At first I wasn’t sure it would be helpful to answer questions because everything I have to say is already on this site. Readers who study the “Start here” article and follow the links, or check out the Porn FAQs and follow the links, will find answers to nearly every question asked on the Reddit page.
Also, it’s really the advice of those who have recovered from porn addiction that is important. All I can add is to break down some basic physiology on addiction neuroscience, which applies to all addictions.
Nevertheless, I think it’s created some good material. So by popular demand, here are my answers to your most up-voted questions.
Top Ten Questions (from Alexanderr, the RedditNoFap creator):
1) thejmanjman (188 days) – What is “healthy masturbation”?
Maybe that’s like asking “what is healthy eating?” YBOP is about unhooking from a porn addiction, not determining what levels of masturbation are appropriate or inappropriate. However, we do tackle it a bit in this FAQ – Are there any guidelines for healthy masturbation? TL;DR: This is something you have to figure out for yourself, and there’s an extremely broad range of approaches guys take. The key is to avoid overriding your natural sexual satiety. Also beware that it’s easy to mistake addictive cravings for libido.
We explore the neuroscience and implications of “sexual exhaustion” and overriding sexual satiety in this very recent Psychology Today post- Men: Does Frequent Ejaculation Cause A Hangover?
2) LifeScope (New – 4 days) – Will having an orgasm in any way (either by sex or masturbation) delay your recovery as opposed to abstaining entirely from orgasm for a set amount of time? (say 90 days for ex.)
We address this in multiple places, including the above “Rebooting” tab, the above “Porn & ED” tab, and FAQs such as Rebooting with a partner and What stimuli must I avoid during my reboot (did I relapse)?
It’s important to understand that this site and the rebooting concept are for those who self-identify as having an Internet porn addiction. With that group in mind, there 2 types of guys who reboot:
- those with porn-induced sexual dysfunction and
- those without a noticeable sexual problem.
The suggestion from men who successfully recover from porn-induced ED is to not masturbate or orgasm until sexual performance arises again naturally. That said, guys who started on Internet porn long after they started masturbating can often get away with an occasional orgasm and still recover in a reasonable time. Young guys with ED, who cut their teeth on Internet porn, tend to need longer and must be pretty strict. See:
- START HERE: Porn-Induced Sexual Dysfunction,
- How long will it take to recover from Porn-Induced Sexual Dysfunction?
- Started on Internet porn and my reboot (ED) is taking too long.
As explained in Rebooting, guys who give up masturbation as well as porn for a bit seem to enter a deeper withdrawal. Over all, they have milder cravings, and fewer relapses. This is probably because masturbation is often a potent cue for porn use, and (eventually) leads to binging on porn again.
My overriding principle is to do what works. If you want to stop porn and continue to orgasm, then just stop porn. If it’s not working, try something else until you find what does work.
3) dakevs (7 days) – Is there anything we can do to “speed up” the reboot process? How can we tell when the dopamine levels have returned to normal?
We address this (with links) in these main sub-sections: 1) desensitization and 2) sensitization/hypofrontaility. Both sections really get into the nuts and bolts of addiction, and fill in the gaps I was unable to cover in my videos.
It’s really important to understand that declines in dopamine and dopamine D2 receptors are just one aspect of addiction. The main article describes four major dysfunctions caused by addiction, and within those categories are multiple cellular and biochemical alterations. In other words dopamine is just the beginning. It’s impossible to separate dopamine levels from other addiction processes. As a scientist once said, “All models are wrong, but some are useful.”
As described in those links, meditation and aerobic exercise increase dopamine, and decrease cravings. Both may increase dopamine D2 receptor density. Working-memory training seems to strengthen the frontal cortex to assist in impulse control.
For many guys, connecting to a real partner assists in rewiring the brain. For this young guy who had gone 7 months without much success, a relationship was the solution to his ED: Age 20 – (ED) Nine months to reboot, needed girlfriend to recover
This FAQ may be useful: How do I know when I’m back to normal?
4) RetroYouth – [Part I] Do you believe other dopamine releasing activities (seeing a new email, getting upvoted on reddit, a badge in a video game, getting a new notification on facebook) are also as harmful as fapping?
