At War: Porn

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Sex is awesome. We are at war.

There are 86,400 seconds in a single day, and intimacy is under attack every single one of them.

The gift that is physical intimacy was provided to man and woman by God in His creative design for us, and it has been hijacked by His enemies and perverted into something it was never meant to be. Identity, quick high, substitute for relationship, and pathway to intimacy are just some of the many shapes sex has taken in our culture, and in our world today. The derailing of this train was not subtle, but has since become so ingrained in us as the norm, we may never see different in this lifetime.

The culprit that helped accelerate this, and is so violently,relentlessly, but quietly attacking our relationship with God and each other is this: porn.

An Enemy In Our Midst

I’m not here to convince you there is a problem with pornography; truthfully there is little time for that. If you’re reading this, you’ve likely given it some thought, or you are well aware of the sexual bombardment we face as a people in today’s society. It is everywhere, and we are being told by everyone and everything what physical intimacy ‘is’. We don’t have to look far in our Bibles to see what it isn’t. Nevertheless we are constantly exposed, tempted, and desensitized to sexual practices replacing relationship on a daily basis. And now we have capabilities for unlimited viewing of pornography in the tiny super-computers that fit in our pockets.

These are practices the enemy of God has deployed to keep us so focused on the immediate, or what is in front us, that we slip further and further away from Him in pursuit of sex as just a form of pleasure.

The War Is Won, But The Fight Continues

Fortunately, the war against sin has been won for us by our King. Every swing of the hammers that nailed Him to the Cross was a victory blow to sin and death He delivered on our behalf. This does not, however, mean we can be complacent in our defense against the temptation of sexual immorality; and the best defense, as the old saying goes, is a good offense.

In order to be effective in our strategies for overcoming this sin that destroys intimacy and relationship we have understand a couple of key points:

  1. Porn is a problem, even for Christians. If 35% of pastors currently serving in the pulpit struggle with pornography, how much more does the average man or unbeliever? We have to start talking about this in Church, because it is a war that is claiming casualties in Church.
  2. Going to the front line alone may have worked for King David, but we are not David, and this will not work for us. Getting plugged in to a group of men who accept they are at war with the sin of lust will be one of the best decisions of your life, as you will quickly see you are not alone in this fight. When you are losing the battle or the fight, having backup to come to your aid and shower you with grace and truth is the spiritual equivalent to reinforcements in the theater of war.
  3. Accept extreme, even if the world doesn’t. When I say ‘extreme’ I do not mean violence that harms you or others. I don’t mean violence at all, but I do mean diligence, and boldness. Lock your cellphones down, rid yourself of electronic devices you don’t need, install website blocking or accountability software on your necessary devices. These steps will not change the heart, however they will buy you some time that you should fill with knee-scarring prayer to the Father for strength and tenacity to see the next day through with a pure heart (Psalm 51). Jesus commanded us to be bold when it comes to fighting sin in Matthew 5:29, but we have a lot of options in our armory that we can humble ourselves to use before we get to the eye-gouging. 

This is the first part in the series ‘At War: Porn’ and more entries will follow. Until next time, prayers to men and women everywhere who are waking up and fighting these battles…

Getting your spouse to Repent…

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This article was posted originally on my other blog at:

 Journey to Truth

Excellent article by Leslie Vernick.  This is a common theme in couples counseling, especially in those couples whom I work with where pornography or infidelity is an issue.  Please read the entire article, it is worth the time…


Article excerpt:

Question: My husband and I have been separated for 2 months now. How can our marital counselor start my husband down a road of true repentance? What are the actionable steps he needs to take?

Answer: This is probably one of the most frequent types of questions that I receive from women desperate to change their husband. “How can I or someone else, get my spouse down the road of repentance?”

Friend, that is not yours or anyone else’s work to do. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict someone and the one who has sinned must take the steps of repentance.

If it were possible for another person to get someone to take the steps of true repentance, we would think Jesus would be our role model. Yet, we see during the Last Supper, Jesus showed his disciples, including Judas, the full extent of his love. He knew Judas was about to betray him, told him he knew he was going to do it, and yet, Judas did not repent. He did not turn away from what he was about to do (John 13).

A Biblical example of someone who did display some of the fruit of true repentance was Zacchaeus (Luke 19). Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector. He loved money and had no problem extorting his fellow Jews for more tax money than was owed to fill up his own coffers. He is described as a very rich, but unpopular man.

When Jesus invited himself to Zacchaeus’ house for lunch that day, something in this man’s heart changed. We hear it when he says, “Lord, I will give half my wealth to the poor and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much.” These action steps indicate that Zacchaeus’ heart had been changed. He no longer loved his money the most anymore. He loved Jesus. We can see what happened by the way he handled his money and his desire to make restitution to those he took advantage of.

True repentance cannot be coerced or taught. If your husband is genuinely repentant, then he already has started down the path and with accountability and help he can make real changes. If he hasn’t repented yet, no one can create the steps that will take him there. Consequences may open his eyes to the results of his sin, but he still must personally change directions (which is the definition of repentance).

So I’m going to answer another question you didn’t ask. What does genuine or true repentance look like if it’s indeed happening? We all know people who say they have repented but there is no fruit or evidence of that reality in their lives.

Paul discusses this process in Ephesians 4 when he describes the changes that genuine repentance brings. He says, “throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God – truly righteous and holy.” And then he goes into specific situations.

