Mental & Physical Impacts of Porn

It is not uncommon for men who are trying to overcome masturbation and pornography to come across health issues as they readjust their brains and their bodies to life with porn and masturbation.  The main issues that many men face include:

  • Impaired Sexual Relationships 

  • Sexual Dysfunction/Low Libido/Erectile Dysfunction/Delayed Ejaculation

  • Pelvic Tension Disorder

  • Depression/Anxiety Disorders

  • Lack of Wet Dreams/Prostatic Congestion

 

SEXUAL EFFECTS OF PORNOGRAPHY ADDICTION

 

Young men, and even many adult men, exposed to pornography have had the majority of their sexual education from pornographic material.  As they transition into marriage, they may falsely believe that some of the destructive sexual behavior found in pornography is actually “desirable”.  If sex within marriage becomes a substitute for pornography outside of marriage, sex will become a wedge that can drive a couple further apart rather than the glue that binds the couple together.  For this reason, it is wise for men, especially those who have not been married before, to discuss sexual matters with a trusted, married adult man (adult of the same gender).  Honest, open, and frank discussions can help recovering and former addicts have healthy expectations of sex in their marriage, leaving the negative effects of pornography addiction in the past.  

SEXUAL DYSFUNCTION

As men repeatedly engage in viewing pornography, their libido for natural intimacy often decreases.  For men in sexual relationships, their libido can actually decrease for their partner due to the exposure of pornography.  In these men, pornography (or past pornography) can be more enticing than a physical relationship with their partner.  Counseling and continued avoidance of pornography can help increase libido for healthy sexual relationships over time.

Erectile dysfunction can become very common in addicts and recovering addicts.  There are three main pathways for sexual stimulation in men.  There were physical (reflexogenic), mental (psychogenic), and hormonal.  Unfortunately, men who have engaged in pornography and masturbation addiction have exposed their nervous systems to extremely high levels of mental stimulation (pornography) and prolonged physical stimulation (masturbation).  Addicts often report that they can’t get an erection without viewing pornography or that they don’t have rigid erections during masturbation.  Since mental and physical stimulation are so high during addiction, hormonal triggers become less common and men no longer experience nocturnal erections which are necessary for on-demand erections for health sexual activity.  For some men in the later stages of pornography addiction, even if men can get an erection it is often not rigid enough for intercourse.  This can obviously have a negative impact on marital relationships.  However, the longer one abstains from these heightened levels of stimulation (abstaining from masturbation, pornography, and controlling thoughts, etc.)  the body will often start to readjust and nocturnal erections often resume thus restoring erectile function. 

 

Delayed ejaculation can also be common in those who engage in frequent masturbation and pornography use.  Delayed ejaculation can be caused by men ejaculating frequently (often defined as more than three times per week).  However, in men who have sexual addictions, masturbation may occur daily or multiple times per day.  This can significantly desensitize the nervous system to sexual stimulus, creating long time frames for ejaculation to occur.  In addition, some men who masturbate using stimulation that can’t be replicated during sexual intercourse can train their body to respond to stimulation that can’t be duplicated in a healthy relationship.  In addition, those who view pornography while masturbating can hardwire the brain to having significant mental and visual input in order to trigger ejaculation.  It isn’t uncommon for men who have a history of pornography use to find that they often require the “lights on” during physical intimacy so they can get enough visual stimulation to ejaculate.  Treating the underlying masturbation and pornography addiction often treats delayed ejaculation symptoms as well. 

 

 

PELVIC TENSION DISORDER

Pelvic tension disorder is often seen in men overcoming porn/masturbation addiction.  As previously stated, mental stimulation and less rigid erections tend to make slips less “pleasurable” than they were in the beginning.  This decrease in mental stimulation and lack of rigid erections can make ejaculating difficult during a slip.  On a subconscious level, men will often flex or engage their pelvic floor muscles to increase sexual stimulation and to heighten sexual pleasure to push them towards ejaculation.  In some cases, this clenching becomes a part of sexual stimulation on a subconscious level so clenching during nocturnal erections during sleep can also occur – causing repeated episodes of muscle tightness in the pelvic floor.  This overuse of the pelvic floor can lead to pelvic clenching that is prolonged and leads to pelvic tension disorder.  Pelvic tension often follows men into the addiction recovery, making wet dreams more difficult to have and causing prostatic congestion.  Treatment for Pelvic Tension Disorder is the same in recovering addicts as it is in other men.

 

LACK OF WET DREAMS & PROSTATIC CONGESTION

A common issue that occurs in men recovering from pornography and masturbation addiction is inhibition of wet dreams.  This may be particularly true in young men or single adult men who masturbated for a long period of time or starting masturbating at an early age.  In these men, the reproductive system has relied on physical stimulation in order to empty the reproductive glands of excess sexual fluid. 