I don’t consider fapping (masturbation) “harmful.” If the question is, “Can someone get addicted to the Internet?” – the answer is yes. See: Recent Internet Addiction Studies Include Porn and Ominous News for Porn Users: Internet Addiction Atrophies Brains
One of the most common questions we get is – “What about other dopamine raising activities while I am rebooting?” I think this is what you are asking, as are others below. This is addressed in the links previously listed – desensitization and What stimuli must I avoid during my reboot (did I relapse)?
It’s important to understand that your reward circuit squirts dopamine all throughout the day in response to life’s rewarding experiences: exercise, flirting, time in nature, achievement, creativity, etc. Dopamine helps keep us feeling optimistic and cheerful (assuming our brains are not desensitized from addiction). So dopamine is great…in the right quantities.
There is nothing wrong with engaging in natural dopamine-raising activities. It’s clear from observing recovering alcoholics who eat doughnuts, smoke and drink coffee, that one can recover from one addiction while engaging in other addictions.
However, once heavily sensitized to addictive cues, it’s generally best to give up things associated with your addiction. Although they “feel good,” they contribute to maintaining your addiction and its symptoms. Worst of all, they can decrease your overall ability to feel pleasure from life’s events.
[Part II] IE dopaminergic: Are all dopamine receptors created equal? It’s understandable that porn compromises peoples libidos because it desensitizes dopamine receptors, but what about other dopamine releasing activities such as videogames or drugs? Do different pleasurable activities activate different dopamine receptors?
Science can only partially answer your questions.
First, the circuits that govern all rewarding activities and thus all addictions overlap. Specifically, all potentially addictive drugs and activities share certain groups of D2 and D1 dopamine receptors, but activation of the reward circuit involves a whole lot more than dopamine receptors. An aside – new research points toward the balance of D1 & D2 receptors as a key factor in brain dysfunctions.
These shared circuits are the basis for cross tolerance and cross addictions, i.e., the ability of one addictive substance/activity to increase the cravings for other dopamine-raising stimuli. They also help explain how individuals can end up with multiple addictions.
However, each natural stimulus appears to have its own set of circuits as well. That’s why eating ice cream feels different from masturbation, which feels different from winning the lotto, which feels different from drinking water when you are thirsty, and so on.
It’s doubtful you want to get into dopamine receptors, as the complexity is unbelievable and there is still much to learn. There are 5 different types of dopamine receptors (each with a high or low sensitivity settings), located in multiple circuits throughout the brain. The type I cover in my videos are the D2 receptors in the nucleus accumbens and septum. The decline of D2 receptors, in these two regions is a key factor in desensitization (numbed pleasure response).
Let’s consider porn-induced ED and dopamine. It provides one example of separate circuits for rewarding activities.
It’s clear that video-game addiction reduces D2 receptors, but it doesn’t cause ED. So there must be a dopamine dependant circuit somewhere that is exclusive to erections. Perhaps it’s the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is another small, but extremely important, part of the reward circuitry. It contains distinct sections that control appetite, thirst, sexual motivation and erections. Dopamine from the reward circuit activates D2 receptors in the hypothalamus, causing one particular section to release dopamine that leads to erections.
The bottom line is that there is a whole lot to learn. Practical advice: i.e., what mommy would tell you:
- Reduce surfing the net and do real life activities. This addiction is all about real vs. artificial.
- Reduce high fat/concentrated sugar junk food. Animal studies suggest concentrated sugar increases cravings for sex and drugs, and vice versa.
- Where possible, reduce drugs and alcohol
- Get proper sleep. Inadequate sleep decreases dopamine D2 receptors
- Simultaneously tackling several addictions may be counterproductive.
5) SmartSuka (Mod) – How did you come up with the amount of time required for a reboot? Initially the 90 days now (for our primary age group) 4-5 months?
We didn’t. I have no idea where NoFap came up with 90 days. As you can see from the rebooting accounts for porn-induced ED it can range from 4 weeks to 9 months or more. Perhaps the 90 days made its way from 12-step traditions.
