Porn-Induced ED

Recently came across an interesting article on Psychology Today about the growing problem of porn-induced erectile dysfunction. While ED is often associated with middle-aged and older men, a “growing number of young, healthy Internet pornography users are complaining of delayed ejaculation, inability to be turned on by real partners, and sluggish erections.”

The problem is physiological not psychological. As with any stimulation you give your brain, at first it gives you a lot of pleasure, but eventually the brain gets used to it, even numb to it. It’s like if you love chocolate ice cream; if you started eating it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, after a couple of weeks it would stop giving you pleasure, and it might even start disgusting you. Here’s the more scientific explanation:

Recent behavioral addiction research suggests that the loss of libido and performance occur because heavy users are numbing their brain’s normal response to pleasure. Years of overriding the natural limits of libido with intense stimulation desensitize the user’s response to a neurochemical called dopamine.

Dopamine is behind motivation, “wanting” and all addictions. It drives the search for rewards. We get little spurts of it every time we bump into anything potentially rewarding, novel, surprising, or even anxiety-producing.

Animal models have established that both sexual desire and erections arise from dopamine signals. Normally, dopamine-producing nerve cells in the reward circuitry activate the sexual (libido) centers of the hypothalamus, which in turn activate the erection centers in the spinal cord, which send nerve impulses to the genitalia. A steady stream of nerve impulses, which release nitric oxide into the penis and its blood vessels, maintain an erection.

Nitric oxide in turn stimulates the blood vessel dilator cGMP, the on/off switch for engorgement and erection. The more cGMP is available the more durable the erection. So, the pathway from the brain to an erection is:

Reward circuitry (dopamine) > hypothalamus > spinal cord > nerves > penis

Erections start with dopamine and end with cGMP. Sexual enhancement drugs work by inhibiting the breakdown of cGMP, thus allowing it to accumulate in the penis. Yet if the patient’s brain isn’t producing enough signals in the first place, ED drugs will not increase libido or pleasure even if they (sometimes) produce an erection.

In the case of age-related erectile dysfunction, cardiovascular conditions or diabetes, the primary weak link tends to be the nerves, blood vessels, and penis. However, for men with porn-induced erectile dysfunction, the weak link is not the penis, but rather the desensitized dopamine system in the brain.

In the last decade or so, addiction researchers have discovered that too much dopamine stimulation has a paradoxical effect. The brain decreases its ability to respond to dopamine signals (desensitization). This occurs with all addictions, both chemical and natural. In some porn users, the response to dopamine is dropping so low that they can’t achieve an erection without constant hits of dopamine via the Internet.

The solution to those suffering from porn-induced ED is to “reboot” the brain by abstaining from porn and masturbation for several months.

Read the whole article: “Cupid’s Poisoned Arrow” @Psychology Today

 

 

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

rezaul 622 October 27, 2011 at 12:00 pm

This statement is not just aimed at Freedom Hosting, but everyone on the internet. It does not matter who you are, if we find you to be hosting, promoting, or supporting child pornography, you will become a target.

Miguel G. October 30, 2011 at 10:20 am

Sounds like a, “too much of a good thing”, thing. I guess it’s similar to any addiction, in time you have to increase the dose to reach the same high.
By the way, what is Rezaul talking about?

Uncle Charlie October 31, 2011 at 11:29 am

It is easier to abstain from pornography when you have at your availability a loving female partner that enjoys having sex with you. The article is predicated upon that assumption being met. What is the recommendation for a man that doesn’t have a gf/wife?

Patrick October 31, 2011 at 7:08 pm

Uncle Charlie, the answer is chastity. It’s a virtue too often forgotten in today’s society. I’m not saying I’m perfect in this respect, but we aren’t expected to be perfect. But we have to strive for that perfection. As men we are called to sacrifice for those we love, I consider it a part of my sacrifice for my future wife. I have to try to stay away from that kind of behavior so that I may one day have a more healthy relationship.

