Porn-Induced Sexual Dysfunction: A Complete Guide

man

A growing 21st century problem for many young men

Porn-induced ED is no longer a myth. People all over the world are starting to realize just how toxic a porn addiction can be and it’s hitting a certain group of men harder than others.

It’s no joke: porn induced sexual dysfunction is on the rise and those most at risk are young men. Millennials are being severely affected by their porn addictions and their recovery rates are significantly lower on average than those of middle-aged or older men. That’s not to say that the older generations are home-free of the same devastating problems caused by too much internet porn. Rather, it’s that older men with a history of healthy sex are often recovering much faster from their porn-induced sexual dysfunction.

To get a better picture of the problem at hand and for those of you who are only just learning about the problem of PIED, we’ll start at the beginning.

In the 1970s, studies showed that less than 1% of young men aged 19 were having problems with erectile dysfunction. However recent studies in Italy and Switzerland found much higher numbers, with as many as 30% of young men (median age 19) battling erectile problems.  (further reading)

It’s clear this is a very real problem that is growing by the day. Doctors and patients around the world are starting to agree that there is more to the new generation of ED than the traditional physiological causes. And there are scores of people out there from all walks of life and all over the world who are starting to notice that their porn habits are interfering with their intimacy. 

WHAT IS PORN INDUCED SEXUAL DYSFUNCTION?

In short, it’s the physiological fallout of watching too much porn and masturbating to those porn habits. Porn has an uncanny way of changing the way the brain views and receives stimulus. To be more concise, the brain is doing what it does best, looking for the best possible outcome in every situation and ensuring that you keep getting more of what makes you feel happy and fulfilled. The problem is that on a functional level, the brain can often outdo itself.

Each time you’re visually stimulated and you feel an enjoyable feeling, whether it’s food you’re enjoying, a steamy erotic movie, or the embrace of your partner, your brain is releasing a hormone called dopamine. By now, you’ve heard of dopamine as being the “reward” chemical of the brain and it’s enjoyed the spotlight for many years as one of the driving forces behind addiction. Drug addiction, food addiction and yes, even porn addiction.

More recent studies have shown that while dopamine is the driving force behind addiction, it’s slightly different to what we originally thought it was. If dopamine was simply the reward factor there would be little problem but it’s how dopamine reacts and is released on desire rather than reward that leads us to believe that dopamine is, in fact, more of a psychological chemical than a physiological chemical. Which brings us right back to the beginning point: the rise in porn induced sexual dysfunction is most definitely an emotional one.

Here’s how it works:

When you’re intimate with a partner, the brain releases natural dopamine that tells your body you’re really enjoying this experience. Next time you come across a beautiful woman, your brain consciously or subconsciously remembers that glorious occasion and begins to release dopamine when your desire kicks in.

The porn-watching dopamine-release process is no different. However, with the rise in latest technology making internet usage easier, faster and more accessible to people of all ages and walks of life, there is now boundless opportunity available for continuous and extensive porn viewing.

Right, so I know many of you would say that this is a benefit and not a disadvantage, but the research shows that the more you watch, the more desensitized you become to what you saw a week ago, or yesterday, or just a few minutes. If you take a look at the porn internet trends and read some of the comments left by average people who are struggling with this problem, it’s clear to see that many of the young men have crossed their boundaries by taking their porn choices to a degree that they would have been disgusted with. This is because each time you watch your chosen channel, less and less dopamine is released. Your brain is desperate to keep those dopamine levels steady, if not rising.

Why increased dopamine levels could eventually lead to PIED

Porn feeds the brain novelty experiences which are designed to excite and arouse in sometimes shocking ways. All of these experiences desensitize the viewer. The problem is that when you DO want to be intimate with a real partner, your desire-stimulus reactions are completely upside down, leaving you at the mercy of your own body.

This problem is way more complex than in increase or decrease of the happy hormone, though. It’s, in essence, a problem of desensitizing your desire for the natural aspects of sex, as well as creating unrealistic expectations that lead to worry and fear of your performance capabilities.

This is just a small list of the various side effects that can sometimes come bundled with a serious PMO habit.

  • Increased general and sexual anxiety
  • Decrease in general and sexual energy
  • Depression
  • Lack of motivation and drive to accomplish everyday tasks
  • Lower productivity levels
  • Less confidence
  • Lowered social confidence, especially when approaching the opposite sex

ED

HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE PISD/PIED?

There are a number of reasons for ED and it’s always a good idea to be sure that your problem does not have a physiological origin. Visit your urologist and have him check for physical complications. If no causes can be found, the next step is to check if your ED is from sexual anxiety, and whether the anxiety is porn related. Alternatively, you could do this simple test first in order to give you an idea of where the problem could lie. Take it from there if you do not relate to the results found in the test.