We have no program and no time frame, only suggestions from men who recovered from porn addiction and porn-induced ED.
The earliest rebooters were all guys who didn’t start out on highspeed Internet. That is, they wired to masturbation without the Internet and real partners before they got highspeed. Most seemed to be back in balance in about two months.
In contrast, many of you now face a double whammy. Not only do you have to unhook from the highspeed Internet drip, but you also have to finish wiring to real potential partners. It can be done, but there’s a lot more to learn about what best speeds the process (some ideas here), and some of this metamorphosis may be time dependent.
6) Zansh1n – Do you see this as being primarily related to pornography or does it relate to heightened states of arousal through other means as well, such as too many video games, constant Internet use, compulsive email checking, etc?
It’s clear that one can have an Internet addiction along with a concurrent Internet porn addiction. Yet there are differences between the two: An Internet/video game addiction involves novelty. Internet porn addiction involves novelty, and may rewire circuits related to sexuality.
The problem behind all addiction-related brain changes is chronic overconsumption, that is, overstimulation. The mix of overstimulation may differ slightly for every porn user. Elements might include highspeed because it offers effortless novelty-on-demand, “death-grip” masturbation, escalation to more extreme stuff, more open tabs, etc. The bottom line (overconsumption of stimulation) is what counts.
7) nim4tedLegend – In the YBOP presentation (and the TEDx talk) you (Gary Wilson) state that the reason porn is bad for people is because it is a super-stimulant. Long-story short, it basically reduces the # of dopamine receptors in the body over time and numbs you to the world. I’m aware that porn was the underlying issue being discussed but you also mention other super-stimulants (one example being modern junk food). If these things such as junk food, the internet, video games, cell phones, television, movies, music, drugs, etc. can be considered super-stimulants (endless novelty at your fingertips in all of these categories), then wouldn’t these too all be shutting down our dopamine receptors over time and also numbing us to the world? I think if we looked past our biases in favor of these activities just as we reluctantly did with porn at one point we would realize that these could be considered just as intensely over-stimulating as porn is. If this is the case wouldn’t avoiding porn be sort of pointless considering that these other activities are shutting down our dopamine receptors regardless of the porn use? That is, unless you decided to quit watching television & movies, listening to music, eating junk food, playing video games, going on the internet, etc. which isn’t necessarily impossible but very unappealing. Would love to hear back from you on this. Thanks for taking the time to read/respond!
This is very similar to question #4. BTW, Internet porn is technically a “stimulus,” not a “stimulant” (such as drugs or alcohol).
Porn doesn’t reduce the number of D2 dopamine receptors, an addiction process does. That said, it is the ability of supernormal stimuli (such as you list) to override our natural satiation mechanisms that make addiction possible. At the same time, one can play video games, eat junk food, and watch porn without becoming addicted to any of those. It’s just so much easier to override your natural satiety and consume too much with McDonald’s and Big Gulps than it would with chewy deer meat and roots. Same with multiple tabs of Internet porn, endless variety and broadband, instead of watching your two naked cousins take a swim, (e.g., your hunter-gatherer ancestors).
I really want to emphasize that addiction is about brain changes – not the nature of the stimulus you over-consume. This what the American Society of Addiction Medicine made very clear in its new definition of addiction released last August. See: Toss Your Textbooks: Docs Redefine Sexual Behavior Addictions.
The short answer to your question is the same as above: Natural rewards share circuits and dopamine receptors, but also appear to have separate circuits or nerve cells devoted to each reward (food, water, salt, sex, novelty, bonding, accomplishment).
I want to emphasize again that there’s nothing wrong with dopamine, or the dopamine spikes created by food, music, making out, sex, etc. Or with exercise, socializing, love and meditation. All increase dopamine. All assist in addiction recovery.
To answer your question specifically, guys have recovered from severe addictions and porn-induced ED while still engaging in all those activities you listed. However, many have found benefit in tempering their appetites across the board too. It’s up to you to figure out what works best for you.
