This section contains a few selected research papers on behavioral addictions. A common argument against the existence of porn addiction is that it can’t be an real addiction because it’s not a drug.
All addictions involve hijacking of the same neurocircuitry, and alterations of many of the same mechanisms and neurochemicals. A basic physiological principle is that drugs do not create anything new or different – they simply increase or decrease normal brain functions. In essence, we already possess the machinery for addiction (mammalian bonding/love circuitry), and for binging (yummy food, mating season).
Science has demonstrated that many of the same addictive brain changes occur in Internet addiction, pathological gambling and food addiction, as occur in drug addiction (please see other sections for specific studies). Only a single factor makes porn addiction unique: very little research has been done on it to date. However, that is changing as we now have:
- Porn/sex addiction? This page lists 40 neuroscience-based studies (MRI, fMRI, EEG, neuropsychological, hormonal). They provide strong support for the addiction model as their findings mirror the neurological findings reported in substance addiction studies.
- The real experts’ opinions on porn/sex addiction? This list contains 17 recent literature reviews & commentaries by some of the top neuroscientists in the world. All support the addiction model.
- Signs of addiction and escalation to more extreme material? Over 30 studies reporting findings consistent with escalation of porn use (tolerance), habituation to porn, and even withdrawal symptoms (all signs and symptoms associated with addiction).
- An official diagnosis? The world’s most widely used medical diagnostic manual, The International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), contains a new diagnosis suitable for porn addiction: “Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder.”
- Debunking the unsupported talking point that “high sexual desire” explains away porn or sex addiction: At least 25 studies falsify the claim that sex & porn addicts “just have high sexual desire”
- Porn and sexual problems? This list contains 27 studies linking porn use/porn addiction to sexual problems and lower arousal to sexual stimuli. The first 5 studies in the list demonstrate causation, as participants eliminated porn use and healed chronic sexual dysfunctions.
- Porn’s effects on relationships? Almost 60 studies link porn use to less sexual and relationship satisfaction. (As far as we know all studies involving males have reported more porn use linked to poorer sexual or relationship satisfaction.)
- Porn use affecting emotional and mental health? Over 55 studies link porn use to poorer mental-emotional health & poorer cognitive outcomes.
- Porn use affecting beliefs, attitudes and behaviors? Check out individual studies – over 25 studies link porn use to “un-egalitarian attitudes” toward women and sexist views – or the summary from this 2016 meta-analysis: Media and Sexualization: State of Empirical Research, 1995–2015.
For a neurosurgeon’s look at the science behind porn addiction read his talk delivered at SASH (The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health) entitled, “Changing the Stamp of Nature: Pornography Addiction, Neuroplasticity, and the ASAM and DSM Perspectives.”