For example, he says, “If you are a thief, quit stealing.” That is the first evidence of a change. The person STOPS doing what he was doing that was damaging to him or to you or to your relationship. He puts it off.

Secondly, Paul tells the thief something else. He goes on and says, “Instead, use your hands for good hard work.” You see a thief’s heart is one that takes what he wants with no regard for the people he harms. Now he is to take responsibility for his own needs by working instead of stealing from others.

Paul doesn’t stop there. He adds something else. He says, “Then give generously to others in need.” You see Paul says that transformation doesn’t just occur in outward actions, but in inward motives. The thief was to be transformed inwardly from a taker to a giver.

So if we take this model, of course, we want to see the sinful behavior stopped. We want to see responsibility assumed for one’s self, and we want to see a character transformation and new behaviors begin to develop.

Now we know this transformation is a process. It doesn’t occur in a moment. But what “evidence” do we see over time that this is happening?  What “fruits”are we looking for? Here are some things I look for without making a specific checklist.

  1. We see the person desiring to gain greater self-awareness. He begins to take responsibility for himself and asked himself why do I do what I do – without blaming other people or external situations for his own actions or feelings.  As he does this he begins to “put off” or stop himself from reacting or doing what he’s always done in the past. He self-corrects and gains self-control (one of the fruits of the Spirit).

2. We see him now open and willing to receive feedback from others. For example, when you notice he ’s slipping into some old behaviors, you can kindly tell him and he’s grateful, rather than angry or resentful.  It’s still up to him to “put off” those old behaviors, but he’s consistently practicing.

3. We see him willing to be accountable to a small group of trusted men to help him make the changes to his life he desires to make. Major life change never happens without accountability and support. How could Paul encourage the thief? Because he knew him. He understood what was happening in his heart and life and therefore he could speak into it.

So is your husband actively putting off the old thinking and habits and learning to respond in new ways by putting on new ways of thinking, feeling and behaving?

Are you observing a consistent change in his character as he now displays more humility instead of pride? Is there gratitude rather than entitlement, diligence rather than laziness, and compassion for others rather than impatience and anger? Is he becoming more God-centered rather than continuing to be self-centered and self-focused?  Is he willing to take responsibility for the pain he’s caused and no longer expects amnesty, but rather he is looking to make amends to those he’s harmed?

There is no exact list but you do want to see this kind of progression both internally and externally so that you are seeing the FRUIT of genuine repentance. Click To Tweet

Friends, when you have seen genuine repentance, what are some of the fruit you have noticed coming forth from a person?  


Article source: https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/39511834/posts/1816248807

Grace vs Guilt: Go and Sin No More

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When you become saved, you are saved by your faith alone, in the forgiveness and grace offered by Jesus Christ alone. These are the fundamental concepts of what is known in Christianity as the reformation, or the claim brought forth in the late 1500’s by a German monk named Martin Luther that countered the group think of the Roman Catholic Church, the thought that salvation could be purchased by financial contributions or works. Jesus Christ is who are you saved by, but what are you saved from?

You are saved from your sins against God, and the just penalty you would otherwise face without the intervening grace and mercy offered to you by Jesus Christ, God in the flesh. But what happens if you sin after you have been saved?

Can We be Sinless?

There’s a ton of debate on this question, that is: can humans be sinless? The short answer I subscribe to is: we won’t be sinless in this lifetime. Sin is so deeply rooted into the hearts of mankind that it seems it’d be impossible to escape it for now, and we certainly could not do so on our own strength.

It takes no time at all to think of the countless sins I’ve committed in my life, and the list isn’t what I would call ‘short’ since being rescued by Christ. The enemy of God, Satan, would love nothing more than to use these sins and the weight they carry to shame you and paralyze your growth in your relationship with Jesus. I know you hear the voice inside your head. It sounds a lot like your voice, telling you that you could never be sinless, you’re too lost, you’ve done too much wrong, and you should abandon any hope in God ever deeming you worthy. But the truth is, it has nothing to do with your worth, and everything to do with the worth of His Son, Jesus, who said your sins are “forgiven”. This is what makes you acceptable to God. That is ‘Grace’.

Romans 6: 1-2 – What shall we say then? Shall we go on sinning so grace may abound? By no means…

This is not a free pass to go on sinning. Jesus Christ said “Repent, and believe…”. There is a glaring requirement here besides just believing, and that is to repent. One who freely revels in their sins and gives no regard to their implications usually shows no fruit of a repentant believer in Christ Jesus. Contrarily, one who comes to hate their sins, mourns them when they occur, and strives daily to put the sin to death by praying for the Father’s help and spending time in the word will, in time, usually see the bondage of the accompanying guilt and shame broken, and the sin will hopefully be a distant memory. This process is called sanctification, or to be made holy.

The unfortunate part, for us, is because of the depth of the roots of sin we usually have to fight a war on many fronts. Lust for sex, porn, greed, excess, anger, dishonesty, infidelity, gluttony, envy, and our PRIDE are all faced daily in our culture. Sometimes the fight seems to already be lost before we even realize we are in the midst of battle.

