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

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Kung FuRecovering porn addict:

Get this: When I see a poster on the bus station of a girl in a bikini, my boner doesn't react at all. If I deliberately search for it online and see it on my computer screen, I get one.

That tells me that it isn't really the image per se that's arousing for me, but that my addiction is deeply linked with my computer (which is my choice).

I don't have a problem with advertisement, as long as it is offline. Weird, right? (LINK)

My advice is to avoid actively seeking all artificial sexual stimuli during your reboot. If it's not a real person, just say no.

As odd as this may sound, there's no such thing as porn. The brain knows exactly what alcohol or heroin is, but the reward circuitry has no way of recognizing porn. Instead, higher portions of the brain relay nerve impulses associated with sights, sounds, smells, and memories to the reward circuit. The strength of these very complex signals determines the excitement levels measured by your reward circuit. What really matters are spikes of reward circuit dopamine (and other neurochemicals), not what's on the screen.

The key questions: Is your behavior reactivating sensitized addiction pathways, and are you overstimulating your already numbed dopamine system? (Read "Porn, Then & Now: Welcome to Brain Training" and  Why Do I Find Porn More Exciting Than A Partner? to better understand that it's more about brain-training than the content.)

We receive daily questions about what's "approved", or what's a "relapse", or whether X, Y, or Z, will slow someone's reboot. Such questions cannot be answered. A better question is, "What type of brain-training leads to addictive changes in my brain, and am I repeating it?"

In this regard, accidental exposure to something arousing is not a relapse. In fact, I seriously doubt any incidental images of anything, including hardcore porn, could set one back (unless one acts on it by fantasizing about it or seeking more). Sensitization occurs when an addict purposely pursues his addiction. Animal experiments show that actively choosing to take a drug wires up the brain differently from having it injected with no conditioned stimulus. Pursuing or working for the addictive drug causes sensitization - which is THE core addiction brain change - and also the one that is at the core of porn-induced sexual dysfunctions in those who aren't fully addicted. The animal associates taking the drug with its own deliberate action, and the brain wires accordingly.

Actively searching Facebook is activating sensitized addiction pathways (seeking for hot images online) and reinforcing your addiction. Bumping into hard-core images, then immediately closing the page is actually strengthening the willpower parts of your brain. If an alcoholic could easily stop after 1/2 glass of wine...he would have no problems...right? (See Exposure Response Prevention Therapy (extinction) for more).

Take-away: Avoid linking deliberate seeking with arousal. An accidental glimpse isn't chosen. However, dwelling on the image you glimpse, fantasizing about it later, or seeking other images because of it can be counterproductive.

The types of questions that constantly pop up involve, "Is it OK to....

  • Surf Facebook?
  • Watch R movies?
  • Surf pics of girls in swimsuits?
  • Check out real girls?
  • Fantasize about sex with real girls?

OR, "Did I relapse if.......

  • I saw a pop-up of porn?
  • Surfed youtube for hot videos?
  • I saw a picture of naked women?
  • Read an erotic story?
  • Visited a porn site for 2 minutes?
  • Played with myself while watching a PG-13 sex scene?
  • Had a wet dream?

The list is endless. First, wet dreams are not a relapse, so don't even go there. Second, you cannot apply the word relapse to natural rewards such as sex, eating food, or shopping. Recovering from porn addiction is not exactly the same as recovering from addictions to alcohol or drugs. Chemical addictions are black and white. An alcoholic swears off drinking for life. Orgasm, sex, masturbation, sex scenes in movies, pictures of sexy women, will all continue to be a part of your life. If you believe you have relapsed - get over it - and get back on the porn-free horse.

Please don't ask if you need to reset your counter to day one. Counting days is purely psychological. What's happening in your brain is what's important. A very common question is "does this relapse set me back to day one?" or "have I lost all of what I gained?" Even though we cannot peer into your brain, the simple answer is no. The gains you made cannot be erased with one binge. Each time you restart, it should become easier, depending on the length of your abstinence. Keep in mind that nearly everyone who recovers from porn addiction relapses. Good video: "I just relapsed, did I undo all of my progress??"


