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Erectile Dysfunction & its relation to watching pornography

Dr. Hira Tanveer

4 min read

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With the increased availability of pornography online, there is a greater dissatisfaction for men, with the “normal” sex and less excitement with a partner. According to experts, recent evidence suggests that watching pornography is linked to higher than expected cases of erectile dysfunction, even in the young adult age group. 

Read on to know more about erectile dysfunction and its relation to consuming pornographic content:

Masturbation increases the risk of erectile dysfunction

Emerging evidence shows that overly frequent masturbation is causing a serious risk of erectile dysfunction (ED) in men. While masturbation itself can turn into an addiction for a man, this seriousness is compounded by watching pornography. 

Psychologist, Dr. Elizabeth Waterman from Morningside Recovery Center, California, explains that upon watching porn, there is a surge of dopamine in the brain. Consequently, the excitatory receptors in the brain that were once sensitive, become less sensitive over time, and higher surges of dopamine are needed to produce stimulation. This means that normal intercourse is not excitatory enough for someone addicted to pornography, and the dopamine produced in their brain is not enough for them to feel excited. If this trend continues, such men cannot get and maintain an erection—and erectile dysfunction ensues. 

Dopamine is a feel-good neurotransmitter, and once someone is addicted to this feeling, they crave for it again. This leads to habit formation, and for the brain to be conditioned to it. Consequently, real-life sex loses its attraction as men find it not exciting enough. Additionally, soft-core porn goes off the menu as one switches to the hard-core stuff to produce higher levels of dopamine. Online pornography is much more graphic and can range from deviant, kinky to even violent trends. The availability of this content round the clock, and its ease of access is another problem. Once this vicious cycle starts, one moves deeper and deeper into this spiral.  

Who is at risk for developing porn-related erectile dysfunction?

Thanks to the boom of internet porn, the problem of erectile dysfunction (ED) is now faced by young adults and men under the age of 35. While porn-related ED can affect anyone, it is seen more in men in their teens, and early 20s. These young adults have been conditioned to watching pornography from as young as 14 years of age. What begins as men’s fascination with sex, turns into porn addiction and a problem of sexual health and wellbeing. 

What is the psychological effect of porn addiction?

According to relationship counselor, and sexologist Shyam Mithiya, men in their late 20s and 30s are suffering from ‘imagined erectile dysfunction’. This is when there is no organic or physical cause of erectile dysfunction (ED) but is a psychological effect produced by feelings of insufficiency and anxiety. Men who are addicted to porn often compare themselves to the models shown in pornographic films and have performance anxiety in real-life situations.

Pornography can take a toll on relationships as well. When men compare themselves to the models in pornographic films, they develop feelings of insufficiency, inadequacy, and doubt their ability to satisfy their partner. Moreover, excessive indulgence in porn leads to ineffective communication between partners, and men forget the art of reading the body language of their partner. It is no surprise that one can lose relationships easily as a result. 

The unrealistic images shown on the “reel” are often different from real life. The situations and images in the films are exaggerated and magnified. The dynamics of sex shown in pornographic films are quick, easy, and impersonal. This, in turn, can make intimacy seem embarrassing and unnecessary. Men often find it difficult to open up to their partners and wives.  

Psychologists say that the performance anxiety of men due to porn addiction soon turns into real-life self-confidence issues. This, in turn, leads to frustration, anxiety, irritability, and insomnia. The head of the Italian Society of Andrology and Sexual Medicine says that pornography and masturbation can lower sexual function in men by lowering the libido and a resultant inability to maintain an erection. 

What does research suggest?

Researchers from the UK, Denmark, and Belgium developed an online questionnaire with 118 questions, designed to find the frequency of porn watching, sexual activity, and the regularity of masturbation in men. The purpose of the study was to find the effect of these activities on the sexual health of men. There were more than 3000 men involved in this study. The teams involved focused on men with recent sexual activity (within the previous four weeks). 

The results of the questionnaire showed consumption of pornographic content with an average as high as 70 minutes per week; typically, a single session lasted 5 to 15 minutes. 23% of men under the age of 35 years reported some level of erectile dysfunction when involved with intercourse with a partner. 

According to Professor Gunter de Win, the head researcher from the University of Antwerp, this figure of erectile dysfunction was much higher than anticipated. Additionally, those who reported more porn watching had a higher porn addiction scale. 

The researchers draw important conclusions from this questionnaire. In the survey, only 65% of men reported that sex with a partner, for them was more exciting than watching porn. This means that 35% of the population finds porn more exciting than real-life sex. Moreover, 20% of the men felt that they needed to watch more hard-core or extreme porn to get the same level of excitement and arousal. This could possibly be the reason for lack of arousal and erectile dysfunction associated with porn. 

How to combat the problem of erectile dysfunction secondary to porn addiction?

The treatment of pornography-induced erectile dysfunction (ED) is not drugs. While drugs can help achieve an erection, the satisfaction is still not there. The reason is that the problem lies with the brain and not the penile anatomy. In fact, shame and guilt also play a role in porn-induced ED. This is why a thorough history and patient evaluation is needed before treatment can be started to figure out the exact factors responsible for ED. 

Similar to the 12-step recovery program for addiction, weaning the patient off pornography is a gradual process. A four to six-week plan is devised to desensitize the dopamine receptors in the brain so they can recover to the physiological level. 

Men are advised to resist the urge to watch pornographic content and avoid masturbation as much as possible. In the next six weeks the receptors return to typical dopamine sensitivity, however, the recovery time may be variable. For some people, the time to reach equilibrium is quicker, while for others, it can be delayed. During this recovery period, the libido is mostly reduced for up to several weeks; this effect is temporary. But it is important that one realizes the need for compliance and adhere to the treatment layout. 

For anyone struggling with erectile dysfunction related to pornography consumption, it is best to seek professional help. Book an appointment with top sexologist in Lahore, Karachi and Rawalpindi through oladoc.com, or call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 for assistance and find the RIGHT professional for your concerns. 

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Hira Tanveer - Author Dr. Hira Tanveer is among the Best General Physicians in Lahore. Dr. Hira Tanveer is an MBBS doctor and currently serving at CMH Lahore. Writing is her favorite hobby as she loves to share professional advice on trendy healthcare issues, general well-being, healthy diet, and lifestyle.
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