What does withdrawal from porn addiction look like?

Guy in withdrawal from pornography addictionIt can be comforting to see what others report about their withdrawal symptoms, just so you know that what you're experiencing is normal. Some porn users report few withdrawal symptoms, others report symptoms that are quite severe. Below are some user reports. For comparison, also see the link below this page, which collects the kinds of withdrawal symptoms alcohol, cocaine and heroin users experience.

The symptoms are similar because all addictions share certain neurochemical and cellular changes which affect specific regions of the brain. This is not to say that all addictions cause the exact same changes. Alcohol or addictive drugs may cause damage or alter additional messenger systems (for example, opiate use decreasing our body's opioid receptors). Current science finds that withdrawal initiates a cascade of neurochemical alterations, which may include: 

  • further decline in dopamine levels
  • further decline in opioids and endorphins
  • drop-off in GABA, which is an anti-anxiety neurotransmitter
  • rise in brain stress hormones CRF and norepinephrine 
  • elevated dynorphin which inhibits dopamine and lowers your pleasure response
  • one week after quitting the reward center sprouts new nerve cell branches, which correlate with cravings to use

If you have withdrawal symptoms, it's likely you have an addiction. However, some guys have addictions without much in the way of withdrawal symptoms. This is why addiction specialists don't list withdrawal symptoms in their addiction tests. See, for example, Do You Have An Addiction?

Common withdrawal symptoms include

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Poor concentration
  • Depression
  • Social isolation
  • Loss of libido (Can take days to manifest, and last a long time)

Internet addiction research now reports that Internet addicts can suffer a form of cold turkey when they stop using the web - just like people coming off drugs.

A study by Swansea and Milan universities found young people had "negative moods" when they stopped surfing the net. ... The so-called addicts' web usage was varied, but it was common for them to gamble and access pornography online. ... Scientists said this could possibly trigger them to log back on to the internet to "remove these unpleasant feelings".


A few reports

Here's what I'm dealing with:  irritability, fatigue, inability to sleep (even sleep aids don't help much), trembling/shaking, lack of focus, shortness of breath, and depression.


The withdrawal symptoms were intense. I had lots of trouble sleeping. In fact, I developed a case of Restless Leg Syndrome. It sounds like a silly thing if you've never experienced it, but it's horrible. I'd be lying in bed, just about to drift off to sleep and suddenly my legs would just have to move. It's like a bolt of electricity zapping through my body jolting me awake. Then the whole thing repeats over and over. It was very frustrating! I was afraid that I had done some permanent damage to my brain. Thankfully, the restless legs calmed down eventually, but it took about 2-3 months. Also, within that time, I was finding sex with my wife to be enjoyable again; like really, really good. I was able to have erections just from being with her. Then I had to struggle not to reach orgasm instead of the other way around! All of the intimacy that I had been craving was right there the whole time and all I had to do was be there for it, and not somewhere else off in fantasy land...


Withdrawal is just nasty. I had very bad insomnia for a stretch, I even got violently sick. Maybe it was from withdrawals, maybe something else. I still don't know, but it was brutal from all angles regardless. Emotional things come up heavily: depression, strange anxieties, worthlessness. It was everything that I had been struggling with—all at once. It was like having a really bad day times 10! And, of course, the horniness. You really start to learn to control your fantasies because if you don't, well, you'll feel the discomfort. I guess everyone develops ways to deal with it that are unique to their mind and emotional needs. Support groups help a lot for this.


it was easier to quit smoking

i smoked cigarettes for years up to a pack a day sometimes and one day i just decided to quit cold turkey and now i haven't smoked a cigarette for a year and a half. quitting that was honestly 10 times easier than quitting fapping and porn. for anyone else who is struggling with this big time. you are not alone


Believing I had a major confidence problem and desperately sick of feeling more of a mouse that a man, I joined the army in 2009 (at age 20) and was sent to basic training. It began to go downhill after 6 days. I certainly wasn't used to the environment I had put myself in but I began developing symptoms no one else around me was. My hands began to shake, I developed flu like symptoms and began to tire far easier than normal. (I was in good shape.) I developed insomnia and my brain slowed right down until I felt one level above being retarted. I began to do stupid, clumsy things followed by panic attacks. Above all else, my dick for the first time in years was super sensitive and very annoying. I couldn't explain any of it and neither could the doctors there. (I didn't tell them about my dick) Unfortunately, I was going through withdrawal symptoms and in possibly the worst place to have them. My commanders thought I was a pussy and pushed me hard to bring the best out in me. It was impossible and I began to physically and emotionally break down. The doctors knew I wasn't on any substances, diagnosed me with severe stress and sent me home a failure.


