What Porn Does to Your Brain… And Why You Need to Act Soon

0 comments Posted on May 1, 2020

by Rosie Makinney

If porn is an issue in your marriage, you don’t need me to tell you that something feels off with your sex-life. Heavy porn use typically manifests in one of two very different ways. Either a husband’s sex drive goes through the roof, causing a wife to feel pressured to have sex far more frequently than she would like and/or to partake in acts commonly featured in porn. Or he consistently avoids and rejects her sexually, sometimes even turning the situation around and blaming her for his lack of interest. Either way, a wife inevitably ends up feeling like his disappointment, dissatisfaction, or disinterest is her fault. 

Porn causes a decline in executive functioning.

Porn overuse does not just hijack the reward center of the brain but also the command center—the part of the brain that helps us make reasoned, thoughtful decisions.

When both my children were preschoolers and their pre-frontal cortexes were still very much developing, I had to help them set goals, assess risks, keep on task, inhibit the impulse to eat pennies, and reflect on their decision to squirt Mommy’s expensive hand cream down the sink. I was acting as their surrogate pre-frontal cortex, filtering information and guiding them toward decisions that would be good for their survival and well-being. 

When they reach the age of twenty-five, their prefrontal cortexes will be fully developed and they will have “executive control” of the processes going on in their brains. They will be able to do abstract thinking, set goals, solve problems, regulate behavior, and suppress emotions, impulses, and urges for themselves. Hopefully. That is, as long as they stay away from addiction, and aren’t involved in any head-on collisions.

Both heavy porn use and head trauma can cause a condition called “hypofrontality” in the pre-frontal cortex.1 With hypofrontality, a person has trouble thinking logically. They become less able to weigh consequences and situations, and override cravings. What was once considered simply a desire is now experienced as a compelling and urgent need. Even when experience teaches that continuing to use porn is going to have serious consequences, the weakened impulse control cannot compete against the cravings.

There is no point cajoling or waiting for your husband to want to get better if his brain has been hijacked by porn. At this point, he doesn’t need a pep talk, he needs the equivalent of Navy Seals to bust him out of some seriously impaired thinking. In fact, though God can certainly grant him repentance in his mind and heart, you need to remember that his decision-making ability is seriously compromised. 

And Now for Some Good News!

It is not too late. The brain is plastic. Damage caused by porn is not permanent; it is reversible. By draining the brain of porn, your husband will gradually regain his executive functioning,2 his cravings will diminish, and he will lose sensitivity to pornographic cues.3 

1Gary Wilson, “Hypofrontality,” Start Here: Evolution Has Not Prepared Your Brain for Today’s Porn | Your Brain on Porn, www.yourbrainonporn.com/garys-research-hypofrontality.

2Seog Ju Kim et al., “Prefrontal Grey-Matter Changes in Short-Term and Long-Term Abstinent Methamphetamine Abusers,” The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology 9, no. 02 (2005): 221.

3Doidge, The Brain That Changes Itself, 242–43.

Excerpted with permission from Fight for Love by Rosie Makinney. Copyright 2020, B&H Publishing Group.

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