Sexual Fantasy: The More You Scratch the More You Itch

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Looking for greater contentment? Know thy brain.

Porn addiction is an attempt to scratch an exaggerated itchSexual fantasy has long been touted as a way to meet sexual needs or fill the gap between mates' out of sync libidos. This assumes sexual desire is like hunger: you simply eat (or orgasm) until you've had enough. Obviously, if you have a bigger or more varied appetite than your mate, you'll add snacks, or masturbate, as the case may be.

Many people view orgasms as they do dietary staples. If fast food is a valuable convenience because it gets you fed sooner, your favorite fantasy is valuable because it gets you off faster, or with a bigger blast of neurochemicals.

Could there be more to the story? Just as some kinds of food trigger cravings and binging, perhaps some kinds of sexual fantasy do, too (i.e., whatever gets you really aroused). For example, make sugary foods a habit, and you are likely to yearn for them even when you have no desire for healthy food, that is, even when your body does not need to eat. You aren't looking for nutrients, but rather for a brief rush of the brain chemical dopamine, which soon drops off again—leaving you anxious for more.

Similarly, the more you fantasize about that three-way or kinky partner, the more intrusive and stronger those thoughts seem to become. You wire nerve cells  together to construct a pathway connecting your internal movie with sexual arousal. As a result, fantasizing can lead to playing something over in your mind like a damaged CD. As you jack up your dopamine with each promise of pleasure, cravings for orgasm may rise far above previous baseline libido. Your increasing frustration can make it that much harder to find satisfaction. At the same time, your brain may become desensitized to the real deal. Said one woman,

I enjoy fantasizing to porn scenarios. But now I keep it to a bare minimum, because when I had sex with my husband again orgasm seemed difficult.

An urge you enhance with fantasy is different from your healthy need to connect deeply with another person. Loud neurochemical "GOTTA GET IT!" signals arising from fantasy can dysregulate your brain's reward circuitry—and skew your priorities. When this primitive part of your brain releases more exciting neurochemicals during your fantasy than during sex with your partner, part of you will actually value your fantasy above your mate. This creates inner conflict and may mislead you about the benefits of warm affection and close, trusted companionship (both of which have been shown to enhance well-being).

Fantasy is widely assumed to be harmless, whatever its content. However, just as in the case of food, type and quantity of sexual stimulation seem to matter at a brain chemical level. One man said of his experience:

There are a lot of problems with being too intense with sexual fantasies. I've noticed a ratcheting effect: once I act upon a fantasy, the fantasy becomes less interesting, and then I have to move on to something more intense and even less realistic, kinda like porn escalation. The reality of enacting a fantasy rarely matches the expectation, and many fantasies would not be healthy for a relationship if acted on.

Is too much fantasy a problem for you?

Are you climaxing with increasing frequency, or to more extreme scenarios? Do you experience demanding cravings, which don't abate for long even when you orgasm to your fantasy? Do you feel angry when your mate does not meet your "needs" for, say, domination games or making home videos? Is your anxiety increasing? Are you isolating more? Are you moody or irritable? Are your erections weaker? Do you quest endlessly to find that perfect video of your fantasy so you'll be satisfied at last? (Good luck with that.)

If you are experiencing such things, then more, or hotter, orgasms are not the answer. It could be time to seek satisfaction via another route. A version of the following technique helps obsessive-compulsive disorder patients rewire their brains. An OCD sufferer believes that if he can just check that the stove is off enough times, he'll feel at ease. Instead, his anxiety grows because he is activating an unhelpful brain loop each time he checks. He only begins to weaken the loop when he doesn't act on his impulses. In other words, the more you do it, the more you want to do it; the less you do it, the less you want to do it.

Instead of trying to exhaust your sexual frustration via more fantasy, let the air out of your fantasy. Allow that brain loop to weaken from neglect. Stop climaxing to your fantasy. Stop searching the Internet to find videos of it. Each time it pops into your mind, say to yourself playfully, "Reject!" Imagine a loud buzzer going off in your head, and visualize stamping a big red circle with a slash through it over your flashback image with a clang. Immediately turn your attention elsewhere.

