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Home / Erectile Dysfunction / Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction

Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction

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Porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED) can be both physical and psychological. For a number of decades, academics have begun studying the impact of pornography and its connection to sex and relationships. Here we look at the possible causes of porn-induced erectile dysfunction and how you can combat it effectively.

What is porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED)?

Erectile dysfunction (also referred to as impotence or ED) is a physical problem associated with the inability to get or maintain an erection. It can stem from a number of causes – both physical and psychological – one of which is watching and masturbating excessively to porn.

It isn't just erectile dysfunction that can be an outcome of watching too much porn, but other sexual dysfunctions such as delayed orgasm, premature ejaculation, loss of pleasure and interest, and an inability to orgasm. By reviewing your relationship with porn, this can improve sexual dysfunction significantly.

How much porn is too much?

  • If you have increased the quality that you watch, and if you need to watch more.
  • If you're seeking out harder porn, increasingly more graphic images, and violence.
  • If you're becoming less aroused by sex in real life and only porn.
  • If viewing porn interferes with your life (socialising, skipping work or being late every day due to lack of sleep).

Symptoms of porn-induced erectile dysfunction

If you are currently dealing with porn-induced ED you should look out for the following symptoms:

Porn-Induced ED Symptoms
Can't maintain an erection in real-life sexual situations Delays with ejaculation
More graphic porn is required for arousal Maintaining erections becomes more difficult
Ordinary sex isn't as fulfilling ED medication is required to perform sex
Feelings of frustration, embarrassment or anxiety Unable to achieve an erection when watching porn (long-term)

Psychological Implications: How the brain causes PIED

Psychological causes of ED are not as common as the physical causes such as aging and health conditions like heart disease. However, porn-induced erectile dysfunction is unique in the sense that it is both physical and psychological, although mainly the latter. PIED is also becoming an increasing problem, so it's time to discover the link between the brain and impotence in relation to porn abuse.

Sexual excitement and orgasms release dopamine - a chemical devoted to pleasure. Frequent exposure to dopamine means the brain becomes less sensitive to it. This results in the body not producing enough dopamine for sexual arousal.

These changes may result in the need for more graphic images or a longer time spent watching porn to achieve the same level of pleasure as before. This leads to a 'more, more, more' attitude that isn't sustainable, nor healthy.

Performance Anxiety

This is the chemical relationship within the brain, but there are the other psychological implications that can be detrimental.

Men can become intimidated by a male porn star's prowess and assume that's standard sex. His penis size, the amount of time sex lasts, and acts a woman performs on screen are porn, not sex. The two can become mixed up and create performance anxiety. We discuss this further down under 'Causes of porn-induced erectile dysfunction'.

Psychological causes of impotence

Physical Implications: How over-masturbation affects the penis

Masturbation is a natural occurrence we should embrace, however, excessive masturbating linked to pornography can be causing ED, and lasting damage.

One of the key problems with masturbation and its link of pornography is that it feels considerably different to sex, and the stereotypical porn we're used to watching is also acting; something we seem to forget.

Self-pleasuring means there is no one else to consider, the sensations are specifically good for you, and you can race to the finish. Sex is different. It's shared, and a lot of masturbation can alter how your brain and penis react to real-life sex with a partner.

It's also worth mentioning that masturbation does not strengthen the penis; in fact, it may cause the structural muscles to weaken, which is needed as support during sex. Also, as your penis isn't being properly exercised, it can cause a feeling of numbness or weakness in the penis during sexual intercourse.

Causes of porn-induced erectile dysfunction

The availability of free porn especially through the internet, the difference between pornography and real sex, intimacy issues, and desensitization can all be factors in relation to porn-induced ED.

The availability of porn

As mentioned, it can be the type of porn but also the amount you watch. The Internet has made every type of porn and fetish available online, and often for free, compared to the soft-core Playboy magazines that used to be popular. Whilst this is a positive in terms of sexual expression, there is the issue of "too much of a good thing". If you're watching porn every day, or feel you are beginning to rely on porn to get and maintain an erection, this could be the start of PIED.

Today's pornography is also much more graphic and can contain more deviant material that is readily available to view. Therefore, this type of porn can potentially desensitise sex and gradually you'll become less excited by sexual encounters in real life.

This leads us to real-life sex vs porn...

Real life vs porn

Expectations can be skewed and raised by watching porn. If you also need to watch porn in the background whilst having sex, this is an underlining issue that needs to be addressed. It's also worth noting that, like actors, it is a porn star's job to look good. They may have plastic surgery, flattering camera angles and other tricks of the trade including faking orgasms.

