Young Porn Users Need Longer To Recover Their Mojo

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What digital sex entails

Update: Porn-Induced ED in the Media: Primarily Experts

Update, 7-12-14: The first peer-reviewed study to ask the question finds porn-induced ED. About 60% of compulsive porn users reported erectile dysfunction in this brain scan study - Neural Correlates of Sexual Cue Reactivity in Individuals with and without Compulsive Sexual Behaviours (2014). From the study (CSB are compulsive porn users):

CSB subjects reported that as a result of excessive use of sexually explicit materials.....experienced diminished libido or erectile function specifically in physical relationships with women (although not in relationship to thesexually explicit material) (N = 11)...

The subjects stated that porn use caused their ED. The average age was 25, yet 11 out of the 19 subjects experienced erectile dysfunction and diminished libido with partners, but not with porn.


 

Is highspeed porn use rewiring adolescent sexuality?

A few years ago, when guys first showed up at our website with chronic porn-related sexual performance problems, they generally recovered after about two months of no porn, masturbation or porn fantasy, and a minimum of orgasm. Most were computer wizards who had acquired highspeed Internet porn ahead of the herdand then developed uncharacteristic performance problems during real sex. We'll call them "Oldtimers."

Soon we began to notice two unexpected trends:

  1. A flood of younger guys (early twenties and late teens) showed up with the same erectile-dysfunction problems. Rapidly, they comprised the majority of visitors to most threads and sites where men were complaining of porn-related sexual performance problems,  and
  2. These younger guys ("Newcomers") generally required longer (sometimes months longer) to recover from their performance problems. In fact, some needed regular contact with a real partnerwhich presents a challenging "chicken-and-egg" problem in the world of casual hook-ups.

Typical Oldtimers:

[Age 51] I'm 65 days porn free now and seeing results. I've had ED since 2007. It had steadily gotten worse to the point that even Viagra didn't help. I was getting depressed and desperate. I'd been searching for ED remedies for months. I've tried everything: quitting caffeine, DHEA, vitamins and minerals, losing weight, adding muscle mass, increasing my cholesterol, herbs. I was starting to think I was just going to have to live with it, that it was just part of aging.  I stopped cold turkey on the porn and I haven't missed a bit. If porn robs me of real sex then it's not worth it.

My recovery's been up and down. But my morning erections have been very consistent the past couple of weeks and the last two times I've had sex I got the rock hard erections I hadn't had in years and I maintained them the entire time. And ejaculations are coming more easily and feeling so much better. The sensation of sex is coming back too. Before when I was able to get a hard enough erection for sex it felt like my penis was almost numb. Now I can feel the vagina sliding over my penis and it feels WONDERFUL.

____

My ED is gone 90%. My DO problem is non-existent, maybe I even come too fast for her, but sex is much better. I wake up to a really hard erection most mornings and without fantasy or touching, it lasts up to 20-30 minutes. I am 49 freaking years old. Who would have thought my teenage boner would come back! My sexual relationship is much better only because my relationship is better.

 

Typical Newcomer:

I'm on Day 141 of no masturbation to porn. I never really had ED problems, but I did have delayed ejaculation problems, weaker erections, and all of the low confidence/lack of focus stuff. Right now, I feel 85-90% even after close to 5 months. I had successful sex last weekend and it was a positive experience. I feel like I still need to rewire (I'm thinking I'm probably going to need a consistent partner), but I feel mostly healed. Sex came very late at night and after a long day of drinking. I was extremely sensitive, but my recovery time was good and it was a good experience for both parties.

Why this trend of youthful ED?

It's likely that this unfortunate trend is the natural outcome of highly malleable adolescent brains colliding with highspeed (i.e., hyperstimulating) porn. Recent research, revealing both how scientists can condition mammalian sexuality and the unique vulnerability of adolescent brains, supports this hypothesis. (More below.)

You see, the Oldtimers started masturbating at puberty without highspeed. Depending upon their ages and circumstances they began their solo-sex careers with a catalog, a magazine, a video, grainy TV porn, or amazingly (to today's young guys), their imagination. They also generally had some sex, or at least courtship, with a real partner before they fell under the spell of highspeed porn and developed overconsumption symptoms.

