Cover image credit to iStock. 7-minute read.
There are probably few things more shocking for a young guy than to realize his body isn’t sexually functioning in a normal way. This can be especially worrying when he can’t understand why, given that he is otherwise healthy and possibly attracted to his partner.
We hear stories like this from thousands of Fighters from all across the world—many seeking help from sexual dysfunction. Here are just a few examples of real people who have reached out to Fight the New Drug.
Real Guys Reaching Out For Help
“I’ve been with my fiancée for nearly four years and as much as I love her and the sex was great in the beginning, I now find it difficult to get turned on by her and am worried that this will cause cracks in our marriage as sex is few and far between. I feel a pressure to perform when we do have sex and at times when I fall short of the goal it creates problems, as you can imagine. If I watch porn, however, I can be turned on in a minute… Is it possible to heal this and regain a meaningful sex life without porn?”
“I’ve been addicted to pornography from a very young age. I’m currently with someone I want to spend the rest of my life with. I have made her aware of my problem and we’re both working to curb my addiction through an accountability app that monitors and reports questionable activity. It has worked pretty well so far, in that I have not looked at sexually explicit material on any of my devices. However, the libido is still there for me and I can’t satisfy it without going somewhere private and relieving myself… I still can’t get myself to finish.”
“I know that FTND is an organization with a goal of promoting healthy sexual relationships… She deserves love and I want to give it to her, but I’m finding myself starved at times. She feels guilty that she can’t [arouse me], and I have to remind her that it’s more of a mental barrier for me. This puts pressure on both of us whenever we try to get intimate because she’s afraid she won’t be able to give me what I want and I’m afraid of her self-esteem taking a hit over something I have a very tough time controlling. It just takes away from what the experience is supposed to be like.”
“I have a concern in regards to my sexual performance. October 15th of last year was the last time I watched porn…but it seems that I am struggling to maintain an erection. I am in a relationship with a beautiful girl and I am scared that I will be unable to perform when we decide to have romance. I am not sure if you guys can help with this but highly appreciate any sort of help.”
As you can see, this is a real issue affecting real guys.
An Epidemic Among Young Men
These accounts are heartbreaking and difficult to read, but not alarming considering the research and statistics today that show the numbers of those who suffer from Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction (PIED). In fact, doctors are seeing an epidemic of young men who, because of their porn consumption, can’t reach or maintain an erection with a real, live partner.
Thirty years ago, erectile dysfunction (ED) was almost always only seen in men who were getting older, as it became difficult for their aging bodies to maintain an erection. Chronic ED in anyone under the age of 35 was nearly unheard of. But that was before the days of internet porn.
In the 1940’s, less than 1% of men under 30 experienced erectile dysfunction, and 7% of men experienced ED in 1992. Now, several studies show that 30% of young men experience ED, and if a man’s porn habit reaches the level of addiction, he is 60% more likely to have ED. And, you guessed it, all of these men have erectile dysfunction when they’re with a person, but not when they’re alone with their porn.
To sum it up, internet porn seems to be crippling young men’s sexual performance by creating an unhealthy bond between consumers and their porn, and making it nearly impossible to connect intimately with a living, breathing person. Talk about taking the spice right out of romance.
Thankfully, there is hope for healing.
How Can I Get Back To Normal? It All Starts In The Brain
The statistics of this issue, and the real people behind those statistics, are staggering. But what we focus on, and what we hope you understand if this is something you or someone you love is struggling with, is that there is hope and help for a way out.
The guys we hear from have a lot of questions—Can my problem be reversed? Will I ever be back to normal, and if so, how long will it take? Will I ever be able to perform with my real partner again?
While the journey to recovery looks different for everyone, the short answer to all of these questions is yes! And it all starts in the brain.
In each of our brains is what we call a “reward center.” The reward center’s job is to release chemicals in your brain whenever you do something that improves your health or chances of survival, like doing a challenging workout, eating food, or sharing a kiss with someone. When you engage in this type of behavior, a chemical called dopamine is released in the brain. This chemical rush gives you a sort of “high” that motivates you to return to that behavior again in the future. And guess what? Dopamine signaling actually plays a crucial role in sexual arousal and erections.
Normally, the reward center is a great system. But the problem is, it can be hijacked.
When you have a sexual experience that feels good, naturally your brain starts forming connections between that behavior and the pleasure you’re feeling so you’ll return to that behavior again in the future. The problem is, when those sexual experiences are with porn, your brain, and consequently, your body, are wired to think, “Hey, that feels good! Let’s do it again.”
Basically, every time you watch porn, you’re strengthening the reward pathway in your brain that connects arousal to porn. Meanwhile, pathways connecting pleasure to things like touching, cuddling, or connecting with someone in person aren’t being reinforced, so they become weaker and sometimes non-existent while these connections to arousal from porn become stronger and stronger.
The result? Sometimes, even when the connection and desire are there, your body is unable to respond with a real person because it has been hardwired to only associate sexual arousal with the porn you’ve been consuming. Pretty concerning, right?
But wait, there’s hope! Research has found that the brain is extremely malleable, which is a fancy way of saying it’s moldable and changeable. So just like reward pathways can be hijacked and led to unhealthy habits, new, healthy pathways can be formed in their place.
That’s the key—healing is not just abstaining from consuming porn, but replacing those habits with healthy ones, like hobbies, exercise, and nurturing real relationships.
Healing Is Possible
Sure, all that brain science might make sense, but are you still wondering if healing is really possible? Consider Gabe Deem’s story, a friend of ours here at FTND and an advocate in this movement for love.
After having consumed porn regularly since a young teen and never recognizing any issue with this habit, one day Gabe found himself, as a young, healthy guy, unable to connect sexually with a woman he was seeing and very interested in. The experience was mortifying for him, and afterward, he dove into researching about other guys his age who may be struggling and what he could do to get healthy again.
After several months of dedicated work letting go of his porn habit, Gabe started to see a change. Today, he’s recovered and happy, in a committed and healthy relationship, and even dedicates a lot of his time to helping guys who struggle find freedom. How cool is that?
Why This Matters
It’s true that porn can really mess with the brain and make consumers crave more porn over real human connection. Porn can create unrealistic expectations about what sex is meant to be, and inhibit or even eliminate our ability to connect with a real partner. Pretty scary, if you really think about it.
But the truth is, it doesn’t have to be. Thanks to research showing how reward pathways in the brain work, and how unhealthy habits can be reversed and replaced with healthy, fulfilling ones, we know that recovery is totally possible. Thousands of stories from Fighters across the world also prove it, too.
The journey will look different for each person. For some, this reverse in conditioning the brain can take weeks or months, and for some it takes longer. The good news is, there are resources and online communities out there to help you, like our friends at Fortify.
The road is worth it and will ultimately lead you where you want to be—enjoying a happy, healthy life filled with meaningful, healthy relationships.