Armor Up

We are told in Paul’s letter to Ephesus, to put on the ‘armor’ of God (Ephesians 6:11) to protect ourselves from the devil’s schemes. The devil will shower you with distraction, guilt, and shame when you’ve been called to follow Christ and still find yourself falling short of Christ Himself (Romans 3: 23). Remember the disciples, each of them with their flaws and faults, were still called by Jesus and sanctified over the course of their life as His followers.

The best way to armor up and protect yourself from the lies of the enemy are to read and pray daily. When you do this you will begin to intimately discover what kind of savior died for you, and His loving nature. One of the best illustrations we have in the Bible, while its origin is disputed, accurately depicts the loving and gracious nature of Jesus Christ when confronting a sinner, an adulteress more specifically. In John 8, after the hypocrites have dispersed and Jesus faces the adulteress, He doesn’t require her to be clean or without sin before He passes His judgment on her, nor does He ask her for some sort of work in return for salvation. He freely offers it to her.

He simply says, “Neither do I condemn thee. Go, and sin no more.”

The Real Battle for Sexual Purity

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Article written by: Jimmy Needham for the blog at Desiring God

I remember the first time I saw Jimmy’s testimony about overcoming pornograpy on YouTube, and it impacted me then.  I just found this article by him, and wanted to share both here on my blog.  Enjoy.

Here is the link to the video I mentioned above: 



I used to look at pornography nearly every day for a decade. But for the past twelve years, by God’s grace, I have not visited a single porn site.

For many battling addiction, that sentence embodies what we’re striving for. That sentence, however, is not a success story.

As we all know by now, lust manifesting in addiction to pornography is rampant in our tech-savvy culture, and sadly it’s little different among Christians. I’m in weekly conversations with college guys at our church who are fighting hard against lust and porn addiction.

It’s interesting for me to hear how people talk about their struggle. Often when they share, they frame it in terms of “how long it’s been” since their last encounter with porn. The room rejoices with those who haven’t had an incident in a while, and we spout off advice to the ones who have. You can almost see the ranking system build before your eyes: The most recent sinner cowers on the bottom with the lowest score, while the one with the longest record of abstinence stands tall at the top.

But we may have it more wrong than we think. Why? Because our actions don’t always reveal our hearts.

Dirty Dishes

If you were looking for the most moral people of Christ’s day, you would look no further than the Pharisees — fasting, tithing, praying, obeying. Yet when Jesus has a chance to speak to them he says this:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.” (Matthew 23:25–26)

For these religious leaders, holiness was only skin-deep. Their deeds were moral, but their hearts were evil. Jesus understood that what you could see in a person’s life often says very little about the condition of a person’s spirituallife. If God was merely after behavior modification, Jesus would have praised the Pharisees. Instead, they received some of Jesus’s harshest words of all.

One way to tell if you’re measuring success by an outer-cleanness versus an inner-cleanness is if you obsess over how many days it’s been since you last sinned. That mentality presupposes that your issue is one primarily of behavior, and not of the heart. But God always seeks a change deeper than our behavior.

Superficial Celebrations

This isn’t just a porn issue. We see this in other areas. For example, it’s not necessarily grounds for celebration if an obese person loses a hundred pounds. On a superficial level we can certainly say that proper diet and exercise is better for their health, and therefore a good thing. But is it worth celebrating if that weight loss was motivated by vanity? Or if it produced a heart of self-righteousness or self-worship? Perhaps they dealt the decisive blow to their gluttony, only to have narcissism sprout in its place. The new state of the person might be worse than the first!

The Puritan John Owen said it well when speaking on the fight against sin: “He that changes pride for worldliness, sensuality for Pharisaism, vanity in himself to the contempt of others, let him not think that he has mortified the sin that he seems to have left. He has changed his master, but is a servant still.”

Obedience from the Heart

If it’s true that God looks at the heart first, what are some markers of that inner-cleanness he desires beyond the changes in our behavior?

  1. A sense of neediness and dependence on the grace of God. Christianity is nothing if not the religion of the helpless. The godliest thing any of us can do in our fight against sin is to admit we cannot fight against sin on our own. We need the power of the Holy Spirit working within us. If you feel defeated in your struggle against lust, let that sense of defeat push you further into the arms of your strong Savior today, and push you to lean on his strength and help, again.
  2. A steady gaze at Christ as our treasure and satisfaction. Most of our efforts in sanctification fall short of seeing Christ this way. But Scripture is clear: There is no legitimate conquering of sin without a pursuit of Christ in its place (2 Timothy 2:22Romans 13:14John 6:35). Jesus is a good meal for our soul. The battle for purity is really a battle to delight in God.

Don’t mistake what I’m saying. God absolutely wants external, visible life-change: “[Christ] gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14). But a change of behavior is only God-glorifying if it is motivated by a change of heart.

As you war against your flesh, as you fight against lust and addiction, as you counsel others in the battle, aim higher and deeper than outer moral conformity. Feel your inability to produce lasting life change apart from the work of God’s Spirit. Pray for a heart that is so enamored with the beauty of Christ that it despises the temptations of sin. Win the inner victory with Christ’s help, and the external victories will not be far off.

Jimmy Needham

Jimmy Needham is a singer/songwriter and serves on staff at Stonegate Church in Midlothian, Texas. He and his wife have two daughters and a son. Learn more at jimmyneedham.com.


Article source: https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-real-battle-for-sexual-purity

Grace vs Guilt: Who Saves Us From Ourselves and Lust?

