Porn Induced Erectile Dysfunction: What Every Man Needs to Know

Porn Induced Erectile Dysfunction: What Every Man Needs to Know
Dr. Patrick Carroll, MD
Medically reviewed by Patrick Carroll, MD Written by Our Editorial Team Last updated 3/6/2020

There is a phenomenon where healthy, sexually active men find themselves unable to perform 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.

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

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 conducted on porn users was at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, Germany 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 porn users, but it does highlight the problem that may lie at the heart of porn-induced erectile dysfunction.

What is Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction?

In essence, frequent use of pornography may change a man's sexual appetite, potentially to the degree that he no longer becomes aroused by real-life sexual interactions. This is the heart of porn-induced erectile dysfunction.

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 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, some studies have 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 prevalence of ED in men younger than 40 years to be between one percent to 10 percent.

Some of the most common causes of ED are related to vascular issues such as poor circulation, high blood pressure 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 issues like depression, anxiety and chronic stress may also play a role.

Another potential factor that may contribute to erectile dysfunction, particularly in younger men, is porn usage. A survey recently conducted in Italy revealed a correlation between increased pornography usage in teenage boys and an increased incidence of sexual anorexia.

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.

Pornography usage may contribute to sexual dysfunction 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. 

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

How Do You Overcome 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. Research literature has suggested that this may be a way to reverse sexual dysfunction.

Another approach is to consider talking to a professional.  Many men have a negative opinion of therapy, but sometimes, talking through your issues is the best way to resolve them. 

If you are able to be open and honest, with your therapist and with yourself, 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 pornography viewing frequency.

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

And as always, don't think twice about speaking to a healthcare provider if you're experiencing erectile dysfunction — whether you believe porn may be a contributing factor or not.

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.