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Many people say porn is addictive, but the conversation around this sounds quite similar to the conversation around drugs -

https://www.yourbrainonporn.com/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4600144/

which hold that substance and not setting is the main driver of addiction. In the Rat Park experiments the addictive power of morphine was negligible if the rats had a happy social scene instead of a blank cage to live in - see here for clever cartoon on it

https://www.stuartmcmillen.com/comic/rat-park/

http://www.brucekalexander.com/articles-speeches/rat-park

Extrapolating from rats to people, is it possible that porn addiction is less to do with the 'substance' and more to do with the social setting of the user ? (Note: there are critiques of flaws in rat park experiment but I don't know where to find them).

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As a therapist working with patients suffering from all kinds of addictions – drugs, porn, computer games, social media, gambling, sex, etc. – the simple answer is that addictive behavior is influenced by:

  • currenct life circumstances (Rat Park versus cages, if you want)
  • personality (some people are more prone to addiction than others)
  • life experiences (childhood abuse and other trauma)

So yes, a person in a happy romantic relationship with a supportive network of friends and family working a satisfying job will most likely not become addicted to porn from masturbating to it every now and then, just as they won't become addicted to THC from smoking a joint on Saturday evenings, but the influence of these life circumstances do not protect someone from becoming addicted when they make traumatic experiences such as the death of a child or when their personality is "addiction prone" (e.g. high neuroticism, low conscientiousness, high impulsivity, high reward and threat sensitivities, and so on).

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Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the reply. What if I was to ask if our modern social institutions such as marriage, monogamy, single family houses, 9-5 work etc., act like cages ? After all, these aren't universals in human history. In the rat park experiments the only difference between the groups of rats were housing and social isolation, they weren't (to my knowledge) traumatised in any way - just deprived. $\endgroup$ – Jimmy Widdle Oct 19 '18 at 17:27
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome. Can you add sources to your answer to allow others to background read on your topic? $\endgroup$ – AliceD Oct 19 '18 at 18:48
  • $\begingroup$ @JimmyWiddle If you are interested in this, I suggest you post it as a new follow-up question (we try to stick to one question per 'thread' on Stack Exchange). However, you might learn more from this question first (possibly other answers which might be added) to make this new question more detailed. $\endgroup$ – Steven Jeuris Oct 19 '18 at 22:46
  • $\begingroup$ @alice - eww that's going to be a long job. I'm not sure what sources I could add that don't cover what's already covered on the Brain on Porn web site. There are some criticisms of flaws in the rat park experiment but not enough to totally invalidate it, I think it generally holds up. $\endgroup$ – Jimmy Widdle Oct 20 '18 at 7:44
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    $\begingroup$ @Alice - it's up there in the original question. I'll just post the first link in their resources page. $\endgroup$ – Jimmy Widdle Oct 20 '18 at 20:09

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