Why doesn't gradual reduction work with porn recovery?

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It does for some people. However, "gradual" may not work for you if your porn use has led to addiction processes in your brain. These are physical changes, which numb your response to pleasure, make you hypersensitive to porn related cues, alter your stress response, and impair your executive control (self-control) due to alterations in your frontal lobes.

The strategy of slowly "cutting back" until you are ready to quit works primarily for only two addictions: caffeine and nicotine. Neither chemical interferes with functioning—indeed they may improve it. Each is ingested in very specific amounts throughout the day. People get addicted to both, find "their" levels, and stay there.

Gradual weaning does not work well for drug addicts, pathological gamblers, or even the obese (fattening food). Consuming these other addictions usually leads to escalation—and you end up right back where you started. From all reports, Internet porn addiction is similar to these addictions as moderation usually fails. See Vibrators and Other Pleasures: When Moderation Fails

What about a weekly schedule?

Even if you choose a pre-determined porn schedule - as one guy proposed, Friday and Saturday for two hours each evening -  unless you watch the exact same porn every time you use, the novel porn will still violate expectations and jack up dopamine. In fact, watching porn releases dopamine because sexy visuals are associated with human mating - a basic evolutionary drive. There is simply no way around this. In fact, intermittent use is the typical pattern for addicts - of all types.

Using porn, even on a schedule, will reinforce sensitized addiction pathways. Studies show that 7 days after use of drug or sex, the addiction pathways are at their peak strength. This is measured by an increase in synaptic connections in the nucleus accumbens (reward center). In other words, one never enters withdrawal (a sign of healing) if one doesn't go past that point. With weekly scheduled porn use someone can simply fantasize about the upcoming weekend and all the great porn they are going to watch. Anticipation releases dopamine and reinforces the sensitized pathways.

For those with porn-induced sexual dysfunctions (ED, DE), weekly use will almost certainly impede recovery. It is highly unlikely that one can regain erectile strength while still using.

Also, if a guy is attempting to reconnect with a partner, or enter the dating scene, weekly use will inhibit that goal. Porn is always there as a substitute for the real thing - especially if one chooses Friday and Saturday nights!

Finally, the purpose  of a reboot is to find out what life is like without internet porn. With porn in the picture one never finds out.

Masturbation activates cravings (sensitized pathways) that often lead back to Internet porn. For our visitors, masturbation is tightly linked to porn, so "un-linking" them (or rewiring the brain) involves stopping both. Once you have rebooted, it's easier to find a balance. At that point, occasional masturbation (without porn) on a schedule may work fine.

What works best

The porn users who make the most progress in healing generally stop all orgasm for a couple of months. (They call it PMO, porn/masturbation/orgasm-during sex.) Many stabilize around that time, depending upon various factors such as age, age use began, degree of escalation, number of years of highspeed access, etc. Some need longer.

It also appears that an orgasm near the end of the process is less likely to extend recovery time than an orgasm near the beginning.

Whatever the biological reason, most who try to mix sex/masturbation-to-orgasm with rebooting early on are not happy with their progress. Is it because they are intensely stimulating their brains via orgasm (even without porn) too soon? Maybe.

It may be the equivalent of any addict bingeing on any addictive substance/activity during withdrawal. Such relapses substantially slow recovery. However, people don't "go back to zero" just because they orgasm early on. Some gains remain, unless they slip back into their addiction. For example, if a food addict goes off her diet, her weight-loss may stall, but once she's on the diet again, she'll continue to lose.

No research is yet being done on recovering porn addicts' brains—although some research has been done that shows the effects of the addiction itself on their brains. And there are a growing number of studies linking porn use or porn/sex addiction to sexual dysfunctions, lower brain activation to sexual stimuli, and lower sexual satisfaction.

Even more research has been done on other behavioral addicts—although very little has been done on how their brains recover. Interestingly, there is also a study on brain recovery in the obese (people addicted to food). Among patients who opted for bariatric surgery (stopped overeating), D2 receptor levels did increase in their brain's reward circuitry. In other words, when they stopped excessive stimulation, their sensitivity (normal response to food) started to bounce back. Obviously, they did not stop eating altogether. But it may be that stopping orgasm is like stopping overeating, and gives the brain a much needed chance to restore sensitivity. If so, those with partners may choose to cut back to very gentle, non-orgasmic sex to heal. It might be more like a bariatric patient eating "small meals."

(Incidentally, a recent study showed that within 3 months after smokers quit, their D2 receptors had increased 15 -20%.)

The most important point is that just cutting back to occasional orgasm, without first going through a lengthy period of no PMO, may impede progress. For more see Why are cravings (a rush) still triggered after rebooting?

Here are one man's thoughts on cutting back gradually:

I think tapering is only pertinent if you cannot use abstinence. One thing I noticed not *touched* upon in this discussion (incoming pun) is the very notion that digital masturbation (using one's hand) for males, I believe is the underlying problem. I have had ED for the first time after a once a day habit for nearly 20 years. Of course, there's a correlation why I just now consider it a problem; I've recently (in the last 2 years) regularly masturbated twice a day, up to 4 times.)

Here's my point: Advice about just cooling off on the masturbation seems like a secondary resort ONLY if one cannot totally abstain from masturbation and porn. I recognize the cognitive problems with being able to flip between several new scenarios as described by 'edging' (using multiple open windows of porn)

But I believe the real issue is that masturbation, like chronic sex, can be a self amplifying process just based on the friction and sensitivity of the penis. Guys who jack-off a lot probably have noticed that over the years, their pressure and technique has had to change in order to maintain the control necessary to either jack-off quick or delay an orgasm (so as to enjoy the act of masturbating longer).

I don't think it's effective for chronic masturbators to keep jacking-off. Even if it's just once or twice per week. My point being that while a release 1-2 times a week may be stepping down for most porn addicts, I believe it's more about the actual sensations and alteration of one's cognitive perception of what's enough 'sexy pleasure' for one to get off. The actual act of using a hand to stimulate a penis to arousal is in my experience always more violent and rough than what a vagina would provide. So, that's why I'm coming to the point that even whacking it twice a week, if done rough or only in a certain way (a way very uncharacteristic of a vagina) won't help the overlying cause of one's penis being desensitized.

Also, I don't know how one who has a porn addiction can STOP fantasies from online creeping into their offline porn-imagination strictly masturbation sessions (which you suggest is fine for guys to partake in.) IMO, a normal 1 to twice a week is healthy only for guys who aren't already above that level and working with a baseline desensitized penis level (and porn tainted fantasies) far above guys who've never manipulated themselves as much.

A different example -

Confessions of a Fapaholic: Reset and New Goal!

About a month ago I had set a target of 30 days of NoFap for myself and honestly I can say that it was a transformative and hugely beneficial experience for me. I started with 30 days because I wanted to do baby steps - and it was hard. But completely worth it - I felt like a completely different person. My work improved, skin improved, health improved and many friends commented on how I "seemed like a different person"! During this 30 day period I got laid 4 times (3 times the same girl).. I am still struggling with some ED problems but I felt so much stronger and I think I can fix this.

Ok so here is where I fucked up: in order to celebrate my 30 days of NoFap I decided to "reward" myself with some porn. Horrible idea. For the past 10 days I've been wanking/edging/being my old self and it feels awful. I've reverted and lost all the progress I made. I miss how I felt just ten days ago. So here goes: I'm going to do this for 90 days. Fuck it, I'm 25, the world at my feet and amazing opportunities in front of me. I am NOT going to wank it all away. 90 days. My transformation starts now.