As you stop stimulating those familiar brain pathways, the connections at the synapses of the related nerve cells actually weaken, and the fantasy loosens its death grip. Take care not to wrestle the fantasy, call it names, or label it (or yourself!) "sick" or "sinful." Don't try to analyze whether you're making progress. Such tactics increase anxiety. (If you establish a link between anxiety and arousal, you could find yourself wanting to orgasm whenever you're stressed.)

Porn addiction inflames cravingsAt first this process is challenging, seems pointless, and increases frustration. Your brain wants its fix of exciting neurochemicals and withdrawal is uncomfortable. No matter how much inner turmoil you feel while applying the technique, it is what you do that counts. Your goal now is to gently disconnect all fantasy from your natural sexual arousal, and allow your brain to return to balance. It will take patience and consistency, but it can be done.

You'll know your new approach is working when your sexual arousal arises naturally without fantasy. That's an excellent sign; your brain is rewiring itself. You are also likely to discover two things: (1) your need for orgasm is far less than you imagined while you were using fantasy to climax, and (2) reality is a lot more fulfilling as the sensitivity of your brain increases.

One man, who had been seething with resentment and dissatisfaction for years because he was convinced that anal sex with his unwilling wife was his only path to happiness, stopped fantasizing about it and seeking out anal-sex porn. After a month, he posted:

I feel increasingly attracted to my wife and find it easier to forget my resentful feelings. The strife seemed to come from entertaining my fantasy, instead of concentrating on the immediate reality during sex. 

For years, that fantasy appeared during sex when the sex in no way resembled the fantasy. My interactions with nearly all women were, fundamentally, overshadowed by the initial thought of 'what if this one would let me...' The fantasy twice brought me within a 10-minute car-ride of infidelity. I let it waste hundreds of irretrievable hours.

Remember, the thoughts and images that make your genitals jump may be little more than cartoons, random cues you have inadvertently wired to activate your brain's reward circuitry. Your brain falsely values such cues because they release exciting neurochemicals, so it keeps signaling that you need another fantasy-based orgasm. Over the long haul, however, contentment appears to be a product of balanced brain chemistry, plus intimacy (or lots of friendly social interaction), rather than frequency of orgasm. This is easier to see once your brain is back in balance.

What helps in the meantime? Vigorous exercise, friendly social contact, daily bonding behaviors with your mate, daily meditation, dancing, partner yoga, time in nature, playful or caring interaction with family and pets, cutting back on sugar and caffeine, and many other well-being practices.

Sexual fantasy seems like a sure way to increase your happiness. Yet if your angst is increasing, you could be looking for satisfaction where it can't be found. More and hotter orgasms offer fleeting relief, but they do not satisfy more completely or for longer. In short, not all orgasms are like dietary staples. Some have more in common with Fritos.

Once you have allowed your brain to come back into balance, you may find that the occasional orgasm—the product of a fantasy-free, sensual encounter—eases frustration better than a fantasy-sex binge. You may even care to try a more radical approach to lovemaking.

Growing scientific evidence of a lingering post-orgasm cycle (studies)

Studies on the overlap between sex and drugs in the brain    

Compilation of triggers (collected by guys quitting porn)


Of course I didn't read all the articles in this website, but I think this is new here. If someone can help me figure out if this is harmful let me know.

Right now I'm closing in to 5 days of trying to reboot. I started this because I'm not able to become erected without touching my penis. No PMO so far. As for porn, I've seen it rarely since 28 January, because that's when I started dating my girlfriend, but I kept masturbating till 5 days ago (too much craving to do it).

Tonight, or tomorrow, I'm going to be with my girlfriend, and it seems unlikely to me that we don't have sex. I don't think that will restart the counting, but I'm still afraid that I will want badly to masturbate after being with her. My desire is still mostly wired (in my brain) to my masturbation, much more than to sex itself, as I presume from what I've learnt in this website.

Anyway, although I crave to have sex (inevitably), I've been having a selfish fantasy too. An intense one. I fantasize to masturbate and stimulate other parts of my body at the same time. Alone, with no computer or partner. Right now, this is the strongest craving. It's a lot stronger than the craving for porn, even.

