Why teens are craving porn

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thumbs up for pornBangalore Mirror Bureau | Oct 29, 2014, 08.53 PM IST

In a weekly three-part series, Dr. Anuradha HS, child and teen consultant, discusses porn addiction in teens. In the first instalment, she highlights the neuroscience behind itThe statistics of the porn industry keep changing rapidly but according to the current data, it is judged to be worth 57 billion dollars of which US constitutes 12 billion. Porn revenue is larger than all combined revenues of all professional football, baseball and basketball franchises. Child pornography alone generates $3 billion annually.
According to reports, more than 80% of Indian high school students have been exposed to porn. In a survey of 300 children under the age of 13 in India, 67% admitted to accessing porn sites, most by their cell phones. (Cathnews India, October 12, 2011)

Teen brain and porn addiction
The adolescent brain is 'work in progress'. Neuroimaging studies indicate that the adolescents use the limbic system or the emotional part of the brain to interpret emotional information rather than the frontal cortex or the thinking part of the brain unlike adults which is why they may have trouble modulating emotional responses. The frontal cortex or the CEO of our brain matures throughout adolescence and undergoes pruning and re-organisation of new neuronal connections.

The reward circuit of the adolescent brain governs the pleasure and the award response and goes up to the rational brain. This is the part that gets activated when it comes to any addiction and dopamine is the craving-chemical that activates the reward circuit and makes the adolescent engage in repetitive behaviour leading to addiction. Dopamine makes the teenager want more and neurochemicals like the opioids help them feel the pleasure. With time the reward circuitry becomes numb and more and more dopamine is required by the individual to experience the same pleasure. This leads to more craving and finally addiction.
Studies show that the average age of first Internet exposure to pornography happens at 11 years of age. The largest consumers of Internet pornography are teenagers between 12 to 17 years old. It is also proven that 90% of teenagers view porn on the net while doing their homework.
Though the psychiatric world has not yet classified porn addiction as an 'addiction', evidence suggests that porn addiction produces changes akin to those seen in the brains of alcohol and drug abusers, gaming and food addicts. It also produces similar withdrawal effects like fatigue depression anxiety etc. indicating that porn addiction is a serious problem in teenagers and needs to be addressed. (For more information visit: yourbrainonporn.com/your-brain-on-porn-series OR pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/teenbrain/)

NEXT WEEK: Note the red flags and self-assessment tool.