• mbkastleman

Porn Use Can "Cripple" Your Willpower!

Updated: Feb 25



After decades of helping individuals work through their addiction to pornography, I’m still amazed by the consistency of the responses I see in both the addict and those who care about him or her. When one is shackled in porn use, he or she is usually deeply frustrated and greatly perplexed by the power of their addiction–especially by the fact that when they feel the “urge” wash over them, they temporarily jettison everyone and everything they care about to indulge in porn or some other sexual behavior. This is especially frustrating and confusing porn addicts who are religious or follow a faith. (For example, I work with a lot of LDS men addicted to porn.) After indulging in yet another porn binge, men can’t understand why their will power and self-discipline were so weak! "Why can't I just STOP watching porn?!" At the same time, those who care about the addict feel tremendous frustration each time he or she gives in to the addiction–”Why can’t you just say no!" “You just need to learn to control yourself!”

What Porn Does to the Brain


To understand why an addict has little or no will power and self-discipline when faced with the overwhelming urge to indulge in porn, you must first understand what porn addiction does to the brain. In the forehead area or Frontal Lobes area of the brain is the control/executive center. This is the most advanced part of our brain–what makes us human. It is the area of the brain that has to do with will, self-discipline, anticipation of consequences, reasoning, planning, and goal-setting. Addictions inhibit this part of the brain and reduce these capacities. This is one reason why addicts are so “surprised" after they have indulged in violation of their own values, beliefs, resolutions, goals, memory of past consequences, etc.


Because addictive behaviors spawn from the Limbic System or reward-pleasure-appetite-emotion-driven part of the brain, and are accompanied by a tidal wave of endogenous chemicals (natural morphine-like chemicals produced by the brain) once the individual makes up his mind to start down the path of indulgence, the frontal lobes are, as it were, “blocked out” dramatically reducing “will-power” and “self-control." It’s like battling the addiction with only 50%, 30%, or even 20% or less of one’s will, self-discipline, and self-control in operation. This is one reason why people who have never been addicted will say, “Why don’t you just quit”? or “Why don’t you just stop looking at it?” assuming that if they were addicted they could control it.


Of course they arrive at this reasoning with 100% of their will, self-discipline, and faculties in-tact. What they don’t realize is that with the logic/self-control centers of the brain severely handicapped, overcoming the urge to indulge is like running a race severely crippled. For the addict, the whole process is extremely frustrating and disheartening, because they want to quit, but it seems the harder they try the more powerless they become. What we know, is that without the correct knowledge, tools and relevant skills, facing one’s addiction is really not a fair fight! That's why we put so much emphasis on understanding the "brain science behind porn addiction."



We Live in an Age of Addiction


We all are prime targets for addiction. We lead hectic, fast-paced, anxiety-filled lives. We often base our self-worth on our accomplishments. We drive ourselves further and further to achieve. Peace and confidence are often elusive for many good-hearted souls. As we continue to push ourselves harder and faster, we become more tired, stressed, and often more isolated.


To help you consider further “how your addiction has advanced to where it is today,” consider the example of the college student. Keep in mind that this example with just a few adjustments could describe the burned-out businessman, financially-buried single mom, and many other individuals who are struggling with the trials of life. As you read this example, ponder how it reflects your own situation:



The College Student


Imagine an individual who excitedly enters college with a burning desire to gain valuable knowledge and skills. He wants to invest in himself and develop his talents and abilities. However, he soon discovers that he is surrounded by other bright, talented and ambitious people in a very competitive and rigorous environment. He’s not only in school, but he has a job in order to finance his schooling. He finds himself not just jogging, but sprinting in a rat race to just to keep up. Before long he is exhausted, but he doesn’t give up; he can’t slow down. He continues to work, study and sacrifice day in and day out, week after week, month after month, often for years.


He finds himself isolated and lonely because of a lack of time, social opportunities and energy. The intense daily competition leaves him feeling insecure and questioning his own worth, uniqueness, talents and abilities. He often rises early in the morning to study, attends classes, works to earn a little spending money, studies some more in the evening, and arrives home exhausted. He has little opportunity to really “play” and enjoy leisure time. He begins experiencing emotional burnout and mental and physical fatigue. Before long he finds himself craving pleasure and escape. He doesn’t have much time for such things. He is a prime target and set-up for Internet porn.


He discovers that pornography is an easy, quick and cheap source of pleasure and escape. It is exciting and arousing–an extreme and intense amount of pleasure in a short period of time. Reaching climax stimulates his parasympathetic nervous system, providing instant relaxation and calmness. In fact, he even begins using self-stimulation and climax as a way to “be able to relax and go to sleep.” Porn literally becomes his "drug-of-choice" to cope with the stress and pressures of college life. 


Within a short period of time the student develops an addiction. He begins accessing pornography more and more often. It starts interfering with his studies and ability to focus and concentrate. He feels guilty about his behavior and tries to stop, but finds himself going back again and again. He tries to avoid even thinking about pornography and self-stimulation, and begins to fear these thoughts and his “out-of-control” behavior. The more he fights the thoughts, the more they force their way into his mind. Eventually, worn out by the struggle, he gives in and finds temporary relief, only to start the obsessive/compulsive cycle all over again. In a panic, he realizes that "willpower" isn't enough, and the harder he tries to stop the more he can't!


This bright, young, honorable man finds himself shackled in chains, entrapped both in an addiction and in an obsession/compulsion. The more he tries to stop, the more difficult it becomes. The intense guilt, helplessness and discouragement become overwhelming.




How are Your Porn Struggles

Similar to the College Student?


Change a few of the particulars, and this story might generally describe your addiction. What this young man doesn’t realize, and what you may not know, is that addiction severely alters and handicaps the Frontal Lobes, robbing the addict of his will power and self-control. While this is most certainly not an excuse or justification, it definitely explains a great deal about an addict’s behavior! If the explanation ended here, there would be little hope for those who struggle under the heavy burden of addiction. But, what I have described is only the beginning!


What I know after decades of experience helping addicts, and what the latest brain imaging studies clearly prove is this: Frontal lobes that have been damaged by years of addiction can be healed and restored to their proper function! Yes, you can fully regain your will power and self-control! It takes time and effort. It requires that you gain the right knowledge, tools and skills. The point is, it can be done! That is what the Reclaim recovery program is all about–helping you successfully progress down the path of fully regaining your ability to choose; your free will; your self-esteem and self-confidence. Many have regained their lives and so can you. All you need do is start moving forward one step at a time down the recovery path. Let Reclaim help you take your first step today.