What about fantasizing during a reboot?

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Question: What's the difference between fantasizing about porn and watching porn?

Answer: The mouse

Maybe I exaggerate, but fantasizing about porn or reading "erotic" stories makes porn recovery harder and maybe longer. Fantasizing about porn you viewed activates sensitized addiction pathways, causing spikes in dopamine, which seem to correlate with cravings and increased restlessness. This increases the chance of relapsing and keeps addiction neural pathways alive and well. See this short video on fantasy and porn.

Research on mental imagery indicates that fantasizing or imagining an experience activates many of the same neural circuits as performing it. In other words, fantasizing about porn reinforces your addictive pathways. From the study - Do imagined and executed actions share the same neural substrate? - researchers concluded:

“These three sources of data provide converging support for the hypothesis that imagined and executed actions share, to some extent, the same central structures.”

On the other hand, from what guys on the forum say, using your imagination about real potential partners is more satisfying than going on autopilot and passively allowing porn/porn memories to do all the work.

Question: What about fantasizing about the real deal during a rebooting process?

Answer: Who knows?

A lot guys say that fantasizing about real sex, or objectifying women/men is generally counter-productive during a reboot. Many see avoiding all fantasy as brain training, and report welcome changes in perception, such as seeing real people instead of 'sex objects'. On the other hand, humans have been fantasizing for eons. On the plus side, it would make sense to rewire your brain to the real deal if you have little sexual experience. The key may be to not place real partners into your favorite porn scenarios. Maybe keep it rather vanilla, if you must.

I like this guy's view:

I figured it out, fellas. Last night, I was sitting around post-workout relaxing, busy not fapping (you know how that goes) and of course I was thinking about sex. Then it hit me: I really enjoy thinking about beautiful women. I mean it makes me HAPPY. Being horny was enjoyable and life-affirming last night because for the first time in my life I didn't see it as a problem that needed to be fixed. I realized that it's my natural state as a man and it's essential to being a true man.

Think about it: if you're caught in the daily PMO cycle, you see your sex drive as a problem in constant need of fixing. We're in a sense afraid of being horny because whenever we start feeling that longing we immediately start yanking ourselves until it goes away. WHY? Last night I found out that if you don't rush to put that fire out, it turns out that that fire is the very fire that should be constantly burning in all men, pushing us forth into the world to conquer and win. Bask in the warmth. You need it to succeed. We're truly blessed to be male, healthy, and alive.

Another guy:

I realize now that I look back, I stopped masturbating to fantasy about real girls by age 13. Fantasy about real girls is, in my opinion, the healthy and normal M of young adult males that has probably taken place for thousands of years. The problems start when your focus changes to constant M to novelty with false women in pixel form. Mid-high school I found my first porno VHS that had a bunch of different scenes on it. Soon I needed that for M and O. I am lucky because I did not have hi speed internet until I was 18.

Then I met a girl I must have chased for 2 years (lots of other hook ups along the way with ED, but I really wanted to get with this girl)  So back then I thought porn may be contributing to my ED so I stopped watching for 3 weeks when I finally got in a dating situation with this girl, and when it came time to do the deed, boom the Dick worked all night, but I could not Orgasm.  After about a week of regular sex with this girl I did however achieve my first O from pure vaginal stimulation (age 23), and let me tell all you guys, it is such an awesome feeling when that happens with a girl you can tell is totally into you when you are having sex with her.

Here's what some men say about fantasizing during a reboot:

(This guy's story was from another forum. He suggests avoiding all fantasy, even looking at women, while you reboot. It appears he claims 3-week reboot, but actually needed two separate 21-day periods.)  

Sorry for the long post in advance, but I believe I have something that might help. The most effective way to beating this thing I have found is this: You have to stop fantasizing for a while. When I say stop fantasizing, I mean, "Stop looking at everything related to sex." Stop looking at women if you have to. Why may you ask? I’ll explain.Being addicted to porn is sort of like being addicted to drugs, alcohol or smoking. When you’re addicted to something, your brain's dopamine goes all out of control. This is what causes the problems in the first place.So what happens? We decide to quit the porn and MB. That’s a great start.

However, what I have found is when I continue to look at women and fantasize it slows up the process tremendously. If you read the science literature you'll find that small amounts of dopamine are released just anticipating a stimulus (i.e., wanting a piece of chocolate cake, or in this case porn or sex). That in turn can slow up progress.