Fitz November 1, 2011 at 9:43 am

Patrick, while I think your point of view on porn is the most morally sound, and indeed probably one of the more healthy answers for Uncle Charlie. Something tells me, he would quickly blow that off as a possible solution – probably too much of a stress for most people who are regularly watching porn. You’re not just talking cold turkey on porn, now you’re talking cold turkey on sex with yourself and someone else. Your going from zero to sixty way to fast for most people. The destination is correct, the vehicle may be wrong. Instead, I would set up goals for yourself to cut it down, like twice a week or once a day depending how much you look at it. When you get the urge to watch or indulge, go do something else that is healthy – like go for a run, do laundry. Whatever the alternative is, make sure its away from the computer. If you slip up, try to figure out why you slipped up and maybe what triggered it, so you can change your environment. You’re not perfect, you never will be, but learn from the mistakes. Tell someone if you can, and reward yourself with something healthy that you enjoy if you can. This is an awkward convo to have with other guys, but I have had it before (usually over a beer), you’d be surprised how many guys struggle with this, like a hidden disease. And btw I struggle with it too. I’ve come to the conclusion porn is like a drug, that no one talks about, no one knows about, but yet is brushed off as just a guy thing that everyone does – almost made cool.

Jon November 2, 2011 at 8:44 pm

I think Patrick is referring to “abstinence”, which is merely a technique. When this technique is practiced in an ongoing manner it becomes “continence”. Abstinence is a restrictive or repressive practice.

Chastity, on the other hand, is not intended to be a restrictive virtue; by definition it is expansive and expressive. The lover tries to discover and practice as many ways of loving the beloved as is humanly possible. In my own marriage I try to make it a habit to ask myself, “what love can I do for my wife that I am avoiding out of plain selfishness or laziness? Some chore? What new way of loving my wife would she appreciate? Some creative gift?” Then I try to act.

And it works. It’s the antidote.

Don’t have a wife? Try it on your friends. Then go enroll in a nude drawing class and try to draw really well–this will eliminate your natural curiosity, and give you a chance to focus on actually seeing the human body instead of a counterfeit. The parts of your brain seeing the figure and translating what you see into a drawing does not get the dopamine flowing (which is an interesting phenomena that psychologists should study if they haven’t already).

Andrew (KHQ) November 5, 2011 at 2:05 am

That’s exactly right, Jon. The solution isn’t abstinence or even continence; it’s chastity. I agree 100%. Chastity isn’t something you don’t do, it’s a paradigm shift from a self-focused world view to once of loving self-sacrifice. And honestly I believe that in many cases chastity occurs at the flip of a switch – an event, an interaction, whatever – but in many cases just a man getting fed up with the fact that he’s still struggling with the same addiction – porn – and decide he is simply done being dragged down by it. Uncle Charlie, I would argue that it doesn’t so much have to do with the sex a loving girlfriend (though by my values, only a wife) can provide. Rather it has far more to do with the love and emotional intimacy you share with that women (this of course, awesomely, can be applied to a gf in chaste relationship). The support of a women makes all life a bit easier – it’s not an alternative sexual release a man requires to recover from a porn addiction, it’s the motivation and support to tackle the struggle, and motivation and support are two things the affections of a woman invokes in a man in a way nothing else can.

Jon, I actually agree with you on your second point about the nude drawing as well. To overcome porn a man must train his mind to see women in a way in which he appreciates their beauty without using them to get his jollies – to see a woman as a human person rather than a sex object (this is admittedly cliche, but rings true for me upon self reflection). I have a friend who’s done a lot of scientific study on porn addiction and he advocates studying (or in the case of my friend, praying with) sacred art (that is, generally christian religious art) which often features nudes – often mothers breastfeeding children. He proposes that through this effort of prayer a man can re-train his mind to see women as integrated (not just breasts, legs and butts but as a whole person with body parts that have goodness in themselves – such as feeding a child- not simply the “good” of arousal). This shift in thought is measured by a man who is able to appreciate the beauty of a women and think about her in a way which she would feel affirmed and uplifted. He also advocates for treating breastfeeding as the normal, life sustaining, asexual activity it is – he suggests asking a breastfeeding women you might come along (especially one you know well) if there is anything you can get them (something as little as a glass of water can indicate that you support them in using their body’s for their natural good). Just a thought or three…

Sare3 November 7, 2011 at 10:59 pm

Miguel,

Freedom hosting was a major child porn server, hosting for more than 40 sites. It was brought down by the hacker group Anonymous last month.