Why doesn't an alcoholic just take a few sips of beer? Because it will activate that same exact sensitized pathways for his alcohol addiction. A sensitized neural pathway is more than just a strong memory. Activation of sensitization shoves the reward circuitry into fifth gear, and loosens the brakes of the frontal cortex (self-control). Even if the alcoholic stops at 2 sips, the pathways are now reactivated and will continue to call for more. He will experience increased cravings and intrusive thoughts.

I find erotic stories can be worse than porn in some ways, as it takes much longer to read a story, which can lead to very long dopamine rushes. They are often broken up into multiple parts, which the author keeps building upon, leading to an endless need to keep returning for a fix.

You think binging for hours for that perfect shot in a video is pathetic? Imagine searching for that "perfect" scene in a sea of words. Looking for that one sentence in a 20 page story that will scratch that itch. Not in this story? How about the next one? The next one.. Years of my life have been wasted chasing the fix in erotic stories. *sigh*

The question you need to ask yourself is: "Do my behaviors or actions mimic how I used porn?" If so, then you may be reactivating sensitized addiction pathways. Only you can answer this question. Facebook is a common example I hear about, where guys mimic the exact same MO (method of operation) as they did with porn use: searching, clicking, surfing in the quest for synthetic sexual novelty (not contact with real people in person) in order to stimulate their desensitized brains. Or very simply, ask, "Am I substituting artificial stimuli for the real deal?"

Which scenario is more like porn addiction?

  1. Surfing dating site, while imagining sex with completely clothed females, as you click from picture to picture.
  2. An afternoon in a nudist colony?

 Number one, of course. Internet porn addiction is NOT about nakedness - its an addiction to novelty. Artificial novelty.

A simple bottom line on what to avoid:

  1. "Porn" - All types. If you need to ask, then the answer is, 'bad move.' It's simple: artificial vs real.
  2. Avoid behaviors that mimic YOUR porn addiction. Which usually means behaviors that substitute the synthetic and the two-dimensional for the real deal.
  3. Eliminating artificial or synthetic means don't engage in "cam to cam" or chat rooms.
  4. Surfing Facebook, YouTube, or dating sites for pictures and sexual stimuli is like an alcoholic switching to lite beer.
  5. Fantasizing about porn is nearly the same as watching it, as you are activating your brain's addiction-related pathways.
  6. Reading "erotic" stories counts as porn fantasy
  7. "What about fantasizing about real women?" It's hard to say. If you are simply replaying porn scenarios, then absolutely not. Read below about fantasy.

For some, cutting out real-life fantasy sped up the process and made it easier. However, there may come a time, during your reboot, where fantasizing about real-life partners is beneficial, and important for rewiring the brain to the "real world". This usually applies to younger guys with little sexual experience. (See: What about fantasizing during a reboot?  and this short video on fantasy & porn)

This guy finally figured out that 'peeking' at porn was what slowed down his recovery: Age 24 - ED cured, even when I thought it would never happen (20 months)

What is "allowed," and encouraged, is contact with a real-life partner. Smooching, touching, fooling around, maybe even gentle intercourse. Many guys suggest avoiding orgasm with a partner at first, but it really depends on your goals, if you have porn-related sexual dysfunctions, and what stage you are in the process.  Erections are great, but should not be forced through vigorous stimulation. If they happen, they happen.

You have spent years allowing your brain to view anything it wants, and to revel in any sexual fantasy it can conjure up. There's nothing morally wrong with fantasy. But now, you are attempting to unravel years of brain training induced by unbridled porn use. There's also nothing wrong with building mental muscle, and choosing where to direct your mind.

Wherever water flows it creates ruts. Where is your mental water flowing? That's your lesson for the day, grasshoppers.

A Redditor speaks about "Anti-porn documentaries:

Please note that in this post, I am not referring to videos like the YBOP or Ted videos, which are not actually documentaries. Back when "Hot Girls Wanted" first came out, I watched a short trailer for it, and I watched a 5 minute (approximately) interview with the producer, that showed short clips from it. That was enough for me to know that this is the kind of documentary that, in the past, has actively inspired me to slip.

I am glad that this documentary exists, because porn has become such a mainstream thing, many people (including people from my tribe, socially progressive people) think that there's nothing wrong with it. These normal, non-porn-addicted people, can benefit from watching this. But as a full-on porn addict, I know myself and my addiction well enough to know that this is what happens when I watch documentaries like this:

1) I become impressed by the production quality, by the persuasive aspect of the video. But I really don't learn anything, because I already know that mainstream porn is produced almost exclusively by assholes.

