prefrontal cortex - could be a marker for impaired ability to control impulses. Said the researchers, "These [alterations] are in line with other studies investigating the neural correlates of addiction disorders and impulse control deficits." The findings of greater amygdalar activation to cues (sensitization) and decreased connectivity between the reward center and the prefrontal cortex (hypofrontality) are two of the major brain changes seen in substance addiction. In addition, 3 of the 20 compulsive porn users suffered from "orgasmic-erection disorder".
- Compulsivity across the pathological misuse of drug and non-drug rewards (2016) - A Cambridge University study comparing aspects of compulsivity in alcoholics, binge-eaters, video game addicts and porn addicts (CSB). Excerpts: CSB subjects were faster to learning from rewards in the acquisition phase compared to healthy volunteers and were more likely to perseverate or stay after either a loss or a win in the Reward condition. These findings converge with our previous findings of enhanced preference for stimuli conditioned to either sexual or monetary outcomes, overall suggesting enhanced sensitivity to rewards (Banca et al., 2016).
- Preliminary investigation of the impulsive and neuroanatomical characteristics of compulsive sexual behavior (2009) - Primarily sex addicts. Study reports more impulsive behavior in a Go-NoGo task in sex addicts (hypersexuals) compared to control participants. Brain scans revealed that sex addicts had greater disorganized prefrontal cortex white matter. This finding is consistent with hypofrontality, a hallmark of addiction.
Together these brain studies found:
- The 3 major addiction-related brain changes: sensitization, desensitization, and hypofrontality.
- More porn use correlated with less grey matter in the reward circuit (dorsal striatum).
- More porn use correlated with less reward circuit activation when briefly viewing sexual images.
- More porn use correlated with disrupted neural connections between the reward circuit and prefrontal cortex.
- Porn addicts had greater prefrontal activity to sexual cues, but less brain activity to normal stimuli (matches drug addiction).
- 60% of compulsive porn addicted subjects in one study experienced ED or low libido with partners, but not with porn: all stated that internet porn use caused their ED/low libido.
- Enhanced attentional bias comparable to drug users. Indicates sensitization (a product of DeltaFosb).
- Greater wanting & craving for porn, but not greater liking. This aligns with the accepted model of addiction - incentive sensitization.
- Porn addicts have greater preference for sexual novelty yet their brains habituated faster to sexual images. Not pre-existing.
- The younger the porn users the greater the cue-induced reactivity in the reward center.
- Higher EEG (P300) readings when porn users were exposed to porn cues (which occurs in other addictions).
- Less desire for sex with a person correlating with greater cue-reactivity to porn images.
- More porn use correlated with lower LPP amplitude when briefly viewing sexual photos: indicates habituation or desensitization.
- Dysfunctional HPA axis which reflects altered brain stress circuits.
The following neuropsychology studies add support to the above neurological studies:
- Watching Pornographic Pictures on the Internet: Role of Sexual Arousal Ratings and Psychological-Psychiatric Symptoms for Using Internet Sex Sites Excessively (2011)
- Pornographic picture processing interferes with working memory performance (2013)
- Sexual Picture Processing Interferes with Decision-Making Under Ambiguity (2013)
- Cybersex addiction: Experienced sexual arousal when watching pornography and not real-life sexual contacts makes the difference (2013)
- Cybersex addiction in heterosexual female users of internet pornography can be explained by gratification hypothesis (2014)
- Empirical Evidence and Theoretical Considerations on Factors Contributing to Cybersex Addiction From a Cognitive Behavioral View (2014)
- Implicit associations in cybersex addiction: Adaption of an Implicit Association Test with pornographic pictures. (2015)
- Symptoms of cybersex addiction can be linked to both approaching and avoiding pornographic stimuli: results from an analog sample of regular cybersex users (2015)
- Getting stuck with pornography? Overuse or neglect of cybersex cues in a multitasking situation is related to symptoms of cybersex addiction (2015)
- Sexual Excitability and Dysfunctional Coping Determine Cybersex Addiction in Homosexual Males (2015)
- Trading Later Rewards for Current Pleasure: Pornography Consumption and Delay Discounting (2015)
- Subjective Craving for Pornography and Associative Learning Predict Tendencies Towards Cybersex Addiction in a Sample of Regular Cybersex Users (2016)
- Prefrontal control and internet addiction: a theoretical model and review of neuropsychological and neuroimaging findings (2015)
- Exploring the Relationship between Sexual Compulsivity and Attentional Bias to Sex-Related Words in a Cohort of Sexually Active Individuals (2016)
While we don't offer any estimates of percentages of guys with Internet porn-related symptoms, we do warn that Internet porn appears to be hooking a greater percentage of users than porn of the past. We base this claim on hundreds of recent Internet addiction/online gaming studies (some including Internet porn use). Some show percentages of addicts as high as one in four among young males.
