Blog

PIED 101: The Science Behind Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction

By June 27, 2018 May 28th, 2019 No Comments

Contrary to what you might see in today’s mainstream media, instead of increasing sexual enjoyment, porn often leads to less satisfying sex in the long run and, for many consumers, no sex at all. Yikes.

Let’s break down how that actually happens, and how porn is playing a huge role in the skyrocketing number of cases of adolescent erectile dysfunction.

Porn and Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction (ED) has been increasing in sexually active men under 40. [1] Internet porn is in some ways to blame for this rise, with a growing number of studies showing a correlation between porn and ED. Now, researchers have identified pornography-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED) and pornography-induced abnormally low libido.

It turns out that high exposure to pornography videos can result in lower responsivity in a male and an increased need for more extreme or kinky material for him to become aroused. Or in other words, as some consumers develop a tolerance for sexual-arousing material, the porn that used to excite them starts to seem boring. [2] Predictably, they often try to compensate by spending more time with porn and/or seeking out more hardcore material in an effort to regain the excitement they used to feel. [3] Many consumers find themes of aggression, violence, and increasingly “edgy” acts creeping into their porn habits and fantasies. [4]

And due to this porn overload, some guys are no longer aroused in the presence of a partner. They begin to experience sexual dysfunction, and even ED, and can only become sexually excited when watching porn, as explained by this extensive report from Medical News Today.

The Role of the Brain

To understand why watching excessive amounts of porn can lead to ED, we first have to understand how the brain works.

Neurons are cells that receive and send messages between the body and the brain. The brain has about 100 billion neurons, which are the basic working units of the nervous system.

Neurotransmitters send chemical messages between the neurons. A neurotransmitter called dopamine helps the flow of information to the front of the brain, which is linked to thought and emotion. It is also linked to reward systems, like the reward center.

The reward center’s job is to release “pleasure” chemicals into your brain whenever you do something healthy, like eating tasty food, doing a hard workout, or enjoying a kiss. [5] The “high” you get from that chemical rush makes you want to repeat that behavior again and again. [6] Thanks to your reward center, your brain is hardwired to motivate you to do things that will improve your health and chances of survival. [7] It’s a great system…normally.

The problem is, the brain can be tricked.

When addictive substances are used, they give the brain a “false signal.” [8] Since the brain can’t tell the difference between the drugs and a real, healthy reward, it goes ahead and activates the reward center. [9] An important chemical called dopamine is released, which makes the brain start developing a craving for the fake reward. [10] As long as there’s a lot of dopamine floating around in the brain, the cravings will keep getting stronger, and the consumer will feel super-motivation to keep pursuing more of the drug. [11] Essentially, addictive drugs hijack the brain, turning it around and forcing it in a direction it was never meant to go. Instead of encouraging the consumer toward healthy behaviors, drugs lead the consumer into things that aren’t healthy at all, and can even be dangerous. [12]

Want to guess what else does that? Porn.

And it turns out that erections are dependent on the activation of this reward pathway. Dopamine signaling actually plays a crucial role in sexual arousal and erections.

Dopamine Overload

When you have a sexual experience that feels good, your brain starts creating new pathways to connect what you’re doing to the pleasure you’re feeling. [13] Essentially, your brain is redrawing the sexual part of your map so you’ll be able to come back later and repeat the experience. [14] The same thing happens the first time you watch porn. Your brain starts building new pathways in response to this very powerful new experience. [15] It’s saying, “This feels great! Let’s do this again.”

Your brain map operates on a “use it or lose it” principle. [16] Just like a hiking trail will start to grow over if it’s not getting walked on, brain pathways that don’t get traffic become weaker and can even be completely replaced by stronger pathways that get more use.

As you might expect, watching porn is a very powerful experience that leaves a strong and lasting impression in the brain. Every time you watch porn—especially if you heighten the experience by masturbating—you are strengthening the part of your brain map that connects arousal to porn. [17] Meanwhile, the pathways connecting arousal to things like seeing, touching, or cuddling with a partner aren’t getting used. Pretty soon, natural turn-ons aren’t enough, and many porn consumers find they can’t get aroused by anything but porn. [18]

How bad is the problem? Put it this way: doctors are seeing an epidemic of young men who, because of their porn use, can’t get it up with a real, live partner. [19]

Many guys find themselves unable to maintain an erection in the absence of porn. The internet and other avenues provide an unlimited amount of content, so some men begin to watch massive amounts of porn to maintain high levels of sexual arousal.

