5 Brain Chemicals in Healthy Sexual Act and How it is Different from Pornography Addiction


In his book The Drug of the New Millennium, the Brain Science Behind Internet Pornography Use, Mark B. Kastleman (founder of Candeo Can program) provides a very detailed description of the process that takes place inside a pornography viewer’s brain.

In order to understand these processes, the author first examines how the brain is designed to work in a healthy sexual relationship. Then he compares it to brain activity during the pornography viewing session.

clip_image001He describes both processes as “going down the funnel”. The top of the funnel represents our normal state of mind, where we are completely present and aware of what is going on around us. As we begin to engage in a sexual activity, our attention span begins to narrow down, until the sexual climax is reached. After that, we begin to slowly return to our normal, wider view of the world.

The author also provides a detailed description of internal chemicals that are being released during this process. The following excerpts from The Drug of the New Millennium explain this process.

The Narrowing Process of the Healthy Marriage

In a healthy marital relationship, sexual intimacy creates powerful physical, emotional, and chemical changes:

A Narrowing Process: At the top of the funnel, the married couple enjoys a wide perspective of the world and the people around them. Then, as they become physically intimate, their brains begin to narrow in focus. Climax is the most narrowly and powerfully focused singular event that the brain can engage in. To make this happen, the brain must narrowly focus its attention and block out all distractions (work, the children, paying bills, etc.)

The Release of Natural Chemicals: To aid this narrowing process, the brain begins releasing a flood of endogenous (meaning produced from within) chemicals. These natural chemicals include the following:

Dopamine: Elevated levels of dopamine in the brain produce extremely focused attention. This chemical causes each spouse to focus intensely on the other at the exclusion of everything else around them. A release of dopamine is associated with craving and dependency in addiction, which may be why it can help produce a healthy attraction and dependency between the spouses.

Norepinephrine: This chemical generates exhilaration and increased energy by giving the body a shot of natural adrenaline. Norepinephrine has also been linked to raising memory capacity. Whatever stimulus is being experienced in the presence of this chemical is “seared” in the brain. This helps explain how a couple in love can remember the smallest details of their beloved’s features.

Testosterone: Testosterone is known as the hormone of sexual desire in both men and women. For men, however, it is the key hormone of desire, triggering feelings of positive energy and well-being.

Oxytocin: The flood of oxytocin at climax acts as a natural tranquilizer, lowering blood pressure, blunting sensitivity to pain and stress, and inducing sleep.

Serotonin: This natural chemical is released right after climax, bringing on a deep feeling of calmness, satisfaction and release from stress. Anti-depressant drugs like Prozac are designed to increase levels of serotonin.

The Experience is More Than Just Physical: As husband and wife move down the funnel together, there is more to the experience than just chemicals released in the physical body… the mind, heart and spirit are all joined together…

A Climax of Many Things: The final crescendo is a culmination of all the things husband and wife have shared – doing the dishes, paying the bills, raising the children, all that make up a marriage.

A pornography viewer goes through a similar process as couples in a marriage but the involved chemicals produce a completely different result.

The Narrowing Process of Internet Porn

When an individual enters the funnel through pornography viewing, the physical and chemical processes are virtually identical to those in marital sexual intimacy, but with some radical differences…

A Narrowing Process: At the top of the funnel, before beginning to view pornography, the individual enjoys a wide perspective of the world. Pornography addicts describe the top of the funnel as reality: their public self. Just as in the marriage funnel, the porn viewer begins blocking out distractions – but he is blocking out much more. He is alone. The object of his narrowing is pornographic images. Details of daily life, such as work and paying bills, slowly fall into disarray as the person starts blocking out all thoughts of God, his marriage, family, morals, commitments, and consequences…

The Release of Natural Chemicals: The porn viewer’s brain begins releasing endogenous chemicals. The viewer feels highly aroused – all of the stress, pressures, anxieties and pain in life begin fading away as his system is flooded with endogenous drugs. The viewer is able to self-medicate and escape the reality of life.

Dopamine: Elevated levels of dopamine in the brain produce extremely focused attention. This causes the viewer to focus intensely on the pornographic images at the exclusion of everything else around him.

Norepinephrine: This chemical induces feelings of exhilaration and increased energy by giving the body a shot of natural adrenaline. Norepinephrine also increases memory capacity. This explains why porn addicts can recall viewed images with vivid clarity years later.

Testosterone: Pornography triggers the release of testosterone which in turn increases the desire for more pornography.

Oxytocin: Oxytocyn acts as a natural tranquilizer. The individual seeks an Oxytocin rush to cope with the stress and pressure of life.

Serotonin: The release of this natural chemical evokes a deep feeling of calmness. Individuals turn to porn to self-medicate and escape the stress.

