Why are teenagers most vulnerable to porn addiction?

As we’ve explored in previous questions, high-speed internet porn has become available to younger men and adolescents in the last two decades in a way that simply wasn’t present for people of an older generation. While older guys can suffer from porn-related issues and addiction, it appears as though they are not as vulnerable as teenagers to porn addiction.

The reason for this comes back to neuroplasticity and how malleable adolescent brains are. During adolescence through to the early twenties, a young person’s brain undergoes a rapid remodeling, where neurons are pruned and myelin sheaths are laid down which connects the remaining neurons together. This is a process that occurs due to the enormous amount of sponge-like learning that takes place in the brain during earlier years and the subsequent need to prune these connections. (Seigel)

As sexuality develops and adolescents spend more time watching porn and masturbating these cues tell the brain and hormonal system how to respond when thinking about sex. Because sensitivity to dopamine signaling is extremely high during this critical developmental period then novel, starling or shocking porn can have an even greater impact. Adolescent brains are also more vulnerable to addiction and so the hyperstimulation offered by high-speed internet porn can quickly condition the developing mind to porn as the primary source of sexual triggering. (YBOP, Young porn users need longer to recover their mojo)

In a study by Cambridge University on brain activity and sex-addiction, researchers found that the younger their subjects the greater the level of activity in the ventral striatum (an area of the brain that has a prominent role in reward-processing) in response to porn. They also found that this association was the strongest in individuals with compulsive sexual behavior. Because the frontal areas of the brain are responsible for controlling aspects such as risk-taking and impulsivity and are not fully developed until into the mid-twenties, they may play a large role in addiction vulnerability in adolescents. The fact that this area was impacted more strongly by porn points towards the greater vulnerability of adolescents than older men to porn addiction. (UoC)

One of the biggest impacts for younger users of porn is that it changes the way they relate to sex often before they have had a chance to participate in real sex. In previous decades such as the 1970’s or 1980’s, the opportunities for young men to look at porn were few and far between. Initial sexual experiences might well have revolved around fantasies of real people. But for people born later, their first experiences of masturbating are often via using a wide variety of porn. (Centre)

This kind of introduction to sex can cause further damage via the unconscious learning that porn can induce with regards to sex and sexuality. Many well-meaning parents or other adults tell young men that porn isn’t the same as real sex. However, when a young mind has been conditioned sexually to the kinds of images and types of sex found in porn – especially if the porn use has escalated to fetish or other unusual sexual practices – the unconscious learning that is gained from this kind of material leads to expectations of sex that are often not matched in real encounters. Younger men might be conditioning themselves to need stimulus such as feeling like a voyeur or sex that’s far outside of the kinds of real life sex that most couples enjoy. They might also find that once they do have real sex it fails to live up to either mental fantasies or to physical sensations – causing problems such as PIED and an inability to relate to real life sexual partners. (Wilson G. , 2004, p. P80)

If you are a younger guy and have found that your sexuality developed in tandem with regular exposure to porn then rebooting can be very beneficial for you. Although it can be worrying to realize that you may have wired your brain specifically to porn, remember that your brain IS plastic and can continue to change throughout your life –depending on the kinds of input it gets.

The first step is to quit porn and reboot. Some younger guys do report that it takes longer to reboot than older guys who did not go through adolescence with today’s internet porn. However, many have reported successfully rebooting and going on to enjoy a healthy real sex life.


Centre, O. R. (n.d.). The Ultimate Guide to Overcoming Porn Addiction. Retrieved 05 06, 2018, from Ocean Recovery Centre: https://oceanrecoverycentre.com/2016/07/the-ultimate-guide-to-overcoming-internet-porn-addiction/

Seigel, D. (n.d.). Pruning, Myelination, and the Remodeling Adolescent Brain. Retrieved 05 07, 2018, from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/inspire-rewire/201402/pruning-myelination-and-the-remodeling-adolescent-brain

UoC. (n.d.). Brain activity in sex addiction mirrors that of drug addiction. Retrieved 05 05, 2018, from University of Camribde: http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/brain-activity-in-sex-addiction-mirrors-that-of-drug-addiction

Wilson, G. (2004). Your Brain on Porn. Internet Pornography and the Emerging Science of Addiction. Commonwealth Publishing.

YBOP. (n.d.). Young porn users need longer to recover their mojo. Retrieved 05 07, 2018, from Your Brain on Porn: https://www.yourbrainonporn.com/young-porn-users-need-longer-recover-their-mojo