- Rebooting Basics
- Tools for Change
- Porn FAQs
- ED & Porn
- Gary's Page
What does withdrawal from porn addiction look like?
Submitted by Gary Wilson and... on Sat, 12/04/2010 - 14:00
It 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 adddictive 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
- Poor concentration
- Social isolation
- Loss of libido (takes several days)
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.
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.
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.
--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.
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
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.
[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.
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
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.
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.
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.