Do you notice any of the following?

  • Decrease in sensitivity during sexual intercourse
  • Only being able to achieve an erection with porn/fantasy
  • Erections are not as hard with a partner as they are when viewing porn
  • The growing need to turn to harder porn in order to achieve/maintain an erection

If you’re experiencing any of these problems and you find you don’t have a problem maintaining an erection while viewing porn, but you just can’t get it up during one-on-one experiences, then rebooting is definitely worth a try. 

WHAT IS THE SCIENCE BEHIND IT?

An understanding of the science, even on a basic level can actually help your recovery process and encourage the success of your reboot.

In order to understand the science behind PIED, you have to take a look at the nature of addiction. The way we view addiction has certainly changed over the past decade and it’s become clear that addiction doesn’t happen ONLY with the intake of chemical substances.

The brain is hardwired to keep the body alive. That means establishing certain patterns, like finding food that helps the body feel great and work great; or doing something that is physically beneficial to the body. These patterns, or habits to put it more in context, can range from being extremely positive to extremely negative.

Porn unnaturally stimulates the mega release of dopamine in the body. This is about the time when the body takes a back seat and says; “well now that that’s covered, I guess I don’t have to make any more.” Slowly but surely, the body’s natural dopamine release is lessened through external stimuli.

As this happens, addiction begins drawing a neural pathway through your brain. Consider it a conditioning of the brain to seek out more of what encourages the dopamine release.

So here you can see that addiction is not always tied to the stimulus itself (ie. Porn, food, illicit drugs) but to the FEELING that said stimulus presents, and the chemicals that action releases in the brain.

Studies that support the science behind PIED

While Porn induced erectile dysfunction has not been directly studied with control groups, there are hundreds, if not thousands of living case studies; all of which point to porn as the main cause of their ED. In these cases, simply removing the use of porn brought back the ability to achieve an erection, whereas reintroducing porn meant a return of sexual problems.

There is a great forum here that talks about the science behind PIED, and while it is over 2 years old at the date of this publication, the information is highly relevant and eye opening. The fact of the matter is that while the world waits for scientific endorsements in order to yay or nay this topic, the experiments ARE being conducted daily and are being tested by real people, with real ED problems.

One member of the above-mentioned forum says it so well:

“For those seeking scientific studies…I hear ya, you want your logical questions answered, graphed out, measured and weighed, tied up into a nice sturdy theory. But, before you exhaustively search for such knowledge — try no PMO for 90 days. After 90 days clean, I doubt you’ll care about seeing scientific studies. You’ll have true knowledge, the knowledge of subjective experience.”

Let’s look at science for a moment, when does a theory become a finding?

Science is, in its nature the organized categorizing of asking questions, doing experiments, finding answers and then validating those answers. If you consider this, then it’s clear that science is already backing the theory that many young men, particularly millennials are suffering from ED as a direct result from the over usage of porn.

But for those of you who are still unconvinced, here are a few studies that support the idea that too much porn can be harmful:

Urology Professor Carlo Foresta

Italian study 2011

The actual study

Conducted by Valerie Voon and associates

U.K study 2014

Excerpt was taken from Chapter 4 of the book: The brain that changes itself

Psychiatrist Norman Doidge 2007

In fact, there’s an entire page on yourbrainonporn.com dedicated to the experts who recognize PIED and have formed studies around the topic.                                                                                                                                         

science

WHAT IS THE SCIENCE AGAINST IT?

I am yet to come across an article or study that really resonates with me as to why porn is NOT the problem for many ED sufferers who have ruled out all other causes. However, there are certainly a number of professionals, and porn users, who don’t share the views of the growing number of men with chronic ED. One such professional is Doctor David Ley over at psychology today.

In his article opposing porn induced sexual dysfunction Dr. Ley outlines the findings of an unpublished study where it was found that (and I quote); “Sexual desire, not hypersexuality, is related to neurophysiological responses elicited by sexual images” Ironically, Dr. Ley’s stance on the subject is against the idea of porn being the cause of the problem, however, the study he has chosen to base his view on actually supports the notion that porn can become an addiction.

At its core, addiction is about desire rather than the overuse of the substance. The overuse of the substance is rather an effect of the growth in desire and the need to continually fulfill the craving.

Nonetheless, it is noteworthy as being a contradictory study and has certainly garnered plenty of both good and bad attention from the public.

