Research is catching up with the truth about porn and its findings are becoming clearer—it’s harmful. Did you know that porn can mess with your head, rewiring the actual chemistry of your brain?

Psychologist and former Stanford University professor, Philip Zimbardo, gave a TEDx talk called ‘The Demise of Guys,’ claiming that young men’s brains are being “digitally rewired” due to excessive porn viewing and video gaming. He calls this issue a social “crisis,” a public health issue that must be addressed. We agree.

“They are combining playing video games with — as a break — then watching on the average two hours a week [of] pornography,” he told the BBC, describing results he observed after surveying 20,000 young people, the majority of whom were young men. “It’s a new kind of addiction.”

Zimbardo, who is the former president of the American Psychological Association, says, “Kids are getting turned on by watching video, but physiologically they are less aroused. We call it P.I.E.D. — Porn Induced Erectile Dysfunction.”

Zimbardo, who recently released his new book titled Man (Dis)connected, states in the talk that “guys are flaming out academically, wiping out socially with girls and sexually with women.” He says that the mixture of porn and gaming is pushing young men into a sort of manhood crisis that leaves them bored at school, uninterested in human interaction, and seeking isolation from society.

He argues in his book that hardcore porn and gaming provide alternatives to real-life entertainment and relationships that are “far less demanding and far more appealing for many than sex, sports and social interaction in the real world.” But by seeking these more isolated activities, cognitive and social development are suffering, which then has a major negative impact on success in every day life and relationships.

Let’s be real. Making and maintaining relational connections with people is hard work, but it helps us become better people and is an important part of development. If teens are opting for virtual reality over real life, whether it’s porn or video games, they’re setting themselves up for potentially harmful habits that won’t be healthy for their relationships.

Zimbardo encourages parents and society as a whole to recognize the issue and to keep track of their kids’ online media consumption, particularly when it comes to porn and video gaming.

Scientists and researchers have consistently released their findings for the past several years, signaling that Zimbardo is definitely not the first expert to warn about the negative effects of watching porn. Dr. Norman Doidge is a world renowned psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and researcher, and he works at the University of Toronto’s Department of Psychiatry and is also on the Research Faculty at Columbia University’s Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research in New York. Along with being the author of two New York Times Bestsellers, Dr. Doidge has done extensive research on the effects that porn has on the brain.

The following quote from Dr. Doidge’s best selling book, The Brain That Changes Itself, is one that illustrates perfectly how porn can affect the brain:

“Sexual tastes are molded by an individuals experiences and their culture. These tastes are acquired and then wired into the brain. We are unable to distinguish our ‘second nature’ from our ‘original nature’ because our neuroplastic brains, once rewired, develop a new nature every bit as biological as our original.”

Dr. Donald Hilton, who is another world renowned psychologist and researcher on the harmful effects of porn on the brain, said the following in his published study titled, Pornography addiction – a supranormal stimulus considered in the context of neuroplasticity:

“Pornography is the perfect laboratory for this kind of novel learning fused with a powerful pleasure incentive drive. The focused searching and clicking, looking for the perfect masturbatory subject, is an exercise in neuroplastic learning.”

Basically, porn can be highly addicting and highly exciting to our brains. Because of that, porn poses a very real risk to how our brains function normally. If a viewer constantly watches porn that contains violence, rape, humiliation, or any of the other infinite categories of hardcore content out there, these things actually start to become what the viewer thinks is attractive, sexy, and desirable. That’s not okay.

But there’s good news, on the flip side—neuroplasticity works both ways. That means that the damage to the brain can be undone when someone gets away from unhealthy behaviors. Pretty cool, right?

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