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I know the struggle of lust.  It’s a battle that seems to have no end, in a war that too often already seems lost.  Pornography addictions very often lead to sexual addictions, and compulsive, reckless behavior that destroys families, relationships, and can even end lives.  When I realized what I had was not just something “natural”, or that it wasn’t okay “because everyone does it”, I realized it because it was ruining me. It was ruining, even more, a marriage that had been built on lust and no understanding or belief in what marriage was created by God to be.  

This life I wanted so badly to escape at nearly 26 years old was the only life I had known since I was eleven years old.  It may not be fair to say this filth ruined me, rather, it may be more accurate to say it kept me from ever knowing who I was.  I would not know who that person was until I found out who this God was I had constantly rejected pretty much my whole life. What I found out told me it was possible to escape this death grip.    

I found out, in the midst of much sel-loathing, guilt-filled regret, and suicidal thoughts that God is a God who loves us, in spite of us.  He is a God who fights for us, even when we fight Him, and try to do it our way.  When we realize this, who He is, we are faced with who we are: Wretched Sinners.  We could not save ourselves or make ourselves worthy to be in the presence of God, even if we somehow possessed the power to do so.  

If we could save ourselves, the Jews would have done so when they faced the Egyptians at the Red Sea (Exodus 14),  but they couldn’t.  God brought them there to show them just that; He is the ONLY way to life.  Without His love, our story ends in the Garden when Adam and Eve failed God.  It ends in bondage, slavery, and death had it not been for grace and mercy from the Author of Life.  He gives life, and He saves life.

God parted the sea, not because the Israelites worshiped Him flawlessly, but so they would really see God for His might, glory, and most of all, His love.  He did not ‘fight’ for the perfect people, or for the righteous. He fought for HIS people, in all of their brokenness, doubt, sins, and contentment for less than Him.  He broke into their lives when they thought He had forgotten them and hardened their hearts.  We are His, not because of what we do for Him, but because HE says we are His.

If God needed us to be perfect before He rescued us, there would be no grace or mercy. If we could be perfect God would not have needed to send His Son to bring us new life by laying His down for ours (John 3:16-17).  No, instead, He meets us where we are to save us from ourselves, and to save us from the guilt and shame of our sins.  His grace is stronger than our guilt, and His mercy reaches further than any sin I’ve ever committed, or any sin you could commit.  

This is the freedom you seek, and the cure for the addiction you feel.  This is the Good News of the Christian life. And this is the way out for the man or woman who feels trapped by their lusts.  He is the Savior who can make this life you live now a distant memory. He is the only way to life, and He forgives you like He forgave Adam, and He will save you like He has saved the Israel of the Old Testament, and like the wretched sinners Christ has come to save in the New.

Don’t just cry out in your guilt and shame and face another day alone.  Cry out to your savior. He WILL fight for you.     

3 Ways to Tell If You’re Addicted to Masturbation

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Taken from an article found on the XXX Church Blog:


Addicted to masturbation??? Is that even possible?

[Yes], …masturbation can become a legitimate addiction, just like any behavior. I’m not intending to make a moral statement or provide a biblical guideline but rather to help you decide if you are addicted so you can seek healing.

Here are three practical ways to help you discern if you’re addicted to masturbation:

1) Are you using masturbation to alter your mood?

Masturbation is a quick fix. It’s free, accessible and easy. It’s the perfect drug. Understandably, men and women use it to medicate bad moods. Those warm fuzzy chemicals sure hit the spot!

There are more positive ways to sooth moods, for example, listening to calming music or having a hot bath after a lousy day. The difference with using masturbation to alleviate negative emotions is that the powerful chemicals and hormones involved set you up for compulsion and emotional repression, not to mention they can be a detriment your future or current sex life. These are powerful chemicals you’re playing with.

Take note of when you feel the urge. What has triggered you in the past? Did you feel stressed? Powerless? Rejected? Lonely? Tired? Anxious? Sometimes our sex drive is just being its thoughtful self and saying ‘Hey! It’s been a while since we’ve tried reproducing! I’m here to personally encourage you to today!’ (Thanks Sex Drive: maybe take note of the relationship status next time) However, there is often an underlying motivation: to feel good. Because you don’t already.

If you’re regularly masturbating in response to negative emotion, you may be addicted. Why? Because it reveals you’re not processing your emotions and indicates you’re living in some level of distress, making it the perfect opportunity to get hooked. Addiction loves pain. It is a faux salve for emotional wounds. But in reality, our vice, be it masturbation or otherwise, is infecting that wound that so desperately needs to be healed.

2) Do you feel like you can’t stop?

Perhaps one of the clearest signs of addiction is when you feel you can’t stop, even when you really want to. Pretty simple. You may white-knuckle it for a few weeks, but it always come crashing back into your life.

There’s a reason for this.

A sexual encounter (with someone else or on your own) instigates the release of a host of nice-feeling chemicals into your brain’s reward system. It’s an incredible gift from God when it’s not confused. It keeps humanity thriving and surviving. It releases chemicals like dopamine and oxytocin when you participate in a behavior that it believes ensures survival of the body or gene pool (hence why an orgasm feels so much better than mopping the floor or eating dirt). The reward pathways function is to remind the brain to do that thing again! Your body begins to make unconscious associations. When you feel poorly, it remembers how to give you a kick! A process begins deep in your brain which, unbroken, leads you right back to the behavior, because your brain is wired to seek the easiest route to pleasure.