Here’s another article published earlier this year in the LA Times. This article is based on this study conducted by Nicole Prauss and James Pfaus. While the study is aimed in the right direction, one of its immediately noticeable key flaws is that the study does not actually make use of internet porn that is already native to the individual who is taking part. There is a general level of porn that is being used throughout the research and for all the participants.

The headline of the study reads as follows:

“Viewing Sexual Stimuli Associated with Greater Sexual Responsiveness, Not Erectile Dysfunction”

The aim of the study was to determine whether the viewing of sexual stimuli is associated with sexual sensitivity with a partner, or in a lab environment.

The study found, as the headline suggests, that viewing sexual stimuli actually increases sexual arousal.

Our thoughts on these studies

Both of the studies mentioned here are somewhat vague and lack a view of the full scope of the problem. It would be great to see a study that encompasses more natural settings which allow the porn user to view the types of porn he naturally would when at his computer in the comfort of his own home.

The crux of porn addiction is that it is ever evolving and it never actually remains the same. The vice continually requires harder porn types to fulfill the user’s needs. This is more like an inter-drug addiction than an addiction to one drug on its own.

In my opinion, and that of many scientists and medical professionals, these studies do not refute the notion that porn can and does interfere with a healthy sexual capacity with a partner.

HOW TO RECOVER FROM PIED?

The good news in this story is that PISD/PIED is completely reversible in many cases. As for how long your reboot will take, results are found to vary depending on the sexual history, porn use, and age of the individual.

Generally, though, and this might sound strange, going cold turkey in this situation seems to be the best way to experience measurable results through your reboot.

What is rebooting?

Rebooting, or rewiring as it’s also known, is what we refer to as the process of resetting to the brain’s natural state. It can last from anywhere between 21 days and 2 years, but most guys find success within 90-120 days. The whole reboot process is dependent on your input and dedication.

How to reboot 

It’s actually pretty simple, and the best thing is that there are no rules or regulations. You drive the bus here, so to speak. The idea is to stay away from external and unnatural sexual stimuli. Porn, masturbation and fantasizing are some of the things that could cause you problems and many guys choose to refrain from all of them at the same time.

In order for your brain to weaken the dopamine pathways to porn and begin to recognize the desire for natural sex again, you need to undergo a period where it is not being fed unnatural stimuli (ie. Hardcore porn). The focus of the reboot is not necessarily on quitting masturbation (though abstaining from masturbation during a reboot seems to help speed the process), rather it’s on quitting porn, erotica and other sexual stimuli along those lines.

There are helpful guidelines to be found on question and answer pages and forums written by the men who have been through the process of rewiring themselves, so there is plenty of guidance and advice to get you through the confusion.

Reboot

How long will it take?

To quote one forum user:  “As long as it takes.”

The fact of the matter is that the process varies from person to person, habit to habit, variable to variable. There are a number of people who experience success within as little as 21 days, and there are people who take months to recover.

This is where it gets tricky for a lot of people. When you set out to do anything in life, you want to be sure you’ll see results, otherwise it was a waste of time. With a reboot, you have to be actively involved in your recovery process — it’s not a passive recovery.

Passive vs active recovery

While the most basic part of rebooting is simply eliminating porn, erotica and other artificial sexual stimuli from your daily life, it’s not the only part of it. Let’s take this back to the basics of addiction. If you simply remove the alcohol from an alcoholic’s life, trust and believe that the rehabilitation effort will not be successful – you must WANT and work toward achieving his goal of kicking the habit.

Recovery is about wanting to see the results and making sure that you do. This requires self-discipline, motivation, and determination. These qualities don’t sound so easy to garner when you’re not feeling 100% at your best already, but I can assure you that with the right mindset, your rebooting process will be a thousand times easier.

At the end of the day, the simple difference between passive recovery and active recovery is the will to put things in motion so that you DON’T end up fighting your cravings at each corner and every opportunity.

reboot flatline

Flatlining

This is normal for the recovery phase and is a period of time through recovery where the libido drops exponentially in many cases. It can be very worrying to some, especially if it lasts weeks or months. The good news is that there is light at the end of this very dark tunnel and most people make their way out of the unsettling lifelessness very quickly.

