Understand Porn’s Effects on Teens
Live a Porn Free Life
Teenagers are the group most at risk when it comes to a porn addiction. Developing an addiction during your teen years typically means the problem has deep roots that are challenging to overcome. When youth are exposed to stimuli that rewire the brain like porn does, the effects are deep and long lasting. Young brains aren’t fully developed and are more easily shaped by addictive substances. But teens CAN find a life free from porn. You don’t have to feel the shame and guilt that this habit brings. You’re not alone, and hope is in reach.
Young Men and Women are More Susceptible
Research shows that the adolescent brain is more vulnerable to addictive substances, including porn. The effects go deeper and last longer. The young brain is much more malleable, and the habits picked up during adolescence are often the most difficult to break. Between the ages of ten and nineteen, the brain goes through critical development.
Porn Induced Erectile Dysfuntion (PIED)
Young men are losing the ability to enjoy real sex because porn is re-shaping desires and expectations around sex and masturbation. Before internet porn, only 5% of men under forty suffered from Erectile Dysfunction. Today, 33% of men under forty have this struggle.
Issues with Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction have exploded among teenagers. This might be why the sexlessness rates have tripled for eighteen-to-thirty-year-old men, and marriageless rates are spiking for this same age group. When adolescents have their brains hijacked by porn they are no longer able to become sexually aroused by normal, real-life stimuli such as sex within marriage. PIED can be cured after quitting porn for several months. However, when most try to quit, they discover they’re addicted.
When the Brain Forms Around Porn
The brain decreases its connections after the age of twelve. During this time, billions of nerve connections are pruned and reorganized. The pruning of unused nerve cells helps the connections that remain grow stronger and become fine-tuned. It’s much like pruning a bush of the old and weak branches so the strong branches can grow stronger.
The brain organizes its neural pathways around the strongest connections. And for a growing number of teenagers, those strong connections are their porn connections.
The Earlier the Habit Forms, the Harder to Break
The research shows that bad habits established early in life are very difficult to break. Ninety percent of Americans who are addicted to alcohol, tobacco or drugs started using their addictive substance before they were eighteen. This is why there are laws to keep addictive substances away from minors. Despite this information, today’s youth have unlimited access to one of the most addictive substances on the planet–porn.
The young porn user is building deep ruts in his or her brain, ruts that are more difficult to reconfigure later. Teen boys need more time to recover naturally from porn-induced erectile dysfunction than a middle-aged man because the teen brain is more deeply impacted by porn.
Emotions that Come With Porn Addiction
Besides the sexual dysfunction that porn brings into the teenager’s life, it is an isolating force as well. Feelings of loneliness often trigger a person to medicate with porn. Then, after they have used porn, their loneliness returns even stronger. A recent study in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy reported a strong association between loneliness and pornography use. Put simply, if a person is chronically lonely, they’re far more likely to use porn on a regular basis.
It’s hard to know which comes first because porn and isolation feed one another. Porn leads to isolation and isolation leads to porn. No wonder those who use porn report more loneliness.10 Sex addiction is an intimacy disorder. When a person has less bonding and intimacy in their life, the fake intimacy of porn becomes more appealing to them.
If someone is isolated from real people, porn allows them to feel close with people through sexual fantasy. Pornography provides a fantasy place someone can go to feel accepted and desired by others. Porn provides fake intimacy that makes it more tempting beyond just the sexual pleasure. If there was a lack of intimacy in someone’s family growing up, this can make them more susceptible to the draw of artificial intimacy. Isolation makes people hungrier for intimacy. Sadly, today’s younger generations are the loneliest in US history.5 A recent survey showed 30% of Millennials (born between 1977-94) say they are lonely and 22% say they have no friends. Gen Z (born between 1995-2015) are even lonelier.
Porn use artificially raises the baseline level of dopamine. As a result, porn users need more dopamine to feel normal. And without the high, they can find themselves depressed, unmotivated and antisocial. In fact, these feelings affect porn users more frequently than non-users.5 Once an addict’s brain has adapted to need unnatural stimulation, they can’t enjoy the simple pleasures of life like before. They become bored and disengaged with the things they used to enjoy.
Porn creates a chemical dependency in the brain. For some, this has mild effects, but for others, it’s significant. Particularly on teenagers.