3) Is your habit harming you or those around you?

A characteristic of any addiction is continuing despite harm. Harm can come in many forms: emotional, relational, physical, spiritual or criminal to name a few.

If you’re masturbating to the point of overuse or needing medical assistance, you may very well be addicted. This is nothing to be ashamed about. Doctors have seen it all.

Compulsive masturbation can lead to sexual dysfunction and less-than-ideal intimacy with your spouse. This is a very real harm that must be identified. More than physiological, this can affect your spouse emotionally. Are you masturbating to the detriment of your sex life?

Isolation is another harm to look out for.  Such retreat can be rooted in shame, anxiety or the lost ability to interact non-sexually. Perhaps you would rather be at home masturbating than socializing. Having an orgasm is easier than building real relationships. But only the latter will bear good fruit in the long run.

Masturbation is a very personal and complicated topic. It can be a response to sexual or emotional trauma, it can be a struggle that begins in early childhood, it can be accompanied by porn or voyeurism or nothing at all, and the line between “struggling with” and “addicted” can get blurry. There is a battlefield of opinions out there and it is so easy to slip into judgment and shame in this conversation.

Please know that, no matter what, you are known and cherished by the God of the universe, and the team at XXXchurch have resources to help you find freedom. You are not alone, and you need not feel ashamed. Recovery is so possible.


Original article source: https://www.xxxchurch.com/women/3-ways-tell-youre-addicted-masturbation.html?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social-post&utm_campaign=Social-Lead-Gen-X3church&utm_content=3-ways-tell-youre-addicted-masturbation&utm_term=twitter-followers

Can you be addicted to porn? …really?

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Great article from [fightthenewdrug.org]:


lot of people are convinced that there’s no such thing as an addiction to porn. But science disproved the old belief that in order to have an addiction to something it has to involve a substance that is physically put into the body; like with cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs. Excessive consumption of internet porn bears all of the signs, and dangers, of a true addiction.

Is pornography addiction even a thing?

There’s an ongoing debate right now in the media, and even in academic circles, over whether compulsive porn consumption is truly an addiction. Part of the problem is simply that people don’t agree on exactly what the word “addiction” means. [1] But Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the United States’ National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), is convinced that porn addiction is real. She even suggested changing NIDA’s name in order to recognize “addictions such as pornography, gambling, and food.” [2]

In fact, research shows that of all of the forms of online entertainment—like gambling, gaming, surfing, and social networking—porn has the strongest tendency to be addictive. [3]

Doctors and scientists used to believe that in order to have an addiction to something it has to involve a substance that is physically put into the body; like with cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs. [4] But once scientists started to look inside the brain, it changed our understanding of how addictions work. [5] What’s important, we now know, is not necessarily what gets inside the body or how it got there, but rather what reactions it triggers in the brain. Cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs bring foreign chemicals into the body in a myriad of ways: sniffed, injected, drunk from a glass, or lit on fire and smoked. Porn and other behavioral addictions, like gambling, on the other hand, bring no new chemicals or substances into the body that weren’t already there. But, these behaviors initiate strikingly similar processes inside the brain like substance addictions, and that’s what makes them potentially addictive. They hijack the brain’s reward pathways. [6] (See How Porn Affects the Brain Like a Drug.) That’s what every addictive substance and habit do. [7]

Porn may enter through a different “how” and be a different “what,” but it ultimately does the very same things. [8]

See, your brain comes equipped with something called a “reward center.” [9] Its job is to motivate you to do things that protect and promote your survival—things like eating to stay alive or having sex to produce babies. [10] The way it rewards you for doing those things is by flooding your brain with dopamine and a cocktail of other “pleasure” chemicals each time you do. [11]

But your brain doesn’t always reward you for the right things. For example, it produces higher levels of dopamine when you have chocolate cake than it does for whole-wheat bread. [12] Why? Because 3,000 years ago, high-calorie foods were really hard to come by, so when our ancestors found them, they needed to eat a whole bunch while they had the chance. [13] These days, a bag of Oreos is only as far as the nearest supermarket. If we gorged on them every chance we got, we’d have heart disease and a lot of other health problems.

Porn is basically sexual junk food. When a person is looking at porn, their brain is fooled into pumping out dopamine just as if they really were seeing a potential mate. [14] Sure, filling your brain with feel-good chemicals might sound like a great idea at first, but just like with junk food, it’s more dangerous than it seems.

When porn enters the brain, it triggers the reward center to start pumping out dopamine, which sets off a cascade of chemicals including a protein called DeltaFosB. [15] DeltaFosB’s regular job is to build new nerve pathways to mentally connect what someone is doing (i.e. consuming porn) to the pleasure he or she feels. [16] Those strong new memories outcompete other connections in the brain, making it easier and easier to return to porn. [17] (See How Porn Changes The Brain.)

