The problem with porn: does watching pornography cause erectile dysfunction?

Porn is everywhere nowadays. Is it affecting your sex life?

Porn is everywhere nowadays. Is it affecting your sex life?

The short answer is yes, pornography can cause erectile dysfunction.

I have been reading a book called “The Brain that Changes Itself” by Norman Doidge, a psychiatrist and researched a Columbia University. The book is about neuroplasticity and in chapter four he discusses how pornography causes changes in the brain, and how pornography addiction can cause impotence.

Pornography can be very addictive. This is because in sexual excitement, a chemical called dopamine is released in your brain. Dopamine has a lot of effects in the brain, and is involved in pleasure, reward, and addiction. Every addictive drug affects dopamine somehow. Heroin, cocaine, nicotine… these all involve the dopamine reward pathway in the brain. Frequent usage of these drugs causes long-term changes, including the problem of tolerance. Tolerance is the decrease in effect of repeated administration of the drug, and so a higher dose of drug is needed for the same effect.

Pornography acts just like a drug.

So as one watches more and more porn, softcore porn may not be enough to arouse them as they have developed tolerance to it. They need hardcore porn to get their “hit.” The porn industry is constantly working to create new sexually novel or shocking situations, as their users demand more as their tolerance to porn increases.

“It starts with lower reactions to porn sites. Then there is a general drop in libido, and in the end it becomes impossible to get an erection.” – Dr Carlo Foresta, University of Padova

A porn addict has a numbed pleasure response to normal stimuli. This means that both males and females addicted to porn may not be able to become aroused in a normal, real life sexual situation.

Pornography can cause arousal problems for both males and females

Pornography can cause arousal problems for both males and females

Despite the issues with sexual arousal and erectile dysfunction, there are a lot of other problems that can be related to high pornography usage:

  • Obesity was twice as common among frequent porn users of Swedish adolescents as described here.
  • Lower family functioning and positive youth development with greater consumption of pornographic materials in adolescents in Hong Kong as described by this study.
  • Frequent pornography usage is correlated (note, correlation does not mean causation) with higher alcohol consumption, higher illicit drug consumption, and higher rates of buying or selling sex in Swedish adolescents as studied here.
  •  Participants report increased participant’s desire to be close to their partner, but also also induced greater reports of negative affect, guilt, and anxiety described here.

In conclusion, the effects of pornography really can be compared to that of an illicit drug. It provides short-term pleasure, but the long-term impacts it has on sexual and physical health is undeniably negative.

I don’t have any reputable treatment advice for someone with a pornography addiction, but like any drug, you must remove it completely from your life. When you quit you will get withdrawal symptoms, which can be different for anyone but could include anxiety, insomnia, fatigue and could be very difficult to get through. For more information, take a look at the following links:

2 thoughts on “The problem with porn: does watching pornography cause erectile dysfunction?

  1. Pingback: Brain Scans show Porn Addiction is same as Substance Addictions | WHolistic Sanity

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