Put it this way: If you quit smoking or alcohol would you spend all day staring at their containers? Probably not, because it creates temptation. It creates that same rush in our brain. You see? Once you quit P and MB, if you're still looking at regular women and imagining them in porn scenes, that’s not really quitting in my opinion. So what am I getting at? About a year ago I read a similar post on medhelp titles "too much porn = total loss of libido." A couple users had our problem and their strategy was to abstain completely for a couple weeks; abstain from fantasy, looking at any pictures of women, just complete abstinence. For them, it worked in as little as 2-3 weeks.

I then tried this myself, and much to my happiness it worked. However, I did lapse back into porn cause I thought I was "cured" and it was OK for me to watch again. Now I’m going back to this strategy. What I did? For at least 14-21 days I looked at nothing: no fantasy, no pictures of women. I tried not to even look at real women. I did this because I wanted to give my brain a chance to heal without any outside stimulus.Is it difficult? Absolutely! Very difficult to completely abstain for weeks, but it was worth it. I felt it helped me heal. I felt it allowed the porn thoughts to disappear from my head.

Just quitting the P and MB, for me, wasn't 100 percent quitting. It was the fantasies that kept the unwanted brain effects alive.

How do you know when everything is back to normal?

Both times I did this method it felt like my libido was gone for a while, and then all of a sudden it reset itself. Out of nowhere. Felt great.

Will this work for everyone else?

I really don't know. I'm just suggesting something I read in another thread and tried myself.

Thread with experienced rebooters discussing the the pros & cons of no fantasy whatsoever - The "No Arousal" Method - Celibacy of Body AND Mind

Re: Masturbation without porn? A few things that need clarification (keep in mind that I'm not a doctor or any authority, just an average guy):

1. Yes, people have been masturbating for ages and it's only since high-speed internet porn entered the stage that cases of ED have exploded in number. It would seem thus that there is a direct link between porn and ED, and not so much a link between masturbation and ED. What we must take in consideration before claiming anything are the differences in masturbation habits then and now. Given access to unlimited, highly arousing porn, how likely is someone to engage in compulsive masturbation compared to someone who must squeeze his brains to fantasize about a real life woman? Another thing that most of the users on this forum believe in is that without porn, our sex lives would have been more healthy and a lot more social, involving real partners instead of fantasies. That being said, why would our ancestors (20 years ago and beyond) have masturbated as much as we do now? Since they didn't have access to this much porn, we must assume (because it would otherwise be hypocritical to believe in the above statement), that their sexual life was healthy and their masturbation habits didn't change much from that. The only conclusion I can draw is that masturbating, even with some fantasy, should not be seen as negative and is not a cause of ED!

2. However, when it comes to masturbation, too much is too much. Another problem is that in theory, we could engage in healthy masturbation from now on, but in reality, once we start, we go on to consume porn, just to deliver a quicker and more intense orgasm. Especially during the reboot, this can work against us. This is the reason why masturbation should be avoided until you feel that your body and mind are in a stable balance again, for a considerable amount of time! Shaky balance can be tricky and one must not hurry! After that, it is each one's choice to engage in whatever habits they want, knowing what porn and excessive masturbation can cause.

3. Fantasy is regarded as something risky at first because in the beginning (the first few months), our fantasies are nothing but modified versions of the porn scenes we find in our heads. The fact that your brain is somewhat numb to pleasure and creativity, makes you take the easy path when using fantasy as a tool. You can't clearly imagine how that hot girl would look naked. You can't imagine having loving, caring sex with that nice girl. Solution? "Let's just recall that porn scene that kept us edging for hours", says your brain. There lies the danger; it's not in the act of fantasizing itself. A healthy person who has natural fantasies about someone will not get himself into trouble, while a porn addict who keeps fantasizing based on his porn past will only make things worse. My opinion is that once you start to recover, if your mind starts fantasizing on its own, without being extreme or unrealistic, you should allow it. Don't necessarily reinforce the fantasy, but allow it to be. If you ask me, ignoring or suppressing this kind of thoughts could affect the libido on the long term. After all, if you wouldn't be on the good path, your fantasies would be forced and unnatural, right?

I think that the main difference between us and the previous generations is that we have a choice to watch porn. Older guys would fantasize in the beginning and then try to get that girl in their beds, eventually not having to fantasize anymore (or at least not that much). In the long term, fantasizing about someone would be a cue to pursue a relationship, since the reward would be real sex! We, on the other hand, we fantasize, than go home and bust nuts thinking how nice it would have been to fuck that girl we've been fantasizing about.