In short, Oldtimers trained their adolescent brains differently from today's Newcomerswho often discover solo sex using highspeed porn (many around age 10), and never stop using it.

In other words, age is not the key variable for a shorter recovery. Exposure to real partners prior to highspeed is. Said a 22-year old:

I was having sex years prior to watching Internet porn or developing ED. I only masturbated to Internet porn for the 2.5 years before I developed ED at age 22. Since then I've gone for 8 straight weeks with no porn or masturbation. I don't know if I'm quite back to 100%, but if not it's somewhere in the 90th percentile. I went through the whole dead-dick period and everything. During the process I had sex about 3 times. The 1st time being after the 4th week. I'm actually glad I went through all this. I now love my penis like it was a person, maybe more. lol!!!!

And here's an Oldtimer:

I've been looking at porn since I was 13 or so (I'm 47 now). It was never a problem for me until I got highspeed Internet back in 2000. Started noticing problems getting hard and bad delayed ejaculation. Until then I had always had the ability to ejaculate on command. However, after highspeed porn I was lucky if I got off 40% of the time. Sex with my then wife became less and less frequent.

Brave new porn world

In short, things have changed. From puberty (or before), young guys now do most all of their masturbating to Internet porn. Some can't imagine climaxing without it.

Such sexual conditioning is unique in human evolution, but before we explain more about the ramifications of, and science behind, that conditioning let's look at why adolescent brains are exceptionally malleable.

It's well established that our most powerful memories occur during adolescence. This is when our brains are particularly ripe for learning new information—especially about mating.

The capacity of a teen to wire up new sexual associations mushrooms around 11 or 12 when billions of new neural connections (synapses) create endless possibilities. However, by adulthood his brain must prune his neural circuitry to leave him with a manageable assortment of choices. By his twenties, he may not exactly be stuck with the sexual proclivities he falls into during adolescence, but they can be like deep ruts in his brain—not easy to ignore or reconfigure.

What real sex entailsHuman brains go through two stages of dramatic neuronal growth: one in utero and throughout the first several months of life, the other between the ages of 10 and 13— just when most boys (and now, many girls) begin to look at Internet porn. Ideally, during this critical developmental period, we humans are exposed to age-appropriate sexual behavior. We learn how to flirt and connect with potential partners.

This second rewiring frenzy entails multiplication, and then subtraction of, neural connections.  Together, genes and environment sculpt the clay of a teen's cerebral cortex. As use-it-or-lose-it proceeds, the brain reorganizes and fine-tunes itself:

The cortex prunes away little used circuits, while strengthening well worn neural pathways. Nerve cell axons in favored pathways become better insulated with myelin, increasing the speed of nerve impulses. Little branches that receive messages (called dendrites) grow like vines to better hear the incoming signal. The connections between axons and dendrite (synapses) multiply on strong circuits and vanish on weaker ones. In the end you have memories, skills, habits, preferences and ways of coping that stand the test of time. (Dobbs, emphasis added)

In less glowing terms, as teens, we restrict our options—without realizing how critical our choices are during our final, pubescent, neuronal growth spurt. According to researcher Jay Giedd,

If a teen is doing music or sports or academics, those are the cells and connections that will be hardwired. If they're lying on the couch or playing video games or MTV [or Internet porn], those are the cells and connections that are going to survive.

Is it a fluke that guys who start early on highspeed porn notice sexual performance problems as they near/reach adulthood? Probably not. Dopamine activity, which powers erections, peaks in the early teens and declines to reach adult levels by the early twenties. That's when these guys tend to notice undeniable symptoms.

Sexuality can be conditioned...even to the smell of death

If you're wondering how you, or someone you love, unexpectedly came to find bestiality, gang rape, transsexual porn or anything else arousing, wonder no longer. In the laboratory, researcher Jim Pfaus has even successfully used the reward of sexual jollies to condition young mammals to love cadaverine (the odor of decaying flesh).

Normally rats avoid decaying flesh. It's innate; it's not a learned behavior. They will bury dead buddies or a wooden dowel soaked in cadaverine. Pfaus sprayed receptive females with cadaverine, and placed them in cages with young, virgin males looking to lose their V-cards. Sure enough, the males mated and ejaculated several times. Several days later the young rats were place in a large cage with normal-smelling females and females smelling like death. The rats conditioned to cadaverine mated with both types of females. Normal adult males wouldn't go near females who smell like death—no matter how horny.