Man watching laptop in the living room in the dark

Whilst you may develop a liking for porn stars, it can also lead to feelings of insecurity particularly in regards to male size issues, and for your relationships. Male porn stars are more than well-endowed, some have implants and others cut connective tissues to make their penis more bendable.

Research has shown that this can affect the younger generation more, maybe due to inexperience.

Intimacy Issues

This can develop whilst in a relationship, when you're dating or from a young age. Porn can be seen as an easy option rather than getting intimate with your partner. You might have begun watching porn from a young age and find it difficult to translate your intimacy into a real situation. You might be unhappy in your relationship, or had previous bad relationship where porn has become or became a safe option.

Simply, it could be an issue loosely linked to your relationships which has lead to PIED. There is no right or wrong answer.

Past experiences and sex education

You may have found sex education in school to be unsatisfactory and turned towards porn to give yourself more understanding of sex. It is known that erectile dysfunction linked with porn affects a higher number of younger men, and insecurities surrounding sex can be the cause.

With porn also being more accessible, the younger generation can access it resulting in a warped conclusion of what sex is. This is linked to insecurity and anxiety issues right from the start.

Who does porn-induced erectile dysfunction affect?

Impotence is often associated with men from around 50 upwards with the most common cause being aging and health conditions related to this. However, when it comes to porn-induced erectile dysfunction, it is often the younger generations (below 40) that are affected. One study has shown that it can affect teenage boys in particular.

Which age groups are affected by impotence

A lot of the blame has been placed on the shoulders of the internet, which obviously makes all porn fairly accessible. Not only is it the content (that is becoming more graphic) but the amount being watched.

With extreme (kinky) material being watched, when it comes to sex in real life, it can cause boredom. In addition, if you're watching porn too much, when it comes to having sex, you can't perform and you may find you're only becoming aroused by watching porn.

The good news is highlighting the issue, stepping away from porn or simply reducing the time spent watching porn can help the issue tremendously.

The link between erectile dysfunction and porn is still a fairly new concept, as are the possible causes, however, some research has been begun in the last 10-20 years to shed some more light on the condition.

Italian Society of Andrology And Sexual Medicine study

One study delved into the effects of porn on sexual performance using a survey of 28,000 Italian men in 2011. The Italian Society of Andrology and Sexual Medicine found that many of the men were addicted to porn at an early age. This led to so-called "sexual anorexia", i.e. a lack of interest in genuine sexual relations by the time the men had reached their mid-twenties. Too much porn caused a gradual loss of libido, and the notion that sex is totally divorced from real life relations, the experts said.

Carlo Foresta, head of the society, stated that "It starts with lower reactions to porn sites, then there is a general drop in libido and in the end, it becomes impossible to get an erection". He followed this up by saying "With proper assistance recovery is possible within a few months".

This theory suggests that porn can lead to unrealistic expectations that may increase a person's tolerance to sex in reality.

Whilst this is an understandable theory, some medical professionals believe that it subverts the whole intention of porn. Dr Ursula Ofman, a clinical psychologist and sex therapist at NYU Langone Medical School, has said that "Pornography is inspiring and sexually motivating". This statement would contradict the results of the study carried out by the Italian Society of Andrology And Sexual Medicine. This contradiction has been further explored in a recent study, as mentioned below.

The Journal Of Sexual Medicine study

According to a recent research study, which was published in The Journal Of Sexual Medicine in 2015, it was found that more hours spent viewing pornographic stimuli was "unrelated to erectile functioning with a partner, and was related to a stronger desire for sex with a partner." 280 straight male volunteers participated in the study, which took into account how often they view sex films, what their relationship status was and whether they had experienced erection problems. They found no link between increased viewing of pornographic material and ED.

Nevertheless, men who are heavily reliant on porn to reach orgasm may feel that their relationship is being affected. This may indirectly cause problems in the bedroom. If you feel that you are experiencing porn-related ED and that it is affecting your relationship, it may be a good idea to abstain from masturbation in order to reinvigorate that psychical touch rather than simply clicking on a mouse.

What can happen as a result?

Possible Outcomes
Self esteem Body anxiety issues in women, including worries about genital size and shape, can surface. Leaving aside the body aspects of porn, we see porn stars playing out scenes that some women may not be comfortable with. This creates a problem when they feel pressured into doing it because that's what sex 'is'. This is particularly true for the younger generation.
Delayed orgasm or inability to orgasm Excess viewing of porn can lead women needing more stimulation that they'd ordinarily get from sex. When the level of stimulation needed for an orgasm can't be reached, it's a problem. The feel-good hormones we get from orgasms are addictive.
Lack of romantic interest and sexual appetite Also known as sexual anorexia, this behaviour is particularly connected to young men experiencing ED. It's simply a loss of appetite for sex and romantic relations. It can also affect your sexual appetite.
Porn addiction and lack of interest Sometimes frequent porn use has led to so much masturbation that the interest just isn't there, or your partner can't do it as well as you can in front of your laptop. With addicts masturbating up to six times a day, they are bound to become adept.
Changes in libido Experts believe that internet porn is making us vulnerable to sex addiction. Although this is mostly aimed at men, women are at risk too. Some statistics say that up to 1/3 of porn site visitors are women.

