Porn Induced Erectile Dysfunction: What Every Man Needs to Know

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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 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?

It is difficult to definitively say whether porn is good or bad, but it is definitely a question worth exploring. The first study conducted on porn users was conducted at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, Germany. In completing the study, researchers 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.

A more recent study involving 350 people with sexual compulsions, many of whom were compulsive pornography users, revealed a 26.7% correlation with sexual dysfunction. This study was meant to explore an increase in sexual addiction, but the fact remains that there is a positive correlation between porn usage and sexual dysfunction.

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 can 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 is affecting younger and younger men with each passing year. A report published by the Cleveland Clinic states that 40% of men under the age of 40 are affected by erectile dysfunction. Furthermore, that prevalence increases by 5% to 15% as a man’s age increases from 40 to 70 years.

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 study recently conducted in Italy revealed a correlation between increased pornography usage in teenage boys and an increased incidence of sexual anorexia.

Sexual anorexia is defined by Healthline as "a pathological loss of appetite for romantic-sexual interactions." In essence, frequent use of pornography can 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.

In many ways, erectile dysfunction is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It starts with one instance of sexual dysfunction. Regardless 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 contributes 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.

Natalie Finegood Goldberg, a licensed sex therapist, suggests that watching pornography perpetuates unrealistic expectations of sex and sexual partners. The first step in overcoming this problem may be to engage in a fast from pornography. Avoid all forms of pornographic material for at least 90 days.

Many men have a negative opinion of therapy, but sometimes talking through your issues is the best way to resolve them. The more you internalize your feelings, the more ashamed of yourself you become and that will only make your problems worse. If you are able to be open and honest, with your therapist and with yourself, you’ll be able to break through some of the mental blocks that are keeping you from having satisfactory sexual experiences in real life.

If you aren’t comfortable speaking with a doctor or a licensed therapist, you may be able to do some work on your own to overcome porn-induced erectile dysfunction. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Stop watching pornography completely – set a goal for 90 days of abstinence.
  2. Stop masturbating for at least 30 days.
  3. Find another activity to fill the time you would normally spend masturbating.
  4. After 30 days, you can begin masturbating again but limit it to two or three times per week and do NOT use porn while you do it.
  5. As you masturbate, try to focus more on physical sensations of pleasure – try not to recall images from pornography (it may help to keep your eyes open).
  6. After two weeks of practice, change the mechanics of your masturbation to imitate a real sexual experience. Rather than using your hand in a pumping action, keep your hand still and thrust with your hips.
  7. Practice starting and stopping to ensure that you can maintain an erection – stop partway through and remove your hand. Count to 10 seconds then continue. If you’re able to do this, aim for 15 seconds, then 20, then as high as you can go.

When you feel ready, try engaging in a real-life sexual experience. As you do, try to stay focused on your partner and on the physical sensations you’re feeling. Go slow and do your best to avoid recalling images from pornography. With time and practice (and the help of a supportive partner) you can overcome porn-induced erectile dysfunction and once more enjoy a healthy, satisfying sex life.

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.