In my early twenties I knew in the back of my mind that porn was what was inhibiting my life. There was nothing that I could do about it however, because I had an addiction of the highest caliber. I still lived at home with my parents and didn’t work or do anything for that matter. I was the equivalent of a retarded child so to speak. I’d spend anywhere from 4-6 hours a day scouring the tube sites and masturbating profusely to the most explicit gay and shemale videos I could find. It wasn’t until last year when I came across YBOP that I swallowed up every piece of information I could on this website and just said “Fuck it.” I took my Toshiba laptop and smashed the hell out of it on my parents driveway and then beat the remains with a baseball bat. That moment was without a doubt the biggest turning point in my life. I knew that the withdrawal period would be absolute hell, but that I would just have to weather the storm and power through it. And I did just that. The first week I had the worst type of insomnia imaginable. I don’t remember falling asleep at all the first 6 days. In my mind, it made Hell Week of Navy SEAL training look easy. But during the weeks that followed, things started turning around a bit but really became noticeable after about 3 months. I actually started getting energy to do things. 15 Years of Misery Gone


As requested, here are my withdrawal symptoms (experienced on day 2):
--Mood swings like a pregnant 13-year old girl.
--Severe, unbearable loneliness.
--Tension: headaches, mild muscle aches, stiffness all over, a feeling like pressure on my teeth.
--Social paralysis.
--Anxiety about nothing in particular.
--Panic attacks (rare, but it has happened).
--Always feeling cold, even in front of the fireplace.
--Intense fear of anything and everything.
--Crying about everything...I'll see a neat-looking tree and then cry about it.
--Intense, insatiable desire for human contact...yet a terrible fear of actually getting it!
--Fear of rejection.
--No desire for sex...until I catch a glimpse of porn again (or wait long enough of a time without looking).
--Insatiable food cravings...Almost ate an entire pan of brownies in 24 hours.
--I'm a composer...and I can't compose.
--I have a VERY SHORT FUSE, you idiot! LOL Treating people like crap when I feel like this! This is the worst symptom!


[Five weeks] I quit due to erectile dysfunction. Apart from mild headaches and restless sleep, I haven't had the withdrawal symptoms many people mention. Instead, I feel nothing. It's like I just don't have a libido. No morning wood. No wet dreams. No spontaneous erections. No cravings. Haven't been horny. I've had opportunities to have sex but my body is not responding. I'm taking tango classes, so I'm reasonably social but still no sign of my libido. I can dance with a beautiful girl and have no physical reaction whatsoever. I'm aware cerebrally that a girl is attractive, but I don't feel it physically. The thing that keeps me going is my faith that I'll be able to reboot my brain and get back to normal. But it's frustrating. [He did.]


I realize now that this process is actually most similar to quitting marijuana. Your mood really changes throughout the day a lot and you can start off with a great morning and have a bad day, or have an average day, or have a terrible day or start off terrible but then have a good night...  It's somewhat hilarious and strange because I'm having marijuana-type withdrawal symptoms yet I'm sill smoking.


The first seven days were crazy (june 2013). I know that most reading this have experienced the intense physical "drive" of the first seven days, consisting of an odd speedball of depression, endless push-ups and manic happiness.

Then almost on the dot, I got sick for two weeks. At this point I couldn't fathom the idea that masturbation, even at extreme levels, could lead to low level flu-like symptoms. I didn't exactly feel as if I actually had the flu, however. It was noticeably much more mild (remember though, these are still FLU SYMPTOMS - elevated temp, lethargy, sore throat etc.. NOT common cold - very important to note despite me describing them as "mild"). I was seriously getting freaked out by day 15 of withdrawal (around day 22 of no fap) so much so that I considered getting tested for lime disease.