I think that this entire discussion is very interesting gentlemen. I was wondering if you minded if a lady weighed in?

I think there that fantasy can be very beneficial, to the male AND female mind. I’m not sure why automatically watching pornography has to be bad. Sure, if you stop working out or doing your laundry because you’re at it so often, then yes that does enter the realm of addiction.

But sexuality is healthy, as long as no one is getting hurt by it. If you’re single wouldn’t it be better to stimulate yourself with pornography than to go out a use a woman for sex? Chastity is indeed a virtue, but does it have to be such an unpleasant one?

You have a much lower chance of getting an STD, creating a pregnancy or hurting a woman emotionally if you are practicing self love. Pentup desire and need are never safe things to do, especially if you ever get drunk. Then you end up with an oh-frak situation the next morning. And maybe an STD, baby or upset woman. Or all three.

I think that we need to start shifting the way we think about sexuality in this society. Re-evaluate how we see the porn industry, ’cause it’s is a growth industry. (Get it?)
It might also not be a bad idea to look more closely at regulating the the sex trade, because there are a lot of women, men and yes Rezaul, innocent children who are falling through the cracks because we have criminalized the oldest profession. This has created a seedy underside to our obsessive and puritans attitude towards sex and it puts a lot of people into jeopardy.

Sexuality is an important part of the human experience. It was made fun to encourage us to procreate. If you can have fun by yourself, I say go for it. Just as long as it doesn’t get in the way of you living the rest of your life and doesn’t hurt anyone else.

(Namely: Children. Because Rezaul is right. This taking down child porn sites thing is PR gold for the Hackers…and I hope to goodness that they shut down as much of that horror show as they can)

Bacne November 8, 2011 at 4:21 am

I have to say I’ve found the comments somewhat amusing. Even more amusing is that it was a woman whom interjected to point out it’s natural enough and arguably beneficial to women when a guy can so independent…

My wife agrees. :)

From my own point of view I’ve found the “problem” to be self-curing. One does indeed get bored after awhile – so one stops doing it for a bit. Cured, see?

The positives, including avoiding the use-it-or-lose-it-issue, are many. Great for the prostrate etc.

Beau November 8, 2011 at 10:39 am

I was a porn addict for years, after being exposed to it by an older kid when I was eight. Those images ignited something in me and for the next twenty years I was a slave to them. I had regular girlfriends through my teens and early twenties and we were sexually active, but that did not stop my desire for pornography. I have been happily married now for ten years and my wife and I have sex nearly every day, but for the first half of my marriage, despite a very active and healthy sexual relationship with my wife, I was still hooked on porn. If you’re single, and you think that having a loving partner who will have sex with you regularly will cure porn addiction, you are mistaken. Porn is addicting because it makes you feel really good…and then it drops you off of a cliff and you despise yourself and the porn. No man wants to be a slave, especially not when you yourself are the slavemaster. Perhaps there are many different reasons that porn becomes such a secret crutch for so many people. I know why it held me captive. When I would look at those images and engage them sexually, I felt in control. There was no fear of rejection, no performance anxiety, no commitment, and no “me”. I could be someone else for a short time and have sex with multiple beautiful women because I didn’t like me deep down and I was insecure. Anyone who tells you that porn is good in moderation or can be a healthy alternative is either completely ignorant of the truth or is a liar. I promise you that pornography will sink it’s talons into your heart and mind and soul if you give it an open door, and before you know it, you will be a wraith of your former self. You will feel numb and lost and emotionally frayed due to your addiction, not to mention you will be leading a double life if you don’t want your loved ones to know what you do in secret. I’m not fear mongering. I’m trying to warn you. I know. I’ve been there.

Jason November 10, 2011 at 7:17 pm

I quit porn back in January and I’ve enjoyed the benefits of a restored libido and much better sex with real women. I believe we should treat porn much like we treat cocaine and other addictive drugs. It will get you high for a while, but the highs will get lower over time. Eventually you’ll get addicted and your health and relationships will suffer. I highly recommend all men quit consuming porn.

