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Porn Induced ED: 3 Things Every Man Needs to Know

Kristin Hall, FNP

Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 5/5/2022

There is a phenomenon where healthy, sexually active men find themselves unable to perform — and experiencing low libido and sexual performance anxiety — when it comes to being intimate with a girlfriend or partner.

A medical exam reveals nothing physically to be wrong, which only leads to more confusion. It is only a review of personal habits that points a finger at the true root of the problem — a habit of watching too much pornography for sexual stimuli.

Viewing pornography for sexual satisfaction is not inherently bad or harmful, but it does have the potential to contribute to real-world sexual problems such as decreased sexual desire, particularly when it is a habit frequently indulged. But is there such a thing as porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED)? Let’s find out.

Porn and ED: What You Need to Know

Some research has found an association between excessive or unusual consumption of porn and changes in sexual tastes and behavior.

Over the last few decades, there’s been a sharp rise in the incidence rate of sexual dysfunction, including erectile dysfunction, amongst men under the age of 40.

The rise has been difficult to explain through conventional means, since today’s population is in good health and faces fewer sexual restrictions than any other generation.

The cause, some researchers believe, could be the widespread availability of porn thanks to the huge growth of the Internet. 

To understand this, think about the availability of pornography 30 or 40 years ago, compared to the availability of porn today. 

Accessing porn a generation or two ago meant purchasing a magazine, ordering a videotape or stumbling across a few copies of Playboy left in the attic or inside someone’s nightstand. 

Today, things are different. With the push of a button, people have access to a virtually limitless amount of porn through online tube sites and other platforms, which offer endless novelty and a level of sexual stimulation that our brains historically aren’t used to.

​​Is Porn Good or Bad?

We don’t think it’s fair to say definitively whether porn is good or bad, but it is definitely a topic worth exploring. 

Researchers in a study published in the journal, JAMA Psychiatry, conducted on porn users found a correlation between years of pornography usage and a decrease in gray matter in particular regions of the brain associated with reward sensitivity. Higher levels of porn usage were also correlated with a reduced responsiveness to erotic photographs. 

The researchers stated that it is also possible that this is a precondition rather than a consequence of watching pornography, i.e. that, “Individuals with lower striatum volume may need more external stimulation to experience pleasure and might therefore experience pornography consumption as more rewarding . . . .”

An article published by Psychology Today suggests that compulsive use of pornography may lead to a dissociation with real-life sexuality. The things that lead a person to become aroused online may not carry over into real life. This is by no means the case for all internet porn users, but it does highlight the problem that may lie at the heart of porn-induced erectile dysfunction.

Some strongly believe porn addiction is damaging, which led to the creation of the NoFap Reddit community.

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​​What is Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction?

In essence, frequent use of pornography for sexual stimulation may change a man's sexual appetite, potentially to the degree that he no longer becomes aroused by real-life sexual activity, according to an article published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine. This is the heart of porn-induced ED.

Erectile dysfunction is defined as the inability to achieve or maintain an erection firm enough for sex. There are a number of different risk factors and potential causes for this medical condition, many of which are related to age.

Studies have shown, however, that ED can affect men as early as age 40. A report published by the Cleveland Clinic states that 40 percent of men at age of 40 are affected by erectile dysfunction. Furthermore, that prevalence increases by five percent to 15 percent as a man’s age increases from 40 to 70 years. 

While ED is not common in men under the age of 40, a study published in the journal, Translational Andrology and Urology, has reported ED prevalence of 8 percent among men aged 20 to 29 years and 11 percent among those aged 30–39 years, while analyses in Europe found the prevalence of ED in men younger than 40 years to be between one percent to 10 percent.

Some of the most common causes of erectile dysfunction are related to health conditions such as vascular issues and cardiovascular disease — poor circulation, high blood pressure (hypertension) or high cholesterol. For many men, however, ED is not a physical but a mental issue.

Men who have experienced an embarrassing sexual event during their youth may experience issues with sexual dysfunction into adulthood. Psychological and mental health issues like depression, generalized anxiety, performance anxiety, and chronic stress may also play a role. Read more on the link between pornography and Depression in our guide.