But DeltaFosB has another job, and this is why its nickname is “the molecular switch for addiction.” [18] If enough DeltaFosB builds up, it flips a genetic switch, causing lasting changes in the brain that leave the user more vulnerable to addiction. [19] For teens, this risk is especially high because a teen’s reward center in the brain responds two to four times more powerfully than an adult’s brain, releases higher levels of dopamine and produces more DeltaFosB. [20]

Overloaded with dopamine, the brain will try to defend itself by releasing another chemical called CREB [21] (It’s called CREB because no one wants to have to say its real name: cyclic adenosine monophosphate response element binding protein!) CREB is like the brakes on a runaway reward center; it slows the pleasure response. [22] With CREB onboard, porn that once excited a person stops having the same effect. [23] Scientists believe that CREB is partly why consumers have to keep increasing their porn intake to get aroused. [24] That numbed-out state is called “tolerance,” and it’s part of any kind of addiction. [25]

As porn consumers become desensitized from repeated overloads of dopamine, they often find they can’t feel normal without a dopamine high. [26] Even other things that used to make them happy, like going out with friends or playing a favorite game, stop providing enjoyment because of the dulling effects of CREB. [27] They experience strong cravings and often find themselves giving more of their time and attention to porn, sometimes to the detriment of relationships, school, or work. [28] Some report feeling anxious or down until they can get back to their porn. [29] As they delve deeper into the habit, their porn of choice often turns increasingly hard-core. [30] And many who try to break their porn habits report finding it really difficult to stop. [31]

If this sounds like the classic symptoms of addiction, well….the head of the United States’ National Institute on Drug Abuse agrees.

