As more and more science supports the addictive nature of internet pornography, there is particular alarm about the potential effect it can have on adolescents. In today’s always-connected, technologically advanced world, it’s almost impossible to prevent teenagers from having easy access to porn. Could this exposure actually be rewiring the brains of adolescents? Research suggests that this is definitely the case, though the plasticity of the teenage brain offers much hope.
Internet pornography is rewiring the brains of teens primarily by changing the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Porn triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is associated with feelings of thrilling excitement. It is what makes porn so addictive. It also makes it more difficult to reach that dopamine-fueled feeling of excitement without the aid of porn. This means that it will be very difficult for someone addicted to porn to have a satisfying real sexual experience. The reward system response will also become dulled over time, which may make the porn addict move on to more extreme pornography like sadomasochism or fetishized content. The porn addict also experiences diminished willpower because of the changes to the brain’s reward center, making it more difficult to stop.
What makes porn an especially troubling habit for adolescents is the fact that teenage brains are particularly plastic, meaning they can be molded and changed very rapidly. However, this is also the source for a lot of hope. Because teenage brains are so plastic, they stand a better chance of being successfully rewired. By breaking the link between porn and pleasure and forging new, healthier neural pathways, it’s entirely possible for the teenage brain to rewire itself.
The keys to rewiring an adolescent brain that has been damaged by porn are weakening the neural connections between porn and pleasure as well as building new pathways connecting a healthier behavior to pleasure. Stopping all exposure to porn is the first step. It’s also important to build new pathways by adding new dopamine-rich activities. Some of the best ways to rewire the pleasure center are exercise and socializing. These are integral parts of our approach at Star Guides. It’s also important to explore any underlying causes that made porn so appealing, which should be done under the care of a highly trained professional.
Teens with an addiction to porn have almost certainly altered their brains as a result of their exposure to porn, but the plastic brains of teenagers offer much hope for a successful recovery. Our program understands how and why this type of addiction works and we know how to use neuroscience to help your teen recover. Contact us today for a free consultation for your teenager.