Thankfully, the physical withdrawals ended by the third week of no fap. At this point I felt the greatest I had ever felt in the past three years of my life. Mentally, physically, and emotionally I felt like I was in my freshmen year of high school again.



Day 6 and symptoms so far - headaches (getting worse today)- really tense shoulders/neck- fatigue- brain fog- desire to over-eat (although I have this a lot anyway)- a bit irritable- hard time concentrating- sensitive to a lot of noise


Withdrawals suck. We don't talk enough about them. They are why we fail. They are our brain's dopamine drenched chemical reward center begging us, threatening us, punishing us, pleading with us, rationalizing with us why we need to PMO. Withdrawals are painful, they are physical, mental, and emotional pain. They are the jitters, the shakes, the sweats, odd pains in odd places, the brain fog we feel when quitting, and our brain's way of telling us all that unpleasantness can go away with just a little harmless fix. When going through withdrawal I felt I had a sinus infection and my teeth actually hurt. I did not have a sinus infection and my teeth were fine, but my brain, at some level, had to make me feel bad to try and make me feel good through a porn induced dopamine release. The good thing is, if you are having withdrawals, it means your brain's dopamine levels are on their way back to normal. Once you get back to normal those things stop, but you can't get back to normal until your brain re-balances, and that takes, depending on you speak to, between 11 and 90 days. I usually guestimate between 11 and 40. Newbies must be told this will not be easy, it will be hard, and they have to expect this pain, endure it, embrace it and even want it to accomplish our task, getting dopamine production back to normal. http://www.nofap.org/forum/showthread.php?2402-Get-educated-get-tools-an...


I've been having the most fcked up dreams, the sort of shit I don't feel comfortable telling anyone about. I understand its just my mind working its way through withdrawal, but I hope it ends soon, I could really go for a good night's sleep again eventually.


I am experiencing, nausea, floaters in the eye, depression, lack of motivation. I've also been experiencing candida, which may not be related at all, so I'm really having trouble discerning what are truly withdrawal symptoms.


November 2013. I quit all porn,fantasy,constsantly thinking about sex  & daily M but decided to take the long route and continue trying to have sex with my wife. December & January was tough, and I mean tough! I had serious depression...absolutely no libido at all.I had thoughts that would run through my brain all day & night and found myself crying like a baby all the time. My porn & m habits had ground my poor little man into a desensitized permanently flaccid useless addition to ny body that simply didn't want or fancy real female attention.


Withdrawals were horrible I couldn't concentrate on my studies and I did really badly in Organic Chemistry. Barely made C in that class. I was also tired all the time. Withdrawals lasted about  30 to 40 days and I had another flatline from 70-84 days.


[After 6 weeks] I seem to be pretty much over the insomnia, although I'm not sleeping very deeply, and don't wake up feeling energetic and refreshed. It's better than lying awake for hours at a time though. I haven't had headaches in a week and I'm feeling a lot better than a couple of weeks ago.


Symptoms:

1. Extreme exhaustion 

2. Restless sleep 

3. Muscle aches, joint pains and fever (flu like) - day 154.

4. Mild disorientation 

5. Tension in the chest/tight breathing 

6. Anxiousness


Every time I stopped using, I felt like I was always on the verge of catching a cold during the days afterward. (Kept thinking I had mono.) I don't get that feeling anymore despite feeling pretty low at times. Throughout the first six months of recovery, whenever I would relapse, like clockwork 4 days later I would experience pure hell physically. These were the worst: headaches and depression. It was physically flooring.


