Behavioral Changes in Pornography Users

By LDS Family Services

Recognizing some of the warning signs that a loved one may be viewing pornography or involved in other compulsive sexual behaviors is not always easy. It’s important to know some of the warning signs, but there may be other reasons for your loved one’s behavioral changes that are unrelated to pornography usage. The Spirit can and will guide you as you prayerfully seek help. What do you know and what have you observed about your loved one’s behaviors?

Physical Behaviors 
  • Does your loved one spend time on the computer after everyone else is in bed?
  • Is your loved one spending more and more time on the computer?
  • Does your loved one quickly change the computer screen or turn off the computer when you walk by or enter the room?
  • Does your loved one have a lot of unaccounted time?
  • Is your loved one working long hours at the office over prolonged periods of time?
  • Does your loved one seem tired or worn out?
  • When confronted about being tired or worn out what is the reason?
Emotional Behaviors
  • Is your loved one more withdrawn?
  • Does your loved one seem emotionally disconnected?
  • Does your loved one spend less time with the family?
  • Is your loved one more irritable and on the edge?
  • Does your loved one become angry over little things?
  • Does your loved one blame others for what is going wrong?
  • It’s important to keep in mind that some of these emotional behaviors may be just a normal stage of life particularly with adolescents.
Financial Behaviors
  • Are there charges on your credit card where you do not know the company?
  • Are there long distant phone charges to unknown numbers?
  • Are there unaccounted for expenditures?
Spiritual Behaviors
  • Does your loved one seem less interested in spiritual things?
  • Does your loved one make sarcastic remarks about people in the Church or Church leaders?
  • Is your loved one attending Church, reading the scriptures and having personal prayers?
  • Does your loved one have a current temple recommend? Is your loved one attending the temple?

It’s important to make a distinction between what you know and what you assume might be going on with your loved one and whether or not there is pornography usage. What do you know to be the facts? What is the evidence? Are there credit card receipts, phone bills, internet sites, web site addresses, e-mails, phone calls from third parties who shared information, canceled checks, printed material that is pornographic, or has he/she confessed?  It is very important that you stick with the facts. You should avoid becoming a detective, but sometimes it is necessary to make a wise decision and get the help that you and your loved one needs.


What Makes Pornography Addictive?

Many wonder why addicts don’t “just stop." Below are some key points on how pornography impacts the brain.

  1. The thalamus and brainstem regulate pleasure and reward activities.
    These include eating and sexuality which are important in the survival of the individual and the species.
  2. When we overuse pleasure centers, the cells that produce dopamine are overworked.
    As a defense reaction, the brain decreases the amount of dopamine available and also causes shrinkage in the cells that produce the dopamine around the cerebral cortex.
  3. Shrinkage of cerebral cortex is a consequence of addiction.
    The shrinkage in the cerebral cortex also contributes to the compulsivity and impulsivity seen in addiction.
  4. The cerebral cortex is where benefits and risks of pleasurable stimulus are weighed.
    It is the "thinking" part of the brain.
  5. Day-to-day pleasures are not enough to alleviate the brain's craving for dopamine.
    This craving in the newly reset pleasure thermostat in the brain is likely key in the desire to relapse.
  6. Brain restoration comes with abstinence to pornography.
    Restoration to more normal brain volume has been seen with recovery in addiction.