Citations
[1] Lewis, M. (2017). Addiction And The Brain: Development, Not Disease. Neuroethics. 1-12. Doi:10.1007/S12152-016-9293-4; Hall, P., (2014). Sex Addiction—An Extraordinarily Contentious Problem. Sexual And Relationship Therapy, 29(1) 68-75. Doi:10.1080/14681994.2013.861898
[2] Hilton, D.L, & Watts, C. (2011). Pornography Addiction: A Neuroscience Perspective, Surgical Neurology International 2, 19. Doi:10.4103/2152-7806.76977
[3] Meerkerk, G.J., Van Den Eijnden, R.J., & Garretsen, H.F. (2006). Predicting Compulsive Internet Use: It’s All About Sex!, CyberPsychology And Behavior, 9(1), 95-103. Doi:10.1089/Cpb.2006.9.95; See Also Korkeila, J., Kaarlas, S., Jaaskelainen, M, Vahlberg, T., Taiminen, T. (2010). Attached To The Web—Harmful Use Of The Internet And Its Correlates. European Psychiatry 25(4) 236-241. Doi: 10.1016/J.Eurpsy.2009.02.008 (Finding “Adult Entertainment” To Be The Most Common Reason For Compulsive Internet Use.)
[4] Holden, C. (2001). Behavioral Addictions: Do They Exist? Science 294(5544), 980. Doi: 10.1126/Science.294.5544.980
[5] Voon, V., Et Al. (2014). Neural Correlates Of Sexual Cue Reactivity In Individuals With And Without Compulsive Sexual Behaviors, PLoS ONE, 9(7), E102419. Doi:10.1371/Journal.Pone.0102419; Olsen, C. M., (2011). Natural Rewards, Neuroplasticity, And Non-Drug Addictions. Neuropharmacology, 61, 1109-1122. Doi:10.1016/J.Neuropharm.2011.03.010; Nestler, E. J. (2005). Is There A Common Molecular Pathway For Addiction? Nature Neuroscience 9, 11: 1445–1449. Doi:10.1038/Nn1578
[6] ] Love, T., Laier, C., Brand, M., Hatch, L., & Hajela, R. (2015). Neuroscience Of Internet Pornography Addiction: A Review And Update, Behavioral Sciences, 5(3), 388-433. Doi:10.3390/Bs5030388;
[7] Berridge, K.C., & Kringelbach, M. L. (2015). Pleasure Systems In The Brain. Neuron, 86, 646-664. Doi:10.1016/J.Neuron.2015.02.018; Hilton, D. L. (2013). Pornography Addiction—A Supranormal Stimulus Considered In The Context Of Neuroplasticity. Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology, 3, 20767. Doi:10.3402/Snp.V3i0.20767
[8] Love, T., Laier, C., Brand, M., Hatch, L., & Hajela, R. (2015). Neuroscience Of Internet Pornography Addiction: A Review And Update, Behavioral Sciences, 5(3), 388-433. Doi: 10.3390/Bs5030388; Berridge, K.C., & Kringelbach, M. L. (2015). Pleasure Systems In The Brain. Neuron, 86, 646-664. Doi:10.1016/J.Neuron.2015.02.018; Voon, V., Et Al. (2014). Neural Correlates Of Sexual Cue Reactivity In Individuals With And Without Compulsive Sexual Behaviors, PLoS ONE, 9(7), E102419. Doi:10.1371/Journal.Pone.0102419; Pitchers, K. K., Et Al. (2013). Natural And Drug Rewards Act On Common Neural Plasticity Mechanisms With DeltaFosB As A Key Mediator. Journal Of Neuroscience, 33(8), 3434-3442. Doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4881-12.2013
[9] National Institute On Drug Abuse: The Reward Pathway. (2016). Retrieved From Http://Www.Drugabuse.Gov/Publications/Teaching-Packets/Understanding-Drug-Abuse-Addiction/Section-I/4-Reward-Pathway; Volkow, N. D., & Morales, M. (2015). The Brain On Drugs: From Reward To Addiction. Cell, 162 (8), 712-725. Doi:10.1016/J.Cell.2015.07.046; Pitchers, K. K., Et Al. (2013). Natural And Drug Rewards Act On Common Neural Plasticity Mechanisms With DeltaFosB As A Key Mediator. Journal Of Neuroscience, 33 (8), 3434-3442. Doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4881-12.2013
[10] Berridge, K. C., & Robinson, T. E. (2016). Liking, Wanting, And The Incentive-Sensitization Theory Of Addiction. American Psychologist, 71(8), 670-679. Doi:10.1037/Amp0000059; Berridge, K.C., & Kringelbach, M. L. (2015). Pleasure Systems In The Brain. Neuron, 86, 646-664. Doi:10.1016/J.Neuron.2015.02.018; Paul, P. (2007). Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, And Our Families. (75) New York: Henry Hold And Co.; Hyman, S. E. (2005). Addiction: A Disease Of Learning And Memory. American Journal Of Psychiatry, 162(8), 1414-1422.
[11] Volkow, N. D., & Morales, M. (2015). The Brain On Drugs: From Reward To Addiction. Cell, 162 (8), 713. Doi:10.1016/J.Cell.2015.07.046
[12] Johnson, P. And Kenny, P. (2010). Dopamine D2 Receptors In Addiction-Like Reward Dysfunction And Compulsive Eating In Obese Rats. Nature Neuroscience 13: 635-641. Doi:10.1038/Nn.2519; See Also Berridge, K.C., & Kringelbach, M. L. (2015). Pleasure Systems In The Brain. Neuron, 86, 646-664. Doi:10.1016/J.Neuron.2015.02.018 (“[P]Leasure Can Be Thought Of As Evolution’s Boldest Trick, Serving To Motivate An Individual To Pursue Rewards Necessary For Fitness, Yet In Modern Environments Of Abundance, Also Influencing Maladaptive Pursuits Such As Addictions.”)
[13] Linden, D. J. (2011). Food, Pleasure And Evolution. Psychology Today, March 30.
[14] Hilton, D. L. (2013). Pornography Addiction—A Supranormal Stimulus Considered In The Context Of Neuroplasticity. Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology 3:20767. Doi:10.3402/Snp.V3i0.20767; Pfaus, J. (2011). Love And The Opportunistic Brain. In The Origins Of Orientation, World Science Festival, June; Georgiadis, J. R. (2006). Regional Cerebral Blood Flow Changes Associated With Clitorally Induced Orgasm In Healthy Women. European Journal Of Neuroscience 24, 11: 3305–3316. Doi:10.1111/J.1460-9568.2006.05206.X
[15] Negash, S., Van Ness Sheppard, N., Lambert, N. M., & Fincham, F. D. (2016). Trading Later Rewards For Current Pleasure: Pornography Consumption And Delay Discounting. The Journal Of Sex Research, 53(6), 698-700. Doi:10.1080/00224499.2015.1025123; Nestler, E. J., (2008) Transcriptional Mechanisms Of Addiction: Role Of DeltaFosB, Philosophical Transactions Of The Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 363(1507) 3245-3255. Doi:10.1098/Rstb.2008.0067
[16] Park, B. Y., Et Al. (2016). Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review With Clinical Reports. Behavioral Sciences, 6, 17. Doi:10.3390/Bs6030017; Pitchers, K. K., Et Al. (2013). Natural And Drug Rewards Act On Common Neural Plasticity Mechanisms With DeltaFosB As A Key Mediator. Journal Of Neuroscience, 33(8), 3434-3442. Doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4881-12.2013; Hilton, D. L. (2013) Pornography Addiction—A Supranormal Stimulus Considered In The Context Of Neuroplasticity. Socioaffective Neuroscience And Technology 3. 20767. Doi:10.3402/Snp.V3i0.20767; Doidge, N. (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself. (208-209) New York: Penguin Books.