Flatlining at a glance:

  • Recovery periods vary greatly, as do flatlining periods
  • You may experience it only once throughout your recovery, or you may experience it a few times
  • Longer flatlining periods have been noticed in younger men who have a longer history of internet porn, and especially where PMO has been the primary source of orgasm.
  • It can be experienced whether you have porn induced erectile dysfunction, delayed ejaculation (DE) and, of course, a porn addiction
  • This is the point where your recovery may be in jeopardy – many guys relapse during their flatlining periods because they feel the need to “test” their erections
  • There are both physiological and psychological changes that happen to the body during flatlining
  • Many rebooters notice that after the flatline period, their erections are harder and stronger than ever before
  • Many younger men report that an ejaculation in the middle of a reboot can spark another flatline
  • After rewiring and after experiencing a period (or two) of flatlining, ED usually disappears completely (assuming that natural causes were not present and were ruled out in the beginning)
  • Some men report feeling depressed, with a decrease in physical energy during this time that dissipates after the period is over. These “blue” feelings may not always last the duration of the flatline.

Getting through flatline periods

Just keep pushing through like this guy did. Staying motivated can help you see the bigger picture that a sense of hopelessness causes you to abandon. It’s very easy to consider just giving up when you don’t see immediate results or if the results you do see seem to be negative. As Thomas A. Edison said; “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Flatlining is a sure fire way of measuring progress in your reboot and many men do, in fact, see this period as something completely positive. Some use it as a time to strengthen their social skills and concentrate on other areas of their lives.

To masturbate or not during your reboot

This has actually become a bit of a hot topic among the skeptics of the rebooting process and even some rebooters feel that completely quitting masturbation is too extreme. You’ll have to find what works for YOU.

The NoPorn movement is entirely different from the NoFap movement, and yet, at the same time they’re linked. The thing is the generation who are currently struggling the most with PIED are not simply masturbating, most times the habit is a full PMO habit and therein lies the problem. This may be why many of the men who undergo the rebooting process choose to simply forego masturbation as well.

It might help to remember that the goal here is not to abstain from experiencing an orgasm or intimacy with a partner; the goal is to get your body and brain back into its natural glory so that you can experience a healthy libido again that is not linked to artificial stimulants

Underdog from yourbrainrebalanced.com had this to say:

Avoid at all costs the trap of thinkingIf I’m going to fap, I might as well fap to porn“. This was in response to the low level of success rate measured on the forum site among the users there. Relapse regarding masturbation more often than not comes from this very idea.

Men reboot

REBOOTING ADVICE

Arm yourself with information

There is nothing like mapping your own rebooting process out because you know what to expect, or at the very least what to look out for.

But don’t forget to rely on others when you need to

Everyone hits a snag now and then, you can ask for advice, and if you’re not so keen on sharing your story, you can browse, and browse and browse some more to find the answers you need.

Know your triggers

This is an important part of the process. In order to steer clear of your vice, especially in the beginning, you’ll want to be able to avoid triggers or at least be prepared should you be faced with one. I suggest taking some time out to really dig deep and identify each and every trigger. Go ahead and put some preventative measures in place. If you have to get a blocker for your browser; do so. If you should ask a roommate to put passwords on your porn channels on Cable TV; do so. If you have to throw out all your old magazines; do so.

Change your mindset

What one forum user pointed out was that this problem has more than one face and it’s quite possible that psychological ED also plays a huge role, if not overlaps in some areas. Society, media and personal reflection all add to the compound problem that is erectile dysfunction. But therein lies the key to recovery.

“Result? “Porn Induced” Erectile Dysfunction. Or, in my opinion: “Induced by Porn, but Maintained by The Media” Erectile Dysfunction. The most effective cure for this would be to reject not just porn, but also the unhealthy hypermasculine ideal that the media glorifies every day, particularly in action movies, comic books, action movies adapted from comic books 😉 and video games.”

Taken from a yourbrainrebalanced.com comment

Set goals and stick to them

Despite your main goal being the relief of ED, you’ll likely have a number of other goals related to the process. For example, you may find you’re struggling with performance anxiety and you’d like it to improve – that’s a goal to work towards.

Be kind to yourself, this is a process of re-discovery and re-setting and no-one is perfect. If you do relapse, it shouldn’t be the defining factor of your recovery process, it’s not always a setback and often it allows you to take note of small things. Did you relapse because of an unknown trigger? Write it down! Did you relapse because you were feeling bored? Take note and start filling your time with productive and exciting experiences.

REBOOTING ALTERNATIVES 

The majority of men who go through the rebooting process go cold turkey and swear by it, but as mentioned before, there are no hard rules regarding your recovery process.

Possibly the most important thing to remember is that you do what brings success and results for you.

Some, for instance, prefer to stagger the recovery and break it down into smaller [and easier to handle] sections.