I really want everyone to get this: Addiction is far more than a decline in dopamine D2 receptors. Some researchers see sensitization as the core addictive change, which is called “addiction pathways” in my videos. See Unwiring & Rewiring Your Brain: Sensitization and Hypofrontality for details.
8) nomoreflap – What effect does a relapse have on recovery? For example, if you go 70 days or so without PMO and then relapse and fap to porn like 5 times in one weekend. How far back are you set if you manage to continue and stay away from PMO after the initial relapse. In other words how far back will the relapse set you?
This is the number-one question we get.
First, I don’t like the word relapse. In my opinion, it cannot be applied to bodily functions such as ejaculations, whether they are induced through wet dreams or masturbation. Even calling porn use a relapse can be tricky. What is porn? How much use constitutes a “relapse.” See my thoughts: What stimuli must I avoid during my reboot (did I relapse)?
The effect of a relapse? I have no idea. I don’t know if it sets one back or simply stalls the process. A relapse for any addiction reactivates sensitized pathways. (See Why do porn cues still trigger a rush (sensitization)?) This may stall the process, but no one has ever studied this – for any addiction.
Porn-addiction potentially has a unique factor not found in other addictions. Research on other mammals show that multiple ejaculations lead to brain changes in the reward circuitry. These changes include high opioids in the hypothalamus, which inhibit dopamine, and reduction of androgen receptors which also affects dopamine. (See Men: Does Frequent Ejaculation Cause A Hangover?) Such changes may help explain why Internet porn addiction impacts some guys’ sexual performance so profoundly.
9) VapednBaked (Elder 90+ days – 6 days) – For non-addicts and people without ED or any other porn-induced problems, are there any benefits to not masturbating other than increased sex drive? I just did 90 days, was never an addict or felt any shame at all for masturbating to porn, and was very disappointed at the lack of ‘increased confidence, increased testosterone, increased attractiveness (perceived), healthier view of women (i.e. not as sex objects), etc.’ that this community seems to spout. In other words, what are placebo effects and what are real effects of nofap, particularly for normal (non-addicted) people?
YBOP is for self-identified porn addicts, so I assume most of the benefits arise from reversing addiction-related brain changes. I’m not aware of any research on the placebo effect of NoFap. If you didn’t see benefits, it may be because your brain was in balance before you began, or because your brain’s imbalance predated, or was unrelated to, your porn use.
We’re also surprised to see that many guys who say they are not addicted to porn, experience benefits. Why? Who knows, but here are some thoughts:
Recent research indicates that addiction-related brain changes are on a spectrum. A porn user may not have a full blown addiction, yet dopamine levels may be sub-par, or sensitized pathways may be partially formed. Perhaps these are the ones that experience benefits after only 7-21 days.
Other guys may have been ejaculating at a frequency that, for their brains, lead to altered moods or perceptions. A few common memes are: 1) “Ejaculation is on par with blowing your nose,” and 2) “There’s no such thing as too much.”
We see both repeated in various forms by sexologists. Why is it that “balance” is the rule for water, food, sunshine, exercise, sleep, you-name-it, but ejaculation, with its enormous neurochemical reward, is excluded?
Ejaculation leads to multiple complex brain alterations that can take days to return to normal. When mammals ejaculate to “sexual satiety” further brain changes occur that may not normalize for quite a while. I encourage all NoFappers to read Men: Does Frequent Ejaculation Cause A Hangover?
Let me quickly add that I’m not suggesting ejaculation is “bad” or “harmful.” I’m suggesting that a balance point may exist for ejaculation, as it does for every other physiological parameter. Is it once a day, once every three days, once a week? I have no idea. I suspect that what’s best for a 15-year old may not apply to a 40-year old. Bottom line: Perhaps some non-addicted guys who see benefits were affected in the past by overdoing it, at least for their brains.
Or, if they were not ejaculating too much, perhaps too much porn watching had affected them. Having a highspeed connection to surf endlessly novel porn, beginning at age 11 is an experiment that is just a few years old. Is removing this unique, never-encountered-in-evolution, stimulus behind the beneficial changes reported by the “non-addicted?” I suggest reading this Psychology Today post: Sexual brain training matters—especially during adolescence
10) hadySteve – If any, what kind of harm is most noticeable in developing teens that frequently use Internet pornography? Or is there not enough research to come to an adequate conclusion?