The Experience is More Than Just Sexual: There is a lot more going on in the Pornography Funnel than sexual arousal. In fact, if you remove sexual arousal from the process, any similarities to sexual intimacy in a healthy marriage would cease. While sliding down the Pornography Funnel, a tidal wave of conflicting and confusing images and messages wash over the viewer. Visual images are stored as emotional memories in the brain before the logic center realizes what has happened. When the logic brain catches up, it brings on a “fight or flight” type response. The adrenaline gland sends out cortisol, the “stress hormone,” which in turn activates myriad body-system processes to counteract stress. In essence, the entire pornography process is intensified and supercharged, far beyond what sexual arousal alone would accomplish. The human system is not designed to deal with this overwhelming level of conflicting stimulations.This is why many neuropsychologists refer to pornography as “visual crack cocaine”.

An Empty and Hollow Climax: When one uses pornography to reach climax, the brain desensitizes to the images, habituates to them, and eventually becomes bored. An increase in the variety of images and/or time spent on the Internet is required to maintain stimulation levels. In a healthy marriage relationship, sexual intimacy is only a part of everything else going on in the couple’s life. So when the couple “brings all of that into the bedroom,” it is highly unlikely that the brain will habituate to the sexual process.

When Reality Returns – the Hopeless Dialogue: When the porn viewer emerges from the narrowest part of the funnel back to a wide perspective, the heartless “drug-high” of pornography and climax quickly dissipate. Suddenly his rational thinking returns and the hopeless dialogue begins: “What have I done? What was I thinking?” He wasn’t thinking; that was the problem! Once he descends into the Pornography Funnel, he gives up his ability to “think”. The overpowering flood of chemicals overrides his cognitive thought and reasoning abilities. The frontal lobes – the logic center of the brain – are virtually shut down and the limbic system, which controls the pleasure/emotional center of the brain, takes over. (Kastleman, p39-57)

I hope you now have a better understanding of why pornography can be so addictive.

In the next chapter, we are going to take a closer look at the addictive cycle.

I am really glad you have found this free course!

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P.S. Recommended Resources:

  • Sex Addicts Anonymous
    I cannot imagine my recovery without this program.
  • Free Podcast and Mini Course from Candeo Can
    I owe my first 90 days of continious sobriety to this program and highly recommend it.
  • Internet Accountability Software
    Using this software allowed me to get trully honest with my internet usage for the first time in my life. For some reason knowing that my every step was being observed and reported on, made it really easy to use internet only in a healthy way.
  • Treating Pornography Addiction by Kevin B. Skinner Ph.D.
    I have read over 15 books on Pornography and Sexually addiction and this trully is one of the best books on the subject. The reason is I recommend this particular book is because it is full of excelent actionable steps. Other books do a good job describing the problem, but don’t really offer a realistic solution.
  • Your Sexually Addicted Spouse – How Partners Can Cope and Heal by Barbara Steffens Ph.D.
    I know that about half of visitors to our site are spouses of people who might be suffering with pornography and sex addiciton. To the best of my knowledge this book is one of the most helpful books for the partners.
  • Free Consultation from Coach Craig
    Coach Craig has been a good friend and supporter of this site since January 2013. He has worked with people form all over the world, including famous musicians and other high profile individuals. Yet, he is only a phone call away and would be glad to give you a free consultation. Call him anytime, with any question you might have, and I am know he will be extremely happy to help in any way he can.

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Comments

  1. joan says

    Me,
    I’m greafull for this I got hooked up on this sometimes July after having sex with a friend and college mate thinking they would love me only to later feel bad about my self, soon I just met a boy on the streets who showed interest in me and I gave in to his advances because of need to feel loved and appreciated, later in nov 2011 I discovered he had other relationships on the side I was frustrated and this heightened my pornographic watching tendencies to get rid of the stress , I have just started reading this article and I already feel a sense of deliverance I thank God and you guys , I continue reading it and I know I will kick this vice goodbye sooner , looking forward for the breakthrough.

  2. Anonymous says

    Me,
    I’m greafull for this I got hooked up on this sometimes July after having sex with a friend and college mate thinking they would love me on to later feel bad about my self, soon I just met a boy on the streets who showed interest in me and I gave in to his advances because of need to feel loved and appreciated, later in nov 2011 I discovered he had other relationships on the side I was frustrated and this heightened my pornographic watching tendencies to get rid of the stress , I have just started reading this article and I already feel a sense of deliverance I thank God and you guys , I continue reading it and I know I will kick this vice goodbye sooner , looking forward for the breakthrough.

  3. NotYet says

    I am so glad I found this site. I’ve been struggling with porn since I was 14, which is damned near 20 years now. It is such an absolute waste of time, life, relationships and money, but I haven’t been able to stop it. I hate the shame, I hate the guilt, and I hate that I can’t break free of it. This is the first time I’ve spoken about this anywhere aside from my college girlfriend who responded so badly I couldn’t bring up the courage to talk about it with anyone else. I’m not giving up yet though, and I will break this addiction. I’m not ready to post my name, and likely never will, but I’ll be “NotYet” on this forum, because I’m not giving up on myself!