Moreover, a few days later the conditioned males received a wooden dowel saturated in cadaverine. They played with it, and many gnawed on it, as they would if the dowel had been laced with something they really love, such as chocolate or vaginal secretions.

So what is giving today's Newcomers the biggest sexual kicks? Not real peers, but porn. Just as rats and humans really don't like the smell of rotting flesh, many of today's porn users don't really like what they've escalated to. "It's complicated."

Elevated dopamine and changes in sexual preference

Here's more evidence that sexual tastes can be profoundly re-conditioned: A male rat can be conditioned to prefer a same-sex partner by jacking up his dopamine. And it doesn't take very long. Researchers injected a male rat with a dopamine agonist (a drug that mimics dopamine), and then placed him in a cage with another male. The two rats just hung out together for a day. (The dopamine agonist is out of the system in about one day.) Researchers repeated this 2 more times, 4 days apart.

A few days later, the reconditioned male was put to the test. With no dopamine agonist in his system, he was placed into a cage with his male buddy and sexually receptive female (remember the dopamine was out of his system). Guess which rat turned him on the most? He showed much more response to the male: more erections, more genital investigation, and even female-like solicitations —as opposed to normal male mounting behavior.

Lesson? High levels of dopamine can powerfully rewire the brain and alter sexual tastes. The researchers emphasized that the male rat wasn't gay, as he didn't try to mount the other rat. Yet he had definitely changed. Similarly, continued porn use can't change your sexual orientation, but it can change what type of porn excites you.

Early conditioning is tougher to erase

Here's the really scary bit for Newcomers: Early sexual conditioning can stick around. Adolescent brains are at their peak of (1) sensitivity to dopamine signaling and (2) vulnerability to addiction. Novel, startling, arousing stimuli can rock their world in a way it won't an adult brain. This neurochemical reality primes young brains. They learn to define sex according to whatever stimuli offer the biggest sexual buzz. This lesson is a powerful one, as can be seen from the rats that cherished cadaverine-scented dowels.

In contrast, sexual conditioning is far more elastic if it occurs after normal mating patterns are established. For example, scientists introduced a receptive female to a male and then, a minute later, yanked her out of his cage. This conditioned him to ejaculate much faster than normal. If the males learned this pattern during their first sexual experiences, it stuck with them—even when they were later allowed uninterrupted access to females.

To see the difference, the researchers also taught experienced males (which had learned sex under normal conditions) to ejaculate faster, by yanking the females after a minute.  However—unlike the rats whose sexual behavior was conditioned from the start—the experienced rats fell back to normal mating behavior when allowed uninterrupted access to females.

This research lines up with what we hear from guys recovering from ED. Guys who developed their sexuality before they used Internet porn only need a couple of months to recover from ED. Guys who started masturbating early to Internet porn often need up to six months or even longer to have satisfactory sex.

Today's teens first train their mating skills to pixels rather than real partners. Their training does not prepare them to experience normal pleasure during intercourse (or even oral sex) with a real partner. It's like hitting tennis balls to improve one's jump shot. Guys are training for the wrong sport, so when (if?) they switch to real partners they have to learn a whole new game.

Spending years before your first kiss hunched over a screen with 10 tabs open, mastering the dubious skills of watching sex acts your dad never heard of, and learning to masturbate with your left hand does not prepare you for fumbling your way to first base, let alone satisfying lovemaking. In fact, today's youngsters may unwittingly be missing the mark entirely, as far as courting skills and sexual learning goes:

(Age 22) So, I take a really hot girl back to my place. She was absolutely smoking, but I still couldn't manage with her. I said I was drunk. A year later I hooked up with another hot girl. I had only had a glass of wine but I still couldn't do it. I was crushed. With the girls it just felt strange and unnatural. I liked holding them and being with them, but there was zero sexual excitement on my part, which is obviously not right. I'm just so used to that old porn routine. I wonder how long this recovery process will take, and if it's even possible. I worry it might be far too hardwired into my brain....

Could sexual conditioning explain why today's Newcomers who masturbate only to pixels and rough friction have a hard time rewiring their sexual response to real partners and conventional sex even after they stop using porn? Pfaus's review of sexual conditioning Who, What, Where, When (and Maybe Even Why)? How the Experience of Sexual Reward Connects Sexual Desire, Preference, and Performance suggests that the answer is "yes."

