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Your Brain on Porn

Blog Cover YBOPWhen high speed internet became widely available a few years ago, growing numbers of people began to worry that their porn use was running out of control. Far from preparing them for fulfilling relationships, viewing an endless stream of porn videos led to unexpected symptoms. Perhaps most surprisingly, for the first time in history erectile dysfunction was becoming a significant problem for young men.

This led to one of the largest informal experiments in the history of science. Tens of thousands of people have tried abstaining from sexually stimulating material in a process they call ‘rebooting’. Many of them reported startling changes, from improved concentration and elevated mood to a greater capacity for real-life intimacy.

Gary Wilson has listened to the stories of those who have tried giving up internet porn and related them to an account of how the reward system of the brain interacts with its environment. And now a growing body of research in neuroscience is confirming what these pioneers have discovered for themselves – internet pornography can be seriously addictive and damaging.

In Your Brain on Porn Wilson provides a concise introduction to the phenomenon of internet porn addiction that draws on both first-person accounts and the findings of cognitive neuroscience. In a voice that is generous and humane, he also offers advice for those who want to stop using internet pornography.

The publication of Your Brain on Porn is a landmark in our attempts to understand, and remain balanced in, a world where addiction is big business.

Porn addiction is an important phenomenon and in Your Brain on Porn Wilson gives us valuable resources for understanding and addressing it. Dr Nicole Oei, University of Amsterdam

This is the most considered, thorough and accurate account of internet porn addiction that exists at the time of writing. Professor Anthony Jack, from the foreword.

Gary Wilson is the presenter of the popular TEDx talk ‘The Great Porn Experiment’ and hosts the website ‘Your Brain On Porn’, which was created for those seeking to understand and reverse compulsive porn use: http://yourbrainonporn.com. He taught anatomy and physiology for years and has long been interested in the neurochemistry of addiction, mating and bonding.

Anthony Jack is Professor of Philosophy, Psychology, Neurology and Neuroscience and Research Director of the Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence at Case Western Reserve University.

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“At last a morally neutral and scientifically robust explanation for why so many people are getting hooked on porn. This book provides a comprehensive biological and sociological exploration of how and why pornography addiction is damaging so many people’s lives and provides strategies for reclaiming control that are backed up by hundreds of stories of personal experience. This is essential reading for therapists, sex educators and everyone who cares about enjoying sex.”

Paula Hall, sex therapist and author of Understanding & Treating Sex Addiction, (Routledge 2013)

“In Your Brain on Porn Gary Wilson sets out to explain how abundant free pornography is causing serious problems for thousands of, mostly young, people. As well as providing a survey of the science of addiction for general readers, Your Brain on Porn gives guidance on how to break out of addictive porn use. Porn addiction is an important phenomenon and in Your Brain on Porn Wilson gives us valuable resources for understanding and addressing it.”

Dr Nicole Oei PhD, Addiction, Development and Psychopathology (Adapt) Lab, Department of Psychology, University of Amsterdam

“In this important book, Gary Wilson correctly identifies the obsession with pornography as a fetish – using an inanimate object for sexual arousal/gratification – and discusses the biopsychosocial consequences that often result from compulsive use of pornography for sexual arousal. The book describes many examples of the “rebooting” process that is necessary for sexual functioning to heal. He also explains the changes in brain physiology when sexual addiction hijacks normal sexual behavior – including why recovery takes time.”

Reid Finlayson, MD, Medical Director, Vanderbilt Comprehensive Assessment Program, Associate Professor of Clinical Psychiatry

“For too long discussions about whether pornography is harmful and/or addictive have been dismissed by many sexologists as arbitrary moralistic infringement on First Amendment rights.  It is now clear to anyone whose opinion on this issue is informed by current neuroscience models of reward learning, and who therefore have an understanding of neuroplasticity, that natural rewards can become addictive in a neural modulating context.

Gary has tapped into and opened a window into the experience of an emerging generation who have been taught that sex is pornography.  They see the sexual world pornography portrays with its endless novelty, fake orgasms, and enhanced breasts as the sexual norm by which real females must be compared.  As Naomi Wolf said, “Today, real naked women are just bad porn;” she was merely describing what Tinbergen had coined with the term “supernormal stimulus.”

Academic sexologists are finding it increasingly difficult to hide behind their veil of apologism and ignorance, and Gary Wilson’s vast knowledge and skillful presentation of the neurobiological literature is contributing to this unmasking.  Even more critically, the first person voices in this book of those experiencing the negative effects of the pathological neuroplastic learning process pornography facilitates can no longer be silenced.”

Donald L. Hilton, Jr., MD, FAANS

“As is the case so often with new phenomena, science lags behind lived experience. Gary Wilson brings the two together powerfully as he explores the addiction that dare not speak its name. This book crackles with energy, urgency and humour. It offers up the hope of recovery to those struggling with internet porn addiction and it does so with compassion and informed authority. As a clinician I recognise the stories within its pages and I recognise the value of the solutions offered. This book is not to be missed.”

Dr David McCartney, Primary Care Addiction Specialist