Try giving up porn for Lent - it changed my life (International Business Times)

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February 10, 2016 - By Alex Anderson  Unlike pancakes in my cheap kitchenware, new year's resolutions and Lent-inspired abstinences rarely stick. Sometimes it takes more than good intentions to make drastic changes to your behaviour – a health scare, perhaps, or a run-in with the in-laws. But if you thought making the most of an ill-considered, expensive gym membership or cutting down your alcohol consumption were difficult, try giving up porn.

Why would anyone do that? Well, porn can be bad for you. There, I said it. But not in the, "You'll go blind" kind of way (unless you really are particularly adventurous). No, porn is bad for you because it can very quickly become all-consuming.

An example. Lent is, according to tradition, about prayer, penance, repentance and self-denial. But to the porn-addled mind, at least three of those words conjure up images of poorly-lit scenes in which impossibly hairless consenting adults get up to no good. And the fourth simply calls to mind poorly-lit sets on which Madonna flirts with indecency (both sartorially and musically).

I'm only joking – I like the song. But if you're hooked on porn, it has the potential to take control of your life. You know you have a problem when you are worrying when your next opportunity to masturbate will be. Or when you turn down a social invite in order to take advantage of time alone in the house. Or when you deliberately extinguish your partner's advances in the hope that they'll hurry up and go to bed so you can have some uninterrupted time with the laptop.

Some unfortunates, brains desperate for an ever stronger hit of porn-induced dopamine, disappear down dark pornographic rabbit holes

While the scientific community is yet to form a consensus over whether this type of compulsive behaviour can be described as an addiction – though the efforts of people like Dr Valerie Voon, a neuropsychiatrist at the University of Cambridge whose work involves comparing the brain patterns of porn users with those of substance abusers and gambling addicts, is laying the foundations for this area of research – there's enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that it's a real problem.

GPs have reported a significant increase in teenage erectile dysfunction, thought to be a consequence of brains gorged on the dizzying variety of sexual stimulation available via broadband and getting no rise out of a real, unchanging, normal girl. Men and women report a loss of sensitivity in their overworked genitals and and that reaching climax is increasingly difficult in real-life encounters as a result.

And some unfortunates, brains desperate for an ever stronger hit of porn-induced dopamine, disappear down dark pornographic rabbit holes (which may or may not involve actual leporidae) in order to trigger the ever-higher threshold required for arousal. Imagine a world where food became convenient, fast and focused on quantity over quality in which a lot of people became obese as a result. It's like that, but with deep throat and slightly more choking.

Relying on porn certainly destroyed one of my relationships, and very nearly took its toll on another until I came across www.yourbrainonporn.com, a fascinating website I ironically discovered during a search for porn.

The site is the brainchild of Gary Wilson, a retired anatomy and physiology teacher, as a response to the need for a depository (a poor choice of word in the context, I know) for all the research and anecdotal evidence on the subject. It also hosts a forum on which men and women share their experiences of porn-related problems, and tales of "rebooting," where the brain's need for porn is fought off and participants emerge with clearer heads, new-found focus and much less sore genitalia.

Is it a mass delusion? The result of confirmation bias? A colossal porny placebo? Maybe. But there are an increasing number of people deciding to quit porn – exemplified by the tens of thousands of members of Reddit's Nofap community – unfortunately called 'fapstronauts', but let's not quibble over ridiculous nomenclature in the context of recovering jerk-offs.

While I'd rather not be termed as anything with 'fap' in it, I am one of the people who decided porn was having a negative influence on their life and cut it out entirely. I went through the rebooting process advised by those who are mapping out this new found issue, and I stopped masturbating at all outside of poorly-lit bedrooms in which two consenting adults with an average amount of body hair get up to no good.

And the thing is, whatever veracity lies at the heart of the addiction debate, it really did change my life. I became more driven, more able to concentrate, felt better about myself in general and discovered in me a much deeper well of energy (in the literal, not deluded crystal-worshiping, sense) which I directed into new hobbies, my career and getting up in the morning without whinging.

But if that list doesn't make you want to try quitting porn even for a little while, know that the best thing is that my orgasms are now unbelievably intense and the sight of a bare ankle is enough to give me an erection. Happy Lent, everybody. Enjoy your pancakes.

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