Dilbert - DigisexualMight sexual conditioning research also explain why Oldtimers who did not start with Internet porn/deathgrip masturbation, and who had real sex before they developed ED, more quickly return to healthy sexual responsiveness—even though they are older and presumably lacking youthful levels of sex hormones and dopamine?

Addiction may contribute to the unexpected symptoms

Early conditioning isn't the only risk for guys who start out on highspeed. Most guys with porn-induced ED eventually report behaviors and symptoms common to most addicts, such as: the inability to control use, cravings, continued use despite negative consequences (including ED), escalation, and withdrawal symptoms when they abstain. These symptoms are the consequences of plastic changes in their brains. As we have seen, adolescent brains are far more plastic than adult brains—leaving teens more vulnerable to developing addictions.

Two of the key addiction-related changes are called desensitization and sensitization, respectively. Desensitization refers to a general dialing down of responsiveness to all pleasure...a baseline change. It's behind the, "I can't get enough" feelings. Sensitization refers to hyper-reactivity/excitement—but only in response to the specific cues the brain associates with an addiction. It's a super memory of pleasure, which fuels the hard-to-ignore cravings.

Together, these changes explain why porn does the job and a hot babe doesn't. Some guys will need many months to rewire their brains to real partners.

Why don't guys notice that highspeed porn is rewiring their sexuality?

  1. Highspeed porn's constant novelty and shock comprise a powerful, but unnatural, aphrodisiac, so these users can always get off to porn if they watch enough, or more extreme, material.
  2. The deterioration in erection strength is gradual as the brain grows less responsive to real potential partners and sexual contact. Meanwhile, they don't think to try masturbating without porn, so the deterioration is veiled.
  3. They often use Internet porn for many years before trying to have sex with a partner. 
  4. At that point, some honestly don't know what normal male sexual responsiveness is—because they've been locked into the porn spiral since puberty, as have all their friends.
  5. When they can't perform during real sex, they can always blame it on something else: alcohol, weed, the wrong hair or skin color of their partner, the absence of anal sex, whatever.
  6. Today's mainstream advice erroneously insists that sexual tastes are immutable, porn harmless, and erectile problems in twenty-somethings perfectly normal and unrelated to porn use. (Huh?)

How long does it take to rewire to real partners?

Length of time addicted matters, but so does degree of brain plasticity. Brains are different and they recover at different speeds.

Consider the addiction recovery results for this group of primates. (Note: scientists were measuring  desensitization and its reversal.)

In three [primates] exposed to cocaine for only one week, [normal dopamine signaling] returned to baseline, pre-drug levels within three weeks.

Five subjects that self-administered cocaine for twelve months were studied during cocaine abstinence. Three of the five subjects showed complete recovery of [normal dopamine signaling] within three months of abstinence, whereas the other two subjects did not recover after one year of abstinence. Rate of recovery was not related to total drug intake over the twelve months of cocaine self-administration.

We assume that Internet porn addiction is more "reversible" than cocaine addiction, but no one yet knows. Already we hear from men whose sexual responsiveness/performance is not fully recovered after a year.

Not to be alarmist, but all of this research taken together suggests that adolescents who someday hope to enjoy sex with real partners need to know that

  1. it can be risky to wire one's sexual response to stimuli that are radically different from real sex, and
  2. while the risk of addiction is not universal, it is real, and addiction-related changes in brains can be tough to reverse.

Here's what healing looked like for recovering men

(Note that even after someone recovers enough to have normal sex, he is likely to see continued improvements for months.)

First guy - (Age 18) I stopped watching porn and masturbating (didn't have an orgasm for around 124 days until I had sex). When I first had sex, my erections were back, but I had delayed ejaculation and could only orgasm with a handjob after intercourse. I was having sex as if I was masturbating to porn. I wasn't focused on the sensation. This time though, I relaxed completely and focused on my penis and the sensation. It worked well. It's definitely new to me and I had a good orgasm. All that it takes is to learn HOW to enjoy vaginal sex. It's very different from masturbating.