Men who were involved in frequent masturbation trained their bodies to increase fluid production in the sexual glands in order to have sufficient semen for each ejaculation.  If the addiction has gone on for longer periods of time, especially years, then the reproductive glands have often been well trained to be overproducers of fluid.  This is especially true if frequent masturbation began in the early teens.  As men try to quit (oftentimes “cold turkey”) the prostate and seminal vesicles continue their high rate of fluid production, but ejaculation does not occur to empty the glands once they’re full.  In normal circumstances, the body would correct this congestion by having a wet dream.  However, since these men have ejaculated primary by watching pornography (high mental stimulation) and prolonged masturbation (high physical stimulation), the stimulation needed to cause ejaculation often exceeded what nature can duplicate during sleep.  This can lead to a man feeling very sexually congested, wanting to ejaculate.  Since the desire to ejaculate is often tied to the desire to view porn, this often serves as a near constant trigger than can lead to relapses of their addiction.

It can often take weeks to months for the male body to once again start having neurological wet dreams during sleep.  This varies from one individual to the next.  We conducted a survey that asked men who had overcome masturbation, how long it took after they stopped masturbating for wet dreams to start reoccurring.  The results are as follows:

Masturbation & Wet Dream Frequency.jpg

Fortunately, in many cases (29% of teens and 44% of adults) the male body typically does a pretty amazing job of bouncing back within 1-3 weeks by having wet dreams to relieve these glands when they become sufficiently engorged.   In addition, 16-17% of men continue to have wet dreams even when they are masturbating.  However, for other 44% of teens and 31% of adults the body doesn’t bounce back as quickly and wet dreams can take a month or more to bounce back.  These weeks and months can involve a significant amount of physical temptation and stimulation due to the congestion in the glands.  Repeated slips, often triggered by congestion, can inhibit the body’s ability to have wet dreams regularly.  However, by three months, 97% of men and young men will have resumed having wet dreams.  Perhaps the reason that men tend to leap ahead in their recovery at three weeks and three months has much to do with resumption of wet dreams and normalizing reproductive functions.   

Prostatic congestion can become a particular problem in men who are on the road to recovery.  As these men begin to pull away from their addiction, they may come to a state of realization during their slip and have the ability to stop acting out before ejaculation occurs.  This leads to sexual stimulation that does not result in ejaculation, thus causing a production of fluid that is not released (we term this as “sexual denial”).  This of course can lead to prostatic congestion.  Treatments for prostatic congestion in these cases can be similar to those found in other men. 

If prescribed masturbation is prescribed to recovering addicts we use the term “medical ejaculation” to help an individual separate the need to empty the sexual glands from the erotic side of their addiction.  Men who are prescribed this therapy are asked remove themselves to a neutral location where pornography is not normally viewed and where there is no access to pornography.  In addition, the individual needs to clear his mind of sexual images (especially pornographic images).  At this point, manually stimulation is used to cause ejaculation as quickly as possible (avoiding prolonged or intermittent stimulation to prolong sexual sensation).  Changing the environment such as a restroom not previously used regularly for pornography viewing changes the context of the situation so the brain views “medical ejaculation” differently than masturbation in a sexual sense.   If possible (or at some point), delaying medical ejaculation to the middle of the night (when a man wakes up with a nocturnal erection or to use the restroom) can help train the brain to ejaculate near sleep or in bed which can subconsciously retrain the male body to resume wet dreams so that medical masturbation is no longer necessary.

 

If a man becomes involved in sexual denial (starting a slip but stopping before ejaculation), it is often recommended that at least 15-20 minutes pass after pornography has been viewed and the “high” is gone, before he “medically ejaculates”.  This waiting of 15-20 minutes after exposure to pornography helps the brain clear itself of dopamine and allows the frontal cortex to engage so that the conscious portion of a man’s brain is in charge rather than the addictive centers of the brain during medical ejaculation.  As stated in the previous paragraph, removing himself to a location not associated with pornography or addictive slips can be beneficial to help separate this type of ejaculation from addictive masturbation. 

 

DEPRESSION & ANXIETY DISORDERS

Men who are involved in pornography and masturbation often use their addiction as an escape from stress or a means to deal with stress and anxiety.

 

Men who are overcoming pornography often face depression and anxiety on their road to recovery.  In fact, overcoming addiction inherently involves denying the brain of large amounts of dopamine it received during slips.  As pornography and masturbation frequency decrease, the brain becomes deprived of dopamine that allows it to stay “chemically balanced”.  This is often due to multiple factors – first, the VTA produces less dopamine that it should and second, the brain has increased the number of dopamine receptors.  This creates both cravings to act out on the addiction again, but can also lead to depression and anxiety in the recovering addict. 

 

The majority of men going through addiction recovery will experience clinical depression and/or anxiety.  In fact, during recover, men will often relapse as a subconscious way of correcting the depression and anxiety symptoms they face.  Many say they were “just so depressed that they didn’t care anymore” or that the “just wanted to feel something other than nothing” (often saying the pain and regret of relapse was better than not being able to feel anything in their withdrawn state).  

Treatment with antidepressants that increase dopamine can be very beneficial for these men going through recover.  Bupropion is often selected as it increases and helps balance dopamine levels.  This decreases the cravings for porn and masturbation but also treats the developing and underlying clinical depression and anxiety associated with withdrawal.  

 

 

CONCLUSION

As men overcome pornography/masturbation addiction, many physical disorders can arise than can impede their progress.  Seeking medical assistance in overcoming sexual dysfunction, pelvic tension disorder, prostatic congestion, and/or depression and anxiety disorders can be vital in helping him fully overcoming his addiction and moving forward with a healthier and happier life.