This Psychology Today post covers the unique vulnerabilities of the adolescent brain. With billions of new nerve connections formed around age 11, followed by pruning over the next few years, what kids wire to potentially has a huge impact on their lives. Adolescence is all about forming circuits related to sexuality. We see evidence of Internet porn altering sexual tastes in profound ways. Many young guys end up questioning their sexual orientation because they escalate to such extreme porn in their search for thrills. On the good side, we see tastes revert as they recover from porn addiction. See Can You Trust Your Johnson? for the full story.
YBOP came into existence primarily as a site to help with porn-induced ED. One of our early slogans was “Saving the world one erection at a time.” I have seen thousands (through the over 1,000 sites that have linked to YBOP) of stories where young, healthy men cannot get excited about the real deal. Research is now confirming some really bizarre trends:
- From the Japan Times; “Males age 16-19 in 2008 who “have no interest in sex or have an aversion to it” [17.5 percent compared with 36.1 percent in 2010]
- From 2008: One-in-five younger French men “has no interest in sex“
I hate to sound like an old foggy, but “Son, we didn’t have none of that shit when I was growing up.” If you didn’t like sex, you might have been sent to the shrink, at least in my household. My mother was an occupational therapist in a famous mental health clinic and my father was at one point a sex educator in schools. These days, in contrast, we have guys claiming to be asexuals who are still viewing Internet porn (I know because they link to this site). Go figure.
In short, there are signs of huge problems developing but very little useful research is being done, and much of it is biased. As I pointed out in my TEDx talk, studies often take the form of questionnaires asking young porn users how they perceive porn’s impact on their lives. Great question, given that they have no idea what life is like without it. Here’s another, “How did growing up Swedish affect you?” Or watching reality TV? Or being blond? Researchers are not asking questions about common symptoms such as sexual performance problems, unaccustomed social anxiety and concentration problems. Nor can they isolate the key variables they would need to in order to study porn’s effects properly, since they can’t ask someone to stop masturbating to porn/porn fantasy for a while. That’s what makes groups like NoFap invaluable.
Additional Ones Alexanderr liked
1) apawayacct- What are your recommendations for men stuck in sexless marriages, where there is no outlet other than by oneself? I’m talking about genuine, extreme differences in libido, not ones caused by porn use or relationship issues.
This question goes beyond the scope of this site, but you might find some useful tips in the articles in this section.
2) QueenOphelia – When my son is ready for “the talk” (many years from now) how can I teach him healthy vs. unhealthy masturbation and how to avoid porn addiction and such so that he can have healthy sexual relationship when he’s ready?
These are two separate questions. Both tough to answer. We are not therapists, so maybe these are best answered by professionals in the field.
Some of our thoughts on masturbation can be found in these articles:
As for porn use, I think it’s useful to educate kids about the reward circuitry and how it’s particularly susceptible to supernormal stimuli, such as modern junk food, Internet porn, video games, surfing the net, and of course drugs. That’s what I did with my son, who is now 22. When I later asked him what would help kids understand best, he gave me some suggestions, which I used putting this slideshow together:
- Things You Didn’t Know About Porn (narrated slide show for kids)
If I were doing it again now, I’d emphasize more information about the unique risks of highspeed porn and the signs, symptoms and behaviors that indicate one is overdoing it.
3) jonathanrex – Do you think that an attitude of negativity towards “failing nofap” is harmful or not?
Definitely harmful. To me, ‘fapping” means masturbation, which should be free of a negative connotation. Remember, your limbic brain thinks it’s helping you by urging you back to your source of “relief” (Internet porn). It’s too primitive to understand its signals are making your addiction worse.
Rather than creating stress by beating up on yourself, keep a sense of humor. Get in the habit of distracting yourself with something else, preferably something that helps you regulate your mood and improve your neurochemistry: exercise, stress-reduction techniques, socializing, time in nature, and so forth. There are many suggestions on this site. You may want to start with Solo Tools.