For about 3 to 4 days now, before I had sex, I lightly stroked my penis, just running my fingers along the shaft. I focused on the sensation while doing that. I think that helped me to learn how to focus on my penis and on the sensation. The important things to stop delayed ejaculation:

-Relax: Your whole body must relax. Every muscle, especially your penis. You have to do it consciously.

-Focus on the sensation: Close your eyes if you have to. Become aware of the sensation and feel it.

-Slow down: Don't force yourself to orgasm or ejaculate. Enjoy each second of everything. Forcing means you're not relaxed and you're not focused on the sensation, but reaching orgasm instead. Focus on the journey, not the destination. You'll get there eventually.

-Keep going: If you still feel like you're far from orgasm, you're not focused. Relax, focus, slow down, keep going and repeat.

I've reached my goals. Time to focus on university now.

Second guy - I have been off masturbation to porn for 1/3 of a year (with not much relapse, and no hardcore). My sensitivity to pleasure is increasing. Example from real life: I always loved ordinary things like listening to piano music, eating peaches or drinking green tea. But during the last few months the pleasure has grown more intense. Today eating peaches from our garden was 'orgasm-like' (obviously not that strong), but longer lasting. It was not just likable, but intensely pleasurable and satisfying. IMHO this is the reason that stopping masturbation to porn really pays off.

Third guy: I have perhaps had one of the longest recoveries from porn-related ED, which was troubling for me, so hopefully I can now serve as some inspiration for those frustrated with lack of results. First off, getting a consistent partner was what did it for me. Before that frustration was all I saw. Starting at month 7 after reboot I had someone to flirt with, sleep with, cuddle with, and kiss gently before moving to sex. This slowly got me going again. At first I could only get hard for short periods of a time and had to "rush" for penetration, but after each time my erections got stronger. Also high levels of premature ejaculation have subsided as time has worn on—practice makes perfect.

I just had sex three times in one night with zero difficulty. I cannot believe how far I have come since embarking on this journey. I now get hard just by gently kissing my lover and have no issues with erection quality. I have zero desire to masturbate. I am sure my libido will continue to improve, as well as my orgasms which were nothing of note at the start (but have slowly gotten better). With everything taking so long for me, I can only imagine the changes a year from now. 9 months and I am already a changed man. Get a real partner. Take time to connect with someone (not just sexually). It is an experience too powerful to describe. I hope no one ever has to go through what I did.

Fourth guy: (Oldtimer) I fapped for 40 years...to....porn!! And I never had an ED problem until the last 3.5 years. The tube-site porn was causing MAJOR problems, but I just didn't know it. I thought it was age, or the fact that I'm out of shape, or boredom or whatever... until I learned how Internet porn overloads our brain and causes us to become unresponsive to real girls and sex with them.

Now, I'm under no illusions that just because I've gone six months without ANY porn that I am now able to go back to non-Internet porn. I believe I have permanently broken that system. So I would no more look at ANY porn than smoke a cigarette as both would land me right back in chain-smoking/fapping land. Here's the kicker. For the ENTIRE 40 years I was broken in non-ED types of ways.

  • I expected all women to do everything and didn't care if they were not comfortable...for cryin' out loud, thousands of porn girls do it
  • I expected all sex to be like porn sex (which makes objects out of women and does extremely little to provide them with love, dignity, respect, kindness, etc.)
  • I was NEVER satisfied with sex with any woman... no matter what she did, how often she did it, etc. it was never enough
  • I destroyed many relationships over the above
  • I was never happy with my sex life
  • I was never happy in relationships because I didn't work on them...didn't need to... if she got pissed or whatever, I had my porn harem to satisfy my sexual needs
  • sex just didn't feel awesome like when I was a kid just after losing my virginity... I mean, it was very good, but not so incredibly awesome that I could actually feel every cell inside of her touching every cell on me and all of those cells firing electrical pleasure signals that explode all over me... now it does again...
  • all things pleasurable in life (colors, music, touch, conversation, comedy, helping others, being kind, experiencing kindness from others, etc.) are now extremely pleasurable where for many, many years those things had become dull..

It's amazing...

