The Trauma of Porn: Part 3

This is part three of a six part series about pornography, truama, and healing intimacy.

In my last post I discussed how trauma can actually cause numerous levels of mental health issues. How heavily it will impact children (or anyone really) is heavily related to their support systems. For example look at war veterans as they try to readjust to society. Having experienced significantly traumatic events while in the service, they are also surrounded by people who tend to normalize those traumatic experiences as a way of dealing with them. For many veterans, when they can no longer ignore or normalize — often due to a change in support system when they leave active duty — they will likely “numb out” using alcohol, drugs, exercise, or work.

For children with sexual trauma this presents itself in a variety of ways.  Often it presents early on as ADHD.  Let me be clear, I am not saying if your child has ADHD they are victims of sexual trauma.  I am saying that there is a growing body of evidence that ADHD may simply be a form of genetic or developed trauma response, and they at least have enough significant overlap in symptoms that can make diagnosis in children complex. Attachment and behavioral concerns are significant as well because the part of the brain that releases bonding hormones has been triggered by something their mind can’t make sense of yet. 

When babies nurse their brains release oxytocin, a bonding chemical that produces a sense of belonging and affection.  Oxytocin also happens to have a lot to do with the reproductive and sexual cycles and functions of the body.  When sexual activity happens, even before puberty, the brain can release oxytocin and create a very confusing feeling for a child.  At once they may feel as though they are bonding, aroused, and happy while also feeling scared, confused, powerless, and ashamed.  

If they are quickly made to feel safe and reassured (as discussed in the last post) the traumatic effect will likely be brief.  If not, it will reinforce a sense of danger related to those hormonal releases either that they are unsafe and shameful or overwhelming and shameful.  Shame then begins to produce emotional separation.  There is a very real representation of Adam and Eve after the Fall in the way trauma changes our emotional intimacy.  Whereas before, assuming healthy bonds with their parents thus far, children feel close and understood–afterwards they may feel distant, misunderstood, or unworthy of the same prior connection. They now have proverbial fig leaves preventing them from reaching true emotional intimacy.

Once oxytocin and other pleasure/bonding hormones have been divided from emotional intimacy it is very hard to rebuild that bridge physiologically and psychologically. There is a very real sense in which addiction to pornography is less of a sexual issue than it is a community issue.  Without the normal brain processes to create meaningful emotional bonds and build emotional intimacy the porn addicted brain is always seeking a release that the brain should get from relationships but instead finds in sexual images and stimulation.  The porn addict becomes more emotionally isolated because it cannot seem to make the connections it needs as easily without sex.

In my next post I’ll talk about how this can play out in a person’s relationships and views of the opposite sex. 

 

Footnotes:

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1521-0391.2011.00126.x

https://www.additudemag.com/adhd-and-trauma-overview-signs-symptoms/ One thing to note about this particular article is that it fails to consider that PTSD is heritable and thus ADHD could potentially be a heritable form of PTSD.  More research needs to be done.

https://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/oxytocin/

 

One thought on “

  1. This is a great article! The articles are all helpful in thinking of people I have known and how they do this as adults. I hope you will try to publish these somewhere when you finish them!

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