The Long Term Effects of Porn
A generation of youth is shaping their sexual tastes around voyerism and self-sex through repeated porn use. Many porn users report the inability to climax without porn because of the rewiring of the brain through years of consuming X-rated material. When a person’s entire sexual history has been shaped by porn, real sex seems like alien experience. This is not just a phenomenon for adults but it is impacting teenagers, too. A 2016 study of Canadian adolescents showed that 45.3% admitted to problems with erectile function.
Why Quitting Now is Important
Despite the fact that the brain locks people into addiction through repeated use of pornography, there is good news. The brain can be changed.
Neuroplasticity is the phenomenon of the brain physically changing as someone changes their behavior. Old neurological circuits shrink when not used while new ones form with new activity and learning. The brain shaped by porn can be modified and changed. Changing the brain requires reprogramming it. The longer the porn use, the harder it is to reprogram. Old pathways must be replaced with new paths. Simply stopping the behavior isn’t enough.
Only recently have scientists understood that the brain can be changed throughout one’s life and not just in adolescence. This is what the Bible has said about change all along. It says, “be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2). Change happens when someone renews their mind. Understanding this truth in light of the addicted brain gives hope. Change and freedom are possible. Just making commitments and trying harder doesn’t work. Renewing the addicted brain does.
Adolescent brains are more malleable and can be renewed more easily. Each year removed from adolescents means it will be more difficult to build new pathways. It can still be done but it will take more time and effort. This is another reason why those under twenty-five should quit porn ASAP.
The Impact of Porn
A porn habit or addiction is commonly associated with some of the following behaviors and feelings:
- Lack of vulnerability
- Decreased interest in church, prayer or faith activities
- Wanting to quit but feeling compelled to watch again
- Making excuses or rationalizing bad behaviors
- Lying or keeping secrets
- Depression or disinterest in life
- Lethargy or laziness
As the porn user continues in their addiction, their brain can build a certain tolerance. They then need more porn or more variety of porn to get the same high. They might seek the variety through new and different images or through risky behavior. If you see this kind of escalation in pursuing extreme material or behavior it is a good indication that you need to get some help.
It Will Never Be Easier to Quit Than it is Right Now
As behaviors are repeated, the brain’s neural connections form pathways that allow messages to travel more efficiently. The more we travel those pathways, the easier it is to do it again in the future.7This is why habitual behavior like riding bikes and tying shoes eventually become second nature.
Repetition is how all habits are built, including porn habits. When people regularly use porn, they build a strong neurological pathway. The chemicals released during porn use reinforce the neurological pathways in the brain and make them even stronger. The more the action is repeated, the easier it is to go down that path without much thought.
Repetition gets people into the addiction and repetition of new pathways can help get them out. This is why we say that stopping an addiction will never be easier than now. The more repetitions a person makes the deeper and more ingrained the behavior becomes. Start building new neural pathways today. In our program, we equip people with a tool to build new pathways in their brain. The sooner you start it the better. It will never be easier to stop a porn addiction than right now.
How to Outgrow Porn
There are six roots of a porn addiction that must be confronted. To address these roots requires growth and development in certain areas of one’s life. If you are ready to outgrow porn you are ready for freedom.
- The Sexualized Society → Practical Holiness.
- The Addicted Brain → Renewing the mind.
- Isolation → Authentic Relationships.
- Negative Emotions → Emotional Intelligence and processing your emotions.
- Shame → Living out of an Identity in Christ.
- Trauma → Replacing the lies deposited by trauma with truth.
The Freedom Fight program gets to the root of the user’s pornography problem and provides application oriented solutions. We provide step by step recovery guidance by combining Biblical wisdom, addiction recovery principles and accountability.
Youth Success Story
At the age of 22, Brandon had just finished his second Freedom Fight group and had been free from porn for two years. The first year was so helpful he wanted to make sure the changes became a lifestyle, so he did the program again. Freedom from his six-year addiction felt phenomenal.
The growth he experienced was life-changing. He was more real and authentic in his relationships. He developed new daily habits like meditating on scripture, checking in with accountability, and deepening other spiritual disciplines. His growth in emotional awareness had surprising benefits for his recovery and his relationships.
The depth of relationships he had with the other men in his group is nothing like he had ever experienced. He understood the concept of living out of his identity in Christ but now he was actually living in it. As a result, his confidence to be a spiritual leader was at an all-time high. He became passionate about sharing Jesus with those around him. He led three of his friends to Christ and continued to disciple them. Brandon then began to lead two Freedom Fight groups. He was excited to help other men outgrow porn and find freedom.