When they try to engage with a real sexual partner, the arousal they feel does not fit their expectations and they are unable to maintain an erection. Sexual activities that would normally give people a burst of dopamine and make them happy are no longer enough to sustain them. They constantly have to look at porn to get the sensation they need, and this can lead to ED.

Porn-Induced ED

Porn is designed to capture attention, and keep the viewer coming back for more. The performers often do things that would typically not translate into real life, and unfortunately, the viewer can become conditioned to this type of sexual arousal that does not carry over into real life sexual situations.

In other words, unrealistic fantasies are not measuring up to authentic reality.

Regular sex no longer meets the person’s expectations, resulting in a decline in dopamine. This can cause some men to no longer be “in the mood.” The good news is, studies have shown that some men with ED who watched porn were able to obtain a regular erection once the porn was removed.

However, the younger the age of the male when they begin to regularly watch porn, the greater the chance of it becoming their preference over partnered sex, and the less overall enjoyment they get, according to the Medical News Today report. And how is that healthy for anyone?

Unfortunately, this trend of sex problems is especially serious for teens and young adults. Their brains are particularly vulnerable to being rewired by porn, [20] and they are in a period where they are forming crucial attitudes, preferences, and expectations for their future. [21]

Why This Matters

The relationship between porn and sexual dysfunction is still being understood, but the research we have now is telling us a lot.

The fact is, porn addiction is serious and should not be taken lightly. Some porn viewers may not realize that they have a compulsion or an addiction and may be unsure how to get help. If that’s you, you’re in the right place—check out the recovery program we helped to develop, Fortify, and get started on your recovery journey today.

Fortunately, the brain is a resilient organ. The sexual dysfunction caused by porn can be reversed, [22] and a brain map can be rewired to work well again once porn is out of the picture. [23]

This is why we fight against porn and fight for real love, because we believe everyone deserves to have a healthy sexuality and be informed on the real harms of porn.

FTND_404_v1

More Resources

There is a growing community of men and women who are giving up porn in favor of a healthier sexuality. Check out NoFap, Reboot Nation, and Your Brain on Porn for more info, community, and resources.