I've made this wiring really intense in a short period of time. I've only been masturbating without fantasizing for a couple of months. I usually grabbed my nipples while doing it - because I recently found that, this way, my orgasms are a lot stronger. So, while I was doing real (sometimes unfulfilling) sex with my girlfriend (fortunately, I orgasm most of the times), I became really attached to this habit.

And now I'm fantasizing about myself doing that. On the one hand, this isn't fantasizing about porn. On the other hand, this is a fantasy, and it's strong.

Should I fight it too? My option turns to yes, for now (although it's hard) but I'd like to hear your opinion. In any case, I'm going to fight this, because I want my desire to be fully directed to my girlfriend, whom I love and whose body I like so much.

P.S. I've made some mistakes on the way by now, too. I rubbed my nipples without touching my penis, to see if I would have an erection. I believe this is a form of testing, and it stimulates fantasies. Trying to stop.

read all the articles, just use what is helpful.

I want to get your story straight, as it helps us help others, and you.
1) You have not watched porn since January 28? Is that correct?
2) And you have continued to masturbate until 5 days ago - correct?
3) How frequent was your masturbation?
4) Did you use porn fantasy during masturbation?

I ask because we struggle with masturbation advice. From all reports, men recover a lot faster if they do not masturbate. So we say avoid it.
On the other hand, porn is the addiction, and what caused the ED, so we wonder why being strict on masturbation is by far the more succesful path?

My suggestions for you are
1) Limit fantasizing about sex, if possible
2) No fantasy about porn
3) No fantasizing or touching yourself during sex with your girlfirend. Don't try to force excitement or orgasm.

Pat your self on the back for giving up porn. That is great and your primary job.

As for the questions

1) That's not true. I've watched porn. At first, I watched it to test me. Just a peek, I thought. But then I couldn't resist and orgasmed. Later, as I said in another post, every 2 weeks I would be attacked by intense flashbacks and I felt I just HAD to masturbate to porn, because they wouldn't fade away. They had a strong influence in my relationship with my girlfriend: sometimes, I was with her, just had sex with her and, suddenly, I almost wished she would go away so I could masturbate to porn =S So it's safe to say I watched porn at least once in every two weeks. I said it was rarely because before 28 Jan it was on a more than once a day basis (I hope my English is clear, sorry for any grammar mistakes)

2) Yes, masturbation was regular. If I would be more than 3 days without my girlfriend, I would masturbate for sure, and quit masturbation when the time to meet her would draw close (so I would have libido for her). But I masturbated without fantasy most of the times (except on the days exposed in the answer 1). I learned to explore my body with my girlfriend, and I felt psychologically better if I didn't fantasize.

3) Already answered on 2), I guess. Sometimes more than once a day, if the time to meet my girlfriend was far.

4) Recently, I would rarely use porn fantasy. Just porn itself, unfortunately =P

As you seek more opinion about masturbation, I have my own: in the case of a porn addicted, masturbation is the most direct substitute for the primitive brain. Think about it: It's a lot easier than sex. Sex is tiring for someone that, in two minutes, and without tiring, would have virtual sex with 10 girls just recently. And sex is never truly fulfilling for someone just got out from years of porn, but masturbation can be. Even if done without fantasizing.

In my case, I love masturbating. If I were "single", I would do it daily, with or without porn. But I don't think it's normal for someone to prefer masturbation over couple sex. Besides that, there's my "erectile reluctance", which keeps bugging me and keeping me from trying all types of sex positions. In most of them, I don't even feel pleasure.

That's why I'm trying to quit porn and masturbation for some time, if not for LIFE, and I started my counting in the moment of my decision, because if I didn't do so, I would never give it up. And I need to come here daily to keep my brain occupied with constructive things (I hate the matters I'm studying, and I don't have a lot of time to exercise or to do activities other than reading).