I think it totally depends on what type of fantasy it is. If it even remotely resembles P, it should be off the table. Two reasons:

1) Porn fantasies can lead to relapsing

2) They can reinforce the screwed up neural circuitry that we're attempting to undo by rebooting. Your brain doesn't make a distinction between imagery that comes from a computer screen or inside your own mind, so running P-like imagery through your brain is little different from watching P.

Now that said, I don't think that all fantasy is bad and counterproductive. I've found that during rebooting, pretty much for the first time in my life, I've begun to have another type of fantasy that involves intimacy but not sex. These fantasies involve things like exchanging smiles, holding hands, giving back or foot massages. I know that may sound corny, but these fantasies are actually very vivid and enjoyable. I don't think of them as weaker versions of sexual fantasies since they are qualitatively different. This other type of fantasy is not only acceptable but I've found it actually has a positive effect. Btw, I never edge or MO during such fantasies (if I did they'd probably become sexual), I usually have these fantasies while meditating.

For me, an acceptable fantasy follows several rules:

1) It doesn't involve any P stars or women (or guys) you haven't actually met in person (though it can involve imaginary people)

2) It doesn't involve sexual acts (i.e. no genitalia or highly sexualized body parts)

3) It doesn't put a focus on specific body parts (especially sexualized parts)

3) It doesn't strictly involve visuals, it also includes other senses such as touch, smell and sound

You ask if it's hard to continue to not PMO these days. No - it's really, really easy. My brain knows that those girls [in his former porn harem] are gone. It has accepted. It has given up trying to make me go back to them. It has moved on. Now when I'm at home, my brain knows there is nothing sexual there at all. When I go out, my brain knows there are fine women around that it might want to get with, but that the only way that anything sexual will happen is to have sex with them, because M and fantasizing at home is no longer on the menu, no longer an option. 

But it took 8 weeks to get to that point. In the meantime my brain was screaming bloody murder. And sometimes it stopped screaming, but it's only so that I got used to it not screaming, so that it could shock me even better when it started screaming again.That's also why I say cut out TV. If you're at home, and a fine woman comes on the TV, your brain says "Hey! There's a girl from my harem! I guess my harem didn't disappear after all! Hummana-hummana-hummana." And you get all excited again.

Home has to be dead of women to you. Nothing there. No glimpses, no faces, no bodies, no fantasizing, no nothing. World outside: women. Your home: boring as f*ck.That's the only way your brain gets the message it needs, which is that the harem is no more. Gone.

Read more.

The last week or so, as I have been purging sexual fantasy out of my mind and dealing with the grubby withdrawals from that, I have felt lost, lonely, confused, almost asexual, worried, anxious and depressed. The only thing that was keeping me going was faith in my creator, nature and in the reboot process. Getting fantasy out of your system starts out as a hard task. It starts to get easier after a while. Then you notice that your libido starts to completely depart from you, even in your mind. You start to lose all desire for sex. At that point, I started to panic, I tried to force fantasy with little to no results on the penis. Many times I would try to fantasize and I had a hard time constructing a fantasy at all. It was like a skill that I was losing the ability for.

At some point I just completely let go. I figured if fantasy was going to be that hard to conjure, I might as well just relax and let it truly pass away. This results in a flatline of the libido, both in the pants and in the brain (was scaring the SH*T out of me). But, as I said in my last post, the night is darkest before the dawn... Today was incredible! For the first time since I can remember, probably when I was 23 or so, I had spontaneous erections in public induced by nothing more than the presence of beautiful women. I felt like an animal! But in a good way! So I had a breakthrough today after having spent a great deal of effort over the last few weeks letting go of ALL sexual fantasies, even realistic ones.

I am 30 and I literally felt like I was 18 (horny as hell all day spontaneous erections from only visual female contact).I thought my fantasies were becoming less pornographic and more realistic, but I was a poor judge of that. Even a very realistic, first person perspective fantasy compulsively turns into porn in an instant for me. I just couldn't stop watching the video, so to speak. Even if it was me in it, I was still observing. Even if I started out as a participant in the fantasy, I couldn't keep it from morphing into a 3rd person porn viewing fantasy.

Its only a suggestion, but it is working for me. I'm no expert, but if you ask me, your reboot might be being prolonged by your clinging to fantasy. Fantasy takes you out of the moment and the moment is all you have!Fantasy is natural. I don't think anyone can totally lose it. Sexual fantasy is probably healthy for someone who isn't recovering from PMO addiction. But that's not you and it sure as hell is not me!

The mind uses a fraction of the energy while daydreaming that it does when actively engaged in life (much like a sleep state). Quitting daydreaming is like starting a workout for your fat, weak brain. It was WAY harder for me than porn. I had 2 weeks of solid headaches and bitchiness. Quitting daydreaming was exhausting. I do think that my success with PMO would have been much less if I hadn't given up the daydreaming.