Ace November 29, 2011 at 1:04 am

Do you know how Ted Bundy got his start? Straight porn. His addiction led to gay porn, child porn, violent porn until he started to act out his fantasys on prostitutes and eventually killed them. He was quoted in interviews before he was given the death sentence as saying if it hadn’t been for porn, he would have been a different person. Don’t believe the lies that say porn dosnt affect your mind negatively. Of course it does. The research is overwhelming lately with how many lives, marriages, family’s etc are broken up because of it. Not to mention the so called glamorous lives of the porn stars. Not. Stories of rape, stds, drug abuse and death abound in that industry. Check out pink cross and covenant eyes websites for plenty of info on these subjects.

Ray February 2, 2013 at 5:01 pm

Porn isn’t only a problem for the user of it, by making us unable to find satisfaction with a real partner as it escalates to more and more out there forms, porn is also destructive to the young actresses, and in some cases actors. Many young porn actresses/actors are runaways, who are coerced into doing acts in the movies that they don’t really want to do. There are many ex porn stars out there that have recounted the abuse they’ve been subjected to. I personally no longer want to suppot an industry like that,

John April 7, 2013 at 3:07 am

Whats with all the cooky christianized comments

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Brian Parks May 9, 2013 at 4:31 am

I’m glad to see this issue getting more attention from the media.

As a former sufferer of porn-induced ED caused by porn addiction, I know that it is incredibly difficult to overcome. But, it is possible. So if you’re looking at this site and thinking: my ED might be caused by porn, you should know that it’s possible to fully recover. I did it, and other guys have done it. Don’t give up.

There are plenty of great resources out there to get help: yourbrainonporn.com, feedtherightwolf.org, yourbrainrebalanced.com, etc.

Also, kudos to ArtOfManliness for tackling a controversial subject!

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Ray August 28, 2013 at 1:11 pm

An old post but regardless,

In response to the women’s input about sexuality, pregnancy, values, etc. They fail to mention that an orgasm has a much different effect on a man than it does on a woman.

I won’t go in to detail because so many of other male posters have, but orgasms as a male is very much a high before it actually occurs. In when you’re high, despite the boundaries you cross you keep going because it feels too good. Afterwards, you feel drowsy, depressed and a pie of reality is thrown in your face. You look around you and realize what you’re doing and how pathetic it is.

This takes a toll on the man’s self-image, confidence and drive. It also offers him an easy escape, so he avoids real situations. An example of this is when he talks to a girl in real life, if faced with rejection he shrugs it off like it’s nothing because in his mind he was rejected by a girl who wasn’t as pretty as the one on his computer screen at home. He was accepted by that prettier girl and tomorrow night he’ll visit that prettier girl once again.

Truth is, masturbation and porn(some porn) isn’t bad at all. The problem lies when you use either of the two(or both) as a method of coping for some form of inadequacy. You don’t need to approach that girl, because there’s one at home. Why risk the chance of embarrassment by asking out that girl when there’s a prettier one at home?

Porn is also a problem when it is used as a guideline. Some people fall under the misconception that most porn is a reality and not just fantasy. Wrong, and I really don’t feel the need to validate this particular claim.

Anyways, I just want to say as soon as you begin to notice porn starts affecting your life negatively, this can mean your emotions, attitude, motivations, social life and many other ways, that is when you need to rethink your decision to use porn.

I also want to point out again that porn and masturbation greatly affects brain chemistry, so even if you don’t think it affects your life try going without it for a few days maybe even weeks and compare how you are “with porn” than “without porn”

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Jerry November 29, 2013 at 11:57 am

Very impressive rhetorical question by John: “What’s with all the cooky Christianized comments?” Who do you think is the Author of sex, John? Is it cooky that the Creator of the universe created sex for the first man and woman in marriage and for all men and women in marriage? Interestingly, I don’t believe the first few commentators here cited the Bible as their source. At least you recognize that the comments about chastity and abstinence are of a Christian “world view”, or more appropriately, a Biblical foundation.

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