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Are Porn and Video Games Ruining Young Men?

In an eye-catching new book, a Stanford professor/psychologist and a psychologist/artist have teamed up to address a serious side effect of pornography online and video gaming – the rise of a new group of young men who prefer the “numbing out” that the screen can provide instead of real-world personal relationships.

Called “The Demise of Guys: Why Boys are Struggling and What We Can Do About It,” written by Dr. Philip Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan say their research reveals that young men are getting addicted to the “buzz” they get from online porn and video games, to the point of being compared to drug addicts.

Zimbardo and Duncan say in recent articles what other researchers are reiterating; similar to other addictive substances, young men want more of the online porn or the video game to reach the same level of high as the addictive behavior progresses. Over time, they become so accustomed to the arousal factor that they crave it all the time, preferring this online arousal over real-world relationships, careers or success at school. Young men are losing their ability to control their cravings despite the cost, but with some notable differences.

Researchers have known for years that pornography activates the brain’s pleasure center regions and causes changes over time – but the book addresses new information on the addiction, saying that with “arousal addiction” the current moment in time completely takes over. People in this state may use online games or pornography to the point of neglecting food, sleep and other necessities even when serious health risks develop. The brain begins to crave a steady stream of arousal, leading to more intense experiences with the addictive behavior.

The continuous state of alertness and action created during arousal addiction can also be compared to the state of mental excitability and arousal amphetamine users report when high on the drugs. The consequences are not only destructive but they can be deadly. Anders Behring Breivik, shooter of 77 people in Norway, is reported to have been absorbed in simulated combat video games for as many as 16 hours daily.

For young men, the situation can be especially dangerous. The continuous changing environment and continuous surprises created by online games and pornography can actually change the way a young man’s developing brain works, setting him up for a never-ending craving for stimulation. In adulthood, these changes may continue to manifest as a lack of interest in personal relationships or even a tendency toward violence. Other young men who use porn excessively report sexual dysfunction and an inability to desire real-world sex with a partner – which can perpetuate the cycle of returning to online sex.

Pornography addiction, like drug or alcohol addiction is a serious and powerful addiction that requires professional help to reach recovery. Experts and authors are calling for more efforts to change this behavior trend now, before the “Demise of Guys” becomes a widespread, troubling reality across a new generation of males.

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