Citations

[1] Park, B. Y., Et Al. (2016). Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review With Clinical Reports. Behavioral Sciences, 6, 17. Doi:10.3390/Bs6030017; Love, T., Laier, C., Brand, M., Hatch, L., & Hajela, R. (2015). Neuroscience Of Internet Pornography Addiction: A Review And Update, Behavioral Sciences, 5(3), 388-433. Doi:10.3390/Bs5030388; Voon, V., Et Al. (2014). Neural Correlates Of Sexual Cue Reactivity In Individuals With And Without Compulsive Sexual Behaviors, PLoS ONE, 9(7), E102419. Doi:10.1371/Journal.Pone.0102419; Kalman, T. P., (2008). Clinical Encounters With Internet Pornography, Journal Of The American Academy Of Psychoanalysis And Dynamic Psychiatry, 36(4), 593-618. Doi:10.1521/Jaap.2008.36.4.593
[2] Park, B. Y., Et Al. (2016). Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review With Clinical Reports. Behavioral Sciences, 6, 17. Doi:10.3390/Bs6030017; Kalman, T.P. (2008). Clinical Encounters With Internet Pornography. Journal Of The American Academy Of Psychoanalysis And Dynamic Psychiatry, 36(4) 593-618. Doi:10.1521/Jaap.2008.36.4.593
[3] Park, B. Y., Et Al. (2016). Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review With Clinical Reports. Behavioral Sciences, 6, 17. Doi:10.3390/Bs6030017; Kalman, T.P. (2008). Clinical Encounters With Internet Pornography. Journal Of The American Academy Of Psychoanalysis And Dynamic Psychiatry, 36(4) 593-618. Doi:10.1521/Jaap.2008.36.4.593
[4] Park, B. Y., Et Al. (2016). Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review With Clinical Reports. Behavioral Sciences, 6, 17. Doi:10.3390/Bs6030017; Kalman, T.P. (2008). Clinical Encounters With Internet Pornography. Journal Of The American Academy Of Psychoanalysis And Dynamic Psychiatry, 36(4) 593-618. Doi:10.1521/Jaap.2008.36.4.593
[5] Volkow, N. D., Koob, G. F., & McLellan, A. T. (2016). Neurobiological Advances From The Brain Disease Model Of Addiction. New England Journal Of Medicine, 374, 363-371. Doi:10.1056/NEJMra1511480; Zatorre, R. J., & Salimpoor, V. N., (2013) From Perception To Pleasure: Music And Its Neural Substrates. Proceedings Of The National Academy Of The Sciences Of The United States Of America, 110, 2. Doi:10.1073/Pnas.1301228110; Hedges, V. L., Chakravarty, S., Nestler, E. J., & Meisel, R. L. (2009). Delta FosB Overexpression In The Nucleus Accumbens Enhances Sexual Reward In Female Syrian Hamsters. Genes Brain And Behavior, 8(4), 442–449. Doi:10.1111/J.1601-183X.2009.00491.X
[6] Bostwick, J. M., & Bucci, J. E. (2008). Internet Sex Addiction Treated With Naltrexone. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 83(2), 226–230. Doi:10.4065/83.2.226; Doidge, N. (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself. New York: Penguin Books. (106-108).
[7] Berridge, K. C., & Robinson, T. E. (2016). Liking, Wanting, And The Incentive-Sensitization Theory Of Addiction. American Psychologist, 71(8), 670-679. Doi:10.1037/Amp0000059; Berridge, K.C., & Kringelbach, M. L. (2015). Pleasure Systems In The Brain. Neuron, 86, 646-664. Doi:10.1016/J.Neuron.2015.02.018; Paul, P. (2007). Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, And Our Families. (75) New York: Henry Hold And Co.; Hyman, S. E. (2005). Addiction: A Disease Of Learning And Memory. American Journal Of Psychiatry, 162(8), 1414-1422. Doi:10.1176/Appi.Ajp.162.8.1414
[8] Stacy, A. W., & Wiers, R. W. (2010). Implicit Cognition And Addiction: A Tool For Explaining Paradoxical Behavior, Annual Review Of Clinical Psychology, 6, 551-575. Doi:10.1146/Annurev.Clinpsy.121208.131444
[9] Volkow, N. D., Koob, G. F., & McLellan, A. T. (2016). Neurobiological Advances From The Brain Disease Model Of Addiction. New England Journal Of Medicine, 374, 363-371. Doi:10.1056/NEJMra1511480; Berridge, K.C., & Kringelbach, M. L. (2015). Pleasure Systems In The Brain. Neuron, 86, 646-664. Doi.Org/10.1016/J.Neuron.2015.02.018; Volkow, N. D., & Morales, M. (2015). The Brain On Drugs: From Reward To Addiction. Cell, 162 (8), 713. Doi:10.1016/J.Cell.2015.07.046; Voon, V., Et Al. (2014). Neural Correlates Of Sexual Cue Reactivity In Individuals With And Without Compulsive Sexual Behaviors, PLoS ONE, 9(7), E102419. Doi:10.1371/Journal.Pone.0102419; Georgiadis, J. R., & Kringelbach, M. L. (2012). The Human Sexual Response Cycle: Brain Imaging Evidence Linking Sex To Other Pleasures. Progressive Neurobiology, 98, 49-81. Doi:10.1016/J.Pneurobio.2012.05.004
[10] Berridge, K. C., & Robinson, T. E. (2016). Liking, Wanting, And The Incentive-Sensitization Theory Of Addiction. American Psychologist, 71(8), 670-679. Doi:10.1037/Amp0000059; Hilton, D. L. (2013). Pornography Addiction—A Supranormal Stimulus Considered In The Context Of Neuroplasticity. Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology, 3, 20767. Doi:10.3402/Snp.V3i0.20767; Pitchers, K. K., Et Al. (2013). Natural And Drug Rewards Act On Common Neural Plasticity Mechanisms With DeltaFosB As A Key Mediator. Journal Of Neuroscience, 33(8) 3434-3442. Doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4881-12.2013; Salamone, J. D., & Correa, M. (2012). The Mysterious Motivational Functions Of Mesolimbic Dopamine. Neuron, 76, 470-485. Doi:10.1016/J.Neuron.2012.10.021