Another potential factor that may contribute to erectile dysfunction, particularly in younger men, is porn usage.In fact, there may be a correlation between increased pornography usage in teenage boys and an increased incidence of sexual anorexia.

According to an article published in the Journal of Treatment & Prevention, sexual anorexia is a term that can be used to describe sexual aversion disorder (DSM code 302.79), a state in which the patient has a profound disgust and horror at anything sexual in themselves and others".

In many ways, erectile dysfunction can be considered a self-fulfilling prophecy. It starts with one instance of sexual dysfunction. 

Regardless of the cause of that individual problem, whether psychological or physiological, the memory remains and it can cause anxiety to develop when the next opportunity for sexual interaction arises. 

That anxiety can become severe enough that it affects your ability to perform and that, in turn, increases your anxiety for the next interaction. Before long, you become so worried or convinced that you won’t be able to perform that your fear comes true.

Internet pornography usage may contribute to sexual functioning issues because it can alter your perception of sex and can even change your sexual appetite to the degree that you no longer become aroused during real-life sexual experiences. 

A 2016 review with clinical reports published in the journal, Behavioral Sciences, concluded that men who view porn may prefer masturbation with porn versus partnered sex.

Because real sexual encounters don’t provide the necessary relief, you turn to pornography. Unfortunately, this only reinforces your inability to achieve sexual arousal in real-life situations and that too becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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What Does The Research Say On ED and Porn?

Here’s how scientists think it’s happening. Until recently, recorded rates of erectile dysfunction in young, sexually active men were extremely low. 

For example, a study published in the journal, JAMA, put the rate of ED at just five percent for men between the ages of 18 and 29. 

A 2002 analysis published in the International Journal of Impotence Research noted that the rate of erectile dysfunction was approximately two percent for men under 40 years of age.

In 2012, almost 10 years later, a study of young (18-29 years old) Swiss men’s sexual health was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

In this study, researchers found that approximately one third of young men in Switzerland suffer from at least one form of sexual dysfunction. 

Of the men that took part in the study, 30 percent were affected by erectile dysfunction, while 11 percent had premature ejaculation (PE). 

Put simply, rates of ED appear to be growing rapidly amongst younger men, particularly men in their late teens, 20s and 30s.

So, what could have happened to cause such a dramatic increase in the rate of ED between the late 1990s and today? 

A 2016 review of clinical reports published in the journal, Behavioral Sciences notes that the rise in ED amongst younger men seems to have accompanied the development of porn tube sites.

The theory is that easier access to porn -- and especially a diverse, extensive variety of images and videos -- has changed the way many people think about sex, leading to different tastes and expectations from regular sexual intercourse.

It’s a theory that seems to be backed up by scientific evidence. In a small study published in the journal PLoS One, 11 out of 19 participants who compulsively used internet porn noted that they had "experienced diminished libido or erectile function” in physical relationships with women.

In short, watching large amounts of pornography may cause a form of ED that’s psychological in nature rather than physical. 

After all, the people that took part in this research are typically young and unlikely to be affected by common physical risk factors for ED, such as heart disease, obesity or diabetes.

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​​How to Reverse Porn Induced ED

If you are struggling with porn-induced erectile dysfunction, don’t lose hope! It may be challenging, and it will certainly take time, but it is something you can overcome.

The first step in overcoming this problem may be to engage in a fast from pornography. The same Behavioral Sciences article suggested that this may be a way to reverse sexual dysfunction.

According to an article published in the journal, Endocrine, another approach is to consider talking to a professional for medical advice about your men’s health concerns. Many men have a negative opinion of therapy, but sometimes, talking through your sexual health issues is the best way to resolve them. Medications such as Cialis, Viagra, Levitra, or Stendra may be prescribed for erectile dysfunction.

If you are able to be open and honest, with your therapist and with yourself about excessive use of porn or pornography addiction, you may be able to break through some of the mental blocks that are keeping you from having satisfactory sexual experiences in real life.

There's a growing body of research out there linking erectile issues to hardcore pornography viewing frequency.

If that's the case and you feel like therapy isn't an option for you, a momentary break from porn use may help.

And as always, don't think twice about speaking to a healthcare provider if you're experiencing issues with erectile function — whether you believe an excessive use of porn may be a contributing factor or not.

13 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

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This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.