2) The porn addict in me is drawn in by the pixellated nudity, by the cameras and sets, by the fake sexual noises, by all the trappings of porn. To my addiction, there is nothing more interesting than the sight of a porn set.

3) Then the negotiations start - How about those truly homemade clips that real exhibitionists make? No assholes in the production of those, right? What about porn featuring older women? Surely they're old and wise enough to not be victimized, right? Porn from production company X is sex-positive and ethically produced, right? Right? RIGHT???

There's nothing good for me in these. And I would bet that if you're a porn addict, there's nothing good for you either. Ask yourself if the part of you that wants to watch this is the best part of you.

"Triggers are everywhere. There is no cure for this if you can't learn to handle them."

Indeed. And the way that we as addicts handle them is to stay away from them. We keep ourselves strong by avoiding that which makes us weak. Freedom in recovery consists of being able to freely choose to stay away from that which makes us weak, not being able to expose ourselves to it willy nilly.  Porn addicts should stay away from anti-porn documentaries

THREADS - The "No Arousal" Method - Celibacy of Body AND Mind

ED - After recovering for 8 months I have finally been able to have sex consistently

"Upon the beginning of recovery I only shunned porn but didn't shun sexual images and fantasies. This really slowed me down."

THREAD - What do you consider porn?

(One answer) I consider everything to be porn.

What's the point of browsing a Facebook gallery full of women in yoga pants?

What's the point of watching YouTube videos of girls dancing in shorts?

What's the point of sexting, webcams, phone sex, fantasizing constantly, reading erotic stories, browsing dating profiles (without the intention of contacting them), typing pornstar names on Google image search, checking out girls on social media sites, etc?

All of these activities will increase your urge to masturbate. They reinforce the very same pathways you're trying to weaken. They keep your mind occupied with sexual thoughts, tits, asses, fucking, getting off, hot chicks, etc. They make rebooting much more harder and painful. They serve no real meaningful purpose.

You either try to get laid (approach girls, set up dates, flirt with women, contact friends, go out regularly) or you do something completely unrelated to sex (work, study, exercise, hang out, watch movies).

This grey area of constantly checking out chicks online will accomplish nothing. The whole idea is to move away from that artificial/fantasy world and into the real world.

I'm not saying that you're "relapsing" if you check out some bikini galleries online. All I'm saying is that you should treat them as porn and stay away from them. They are an obstacle to our ultimate purpose (real girls, real sex, real relationships).

A more productive view of so-called relapses

Dear r/nofap, how many times have you relapsed?

I'll start.

I began in July ( about 3 and half months ago )

  • I relapsed a grand total of 60-70 times.
  • Longest streak 4 days. ( I'm proud of it )

Why am I writing this?

  • It takes a lot of work. It is mentally excruciating. It is not easy. I am no where close to succeeding or accomplishing this.
  • But I feel stronger and better at this than before. 2 days is bliss for me at the moment. I'm really looking forward to 30 days. The mental clarity is amazing.
  • This month. I'm feeling confident about 7 days. I've never felt this confident before.
  • I believe the journey is important, it slowly strengthens the person.
  • Understanding and accepting the unbearable feeling and being strong enough to control it. I'm just curious. Who else relapsed this much?

Another guy:

It took me a year and 5 months, until now, to reach the 90 day mark. Any time I got on a worthwhile streak, I just felt like I wanted to explode sexually. Yes the "superpowers" were there - energy, focus, alert, more chatty with people, etc, but I was horny all the time. Sure libido was good, but it was ridiculous, to the point where I couldn't focus. I was being more assertive with asking girls out and such, but still, all I wanted from girls was sex.

I realized I was cheating myself. Yes I quit porn, but I was substituting it with other sexual images. "Top 10 bikini" whatever, r4r, craigslist dating, gonemild. All just one click or thought away from relapsing, which I did often. On my last streak however, I went cold turkey from all that crap. Even would try to make efforts to avoid fantasy with girls in real life I knew. (Allowing that to happen almost cost me a friendship a few years back).

