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Whether you are new to recovery from porn addiction or are far on your journey, you’re probably experiencing porn cravings.

You should expect these cravings in your situation. They come from a central part of your brain that controls almost everything you do. 

Porn cravings also stem from learned behavior in childhood. Things that excited you or traumatized you have rewired your brain over time, causing you to seek out methods of self-soothing. 

What are Adverse Developmental Experiences?

Adverse Developmental Experiences are negative or stressful experiences you had while growing up. 

When you are a child, and into your teenage years, your brain is most mouldable. Therefore, what you learned to do to help you cope at a young age is what you’ll likely turn to as an adult.

Scientists have linked ADEs to an increased likelihood of suffering from mental health and addiction issues later in life. 

These experiences also taught you how to self-soothe.

Types of Adverse Developmental Experiences

ADEs come in all shapes and sizes. But their impact on a growing child can have intense repercussions.

If the child is invalidated, if they don’t receive the emotional support they need and desire, their neurodevelopment can be stunted or wholly rewired.

For pornography addiction, if you encountered ADE while growing up, you likely taught yourself to feel better by doing the one thing you had total control over — self-pleasure. Therefore, your developing mind learned this was how to make yourself feel better. 

Here are some areas where ADEs may occur.

Attunement

Attunement is the way a parent or other primary caregiver reacts to a child’s emotions and needs. During development, you want your feelings to be reflected and to feel understood.

When you were a child, how did your caregivers or parents treat you? If they treated you with softness, love, and tenderness, then you may be well attuned. But, if they disregarded your emotions and needs or didn’t pay much attention to you, you may suffer from a lack of attunement.

Validation

When a primary caregiver reflects your emotions to you as a child, you feel validated and understood. This reflection promotes attunement.

For example, if you were afraid of the dark and cried out for your parents at night, did they comfort you and listen to your fear? Or did they tell you that your fear was invalid and turn off the lights and leave the room?

One of these experiences shows validation, and the other does not. 

Emotional Recognition

When parents don’t reflect a child’s emotions or make you feel that your feelings are unimportant, you may experience helplessness and powerlessness. Your primary means of seeking the comfort you need doesn’t elicit a response from your caregiver.

Feeling inadequate, rejected, or insignificant are all things that become internalized and cause you to seek comfort from other people or activities.

Acceptance

Being accepted for who you are is another critical factor for promoting attunement in young children. 

If your parents made you feel that you weren’t good enough or ridiculed for your actions or feelings, they rejected you. This rejection also puts the burden of family acceptance on the child. It forced you to alter your choices and behaviors rather than the people raising you.

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Adverse developmental experiences increase the likelihood of developing addictions or other unhealthy coping mechanisms.

The Relationship Between Trauma and Adverse Developmental Experiences

Childhood neglect usually causes a lack of attunement. If you were neglected or made to feel invalid as a child, you probably sought out things you could control to self-soothe

The choices you made were your only means of survival at the time, which is why your brain still defaults to them now. 

Many more severe ADEs can predict an increased likelihood of developing an addiction or other unhealthy coping mechanism. 

Traumatic events during childhood often cause your brain to wire differently. This rewiring is because your brain and body go into fight or flight mode to help you to survive. 

When you are in a difficult situation, your brain regularly releases a specific stress hormone. The abundance of this hormone causes the part of your brain responsible for learning and memory to shrink in size.

Traumatic experiences can also impact the portion of your brain responsible for decision-making skills.

Here are some traumatic experiences that also may impact development.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse happens all too often to developing children. It may have occurred in an isolated event or acute trauma or chronically over time.

Regardless, these traumatic events can have a massive lifelong impact on your ability to cope with stressful situations.

Divorce

A stable home and an example of loving-kindness are critical for healthy development. However, for a developing mind, the idea that your home is unstable often forces you to grapple with the idea that no love is permanent or stable. 

You may also blame yourself for your parents’ divorce, causing a long-term sense of guilt.

Death

Death and the impermanence of life are simply a fact. But, that can cause real trauma to a person suffering from this kind of loss. 

Coping with the loss of a pet or loved one as a child may be more than a developing brain can handle.

Poverty

Growing up with less than you need can be traumatizing by itself. For example, if your family lacked the financial means to support you, your daily needs, and your hobbies, you might have grown up feeling inadequate.

Abandonment

People come and go in our lives. But, when an influential figure abandons you while you’re still developing, your brain will struggle to cope with this, leading to immense stress.

Loss

Loss of any kind will have a massive impact while you’re developing. For example, a friend that moves away, a pet running away from home, or even changing schools can leave you with a feeling of loss and grief.

How Porn Cravings Develop

To understand why you’re craving porn, you need to know how you learned to crave things in the first place. 

Dopamine, commonly referred to as the “pleasure chemical,” is responsible for how we learn that things feel good. When you do something that your brain and body determine is pleasurable, dopamine makes you feel good about it. This chemical burst causes you to remember that it felt good and encourages you to repeat the action.

So, if you used masturbation or watched pornography as a way to cope with extreme emotions, your brain released a surplus of dopamine, causing intense feelings of satisfaction and pleasure.

Therefore, you’ll repeat the action because you know it makes you feel good.

But your developing brain can’t cope with that amount of dopamine. 

From behind, we see a person staring into a computer screen in a dark room

Watching porn may have once been used as a way to cope with uncomfortable emotions. However, over time, your brain develops both dependence on and a tolerance of the dopamine that releases when watching pornography. This creates a cycle of addiction.

Coping with Tolerance and Compulsion

When you have too much dopamine, your brain tries to manage it. Your brain shuts down the neuroreceptors that process dopamine. Meaning that every time you repeat the action of watching porn and masturbating, you’re getting less of the thing you’re seeking. 

Your porn cravings will increase, causing you to look for new images and videos compulsively. You’ll keep opening tabs on your internet browser to experience the novelty of new people and new sexual experiences on the screen.

Initially, you’ll probably keep watching the same kinds of porn over and over, deadening more dopamine receptors. But your brain loves novelty. 

Therefore, you’ll start seeking out more intense and taboo forms of pornography or more high-risk masturbation activities to try and recreate that initial dopamine high. 

These activities are all learned as a trauma response. Self-pleasure and self-soothing are some of the few things you had control over as a child. Therefore, they’re still your primary forms of coping now. 

How BAI Can Help

At the Begin Again Institute, we understand that sex and porn addiction recovery isn’t one size fits all. That’s why we offer various services to help. 

Our 14-Day Men’s Intensive allows us to tailor your recovery program to fit your specific needs. It also allows you the space to connect with other people who are in a similar situation, allowing for genuine empathy and attunement. 

We offer specialized trauma-focused care because we understand that trauma is at the root of the addiction. We are empathetic to the fact that your porn cravings come from a place of self-soothing. Our programs are based on the latest neurobiological research and adapt them to your specific needs. 

Contact us today to see how we can help you overcome porn addiction and stop porn cravings.

  • Category: Pornography Addiction
  • By Development Account
  • June 2, 2021

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