    • mwmw says

      hey i am 17
      can u tell me the problems u faced at this age and ur thoughts at that age, they might help me for being on the right path and not commit any mistake.

  4. Anonymous says

    Thank you. I found this site before my addiction got that bad so luckely I can stop and understand it and reflect.

  5. I will make it says

    Today… Today… I have decided that I am done. I am going to allow God to break the bondage forever. Thank you for this website and this help

  6. keeep swimming .. Just keep swimming says

    this article was helpful to me in many ways … I experienced this hopless dialogue many and many times … I can say that i wasted half of my life viewing porn and the other half blaming myself ! now i have gr8 hope in God to keep sorbent .. Ur comments guys were very motivating and inspirational … We have to keep together sharing our thoughts and motivating eachother … we can do it !! .. Thanks for the creator of this site :)

  7. Anonymous says

    I really need this help like really. I cant handle porn anymore i dont even like doing it but i cant stop. Thanks for the help

    • says

      I know exactly how you feel, this is where I started. I think you’ve come to the right place. Just keep reading the material and apply all of the steps involved. The freedom is possible.

  8. Tom says

    Enjoyed the article. Viewing it from the logical side, I can see this fits the pattern exactly. And gives me understanding as to why once you begin to wander down that path, it is virtually impossible to stop yourself. I’m a husband and father of two little boys and have been telling myself for too many years “this event, or that event will by the thing that helps me quit my addiction.” This is the first time I’ve ever really seen a reason to believe that I can quit.

  9. analysis says

    This is a excellent source of information. Very technical and precise. This thoroughly explains what occurs within the biological process and response of the body towards pornography. It explains very well why human beings completely lose themselves during these specific moments and experiences.

  10. Anonymous says

    I found this site just now, after going on a binge. I'm really tired. I've tried therapist, groups, accountability, with mixed results. On the home page, the author talks about using a multi-directional approach. I never considered what was happening from a physical angle. I understand a little better how, in my brain, I can say I don't want to do something and still do it at the same time.

    I'm very thankful for "Absolution"s post encouraging the gentleman with the 15 year addiction. I'm closing in on the 30 mark. I want to lie to myself and say that this kind of life is ok. That I can manage it. That it wont affect me or the rest of my life. Only the grace of God has kept things from seriously crashing. It may not last forever. It probably wont.

    I just can't give up. Can't lie and say that this is all I'll ever be. It's so hard sometimes, but I really cannot just accept this.

    Thanks for this site. I will keep reading more. I will put my best efforts into destroying this life threatening addition.

  11. Anonymous says

    I have also a problem with pornography for about 10 years. I've spend thousands of hours watching porn. So many nights staying till 3 or 4 pm in the morning watching porn, and every next day being a vegetable. I've lost so many days of my life with porn. And I also spend very much time trying to find a solution, and every solution failed. Only recently I've started to understand a little bit better what is happening. I've believed for years that you can stop porn in 1 day. This is not true, you need very much patience. For a ten years habit I need maybe months or years to lower the craving. And much effort. It makes your life a mess. I hate porn for existing. I wish all the porn to just disappear. I didn't know porn is so dangerous when I first watch it. I'm glad i have found this site. It seems to be very valuable information. I hope I can make it work for me

  12. Anonymous says

    My son was addicted to crack. This helps me understand this porn addiction. I wondered why I couldn't just quit. Why it would just grab me and take me back down into the pit. Over and over again. The guilt man I need to quit thoughts but just keep doing it. Thanks for the beginning of the freedom. Understanding the addiction. I would look at my son and say just quit yet not reaaly understand the triggers in his mind.

  13. Absolution says

    To the person who wrote the comment above:

    It's never too late. Your brain is not completely damaged. Even hemorrhagic strokes can be repaired.
    At least you realize it's taken over your life and you're at least curious about getting help, no matter if you believe it's possible or not. You're already ahead of many, many people by admitting that you have a problem.

    If you need support, please come to the forum. The link is at the top of every page of this site. My name is Absolution there, I care about you and want you to be happy.

  14. Anonymous says

    I am a severe addict of porn for last 15 years. I lost my career because of porn. My life is in vain. I have been living always alone in a single room which compels me to watch porn. I have come to a stage that I cannot live without watching porn and masturbation. Nowadays I think of committing suicide since I come to the conclusion that I can never escape from this dangerous habit. All my precious life time has simply gone wasted in watching useless porn. But I am too late to realize this. My brain is completely damaged by this habit. I have lost all my hopes of getting rid of this habit. I tried many times and failed to abstain from porn and masturbation. I dont know why I am living with this f**king habit. Today I came across this website and I have started reading this. Hope it will be helpful to me

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