And it worked my friends. You have to stop the internet stream of oversexualized media. It's ridiculous, and even now when going to a store, you can't even check out without seeing supermodels on the magazines. We have more access to images of girls in a day that any king had in their lifetime. It's sad, and the only way out is to walk away from the garbage. Doing this, at around day 40-50(?) it was all downhill. I was starting to wake up and had 0 urge to M. Even if I did go into zombie fap mode in the morning, nothing in me felt the need to come to orgasm. And this was the biggest relief I've felt in years, YEARS. No 5 minute fap session can ever compare to the feeling of waking up and having a clear, easy mind, free of crazy urges. I love it. You may call this flatlining, but it is called "NORMAL." Life is more than the ability to get a boner. Seriously guys, it'll come back when you find the right person. Age 28 - more energy, focus, alert, more chatty with people, new relationship

A warning to not binge

A relapse does not mean a complete reset! Don't hurt yourself further by binging.

Thread on NoFap about replacing "porn" with other sexual stimuli:

The dangers of half-ass mode

Hi guys I just wanted to share with you one thing that I've discovered recently about the nature of porn/masturbation addiction.

I've been doing NoFap for about 1,5 half years now. I've started like most of us - tried to go 90 days, failed, tried again, failed again, tried yet again, failed yet again. After a couple of failures I decided that instead of going the hard mode I'll take an easier way so I decided that I will never ever fap to porn, and watch as little porn as I can. And I made 90 days on this commitment, then decided to continue and at the end of the day I only fapped to porn two times from September 2012. (As a comparison I fapped to porn each day in 2011, sometimes I even fapped twice a day)

Until recently I've been very proud of myself and I felt like a boss. I thought that I was able to get rid of my addiction, I thought I was healthy and fine.

Then it started to dawn on me that I was wrong and I was deluding myself. I realized that I simply substituted new different types of addictive erotica for porn.

It is true that I no longer watched porn movies, but they were replaced with a whole new group of other stimuli - I started to read erotic stories, I started to visit chat rooms looking for people to talk to about sex, I started to view some pics on gonewild or read blog about sexual life of other people. I was also fantasizing about other women. Since I was thinking that fapping without porn is ok I sometimes fapped to this new materials. At the end of the day I realized last month that I'm starting to fap as frequently as I did in 2011 - I almost fapped twice or three times a week in July. "Eh, no reason to worry - I was fooling myself - this is just innocent fapping, no porn involved I will be fine".

Then recently I've realized that there is a reason to worry. I've noticed that this new types of erotica have a similar influence on my brain as porn movies. I also noticed that the quality of my sex life with my wife started to drop again, I started to have some problems I had when I was on my porn diet. I started to feel uncomfortable about sex and intimacy.

In a way then I noticed that I've simply rewired my brain to different, equally addictive, stimuli. I rewired my brain from porn to things that appeared "innocent"

The following account highlights that the method of delivery may be as compelling as the content. Surfing for stimulation, is surfing for stimulation.

I'm 28. I have porn induced ED, and I'm anxious about either not getting it up at all, or getting it up 50-60% and cumming too soon. I have a low self esteem, and even when I'm able to ask some girl on a date, I fear what will I do when it comes to sex. I have fear of intimate contact. I want it, but I see it also as a possible source of great disappointment.

I always thought that my problems had something to do with my PMO habit, but until recently a had no real evidence. I sometimes searched web, looking for a proof that porn is addictive, but I found nothing. Then, one day, I randomly browsed the net and accidentally found yourbrainonporn.com and suddenly everything started to make sense. I saw myself in lot of the stories. I saw the same behavior patterns, the same feelings. It was pretty clear that I was addicted to porn.

The same day, I decided to try my own reboot, in order to rewire my brain and finally start to have a life. So I did. I started to journal, to exercise regularly, to wake and get up in the same time every day...I took it very seriously. In addition I was meditating (not related to rebooting I started more than year before).

Withdrawal symptoms:

First few days there were strong cravings and horniness, but I was so determined that I was easily able to get over them, even when I needed to be in front of the computer for several hours a day (I work from home).

Week 2-3: lethargy, tiredness, very low self-esteem, inferiority feelings, no morning wood, low libido, mood swings, anxiety.

Week 4: symptoms started to weaken a bit, libido comes to normal, mood swings all over the place, but some days were not so bad.

Week 5: good and bad days are 50:50. Some days I experienced also some great feelings with a lot of energy flowing. I was getting used to all those mood swings (knowing that when I feel bad it will pass soon).

