In our first blog post, we discussed how pornography addiction is neurologically based, and how the addiction pathways are formed. It’s unfortunate when this happens, but the good news is that the brain is plastic, meaning it can change and can be remolded. Any changes or negative results of such an addiction can be undone.
It is important the individual deeply understand that they are on the path toward self-mastery, peace, joy, and freedom. According to Anthony, BYU’s Unraveling Pornography club president, changing patterns of thought is crucial. He said, “One of the most important things for those desiring to overcome pornography use is to shift their focus from the “do not”s to the “do”s. When we focus on not doing the thing we don’t want to do we somehow end up doing that very thing. It’s like the analogy of playing not to lose versus playing to win. In my opinion one of the first major steps one can take in overcoming pornography is to shift their mindset from the removal of the bad to the addition of the good.” In this post we will focus on the “do”s.
1. Change Your Views
Before any steps towards triumph can be taken, one must recognize that they are worth it and that they can succeed. The stigma surrounding pornography addiction is nonsense and we need to stop seeing those struggling with it as broken, especially if that is ourselves. When we rehearse positive thoughts such as, “I will succeed”, “I am worth it” and “I am strong”, a part of our brain called the Nucleus Accumbens is activated. This is a key component of the dopaminergic system, the same pathway that would activate with the use of drugs or pornography. By replacing the addictive action with healthier form of activation, we can begin to rewire the brain.
2. Find a Support System
It is imperative that someone struggling with this addiction has a supportive individual to whom they are accountable. The issue needs to be addressed and progress evaluated each day while always maintaining hope and love. Just being transparent and open about the struggle takes one's mind off of it and it is easier to move forward. This could be a close friend or family member, or even a religious group or 12 Step Program group.
3. Implement Neurological Strategies
We often forget that this struggle is neurological. Pornography causes the dopaminergic reward center to light up intensely, resulting in what can become a consuming addiction. The brain will not feel satisfied until other strategies are incorporated and become habitual, delivering the appeasement the brain craves. Viewing pornography first fires the parasympathetic tone (rest and digest), followed immediately by the sympathetic tone (fight or flight) of the autonomic nervous system. It is important to replace this pattern with another that still gives the brain similar activation. Start with activities that calm you down such as deep breathing or meditation to drive the para-sympathetic system. Then promptly engage in high intensity exercise to target the sympathetic system. This could be followed by other rewards such as a favorite dessert to help strengthen these new healthier pathways.
4. Other Neurological Exercises
There are also other therapies and exercises that can be done to help balance the autonomic nervous system and lessen the need for the stimulation from pornography use. One of these is RPSS therapy (Repetitive Peripheral Somatosensory Stimulation). You can read more about how it works by checking out our Therapies page or contacting us.
Though difficult, the neurological effects and resultant emotional and social repercussions of a pornography addiction can be reversed. The struggle is very real and more often than not, one can feel hopeless, devastated, ashamed, and alone. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Complete healing is very possible and we’re confident that with the right approach and support, every single person struggling with pornography addiction can overcome it and live a healthy, happy life.
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If you missed the first two posts in our Pornography Addiction Series, you can check them out here:
Understanding Pornography Addictions: The Neurological Basis
Bringing Pornography Addictions Out of the Dark: How Transparency Counters Addictions