"Big Four" Highlights


 

Porn and Your Brain

Studies find basis for addiction – but there is help

(CNA/EWTN News) – The co-founder of a pornography addiction recovery program said that a recent Cambridge (England) study showing identical brain activity in addicts to pornography, drugs and alcohol is “spot on.”

According to London’s Sunday Times of Sept. 22, neuropsychiatrists at Cambridge found that the portion of the brain stimulated in drug and alcohol addicts lights up in the same way as it does for porn addicts viewing explicit materials. The brains of those who are not in the habit of using porn did not react in the same manner to the same materials.

“That kind of brain research is spot-on, and there have been a number of different approaches and studies that have said the same thing,” said Bruce Hannemann, co-founder of Elizabeth Ministry International and its program Reclaim Sexual Health.

“It doesn't surprise me at all that more and more, people are finding out that there are patterns of addictions that are similar across the board,” he told CNA Sept. 25.

Hannemann, a retired chemistry professor, said that “whatever you have as a thought in your mind, actually changes the chemistry of your brain.”

Reclaim Sexual Health is an online recovery program that helps those addicted to, or in the habit of, unhealthy sexual behaviors. It utilizes the neuroscience of addiction to allow users to ‘re-program’ the chemical pathways in the brain which result in, and subsequently foster, sexual addictions.

The program is based on the knowledge that “the brain truly changes with every thought that we have,” and it was developed by a team which included neuroscientists, therapists, neuropsychologists, cognitive-behavioral scientists, and professional trainers.

Hannemann likened Reclaim to a “gym” for the brain, as it is a series of exercises which is meant to “re-train, re-wire your thought processes.” The exercises help people to “unlearn that (poor) habit, and how to re-learn healthy habits, in terms of their sexuality and relationships with other people; it’s really a very comprehensive exercise program, and it has to be worked as an exercise program.”

“It all fits the pattern of what we would expect to have happen in human anthropology,” Hannemann explained, and indeed the pattern of breaking a vice by educating one's self about the good and habitually acting towards that good – developing the corresponding virtue – fits the description of vice and virtue described by Aristotle more than 300 years prior to Christ.

When a pornography addict is presented with explicit materials, Hannemann said chemical signals from the senses “go directly to the brain’s pleasure center and call up dopamine … without being processed by the mind anymore.”

Reclaim’s exercises are meant to re-train the brain so that the physical reaction to seeing provocative material will no longer be something that happens in the person, but can come under the person’s control and be a personal act – a chosen act that can be controlled, rather than automatic.

“It doesn't matter how hopelessly involved someone is with porn, and masturbation: if they start practicing putting their mind into the proper decisions and context, the brain chemistry will follow, because the mind controls the brain – you habituate yourself to a holy lifestyle,” Hannemann said.

Reclaim is a Catholic re-brand of another secular program, which was requested by Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay. Hannemann related that shortly after Bishop Ricken’s appointment to Green Bay in 2008, he called the Elizabeth Ministry into his office and directed them to develop programs to deal with human sexuality and to start with pornography, as it as one of the biggest detriments to family life.

Pornography addiction is not only a problem among adults, Hannemann noted. He said that Reclaim has received many requests for help from youth – children in middle school and high school – who realize they need help with a burgeoning addiction to pornography.

“They're begging us for help.”

(This story is excerpted from Catholic News Agency.)