My withdrawal experience so far: 

1. I get extremely lethargic. 

2. Unable to concentrate. 

3. I feel very thirsty and no amount of water quenches my thirst.

4. I have pain in body, which keeps moving from one place to another.

5. I feel mild sensations of vomiting.

6. My mouth has a bad taste.

7. I become extremely wise like a saint. I preach a lot. (As if I have never heard of a thing called porn addiction)

8. I have extraordinary ideas in my mind as to why sex and porn are wonderful. (But I keep them to myself)

9. I feel sleepy all the time.


Day 3 - Very hopeless. Irritability, headache, insomnia, loss of appetite, very thirsty, frequent but short peeing, increase in cigarettes.


Fap withdrawals are by far one of the most unpleasant things I've endured in my life, and I've only been suffering for a little over a day. This is coming from a guy who has suffered from amphetamine, Xanax, and the weaning withdrawal of various antidepressant medications I've taken over the course of my life. What I'm going through right now I wouldn't even wish on my worst enemy, it's absolute hell.


Day 6 - As for raw, physical observations regarding my penis; since the start of my streak, I haven't had one full erection, no morning wood, and it looks smaller (like when it's cold out or when you get out of the shower).


I've battled a few addictions in my life - from nicotine to alcohol and other substances. I've overcome all of them, and this was by far the most difficult. Urges, crazy thoughts, sleeplessness, feelings of hopelessness, despair, worthlessness, and many more negative things were all part of what I went through with this P and M thing. It's a wicked awful thing that I will never have to deal with ever again in my life - ever.


Today is day 10 for me. The 'aching balls' has subsided, which is welcome because it was a bit bothersome.


Withdrawals. Oh my gosh. Seemingly uncontrollable desire to resume my old behavior (urges), extreme irritability, sleeplessness, agitation, physical flu-like symptoms, blue balls, sexual frustration, depression, dysphoria, loss of interest in anything but sex, despondency, but no suicidal thoughts like I used to have. The first week was hell. The second week seemed a little better until it got worse, then from week three on things were manageable. I found to just love the withdrawal pain and push through it made the most sense.


About 2 weeks into abstinence I have noticed that I have been peeing a lot more than usual. I haven't been drinking more than usual and I'm not a heavy caffeine user. It is really starting to bother me since my need to go to the bathroom is waking me up at night and contributing to my insomnia.


(Day 22) About a week ago I noticed some jizz in my urine. I've seen others on here mention this so I wasn't concerned.


Well it has now been 4 weeks (28 days) since I have been PMO Free. I am glad the flu-like symptoms have gone away. My having to use the bathroom to pee all the time has stopped. The only thing that I am having trouble with right now is that I am just having problems falling asleep and fighting to urge to jerk off when I can't go to sleep.


(Day 12) It's like there's some tension that wants to get out of my body. My shoulders, neck and upper back hurt immensely. It's so painful that I took a painkiller, but it barely worked on it. I suspect that some part of this pain is in my brain. I feel stiff, and have felt like this for the last 3 days.


The first 50 days were pretty much the same as when I started, still felt like ass, looked like ass, wasnt taking care of myself, not eating properly, lazy, anxious, just a wreck. But on Day 50 it all changed. My current 'symptoms', which are still escalating are: High Energy, Only need 4 hours of sleep (I say this because I barely slept last night and am wide awake) -Emotions are coming back -Blood is pounding through body (Great Results in the gym) -At Peace (not even concerned about sex anymore) -Look 10 years younger (according to what others are saying) -Skin is smoother and more vibrant, hair is more perm and full -Hair Growing faster -Finger Nails/Toe Nails growing faster -Voice is more commanding -Even lames jokes make me laugh these days -Life's Good and Getting Better.


Not having had a major porn problem, I assumed the benefits would be marginal, but here is something I learnt; if you think you don't have an addiction, try stopping the activity and see what happens. In my case, a period of quite punishing withdrawal symptoms. How I imagine cold turkey from an addictive substance. This lasted for at least a month. Something was clearly profoundly affecting me neurochemically as within a 24hr period I might experience the extremes of a kind of shimmering, exultant euphoria followed by a moribund depressive blackness. It was around the month mark that I started feeling significantly better about myself and things started falling into place effortlessly; people seemed better disposed towards me, my body language improved, I started joking around at work more and generally seeing the lighter side of life.


Here's the "Withdrawals" PDF document from which we took these. We update it periodically.

