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Marnia Robinson

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No Porn, No Viagra?

Posted: 03/08/10 04:38 PM ET

Before you reach for those little blue pills, try cutting out porn. Your lover will thank you.

Through a fluke of fate, I have been learning more than I ever wanted to know about the subject of porn use... and recovery. A few years ago a guy wrote,

I am sure that if a study were actually done with honest men, we would see correlation between porn viewing and erectile dysfunction. The porn industry takes advantage of the uninformed public and makes billions. Then the pharmaceutical companies sell us costly sexual enhancement drugs to treat the side effects.

He wasn't an exception.

I've been looking at Internet pornography since I began college 13 years ago. Around age 24, I noticed difficulty getting aroused with real women. Generic Viagra allowed me to have real relationships with few problems until the age of 29. Then, it became increasingly difficult to have real sex, even with the pills.

Realizing my problem, I tried several times to give up porn. The longest I lasted was 3 weeks. During this time, I could not get aroused thinking about normal sex, so the frustration built. I fell back into the only thing that would arouse me: fantasizing about fetishes I developed watching porn. Then it was back to porn. I need to be cured of this.

My boyfriend says he's unable to perform sexually due to his porn use. I love him so much but feel absolutely devastated that he felt he had to turn to porn. I always thought we had such a great sex life. I am 26 years old and consider myself to be quite attractive, but I now feel like sh*t. I have no confidence or self-esteem left.

The porn/potency connection is surprisingly treacherous. Most men's potency isn't affected by porn...until it is. So the problem seems absurd until it catches up with someone -- at which point he mistakes hotter porn as the obvious cure. More extreme material further desensitizes his brain. Due to his growing dependency, he generally clutches at any other explanation for his symptoms.

As Internet speed has soared, so has masturbation to videos. They are easily accessible, increasingly extreme -- and much more stimulating than yesteryear's Playboy. They also have more troublesome effects on brain chemistry balance and brain wiring. According to psychiatrist Norman Doidge, a heavy porn user is not unlike:

a drug addict who can no longer get high on the images that once turned him on. And the danger is that this tolerance [desensitization] will carry over into relationships, as it did in patients whom I was seeing, leading to potency problems and new, at times unwelcome, tastes. When pornographers boast that they are pushing the envelope by introducing new, harder themes, what they don't say is that they must, because their customers are building up a tolerance to the content. The back pages of men's risque magazines and Internet porn sites are filled with ads for Viagra-type drugs -- medicine developed for older men with erectile problems related to aging and blocked blood vessels in the penis. Today young men who surf porn are tremendously fearful of impotence, or "erectile dysfunction" as it is euphemistically called. The misleading term implies that these men have a problem in their penises.

The good news is that erectile dysfunction brought on by heavy porn use is reversible. The painful part is that the sufferer has to surrender his compulsive porn use -- a move that is surprisingly tough.

I used porn for 20 years. As Internet speed picked up, I started having trouble with erections. It got worse and worse. Needed more and more types of porn stimulation. I was really worried, but the anxiety just pushed me deeper into porn. I probably used every type of porn image and vid out there except for one: child porn. What scares me is, could I have gone that route, too, one day?

The more I go without porn, masturbation, fantasy and orgasm, the more difficult it becomes to not get an erection... No ED problems or weak ejaculations like I had just a few months ago. My body has healed. So, if you stay away from porn and masturbation your sexual desire will go up. It will go up in a good way. Giving it up for just this short period of time has been a big step in healing the damage I did to myself. But it wasn't easy.

After a 90-day period of abstinence from porn/masturbation, I noticed that I was more sensitive than before; I didn't need any other stimulation to make me horny. Also the semen leakage stopped. Now that I have returned to some masturbation, I notice that I have been the most interested in women (and have ended up in bed with them) during my experiments with low masturbation frequency.

While I was consuming porn and beating off, I had severe performance anxiety when it came to actual sex. That is gone. I have no problem. It is nice to get aroused by little things: a revealing blouse, some innocent cleavage, a summer dress, or just a woman's flowing, shiny hair and fragrance, instead of "Cum Gurgling sluts" video clips.

I'm glad this porn-ED issue is becoming more recognized. It's gonna help prevent a lot of problems. I've read things about people being able watch porn occasionally and then still perform with a significant other. However, if they went a long stretch without partner sex, and watched a lot of porn, then they had difficulties--difficulties they didn't previously have.

I have now gone almost 4 weeks without porn, masturbating maybe twice. I feel a lot more responsive as far as sex drive, and I know it can get even better. I'm happy cause I'm getting used to living without porn, and starting to appreciate everyday women more.

A period of discomfort or extreme horniness during the days of recovery after intense stimulation seems like a sound reason to self-medicate with another porn binge. But doing so actually worsens the problem. If someone climaxes before his brain is back to balance, he's likely to seek out hotter and hotter stimuli. Why? A primitive part of his brain is still temporarily less responsive. This is why regular sex/porn "isn't doing it for him." Surfing hotter stimuli can force arousal, but will further de-regulate dopamine levels in a key part of his brain. He may also experience uncharacteristic depression and anxiety -- which he won't connect with the changes in his brain brought about by heavy porn use.

I think this is the problem with my boyfriend. He's only 28 and his sex drive is not there. It's very embarrassing for me...like I'm not attractive...and I know he will be defensive about this subject. How do I work through this?

My visitors discovered that the cure is to stop masturbating to porn. In fact, to unwire the brain's acquired association between arousal and extreme, synthetic erotica, it's useful to forgo masturbation for about two months. This offers a fresh start, sexually speaking (although the brain is likely to remain very sensitive to porn-related cues indefinitely). Without that fresh start, it's hard to avoid a discouraging relapse loop.

I've noticed that when I do succeed in avoiding porn for a week or two (still masturbating), I don't have any problems with erections. Whereas if I look at porn, I can't get it up without it. Trouble is, each time I get better I believe I'm cured, and go back to daily porn/masturbation. I wish I could stay away from it permanently.

A lengthy, often agonizing, "rebooting" process can be scary at first. Some users experience a gray period, during which nothing turns them on. (Their brains are desensitized). They may fear their libido will vanish completely without porn. The opposite is true. A balanced brain tends to become more sensitive and responsive, not less.

As the brain is prevented from activating the familiar "porn loop," it eventually looks around for other sources of pleasure. It rediscovers the ones it evolved to find: friendly interaction, real mates, time in nature, exercise, accomplishment, and so forth. In fact, many men find exercise particularly beneficial. It improves self-image and eases anxiety and depression while the brain is returning to homeostasis.

Lots of factors can be at work in sexual performance issues. Yet as men take charge of their libido and restore their sexual responsiveness to real partners, they can more confidently address any other issues contributing to performance anxiety.

Note to women: Remember had you been male, you, too, would probably be swept up in today's porn tsunami. Model some compassion as your mate recognizes what's going on in his brain and rewires. Meanwhile, don't take his sluggish responsiveness personally. It has absolutely nothing to do with your attractiveness.

For more on ED recovery and other porn-related issues visit Your Brain On Porn.

 

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