Fifth guy: In college, I began to notice I was developing ED. At first, I couldn't maintain an erection whenever I was using a condom, but I attributed that to mostly performance anxiety and/or being drunk. The thought of PMO and ED being related was non-existent, although it's painfully obvious now. As time went on I continued to PMO to rougher stuff. The ED got worse and worse. I could no longer keep an erection with no condom, sober, and with a comfortable girlfriend. At this point I got my first prescription to Viagra. Imagine how I felt walking out of a doctor's office with that at age 24! Of course it only masked the symptom of the problem, but it did let me have sex again. This was the beginning of a 3-4 year period that marks the worst in my life. Although I was succeeding academically and later, occupationally, I was depressed and ashamed. Chronic ED at such a young age was tearing me apart, and I had NO IDEA porn was the problem. [See his post for happy outcome.]

Sixth guy: I've had various scans (like MRI), cerebro-spinal fluid analysis, endocrine analysis, nerve conduction studies (electromyograms), consulted a urologist, a sexologist and a psychologist about my ED.  Not a single one has asked me about porn usage. But then I tried giving up porn. I also avoided any kind of ejaculation or masturbation for 7 weeks.  I met someone at week 7 and the third time we'd met we were just hanging out in bed together, talking and being close, and I had a very solid erection that lasted 1 hour and 20 minutes practically non-stop.  It was quite fun not doing the obvious thing but just teasing it occasionally instead.  The next morning we made love and I eventually went over the edge and had my first orgasm in about 50 days.  It was of course amazing, but I was relieved to find that it was not painful although I did feel extremely spaced out over the next few hours (not depressed but something similar, like melancholy).  I was also relieved that the erections continued over the next few days and made love to her a lot, ejaculating 3 times in the same evening when I saw her again a week later. I think I can safely say that I'm cured! 

We hope that scientists will soon begin formal investigation of the phenomenon of porn-induced sexual dysfunction, and the peculiar vulnerability of adolescent brains. For now, it's your laboratory. Make your own experiments.

NEW: Adolescent Brain Meets Highspeed Internet Porn (half-hour presentation on sexual conditioning and the adolescent brain)

Comments

discusses his porn conditioning:

The anus follows the rectum to finish off the digestive track. It is used to expel fecal matter that often contains E. Coli bacteria, which has harmful and harmless variants, and other types of bacteria that may or may not be harmful. According to a gay friend, once the penis is past the anus, there isn't really much of anything for the tip of the penis to rub against, resulting in a lack of stimulation for the male.

I was curious about anal sex before I got into porn, but after years of porn use, I get off on seeing anal sex. It's not even something I would try in real life. I think buttholes are disgusting. SHIT COMES OUT OF THERE. When I had to clean toilets where I would work, I would end up seeing fecal matter stuck to the toilets in the ladies room and think it was disgusting. Why do I like watching this shit? Really, wtf, porn?

A guy discovers feelings for women:

I cannot begin to describe how much I'm thankful I quit porn/masturbation. Why? There is a hidden benefit I had not noticed until just today - possibly the best benefit of all. I'm beginning to actually have pretty strong feelings for the girl I'm dating! Most people out there are probably thinking, 'Duh... why wouldn't you have feelings for a girl you entered a relationship with?' Well fellow fapstronaut, I've never really had feelings for girls I've dated before. I pretty much just looked at them as a means to sex (which usually didn't go very well anyway... it was always much more enjoyable to fap). I didn't care about being around them because I could be doing other, more pleasurable things to myself. Now that I think about it, that sounds extremely fucked up.

Today was amazing though. I recently picked up and started dating a new girl (perhaps when I was around 40 days in), and something wonderful has happened. I actually have feelings for this girl. It's not just desire to have sex with her or anything like that. I just want to be with her because I just feel a connection with her. This has never before happened to me. It's so weird, but so awesome. http://www.reddit.com/r/NoFap/comments/11fz81/feeling_emotions_wtf/

to rewire sexual orientation? i have HOCD and I remember liking girls. been in romantic relationships with girls, craved relationships with girls etc even prior to getting into hardcore internet porn (i'm a male). but this article makes me think what if i've just wired my brain to heterosexuality and i've just been living out my porn fantasies?

achangingman

(ED fixed in 51 days, with sex with wife and a few masturbations after first month)

I can only imagine how hard it is to re-wire without having the historical, pre-high speed P, real-girl experiences in the memory banks. I am in awe of the young guys here making a stand!

Age 38 - Married, my ED is totally gone!