Recovering porn users are often startled by the severity of their withdrawal symptoms when they stop using porn. This is probably due to a widespread blind spot about the honest-to-goodness physical addictiveness of Internet pornography. The brain releases more dopamine for a "novel" mate than a familiar one, so it's logical that the constant novelty Internet porn sets off neurochemical roller coaster ride in many brains. Not only are the highs higher, but the lows are also lower—leading to strong withdrawal symptoms for many users. Symptoms aren't just physical; they can take over your mind and your perception of the world (which looks dark). However, many of these same men reported big improvements after being without porn for a while.

Keep in mind that, as the brain's dopamine response grows more dysregulated, the withdrawal symptoms tend to be more pronounced. So if you have used extreme porn for a long time, you may notice more severe symptoms. The good news is that they pass. But if you keep "medicating" yourself with intense stimulation before your brain is back to its normal sensitivity, you can end up with a bit of a Groundhog Day scenario.


This guy believes there are two type of porn addicts with different trajectories

Finally, and this is something personal, I have discovered that there may be two kind of addicts. There is the normal chap who got into porn out of curiosity and then got hooked on. For them getting back to normal may take less time. When I began reading their stories it was very frustrating to me that in just two weeks they were making real progress. It has taken me an ordeal, a suicidal-feeling period and a full blown depression to slowly reach the other side. The other kind of addict (and I would label myself in this category) is the one who got issues in the first place and didn't have a normal emotional environment to begin with and began "self-medicating" their growing anxiety with porn. For us it is harder to get back to "normal" because we are not getting back, we are DISCOVERING IT for the first time in our lifes! So, in our journey it is not only porn and orgasms that we must quit, they are not the cause but the consequence of deeper conflicts that we must work on. But if we keep on masturbating and orgasming we never get rid of our anxiety and we never get the tools to start living our emotions in a new and healthy way.

So, my advice to the people out there is don't compare your progress to anybody else's and don't check your progress on a daily basis not even on a weekly basis. It may take months. Don't think that quitting porn is going to be the single magic bullet that is going to solve all your problems, there may be more in store than what you initially thought. Stay away from masturbation, even if it is only to sensation, it is one more trick of the brain to lower your defenses and get you back to porn. And, finally, the thing which has helped me the most has been meeting new nice people and the love of my students. Love is not only in a relationship so rely on your friends, family and the people who love you because love is everywhere, not just in one person.

Alcohol, Cocaine and Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Porn addiction withdrawal is similar to withdrawal from substance abuse(from alcohol withdrawal site)

Mild-to-moderate psychological symptoms:

  • Anxiety or nervousness
  • Depression
  • Difficulty thinking clearly
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability or easy excitability
  • Jumpiness or shakiness
  • Nightmares
  • Rapid emotional changes

Mild-to-moderate physical symptoms:

  • Clammy skin
  • Enlarged (dilated) pupils
  • Headache
  • Insomnia (sleeping difficulty)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pallor
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Tremor of the hands or other body parts

Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

[Withdrawal symptoms are often described as] feeling like a severe case of flu. They include:

  • Uneasiness
  • Irritability
  • Crying
  • Tremors
  • Jitteriness
  • Goose bumps
  • Runny nose
  • Yawning
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Severe craving

Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms

(from cocaine withdrawal site)

The following represents a list of common cocaine withdrawal symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Lack of pleasure
  • Generalized malaise
  • Anxiety
  • Vivid and unpleasant dreams
  • Increased appetite
  • Irritability
  • Slowing of activity
  • Agitation and restless behavior
  • Sleepiness
  • Extreme suspicion

[Discussion from drug site] Although cocaine withdrawal does not typically have visible physical symptoms like “the shakes” and vomiting that are common with heroin or alcohol withdrawal, the level of depression, lack of pleasure, and craving caused by cocaine withdrawal equals or surpasses what is experienced with most other withdrawal symptoms. The good news is that cocaine withdrawal symptoms can disappear completely over time. The bad news, however, is twofold. First, if the abuse has been chronic, various symptoms such as depression and craving can actually last for months. …

To understand why discontinuing cocaine use leads to agitation and other unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, it is necessary to briefly discuss the relationship between dopamine and cocaine. Dopamine is one of the brain’s natural “pleasure” neurochemicals. Cocaine abuse interferes with the reabsorption of dopamine, thus leading to a surplus of dopamine in the brain.