Here’s a guy who’s gone one step further and really thought about what rebooting means to him, and how he can make it work for him in his situation. This is his strategy for an alternative method to the cold turkey reboot:

“Approximately 40 days ago I had my last orgasm from PMO. At that point I started the reboot (because of severe ED), but unfortunately I couldn’t commit myself to full PMO abstinence. So I watched P and M to it quite rarely… every 2nd or 3rd day, and for short periods of time (~5 min). I always had a full, good erection during these short “sessions”. What I managed to do, however, was to not edge and don’t get close to Orgasm.

Interestingly, about 10 days ago (so 30 days into the no-O “reboot”), I felt into a terrible flatline (no libido, no erections and no interest in porn or women). During these last 10 days I didn’t watch porn because I started to hate it ! I tried to watch and couldn’t for more than 10 seconds. It’s as if my mind did a 180 degree turn around due to not getting the orgasm reward at the end of each PM session.

Now it’s very, very easy to abstain from PMO entirely and I strongly believe that this is one of the easiest ways to get rid of this problem. It’s like building repulsion towards porn, a little, day-by-day (gradually limiting the orgasmic reward possibility. Your mind just gives up, it seems, if no-O is reached after about 30 days). During these 40 days, I didn’t struggle and I had little or almost no withdrawal symptoms (maybe a bit around the 7-10 day mark of no-O).”

Another forum user posted an interesting view on an alternative strategy, but what’s possibly more important are the informative replies from fellow forum users who are a little divided on his strategy.

Let me know in the comment section if you’ve come up with any alternatives that have proven to work for you, or someone you know – would love to add it to the list.

Panic Button

LINK BETWEEN PIED AND PERFORMANCE ANXIETY

WebMD mentions a number of causes for sexual performance anxiety that can help you to understand just how much of a role external factors play in intimacy.

Relationship problems, general anxiety, depression and a bad body image all form part of these possible causes. But they go on to mention a number of factors that the overuse of porn could affect quite directly.

For example:

  1. The worry that your penis isn’t big enough, long enough, hard enough, etc

Porn creates an image that is far removed from the truth. It’s not all about the penis, though, it’s about the general performance of the man [and woman] in porn scenes that can really change the way we see natural sex and put a whole variety of complicated expectations on the table, or the bed as it were.

  1. Fear of a weak performance in bed

This is almost covered in point #1, but worth its own spot on the page. Let’s be honest, the men in porn scenes NEVER let a woman down, ever. It’s just not a realistic view, so if you’re engaging in chronic porn watching, you’ll surely be feeling the pressure whether you know it or not.

(As a side note – very few porn stars actually experience real intimate pleasure while shooting these scenes. In fact, many female porn stars have claimed that it’s actually quite unpleasant and painful!)

  1. Worry over premature ejaculation, or taking too long to ejaculate

Again, the porn scenes are always so perfectly choreographed that neither partner is ever left to feel wanting. Is this reality, though?

It’s not about making sure that intercourse is long enough, or short enough from both parties perspectives; it’s about diving in deep and immersing yourself in pleasure.

Often, if you’re worrying about the technicalities because of things you’ve seen online, in magazines, or on other mediums, you’re going to take the pleasure out of sex completely and it’s highly possible that it could lead to sexual performance anxiety (which by the way could lead to erectile dysfunction). Learn how to relax and let go.

  1. The way you view women after years of porn

If you’ve been watching porn for the last few months or years and haven’t been with a real, live partner for some time, you’re likely expecting a 10 – all around, and I do mean all around. The fact of the matter is that unless she’s a porn star, she’s not going to meet those expectations you’ve unconsciously built up.

Again, it’s a case of unrealistic expectations that could affect your performance and increase the chances of the development of anxiety regarding your sexual prowess.

THE FINAL SAY

It’s a lot of information to take in in one sitting, I highly recommend making the time to categorize the information that you find important. If you have questions, ask them here so that you can get the help you need. There is a huge support system surrounding the topic of sexual performance anxiety as well as porn induced erectile dysfunction and you’ll never be alone in your experience. The best thing is that if you’re experiencing something, it’s likely someone else out there has already experienced it too.

I notice as I go along that there are a lot of people who confuse this with a moral issue. The fact is that while many do have a moral stance on pornography, that’s not what this site is about. The idea here is to get you – your body and your brain, back to the most natural, healthy state of sexuality that it can be, and to help you enjoy your intimacy with a partner again.

Remember, sex is messy, loud, fun, intimate, personal and different with each and every partner. The best way to enjoy sex is to get to know your partner through discovery — discovery that you’ll finally have enough energy and time for again. Doesn’t that sound amazing?

About Brian

Brian overcame a long-standing addiction to Internet porn and fully recovered from serious porn-induced erectile dysfunction and performance anxiety. For more about Brian, see my story.

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