How to treat porn-induced erectile dysfunction

Porn-induced erectile dysfunction can have multiple causes that overlap, from physical to psychological. This can make it difficult to classify what is "too much" and therefore which treatment option is most effective for you. Addiction to porn is reversible. Experts say if you stop watching porn, your dopamine levels return to normal within 3 months.

The good news is that reducing the intake of porn can reduce erectile dysfunction, and within a few months, you may find the ailment has disappeared altogether. Due to the fact that porn is extremely easy to access, this can be easier said than done, especially if you've develop a habit or reliance on watching pornography. However, there are a few methods that can be followed to prevent or treat porn-induced ED:

Treatment options for porn-induced erectile dysfunction
Stop watching porn altogether It's as simple as that. By stopping the amount of porn you watch, you may see an improvement within a couple of months.
Reduce time spent watching porn Going cold turkey can be tricky with any habits, and this includes porn, so work at reducing the amount you watch.
Change what you watch as well as reducing the quantity, aim to watch less graphic porn. Over time, this may become the new norm.
Avoid masturbation Or at least reduce the amount you masturbate. Reserving for real-life sexual encounters can intensify these experiences.
Distract yourself Something to distract yourself and refocus your energy such as spending more time with family and friends, starting a new hobby, or getting hooked on a new TV show.
Share if you feel comfortable if you are in a relationship, share your feelings with them. It's likely they may have noticed and are more than willing to help.
Counselling This can help with getting to the root causes if you are consuming too much porn. Effective forms of counselling can include psychosexual therapy Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
Prescription medication modern medical technologies mean impotence is not inevitable. Erectile dysfunction drugs Viagra, Cialis and Levitra can all effectively restore a healthy erection during sex. These drugs are tried and tested, and have been used successfully by millions of men worldwide. More information about the various impotence treatments available can be found here at HealthExpress.

The positives to porn and masturbation...

This doesn't mean to say masturbation should be reduced to lower the risk of erectile dysfunction; masturbation can be a cause but only in excess. For normal use, masturbation helps nerve endings, blood vessels, and tissues functioning. This is important for men who are aging as getting older can reduce some sexual functions. It helps to ensure that the penis is in perfect working condition prior to sexual intercourse.

Relieves stress and sexual tension

If your stress levels are high masturbation can offer some relief. This is because masturbating ensures that you are only focusing one thing. This is explained further by Judith Golden, a registered sex therapist from Toronto who states; 'As we think about sex in any form, dopamine, a chemical released by the brain that gives us a sense of pleasure, is released.' She follows this up by saying 'As we engage in sexual activity, another chemical, endorphins, is released. Endorphins give us a sense of well-being.'

Happy man lying in bed

For the vast majority of men, masturbation is a healthy thing. I'm usually more concerned about a guy who's stopped masturbating, which can be a sign of anxiety or health problems, than a guy who's doing it regularly. Ian Kerner, PhD, a sex therapist and author of She Comes First.

Proof of erection

For men concerned about erectile dysfunction, masturbation can be a useful tool because it's positive proof of achieving and maintaining an erection. If it's physically possible to do it alone, it's possible with a partner. Lack of erections can often be down to performance anxiety but masturbation is proof you can do it once you've sorted that out.

Premature ejaculation

Practice makes perfect - there are masturbation techniques to help you slow down ejaculation, such as reaching a point of orgasm and retreating. This kind of masturbation is practical therapy and can improve your sex life.

Release of prostate fluids

There are some studies that show a build-up of seminal fluid can lead to prostate problems in men such as organ-hardening and cancer. Masturbation releases these fluids, which can help to improve your chances of avoiding these health concerns.

What to do next…

It's important to remember that excessively watching porn can cause erectile dysfunction. This doesn't mean stopping watching porn altogether, or that you will definitely experience impotence as a result of your sexual preference and pornography collection. It's the old saying that everything is good in moderation. Porn can support a healthy sex life; it's fun, gives you ideas and we all do it.

However, if watching porn is causing distress and/or erectile dysfunction, working through the psychological reasons is just as important as treatment options.

Last updated: 26.11.2018

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