Wherever I am, either studying, on the bus, walking to my classes, or even reading a book, I'm always thinking about masturbation (or even not masturbation) or the beautiful legs of the girl standing next to me, which not long ago would increase my desire to watch porn, and now increase my desire to masturbate. Fortunately, soon I will have time to diversify my activities and stop thinking about my decision so much. I have to think about this as natural, and of masturbation as unnatural. But it's just so hard right now. I have to relax though. It's only been five long days.

So, please, keep advising people to quit masturbation. I think that, if they can't do so, they will never be cured.

By the way, right now I've just the masturbation problem, but any day soon I will have plenty of flashbacks keeping my mind busy. If right now is hard, I can't imagine how I'm going to stand it.

We suggest stopping masturbation (temporarily) when you can't stop otherwise, simply because many guys say this is what works for them. You are in withdrawal from both porn and masturbation, so it's not surprising that you are craving a fix. It's typical of all addictions to be absorbed by thoughts of using again.

Wanting to masturbate to porn instead of sex with a partner is also typical of heavy porn users, and unheard of before Internet porn.

I am not a recovering porn addict. All our advice comes from the men who have recovered, or are recovering. That is why I strongly encourage you to visit a forum and start posting there. Get encouragement, advice, and ideas from the true experts.

Hi guys.

firstly i would like to say a massive thank you! this site is brilliant and its addressing a very real problem.

I am currently in day 50 of a (hopefully) 60 day reboot.
everything is going pretty well, i haven't O for the whole time and watched zero porn. my libido was zero and is now getting a lot better. As stated by others i noticed a really change at about 6 weeks. even my cock seems bigger soft! nice :)
giving up the porn has not been that difficult for me, i never progressed to anything hard. Probably because i'm a bit of a voyeur, spying really gets me off! always has, i love to see what im not ment to see! I did trawl the net for hours looking for new authenic videos and pictures of REAL girls changing, or drunk flashing, or having sex and being filmed without their knowledge etc. terrible i know :(
Anyway i recently spit up with a long term girlfriend who i really liked. She was a friend before and i always really fancied her, when we got together it was a dream come true. I still really want her for sex.
so after we spit i had a lot of attention from other girls and a lot if chances for sex, but Im just not into them! even the really hot ones! i cant get it up! and when i do it takes ages to O and i have to fantasize about my ex the whole time to stop me going soft! and i know the sex is terrible! do you think its possible for me to have wired my brain to only her sexually? because now at day 50 im not interested in porn at all! but today i had a play to see if i could get hard, and i did quite quickly but she was in my head the whole time (with some voyeur fantasy too) its like i only want to have sex with her! so annoying because we are over and she has moved away. should i just cut out all thoughts of her?

should i wait till i can get hard without any fantasy at all, just touch in the moment? is that what it should be like? just touch and no fantasy?

also sometimes its like i would get more turned on by spying on a hot girl than actually having sex with her!! that cant be right can it? have i wired my brain to be a voyeur?

also, when i tested to see how reactive i would be i felt like i would O really quickly! should i M and O after my 60 day reboot because i'm worried i will O to quickly if i have sex straight away after the reboot!

I hope you don't mind the honesty!

anyway thanks again for your amazing website.

How old are you? Was she your first?

Yes you have wired your brain to her, but that is a normal process when falls in love or lust. But I understand your concern as you want to move on. If you are not getting back with her, then a big yes to stopping your brain loops of sex with her. Love is like OCD, and the treatment for OCD is to simply redirect your mind. Washing your hands 20 times releases dopamine for someone with that form of OCD, just as imagining sex with her releases more dopamine than other sexual stimuli.

You have wired your brain to voyeurism and to your ex, and you can only unwire by
1) Redirecting your thoughts - allows weakening of neural pathways
2) Replacing these pathways with new experiences - sex with other women.
3) Allowing time to take it's course

You should be able to get hard with no fantasy.

Yes, you and every porn user has wired their brains to voyeurism.

Nothing magic about 60 days. You will continue to improve long after your initial reboot is done - especially if you are in your twenties.

hi, thanks for your reply :) im 29 and she wasn't my first, i was the same way about the girlfriend before her.

