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You Don't Have To Be a Dog!

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You Don't Have To Be a Dog!

A renowned behavioural scientist taught dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell.  Pavlov discovered 'classical conditioning', a process by which our brains can be automated to respond to certain stimulii. In these situations the link between stimulus and response becomes so automatic, it slips out of conscious awareness - perhaps into something sometimes called the pre-conscious.  Addictive and compulsive behaviours fall into this category without a doubt - so its useful to know this fascinating piece of science to aid recovery.

Pavlov trained his dogs by ringing a bell everytime they were fed. With repetition of this process Pavlov was able to take the food out of the equation and ring the bell to gte the salivation response in his dogs. His subjects' brains had soft-wired an association between the bell sound and hunger.  In sex and porn addiction and compulsivity the very same thing happens except the association that develops is usually about opportunity (stimulus) and, say, going online to access sexualised imagery (response).

Of course this is not the starting point of sex and porn addiction but rather its the resting place of a process that usually starts with emotional or psychological triggers and a subsequent need for a way to regulate them.  With repetition of the ritual of trigger, use of porn or sex to self-medicate, usually in similar opportunity circumstances and using the same methods, the brain becomes trained to just notice the opportunity and 'salivate' until the need is satisfied.

Inter-twined with this conditioning is the additional conditioning related to dopamine - a powerful neuro-transmitter which is associated with searching out for and the satisfaction of pleasure, novelty and surprise. Because our brains love the euphoric state that dopamine hits give it becomes conditioned also to link emotional and psychological triggers, such as anxiety or rejection, with that state. As dopamine is highly addictive, particularly so at the intensity generated by the infinite supply and diversity of porn, addiction sets in and becomes difficult to break - our brains find it difficult to give up the dopamine meds even though there may be commitment or willpower on our part.  In short our brains will fight hard not to give up this regular high.

Breaking up the ritual of the addictive cycle and disrupting the conditioning, whilst building up abstinence to break the dopamine dependency are the primary goals of therapy for sex and porn addiction.  You can listen to an audio module / podcast on my website which explains more about the treatment methods used in treatment using this link:

 https://youtu.be/B2egNi8ZX7Y

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