US researchers have reported that low levels of two neurotransmitters – dopamine and acetylcholine – may be implicated in sleep disorders.

Sleep disorders linked to levels of neurotransmitters

 Multiple system atrophy (MSA) is a rare and fatal degenerative neurological disease that is almost always accompanied by severe sleep disorders. There is clinical evidence that some of the sleep problems associated with this condition can be relieved by medications that replace depleted dopamine.

 To investigate this clinical finding, researchers from the University of Michigan studied the brain chemistry of 13 patients with MSA and 27 healthy control subjects.

 Radioactive tracers that attach specifically to proteins in dopamine and acetylcholine producing cells were administered to the participants. The brains were then scanned using positron emission tomography (PET) and single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT).

 The scans were performed during two successive nights of polysomnography, which involves continuous recording of specific physiologic variables during sleep. The results from PET and SPECT scans were correlated with the polysomnography recordings.

 The results revealed that MSA patients have a lower density of dopamine and acetylcholine-producing neurons than normal control subjects. The lower the density of these neurotransmitter-producing cells, the worse the subjects’ sleep problems.

 Depleted dopamine producing neurons in the striatum of the brain were associated with symptoms of thrashing, talking and violent flailing while asleep. In contrast, patients with the lowest levels of acetylcholine-producing neurons in the brainstem had more interruptions in breathing during sleep.

 The researchers also observed that brain areas that control the muscles of the upper airway and tongue were associated with the largest deficits in acetylcholine neurons.

 The authors conclude that chemical imbalances in the brain may be partly responsible for sleep disorders, but that further research is required to confirm these findings in otherwise healthy individuals and other neurological disorders.

Web addicts' withdrawal symptoms similar to drug users

keyboardInternet addicts can suffer a form of cold turkey when they stop using the web - just like people coming off drugs, according to research. A study by Swansea and Milan universities found young people had "negative moods" when they stopped surfing the net.

Heavy internet-users also tended to be more depressed, the research found.

Internet addiction is said to be a clinical disorder marked by out-of-control internet use.

Swansea University said around half of the 60 young people it studied spent so much time on the net that it had negative consequences for the rest of their lives.

The results are part of a study looking at the negative psychological impacts of the internet.

The university said over the past decade internet addiction had became widely debated in medical literature.

Its research said the so-called addicts' web usage was varied, but it was common for them to gamble and access pornography online.

Prof Phil Reed, of Swansea University's college of human and health sciences, said: "Although we do not know exactly what internet addiction is, our results show that around half of the young people we studied spend so much time on the net that it has negative consequences for the rest of their lives.

Drugs or alcohol

"When these people come off-line, they suffer increased negative mood - just like people coming off illegal drugs like ecstasy.

"These initial results, and related studies of brain function, suggest that there are some nasty surprises lurking on the net for people's wellbeing.

"These results corroborate previous reports regarding the psychological characteristics and traits of internet users, but go beyond those findings to show the immediate effect of the Internet on the mood of those who are addicted."

The study explored the immediate impact of internet exposure on the mood and psychological states of internet addicts and low internet-users.

The 60 volunteers, made up of 27 men and 33 women aged in their 20s, were given psychological tests to explore levels of addiction, mood, anxiety, depression and autism traits.

They were then given exposure to the internet for 15 minutes and re-tested for mood and anxiety.

The research found the mood of high internet-users suffered after internet use compared to low internet-users.

Scientists said this could possibly trigger them to log back on to the internet to "remove these unpleasant feelings".

Research into internet addiction has also been carried out in China.

Last year experts there said web addicts had brain changes similar to those hooked on drugs or alcohol.

They scanned the brains of 17 young web addicts and found disruption in the way their brains were wired up.

See What does withdrawal from porn addiction look like?