Most of us have heard this question before. It was first asked (or at least made popular) in slightly different form by Shakespeare in his play As You Like It. The implied answer in this play from long ago was “Yes,” and believe it or not, that answer hasn’t changed.
I often wish the answer were different, especially considering my love for sweets like cheesecake, gummy bears, and ice cream. Unfortunately, though, we all know what would happen with too much of those good things.
But the question doesn’t refer only to food. What about pleasure in general? What about sexual pleasure, and the pursuit of it through the use of porn? Is it possible to have too much of a “good thing” (not saying that porn is a good thing, though sexual pleasure certainly is) here?
The answer, again, is a resounding “Yes.” Why? Well, there’s a myriad of responses I could give, but how about some serious arousal problems, or porn-induced ED as an example?
The newest definition of addiction that was adopted by the ASAM describes behavioral addictions (food, gambling, sex...) as involving similar brain alterations and neural pathways as do drug addictions.
This is not necessarily new information; in fact, much research has been done on this topic. So, what’s the point?
This definition makes it clear that addiction is not about drugs; it’s about the brain, and the “rewiring” or “brain-training” that happens when we involve ourselves in these behaviors (including sexual behaviors) that trigger the release of dopamine in the brain.
Dopamine is defined as: “a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain's reward and pleasure centers. Dopamine also helps regulate movement and emotional responses, and it enables us not only to see rewards, but to take action to move toward them.”
An interesting article from Psychology Today states: “In the last decade or so, addiction researchers have discovered that too much dopamine stimulation has a paradoxical effect. The brain decreases its ability to respond to dopamine signals (desensitization). This occurs with all addictions, both chemical and natural. In some porn users, the response to dopamine is dropping so low that they can't achieve an erection without constant hits of dopamine via the Internet.”
It goes on to say, “Many men don't realize their brain's sensitivity is declining toward normal sex because Internet erotica delivers endless dopamine hits—making erection and climax possible where normal encounters would not. When they try to have actual intercourse and cannot, they understandably panic.”
Another article states: “Sadly, abundance of dopamine doesn't equal satisfaction. Its message is always, ‘Satisfaction lies just around the corner, so keep going!’ Behavioral addiction research on food, gambling and Internet videogaming shows that too much dopamine numbs the pleasure response of the brain.”
Essentially, as you unnaturally flood your brain with dopamine through porn use, your brain becomes desensitized to it and needs more and more dopamine to achieve the same level of pleasure. So, porn use has to increase in both amount and intensity to keep pace with the desensitization. In a real, intimate encounter with a human being, then, the amount of stimulation needed just isn’t there. This obviously has some pretty serious implications for relationships.
Can you have too much of a good thing?
Yes. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that you can experience all kinds of good things in responsible ways and in the proper contexts and not have to worry about these kinds of consequences.
If you’re dealing with arousal problems due to porn use, research has shown that stopping the use of porn will, in time, return your body’s response to real-life sexual stimulation back to normal.
If you’re struggling with an addiction to porn, please know that it is possible to break that addiction. This site is devoted to helping you do just that. I encourage you to take the time to check out some of the incredible resources that are offered here to help you.