Is Porn Erectile Dysfunction Fact or Fiction? by Kurt Smith, LMFT, LPCC, AFC (2015)

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Posted by Kurt Smith, LMFT, LPCC, AFC on Fri, Feb 27, 2015

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Porn is a pretty uncomfortable subject for nearly everyone to discuss. Something that typically accompanies porn viewing that can be particular embarrassing is masturbation. And now a new problem has surfaced around porn and masturbation in the form of porn erectile dysfunction.
But wait a minute, isn't it just older guys who have erectile dysfunction? Yes, that is usually true, although men of any age can have this problem. Porn erectile dysfunction, however, is a new problem, different from regular ED, and affecting men of all ages.

Obviously, not being able to get an erection is a physical problem, but a number of things, including medical or physical problems, as well as mental and emotional issues can cause it. Here are a few of the most common causes: high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes; some prescription medications; alcohol and drug use, smoking; depression, stress, anger, anxiety; overweight, self image, low libido. As exhaustive as this list seems, the thing most unlikely to be seen on any description of causes of erectile dysfunction is porn.

But shouldn't watching porn help with getting an erection, not inhibit one? Maybe, maybe not.

Before the Internet, access to porn was limited to porno videos and magazines, like Playboy and Penthouse. While some men had collections of these, most guys had limited access. But the Internet has now made the availability to porn images and video clips nearly instantaneous and limitless.

This endless supply visual sexual images has fed men's natural desire to both "hunt" and fantasize about sex. As a result, the pleasure of sexual fantasizing combined with an infinite supply of stimulating images has turned looking at porn into a game of seeking ever increasingly exciting images and fantasies for many, many men. This is one of the big reasons why men watch porn, and how it can become so habitual and consume hours upon hours. Here's what one woman told me:

"My spouse is 35 years old. He has struggled with porn before it even hit the Internet. Since he was 12. Boxes and boxes of magazines. Now in his phones... There are 14,000 photos. Yes. 14,000. That's an old phone. The new one has 5,000. And now there is a back up phone and I don't know how many there are. He admits it's an issue. Says when he feels it taking over."

 

As shocking as this may be, I've actually had men confess to me in counseling of having even more porn saved up than this guy. Like this husband, so many men have no idea how big of an issue their porn watching really is. After all, isn't it normal for men to want to look at a naked woman? Yes, but an excessive amount of anything causes problems -- even good things (however porn isn't a good thing).

Now an increasing number of men are reporting difficulties getting and keeping an erection when being intimate with their partners. I know men who also have problems reaching orgasm when having sex with their wives or girlfriends. And some men can even lose interest in having sex at all with a real woman. Now aren't men suppose the think about sex every 6 seconds? Aren't they supposed to be so sex focus they'd have intercourse nearly any time? What gives? Porn can cause erection problems.

Sexual arousal releases the pleasure chemical dopamine in the brain. Like anything, too much dopamine can be a problem. When viewing porn becomes habitual it can cause the nerves in the brain to become less sensitive and responsive to dopamine. This results in normal sexual intimacy (with a real woman) being insufficient to produce enough dopamine for arousal. The result of this change in the brain (which is reversible by the way) can be seen in the prior descriptions of men needing more and more porn to get aroused and reach orgasm.

There are some clinicians who say that porn erectile dysfunction is a myth. But there are also a lot of people who believe porn is harmless too. Neither of which I agree with.

The truth about porn is that it gives short-term pleasure but along with that comes long-term problems. Masturbating to porn repetitively over time raises the threshold necessary for sexual arousal, as well as orgasm. As a result sexual stimulus, whether real or digital, that used to immediately create excitement no longer does, and so more and more, and newer and newer stimuli is required.

Understanding all of this it's really not hard to see how normal sex with someone you've been with before would not arouse a porn user like it used too. One man I treated for porn addiction would need to masturbate and orgasm again after having sex with his wife.

The good news is that porn erectile dysfunction is reversible. Stop viewing porn and masturbating, and typically within 3 months the dopamine levels in your brain will return to normal levels. However, stopping porn viewing is much easier said than done. Despite good intentions, the addictive power of porn and its easy accessibility make it very difficult for most men to stop on their own without professional help.

There are a number of mom myths we all heard as kids. One of the most famous mom sayings has been, "Put on a jacket. You'll catch a cold." But another one involves the male anatomy, "If you keep playing with it, it will fall off someday." I actually thought it was, "Masturbation will make you go blind." Obviously, it's not going to fall off nor are you going to go blind, but it's a myth that looking at porn is harmless and the reality is that porn erectile dysfunction can be one of the consequences.

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