Its day 60 and I didn't even realize it!

I can't wait to see how much better it will get. I feel like even though I have not PMO'd at all, I still got off to a shaky start because I was constantly fantasizing, and also scouring a free online dating site. I didn't realize till much later, those behaviors activate the same pathways in the brain that are responsible for our addiction to PMO.

Now that I have been desperately trying harder not to even fantasize, or waste time on dating sites & facebook, things are going even better than before. I am mainly just trying to keep myself busy AT ALL TIMES. If Im home alone in front of the computer, Im gonna have a bad time haha. I have seen direct correlations between the time I spent fantasizing or using time-wasting sites, and the way I feel the following day in terms of my overall mood, ability to concentrate, and my social anxiety. From my perspective, it seems like the less I do all that other garbage, the better I feel, and it keeps building upon itself.

Its really tough to go more than even a few days without at least having some fantasy of an ex girlfriend, or imagining what Id like to do with that girl I see at the gym, etc etc. I mean, lets face it, who does not think about how much they would like to have sex after not even having an 0 for 2 months! I just try to think about something else when that happens though.

Here's to hoping it will get better still, and I will become stronger and more confident, and closer to my goal of achieving true intimacy.

Hey everyone, I have been hanging around the forums for a long time but I haven't posted much. I'd like to thank everyone for being so open about their personal problems regarding porn addiction and sexual dysfunction, it has really helped to keep me motivated during this process.I would like to share my story as well as some things that I have noticed during my rebooting attempts.

So I have been looking at porn since I was about 13-14, it started off with really short clips I downloaded (streaming porn wasn't available yet, thankfully). Eventually as Internet speeds increased I began to watch porn more and more frequently. When I was 21 I had a chance to lose my virginity, but because of anxiety and probably porn induced erectile dysfunction I was unable to perform. About 3 months after this I had an encounter with another girl and the same old thing happened, couldn't perform multiple times, had weak erections etc. and so began a deep depression and even worse porn addiction.

Over the next 4 years I was unable to have normal sex, occasionally my erection would be strong enough for penetration but it never really felt very good.When I turned 25 I began dating a girl, I had the usual problems and I associated it with anxiety (which I believe is still a component to this issue for most of us), she was very understanding, I got a prescription for cialis and through lots of patience and trial and error i was able to have somewhat normal sex with her. I attribute this to the anxiety issues subsiding, my porn use lowered a lot (hard to look at porn a lot when you live with a girl) and my penis eventually becoming sensitized to a vagina rather than my hand. Anyways, we eventually broke up, I went back to porn and the same old problems resurfaced.

Last year I stumbled across this forum and your brain on porn and I decided to reboot. I made it 35 days and noticed some big improvements, I was able to have decent sex... usually assisted by Cialis. But, I fell back into PMO and had the same issues come back again. So I figured I would cut porn out completely, but I still masturbated. I have looked at porn twice in the last 7 months, but up until recently I still masturbated to fantasy frequently.

For me, masturbating to fantasy caused the same problems as using porn and I attribute this to the fact that after so much porn viewing my mind can recreate porn pretty well so basically I feel that fantasy=porn until you let your mind get back to having a healthy relationship with sex.So now i am on day 22 of no PMO or fantasy, I'm noticing improvements and I am committed to never watching porn again, and not masturbating for 90 days and then see where I am at. I'll try and keep everyone posted.

Thanks again.CLIFF NOTES: In my experience fantasy and masturbation have the same effects as PMO.    

LINK - I'm on my 69 day thus far, and I can tell you that it only gets easier to ignore the fantasies over time.

I've had several fetishes in the past, and the earliest ones are almost completely gone from my mind as a fantasy I'd be into. It took quite a while, I've been battling the beast of PMO since mid-January, but it's been easier than ever to steer clear of them.

My advice to you is not to consciously "not think about it", cause obviously you would be thinking about it, but to think of something else whenever those thoughts come to mind.

Try thinking about nature especially - How beautiful the sun is, the green grass, the delicious meal you ate, etc.

Don't worry about staring at female bodies, every healthy male has a strong sex drive. Seeing women's bodies may actually help in your recovery process by getting you accustomed to getting turned on by real life women rather than pixels on a screen.

Also see: Sexual Fantasy: The More You Scratch the More You Itch

What stimuli must I avoid during my reboot (did I relapse)?

Compilation of triggers (collected by guys quitting porn)