Pornography addiction, as the name implies, is a dependency, an addiction.

Neurobiologists have found the same change in brain scans of porn addicts as found in substance addicts. Consequently, neurobiological processes take place in the brain even in the case of a behavioural disorder without substance, which are comparable to a substance-bound addiction (e.g. alcohol or heroin) (1). Without going any further into brain physiological processes, it can also be seen from the symptoms that a behavioural addiction such as pornography addiction shows almost congruent symptoms, such as a substance-bound addiction. That includes:

  1. repeated addictive behaviour leading to failure to perform important duties at school, work or home.
  2. the inability to stop despite harmful consequences (repeated social and interpersonal problems)
  3. tolerance development characterized by marked dose increase or reduced effect of the same dose, in the sense of: more and more pornographic material is consumed, which becomes increasingly surreal.
  4. mood swings associated with consumption can be compared to withdrawal symptoms.
  5. out of control behaviour despite continuous desire or effort to limit behaviour.
  6. high expenditure of time for procurement and consumption.

2-3 symptoms are a moderate addiction, more than 4 a more severe addiction.

Examples for the detection of neurobiological structural changes using functional brain images in magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI):

  • reduced activation patterns in hippocampus, amygdala and posterior temporal and vertex cortex (2014 Cambridge fMRI study on porn addicts by Voon et al., 2014)
  • reduced grey brain matter, e.g. in the posterior striatum, part of the reward system ("Brain Structure and Functional Connectivity Associated With Pornography Consumption: The Brain on Porn" (Kuhn & Gallinat, 2014), Max Planck Institute Berlin)
  • equivalent activity patterns of the brain areas (e.g. hippocampus) in cocaine addicts and in pornography addicts with consumption of the respective addictive substance in the fMRI (Valerie Voon, University of Cambridge, 2014)

[1]Sabine M. Grüsser et al: Verhaltenssucht – eine eigenständige diagnostische Kategorie?, in: Der Nervenarzt 78/2007, p.997-1002.

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