Week 6: good and bad days are 70:30, some urges to look at porn, but manageable. Mood pendulum swinging with lower amplitude.

By week 6, everything looked better. I got morning wood regularly (no wet dreams). My self esteem was slowly rising and I was confident enough to try my luck on a date, to see how it would go. So I borrowed my brother's camera, made some pics of myself and registered on three dating sites.

So far so good, but there was a danger which, at first, I hadn't seen. You see, dating sites are a lot like porn sites. You can filter search some girls from your town, single, between 23 and 30yo ...there are a lot of them. And there are a lot of thumbnails with their photos, and when you click the thumbnail there are galleries of their photos and some of the pics are pretty hot (although not naked, but after 6 weeks of not PMO they are sufficient).

And what does a lizard brain think about a lot of hot female pictures? That's right!...potential mates...release dopamine! Very soon I was visiting the dating sites several times a day to look "what's new", which led to relapse on day 40 :-(

After that, I was struggling for one month to get myself back on track with rebooting. There were relapses every few days, at least two of them with porn. I realised I had to stop visiting those dating sites immediately. It was hard, because I was already chatting with some girls, and had a prospect of at least three dates. Nevertheless, I blocked all the sites.

Now I'm back on track and this is my day 16 of no PMO. First week I experienced some cravings, but I managed.

Second week there were another bunch of symptoms that I hadn't experienced before: severe anxiety (fear of losing my mind), depression, feelings of worthlessness, whole week-long flu (which may or may not be related to my reboot).

Yesterday evening, almost all of this symptoms subsided, although I still feel weak and kind of sluggish. Because of the flu, I cannot exercise and I'm too lazy to meditate (although I managed to push myself into 10min of meditation yesterday and it seems it helped). Nevertheless, I'm really happy that my depression is over.

Now, I experience almost no cravings, but I have some sexual fantasy several times a day, which I'm trying to evade as soon as it comes. About socializing and meeting women: I'm looking forward to a second level of yoga class I was visiting earlier. It should be starting soon. There are a lot of pretty and interesting women. Socializing in real life is far better and more beneficial than on the net. It's one of my goals now.

Another guy:

I was exchanging some text massages with my friend regarding explicit sex positions and how she would like sex with me. After such conversations I felt relaxed. But the immediate next day I would feel worse in terms of depression and fatigue (neurochemical hangover). It took me a long time to understand me that 100 fantasies = 1orgasm/1porn clip viewing. Fantasies ultimately give you the same dopamine rush, but in small dosages. So if you want a quick reboot, avoid all stimuli, even if they are with a real women!!!

30 Day Story: Lots of improvements, want more!

Prior to that was a streak of about 20 days and one of about 10 days. Nothing else significant- resolves of less than a few days with long relapses.

Perhaps related (and perhaps not) is that I gave up/deleted/blocked porn about 7 months ago. I was still using erotic fiction/images/imagination up until this 30 day steak because I thought they weren't as harmful. But I've come to the conclusion that erotic fiction had an even worse effect on my well being than porn did, based entirely on the time it took to "recover" from ED.

A husband with ED issues during sex:

If it is not directly time for sex, do not do ANYTHING that:

  • feels good on erogenous zones
  • gives you that yummy feeling in your tummy that you can only get when being erotically stimulated
  • excites you in any kind of sexual way
  • makes your heart beat / breathing faster in any kind of sexually exciting way

Because I believe all of the above are evidence that you are bathing your dopamine receptors in their beloved juice and serving to keep them 'full' such that they never get a chance to get 'hungry.'

If AND ONLY IF I let them get hungry for about a week, I can get hard, stay hard, last long, and finish hard. And the great news is that I have repeated this experiment now for a good number of iterations and it has not failed me yet. I've been stumbling on it for nearly 5 months now...and the only thing that has worked consistently is to leave it the fuck alone... "it" being defined in the bullet points above.

My best advice to anyone suffering from PMO-ED is if you want your dick to work... ONLY use your sexual gratification systems directly for PIV (penis in vagina) and ONLY as often as your real libido will accept (which you have no choice but to discover through trial and error.) Forget about looking for ways to get gratification AT ALL and FOREVER other than PIV, PIM, PIA, or wherever you want to put your Penis on or in your SO. We are addicts... There's no such thing as a 'little'