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Behav Sci (Basel). 2015 Sep 18;5(3):388-433. doi: 10.3390/bs5030388.

Neuroscience of Internet Pornography Addiction: A Review and Update.

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Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health, Ardmore, PA 19003, USA.
Department of General Psychology: Cognition, University of Duisburg-Essen, Duisburg 47057, Germany.
Department of General Psychology: Cognition, University of Duisburg-Essen, Duisburg 47057, Germany.
Erwin L. Hahn Institute for Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Essen 45141, Germany.
Private Practice, Santa Barbara, CA 93103, USA.
Health Upwardly Mobile Inc., Calgary, AB T2S 0J2, Canada.
Diagnostic and Descriptive Terminology Action Group (DDTAG), American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), Chevy Chase, MD 93101, USA.


Many recognize that several behaviors potentially affecting the reward circuitry in human brains lead to a loss of control and other symptoms of addiction in at least some individuals. Regarding Internet addiction, neuroscientific research supports the assumption that underlying neural processes are similar to substance addiction. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has recognized one such Internet related behavior, Internet gaming, as a potential addictive disorder warranting further study, in the 2013 revision of their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Other Internet related behaviors, e.g., Internet pornography use, were not covered. Within this review, we give a summary of the concepts proposed underlying addiction and give an overview about neuroscientific studies on Internet addiction and Internet gaming disorder. Moreover, we reviewed available neuroscientific literature on Internet pornography addiction and connect the results to the addiction model. The review leads to the conclusion that Internet pornography addiction fits into the addiction framework and shares similar basic mechanisms with substance addiction. Together with studies on Internet addiction and Internet Gaming Disorder we see strong evidence for considering addictive Internet behaviors as behavioral addiction. Future research needs to address whether or not there are specific differences between substance and behavioral addiction.


DSM-5; addictive behavior; behavioral addiction; cybersex; internet addiction; internet gaming disorder; internet pornography addiction; neuroimaging; neuroscience; online sexual behavior

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