Men's Health

Porn Addiction and Erectile Dysfunction: A Complete Guide

Porn Addiction and Erectile Dysfunction: A Complete Guide

Introduction

In porn addiction, a person loses control over his or her own sexual behavior. Despite the consequences, porn addicts still compulsively use pornography. The consequences include:

  • Not able to maintain social and intimate relationships
  • Depression, isolation, and shame
  • Broken relationships with family, friends, and partner/spouse
  • Less time spent on other important activities
  • Losing interest in activities at work, school, and family get-togethers
  • Difficulties in school or work due to poor performance
  • Legal issues due to unlawful access to porn 
  • Financial issues
  • Sometimes the use of pornography is combined with drug and alcohol abuse
  • Sexual problems such as erectile dysfunction, delayed ejaculation, and sometimes orgasmic dysfunction
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Porn addicts find pleasure in pornographic materials, which once did not control their lives, so they may face moral issues and feel ashamed, which may lead them to live a secretive and stressful life. This kind of stress may also affect their physical or emotional health.

Causes of Porn Addiction

Sometimes, pornography is not just primarily viewed for sexual enjoyment. It is a way to escape stress or any other kind of emotional discomforts such as depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, abuse, or negligence. The same reason goes for alcohol and drug addiction. Porn addicts want to lessen their stress or feelings that they are going through. 

Pornography is pleasurable to them since it can trigger a chemical response in the brain. Most of the time, dopamine is released along with other biochemicals, which include adrenaline, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins. By using pornography and triggering pleasure response over a period of time, they learn to abuse it. It is their way to avoid anxiety, stress, or depression.

Watching pornography makes them feel high and like to stay in such state for a longer period. Hence, they try not to reach orgasm to sustain their sexual fantasies. The moment they reach orgasm, the state of "high" ends and they are brought back to the real world.

Signs of Porn Addiction

Both men and women can get addicted to pornography. However, according to statistics, men are more prone to watching porn than women. But regardless of gender, the signs are usually the same. Below is a list of signs and symptoms of porn addiction:

  • More time spent on watching porn
  • Viewing intense or bizarre sexual content
  • Unable to stop watching porn despite negative effects
  • Lying and keeping secrets
  • Getting angry or irritated when confronted with porn viewing

Risk Factors 

Most healthcare professionals who treat porn and sex addicts usually refer to studies about other types of addiction due to little research conducted on the exact causes of sex and porn addiction. Generally, such studies have suggested that genetic factors can contribute to the risk of addiction through the alteration of a specific substance or activity in the body and brain. Moreover, a person’s genes also play a significant role in a number of mental health problems, which include anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders.

People who deal with emotional and psychological issues often choose to self-medicate using addictive substances or behavior. 

However, genetics is not much to blame. According to research, environmental factors are also equally responsible. It was found that individuals who were abused or neglected in childhood were more at risk of addiction if they were early exposed to addictive substances or behavior. Thus, most porn addicts develop their addiction when they are exposed to sexual activities or pornography at an early age along with a combination of genetics and poor parenting. 

Diagnosis 

Porn addiction is a common form of sexual addiction. It is a problematic preoccupation with sexualized imagery. The addiction can last for six months or even more and can lead to significant problems in a person's life. According to the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder, pornography addiction is not a disorder. However, other professional organizations such as the American Society of Addiction Medicine accept porn addiction as a type of behavioral addiction. When diagnosing porn addiction, three main criteria are considered:

  1. Obsessive preoccupation with sexual imagery - Porn addicts may spend a minimum of 11 hours a week for pornography. They can even double or triple that time.
  2. Uncontrollable use of pornography - Some people try to quit using porn but fail to do so. They may even stop their online subscriptions or get rid of their collection, but can also quickly return to it.
  3. Negative consequences from too much use of porn - The adverse effects experienced by other addicts such as compulsive gamblers and spenders as well as alcoholic and drug addicts may also be experienced by porn addicts. 

Another form of sexual addiction that is often coupled with an addiction to pornography is compulsive masturbation. Most individuals with this type of sexual addiction also engage in other sexually addictive behavior such as:

  • Virtual sex
  • Mutual masturbation sessions through webcams
  • Sexual affairs
  • Casual or random sexual encounters
  • Prostitution and strip clubs

Treatment 

The basic treatment approach for porn addiction is the same with other forms of addiction. Treatment involves:

  • Counseling, which includes cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Group therapy
  • Social support groups
  • Alternative therapies, which include equine therapy, art therapy, and EMDR or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing

The main goal of treatment is separating the addiction from the person and combating self-denial.

Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on the past of the individual. It identifies factors that trigger emotional discomfort. CBT teaches the individual that when the trigger is there, call for support, attend a support group meeting, and do other activities such as journaling, gym exercises, or cleaning the house.

Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction has been increasing in sexually active men under 40. Porn addiction is in some way blamed for this. A study has shown a correlation between porn addiction and erectile dysfunction.

Pornography-induced erectile dysfunction has been identified by researchers. Porn addicts or a person exposed to more pornography may need extreme materials for arousal, which may result in lower responsiveness. Due to porn addiction, the individual does not get aroused by the partner. They might become sexually active only by watching porn and may experience erectile dysfunction.

How Porn Affects the Brain

To understand better why excessive watching of porn can cause an erectile dysfunction, it is first necessary to know how the brain works.

The neuron is the basic unit of the nervous system, and the human body has approximately 100 billion neurons. Between these neurons are neurotransmitters that send chemical messages. Dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter that helps in passing the information to the anterior portion of the brain, which is linked to emotions and thoughts. A person feels good due to the release of dopamine. The dopamine pathway also regulates a person's response to sex. Erection is also dependent on the activation of the dopamine pathway. Thus, dopamine plays a critical role when it comes to sexual arousal and erection.

Dopamine Overload

The brain of a person watching porn is flooded with dopamine, and having excessive levels of dopamine is not good. The brain takes away some dopamine receptors because of a chemical overload. However, the amount of dopamine released by the brain is the same when watching porn with a reduced number of receptors. Hence, the person is not aroused or satisfied by watching porn as much as they used to. Then they start looking or searching for more porn. In such cases, social activities that used to make them happy is not enough for them. To get the needed satisfaction, they have to watch porn. When this cycle continues, it causes erectile dysfunction.

Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction

Sometimes, porn may contain contents, which may not be possible in real life sexual activities. Thus, a person’s expectation of sexual activity is not met, which causes a decrease in the dopamine level. Such men are not “in the mood” any longer. Men who try to have sex with their partner may suffer from an erectile dysfunction but don't have any problems when watching porn. In one study, it was found that men who heavily watched porn had an erectile dysfunction, but after the removal of porn, they were able to obtain a regular erection. 

There can be many health problems associated with PIED. Many are aware that they are facing psychological and emotional issues, but they find themselves helpless and fail to break the cycle or routine. When they are not able to perform with their partner, they become depressed or embarrassed, which leads them to watch more porn.

Other Causes of Erectile Dysfunction

The process of sexual arousal in men is complex since many different parts are involved. The hormones, nerves, muscles, brain, emotions, and blood vessels all play a critical role. Physical, psychological and emotional issues may cause an erectile dysfunction. Physical causes include:

  • Nerve damage
  • Damage to the arteries
  • Smooth muscle damage
  • Damage to the tissues in the penis

Other associated conditions that can cause an erectile dysfunction include:

Emotional issues that can cause an erectile dysfunction:

  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Anxiety
  • Guilt
  • Feeling of shame
  • Fear of failure to sexually perform

Other factors such as overall lifestyle can also cause erectile dysfunction:

  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol consumption 
  • Lack of physical exercise
  • Use of illegal drugs
  • Being overweight
  • Side effects of certain medications

Related Health Issues

For some men, erectile dysfunction can be quite embarrassing, and they do not correct the problem by seeking medical help. It is thought that men with erectile dysfunction either have some mental or medical problem that leads them to have an erectile dysfunction.

Other porn-induced problems include:

  • Lowered Sexual Satisfaction - It has been shown that to be aroused by a partner, some men have to use porn. Some may develop negative feelings towards their partner.
  • Risky Behavior - Porn can stimulate the need for alcohol, drugs, and sex with multiple partners along with other risky behaviors. Such people do not fear the consequences and do not use protection.

However, researchers are still trying to understand the connection between porn and erectile dysfunction. Through research, it has been shown why this condition is being experienced, particularly by younger men.

Porn addiction shouldn’t be taken lightly since it is a serious health and mental issue. There are many support groups that are ready to offer help and support. Many treatment programs are available. Some may not know how to look for help and may not even be aware that they have erectile dysfunction. However, the best part is that porn-induced erectile dysfunction can be treated and the condition can also be reversed.

Key Takeaways

  • Erectile dysfunction is the inability to maintain a full erection during sexual activity.
  • Research has found a relationship between porn addiction and erectile dysfunction.
  • Since the body craves for dopamine release, it can be extremely difficult for a porn addict to overcome the addiction.