I thought that this was the case, I find it hard because i really miss sex and having a bond with someone and i find it really frustrating that i can take a girl out, dance have loads of fun and really like her but when it comes to the sex im dead. its hard to take.

are you saying that 60 days isn't normally long enough? will i know when im ready cos my libido will be really strong again. im still having a lot of ups and downs. some days im really horny and think maybe i should crack open the 'little back book', then the next day it flatlines! theirs a girl i really like and she really likes me but i don't want to go further in case i cant preform in the sack! its a nightmare really!

thanks a lot for your time and bothering to help people get their lives back!

It may be long enough, but it may not as there are many factors involved. See -

The biggest factor seems to be the age you started continous porn use. If you starte porn use in your early teens, abdout the time you began masturbatiing, then it can take 90 days or more. Only way to know is to do it, so don't fret.

I assume its not a good idea to fantasize anymore even after rebooting. This is kinda upsetting to me

The advice on this site is for recovering from porn addiction. This article is just something to think about, and is geared more towards those in committed relationships or individuals who get carried away with fantasy.

As a long as it is done occasionally instead of compulsively, its alright to do so. But I'm definitely not turning to porn ever again, not after this

One of my main triggers after giving up porn has been these damn fantasies, some of them would last just a few seconds, but others when my brain is "idle" , like when trying to fall asleep, and often involved long detailed fantasies.  It would rarely lead to full blown Fapping, (more like a fondling, or what I would refer to as mind-masturbation.  

I'm on day 62 of my reboot and surprisingly the fantasies are now fading away, and I'm guessing it's the neuropathways in my brain restructuring, and not crying out for that little squirt of Dopamine.

In a way it is like letting go of "an old friend",  one that I could visit with people all around me, and no-one ever had a clue. In my early stages of reboot I would still go to that all familiar "happy place",  even though I knew better, but because I had been fantasizing for 10+ years it was a hard place to give up visiting.

So there is a bit of a melancholy here, but I now am noticing that because they are fading that my brain is (finally) healing.

I just wanted to share this amazing breakthrough I'm experiencing!  If anyone else has the same problems with fantasies, it may take awhile, but they will fade away and die as long as you don't continue "feeding" them!

The fantasies are getting weaker!

I started [3 months ago] It has been one hell of a ride and a mixed bag of results - but in the end it was all worth it. This is my report.

I decided to do this after experiencing ED with one of the most gorgeous girls I had ever seen. She was into me from the day she met me. We went out a few times and ended up in bed. This didn't go so well. We were drunk, and she ended up doing most of the work. The next morning, she wanted to go again but I just couldn't do it. I knew it was time for a change.

Porn was never really a thing for me. I'd fap to my own fantasies and I'd do it 1-2 times a day. This has been going on since I was in grade school. There were times (such as college) when I had girlfriends and the fapping would slow down because I was getting laid, but I never truly stopped. Over the last several years, I just felt I didn't really need sex so I just stuck to fapping.

The first few days were NOT the most difficult for me. On the contrary, the first few weeks were the easiest. Sometime around the third week, I started experiencing my triggers. My fantasies would come to mind and my body would beg for an orgasm. Fighting this took everything I had. Every few seconds, I had to redirect my thoughts. It was brutal, but it worked.

Sometime after the fourth week, I started noticing some very interesting changes - my penis looks bigger. I'm not entirely sure why. It is fuller, rounder, and healthy looking. My energy levels are better than ever. I'm not necessarily bouncing off walls, but I have this intrinsic ability to push forth through work, school, and other activities - whereas before, I'd be taking nap and snack breaks every so often.

I did this on hard mode, but I still fooled around with a couple of girls here and there, but I never had any orgasms.

Overall, I'd say this journey was definitely worth it. The sexual fantasies that once owned me are no more - just blurry images from the past that have no impact on me whatsoever.

I had told myself I can go back to fapping after the 90 days, but you know what - I don't feel I need it. If I start fapping again I may just fall back into that vicious cycle. So, today I say no thanks. I don't feel I need to fap anymore. I think I will just continue dating and keep moving forward with my new lifestyle.

by Turret_Syndrome