[17] Park, B. Y., Et Al. (2016). Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review With Clinical Reports. Behavioral Sciences, 6, 17. Doi:10.3390/Bs6030017; Nestler, E. J., (2015). Role Of The Brain’s Reward Circuitry In Depression: Transcriptional Mechanism. International Review Of Neurobiology, 124: 151-170. Doi:10.1016/Bs.Irn.2015.07.003; Doidge, N. (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself. New York: Penguin Books, 108.
[18] Love, T., Laier, C., Brand, M., Hatch, L., & Hajela, R. (2015). Neuroscience Of Internet Pornography Addiction: A Review And Update, Behavioral Sciences, 5(3), 388-433. Doi: 10.3390/Bs5030388
[19] Love, T., Laier, C., Brand, M., Hatch, L., & Hajela, R. (2015). Neuroscience Of Internet Pornography Addiction: A Review And Update, Behavioral Sciences, 5(3), 388-433. Doi: 10.3390/Bs5030388; Hilton, D. L. (2013). Pornography Addiction—A Supranormal Stimulus Considered In The Context Of Neuroplasticity. Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology, 3, 20767. Doi:10.3402/Snp.V3i0.20767; Nestler, E. J. (2008). Transcriptional Mechanisms Of Addiction: Role Of DeltaFosB. Philosophical Transactions Of The Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 363: 3245–56. Retrieved From Www.Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.Gov/Pmc/Articles/PMC2607320/; Doidge, N. (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself. New York: Penguin Books, 107.
[20] Volkow, N. D., Koob, G. F., & McLellan, A. T. (2016). Neurobiological Advances From The Brain Disease Model Of Addiction. New England Journal Of Medicine, 374: 363-371. Doi:10.1056/NEJMra1511480; Sturman, D., & Moghaddam, B. (2011). Reduced Neuronal Inhibition And Coordination Of Adolescent Prefrontal Cortex During Motivated Behavior. The Journal Of Neuroscience 31, 4: 1471-1478. Doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4210-10.2011; Ehrlich, M. E., Sommer, J., Canas, E., & Unterwald, E. M. (2002). Periadolescent Mice Show Enhanced DeltaFosB Upregulation In Response To Cocaine And Amphetamine. The Journal Of Neuroscience 22(21). 9155–9159. Retrieved From Http://Www.Jneurosci.Org/Content/22/21/9155
[21] Love, T., Laier, C., Brand, M., Hatch, L., & Hajela, R. (2015). Neuroscience Of Internet Pornography Addiction: A Review And Update, Behavioral Sciences, 5(3), 388-433. Doi: 10.3390/Bs5030388
[22] Love, T., Laier, C., Brand, M., Hatch, L., & Hajela, R. (2015). Neuroscience Of Internet Pornography Addiction: A Review And Update, Behavioral Sciences, 5(3), 388-433. Doi: 10.3390/Bs5030388
[23] Love, T., Laier, C., Brand, M., Hatch, L., & Hajela, R. (2015). Neuroscience Of Internet Pornography Addiction: A Review And Update, Behavioral Sciences, 5(3), 388-433. Doi: 10.3390/Bs5030388
[24] Park, B. Y., Et Al. (2016). Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review With Clinical Reports. Behavioral Sciences, 6, 17. Doi:10.3390/Bs6030017; Negash, S., Van Ness Sheppard, N., Lambert, N. M., & Fincham, F. D. (2016). Trading Later Rewards For Current Pleasure: Pornography Consumption And Delay Discounting. The Journal Of Sex Research, 53(6), 698-700. Doi:10.1080/00224499.2015.1025123
[25] Volkow, N. D., Koob, G. F., & McLellan, A. T. (2016). Neurobiological Advances From The Brain Disease Model Of Addiction. New England Journal Of Medicine, 374, 363-371. Doi:10.1056/NEJMra1511480; Nestler, E. J., (2015). Role Of The Brain’s Reward Circuitry In Depression: Transcriptional Mechanism. International Review Of Neurobiology, 124: 151-170. Doi:10.1016/Bs.Irn.2015.07.003; Love, T., Laier, C., Brand, M., Hatch, L., & Hajela, R. (2015). Neuroscience Of Internet Pornography Addiction: A Review And Update, Behavioral Sciences, 5(3), 388-433. Doi: 10.3390/Bs5030388; Kuss, D. J., & Griffiths, M. D. (2012). Internet And Gaming Addiction: A Systematic Literature Review Of Neuroimaging Studies. Brain Sciences, 2(3) 347-374. Doi:10.3390/Brainsci2030347
[26] Volkow, N. D., Koob, G. F., & McLellan, A. T. (2016). Neurobiological Advances From The Brain Disease Model Of Addiction. New England Journal Of Medicine, 374, 363-371. Doi:10.1056/NEJMra1511480; Park, B. Y., Et Al. (2016). Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review With Clinical Reports. Behavioral Sciences, 6, 17. Doi:10.3390/Bs6030017; Kalman, T. P. (2008). Kalman, T.P. (2008). Clinical Encounters With Internet Pornography. Journal Of The American Academy Of Psychoanalysis And Dynamic Psychiatry, 36(4) 593-618. Doi:10.1521/Jaap.2008.36.4.593
[27] Volkow, N. D., Koob, G. F., & McLellan, A. T. (2016). Neurobiological Advances From The Brain Disease Model Of Addiction. New England Journal Of Medicine, 374, 363-371. Doi:10.1056/NEJMra1511480; Park, B. Y., Et Al. (2016). Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review With Clinical Reports. Behavioral Sciences, 6, 17. Doi:10.3390/Bs6030017
[28] Park, B. Y., Et Al. (2016). Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review With Clinical Reports. Behavioral Sciences, 6, 17. Doi:10.3390/Bs6030017; Bostwick, J. M., & Bucci, J. E. (2008). Internet Sex Addiction Treated With Naltrexone. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 83(2), 226–230. Doi:10.4065/83.2.226; Kalman, T. P. (2008). Kalman, T.P. (2008). Clinical Encounters With Internet Pornography. Journal Of The American Academy Of Psychoanalysis And Dynamic Psychiatry, 36(4) 593-618. Doi:10.1521/Jaap.2008.36.4.593; Doidge, N. (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself. New York: Penguin Books. (110).
[29] Park, B. Y., Et Al. (2016). Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review With Clinical Reports. Behavioral Sciences, 6, 17. Doi:10.3390/Bs6030017; Kalman, T. P. (2008). Kalman, T.P. (2008). Clinical Encounters With Internet Pornography. Journal Of The American Academy Of Psychoanalysis And Dynamic Psychiatry, 36(4) 593-618. Doi:10.1521/Jaap.2008.36.4.593; Doidge, N. (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself. New York: Penguin Books. (108).
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