High rates of Internet addiction in young males would be consistent with what young porn users report about their peers, i.e, that both Internet porn usage and related problems are extremely common. The rise of streaming tube porn sites is apparently a key variable in symptom prevalence/severity. We suspect that Internet porn addiction rates may someday rival food addiction rates because both junk food and Internet porn are supernormal variations of the two prime natural rewards the human brain evolved to pursue. More than two-thirds of adult Americans are overweight and almost half of those obese (most of them addicted to high-fat, high-sugar, extra salty foods).
It is most unscientific to ignore the Internet addiction studies and assert (as do porn-addiction skeptics) that only (nonexistent) studies that isolate Internet porn use could prove its existence. First, although Internet porn taps into our innate sexual programming in a hyperstimulating way (due to its constant novelty), Internet porn addiction is, above all, an Internet addiction--just like online gaming addiction and general Internet addiction. Without high-speed Internet, no Internet addictions would exist.
Second, the import of the public statement of the American Society of Addiction Medicine is that all addictions, behavioral and chemical, are evidence of a common set of fundamental brain changes and can be diagnosed from the same basic diagnostic questions, independent of the particular activity or substance. For example, if an Internet user reports (1) continued use despite negative consequences, (2) cravings, (3) inability to control use, and (4) compulsion to use, it doesn't matter if he's a gamer, a porn viewer, or a combination of the two. He has an Internet addiction.
Meanwhile, it's a good thing that porn-specific studies aren't needed to confirm porn addiction as a scientific matter, because the Internet porn study the skeptics insist they would need to accept the existence of Internet porn addiction cannot be done. First, control groups of non-porn users among young males would be very difficult to round up. Second, ethics boards wouldn't permit half of the subjects to be exposed to years of hardcore porn use in order to study the effects. Third, ethics boards would not allow research where porn users are asked to eliminate masturbation to porn for months to create ex-users for comparison.
It's also unscientific to hold up pre-highspeed porn addiction rates, or, even more absurdly, sex addiction ("hypersexuality") rates, as evidence that Internet porn addiction rates are low. How relevant are any of these other addictions to a condition dependent on highspeed Internet?
To state this another way: Since the research shows that Internet addiction and online gaming addiction exist and are not harmless, the burden of proof is now on the porn skeptics to reveal scientific reasons why Internet porn use would be uniquely harmless. (Keep in mind that Dutch researchers have already shown that of all cyber pastimes, cyber erotica is the most compelling, i.e., potentially addictive.)
Is there scientific evidence for the claim that Internet porn can recondition sexuality?
Both sexual conditioning and addiction are on the same spectrum in a sense. That is, addiction hijacks the sexual conditioning mechanism in the brain. See Natural and Drug Rewards Act on Common Neural Plasticity Mechanisms with ΔFosB as a Key Mediator (2013)
Lots of guys are reporting porn-related sexual performance and other problems who do not view themselves as addicts. (Who here doing NoFap isn't/wasn't an "addict?") Their experience that they have somehow rewired their sexuality even without having fallen into addiction is supported by research on virgin rats. Using high-arousal states, scientists have successfully conditioned young rats to prefer same-sex partners and partners who smell like rotting flesh (normally aversive). Researchers have also shown that early sexual conditioning is more lasting than sexual conditioning induced in adults after normal sexual behavior patterns are established.
Supporting the thousands of self reports, recent studies reveal a tremendous increase in erectile dysfunction and low libido in men under 40 - Research confirms sharp rise in youthful ED. This page contains several studies and articles by experts - Porn-Induced ED in the Media: Experts who recognize PIED.