By Ethlie Ann Vare
David Kessler, the former head of the Food and Drug Administration, posits in his book "The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite" that the modern food industry intentionally layers fat, sugar and salt in its products to trigger our craving for more food. “They aren't selling just any commodity,” says Kessler. “They've designed highly stimulating products, substances that excessively activate the reward circuits of the brain, and consumers come back for more.”
This is the scientific basis for banning 64-ounce sodas in New York City movie theaters: junk food is literally turning us into food addicts. Well, sugary foods aren’t the only easily available, highly stimulating products on the market with a risk of triggering obsessive and destructive behavior. You could say that internet pornography is the junk food of sex and love addiction.
No STD’s, no cash changing hands, no getting rousted by the Vice Squad… in the digital age, all anyone needs is a smartphone and, voila, hot and cold running sexual fantasies. For most teenage boys, access to pornography 24/7 generally means pornography, 24/7. But there’s a larger problem: the nature of the sexual fantasies themselves. Like the complex, supercharged flavors of pretzel M&M’s or salted caramel ice cream, the intensity and variety of pornographic images available online go right for the brain’s reward circuits, creating that instant gratification feedback loop that easily turns into an addictive groove.
Recent studies show that watching pornography stimulates more brain activity in the dopamine receptors than having actual sex does. Dopamine is the neurochemical that signals not just pleasure and gratification, but the anticipation of pleasure and gratification, which is often even more exciting. (For me, sorry to report, the anticipation is almost always more exciting than the event. Whatever the event may be…)...