[11] Berridge, K. C., & Robinson, T. E. (2016). Liking, Wanting, And The Incentive-Sensitization Theory Of Addiction. American Psychologist, 71(8), 670-679. Doi:10.1037/Amp0000059; Volkow, N. D., Wang. G. J., Fowler, J. S., Tomasi, D., & Telang, F. (2011). Addiction: Beyond Dopamine Reward Circuitry. Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences Of The United States Of America, 108(37),15037-15042. Doi:10.1073/Pnas.1010654108; Doidge, N. (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself. (108) New York: Penguin Books.
[12] Hilton, D. L. (2013). Pornography Addiction—A Supranormal Stimulus Considered In The Context Of Neuroplasticity. Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology, 3, 20767. Doi:10.3402/Snp.V3i0.20767; Kauer, J. A., And Malenka, J. C. (2007). Synaptic Plasticity And Addiction: Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 8: 844-858. Doi:10.1038/Nrn2234; Doidge, N. (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself. (106-109) New York: Penguin Books; Hyman, S. E. (2005). Addiction: A Disease Of Learning And Memory. American Journal Of Psychiatry, 162(8), 1414-1422. Doi:10.1176/Appi.Ajp.162.8.1414
[13] Berridge, K. C., & Robinson, T. E. (2016). Liking, Wanting, And The Incentive-Sensitization Theory Of Addiction. American Psychologist, 71(8), 670-679. Doi:10.1037/Amp0000059; Berridge, K.C., & Kringelbach, M. L. (2015). Pleasure Systems In The Brain. Neuron, 86, 646-664. Doi:10.1016/J.Neuron.2015.02.018; Hilton, D. L. (2013). Pornography Addiction—A Supranormal Stimulus Considered In The Context Of Neuroplasticity. Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology 3:20767. Doi:10.3402/Snp.V3i0.20767; Pitchers, K. K., Et Al. (2013). Natural And Drug Rewards Act On Common Neural Plasticity Mechanisms With DeltaFosB As A Key Mediator. Journal Of Neuroscience, 33(8), 3434-3442. Doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4881-12.2013; Doidge, N. (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself. New York: Penguin Books.
[14] Love, T., Laier, C., Brand, M., Hatch, L., & Hajela, R. (2015). Neuroscience Of Internet Pornography Addiction: A Review And Update, Behavioral Sciences, 5(3), 388-433. Doi:10.3390/Bs5030388; Hilton, D.L, & Watts, C. (2011). Pornography Addiction: A Neuroscience Perspective, Surgical Neurology International 2, 19. Doi:10.4103/2152-7806.76977; Miner, M. H., Raymond, N., Mueller, B. A., Lloyd, M., Lim, K. O. (2009). Preliminary Investigation Of The Impulsive And Neuroanatomical Characteristics Of Compulsive Sexual Behavior. Psychiatry Research 174: 146–51. Doi:10.1016/J.Pscychresns.2009.04.008; Doidge, N. (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself. New York: Penguin Books; Paul, P. (2007). Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, And Our Families. (75) New York: Henry Hold And Co.
[15] Park, B. Y., Et Al. (2016). Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review With Clinical Reports. Behavioral Sciences, 6, 17. Doi:10.3390/Bs6030017; Berridge, K. C., & Robinson, T. E. (2016). Liking, Wanting, And The Incentive-Sensitization Theory Of Addiction. American Psychologist, 71(8), 670-679. Doi:10.1037/Amp0000059; Hilton, D. L. (2013). Pornography Addiction—A Supranormal Stimulus Considered In The Context Of Neuroplasticity. Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology 3:20767. Doi:10.3402/Snp.V3i0.20767; Nestler, E. J., (2008) Transcriptional Mechanisms Of Addiction: Role Of DeltaFosB, Philosophical Transactions Of The Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 363(1507) 3245-3255. Doi:10.1098/Rstb.2008.0067
[16] Doidge, N. (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself. New York: Penguin Books.
[17] Park, B. Y., Et Al. (2016). Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review With Clinical Reports. Behavioral Sciences, 6, 17. Doi:10.3390/Bs6030017; Pitchers, K. K., Et Al. (2013). Natural And Drug Rewards Act On Common Neural Plasticity Mechanisms With DeltaFosB As A Key Mediator. Journal Of Neuroscience, 33(8), 3434-3442. Doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4881-12.2013; Hilton, D. L. (2013) Pornography Addiction—A Supranormal Stimulus Considered In The Context Of Neuroplasticity. Socioaffective Neuroscience And Technology 3. 20767. Doi:10.3402/Snp.V3i0.20767; Doidge, N. (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself. New York: Penguin Books.
[18] Volkow, N. D., Koob, G. F., & McLellan, A. T. (2016). Neurobiological Advances From The Brain Disease Model Of Addiction. New England Journal Of Medicine, 374, 363-371. Doi:10.1056/NEJMra1511480; Park, B. Y., Et Al. (2016). Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review With Clinical Reports. Behavioral Sciences, 6, 17. Doi:10.3390/Bs6030017; Love, T., Laier, C., Brand, M., Hatch, L., & Hajela, R. (2015). Neuroscience Of Internet Pornography Addiction: A Review And Update, Behavioral Sciences, 5(3), 388-433. Doi: 10.3390/Bs5030388; Wang, Y., Ghezzi, A., Yin, J. C. P., & Atkinson, N. S. (2009). CREB Regulation Of BK Channel Gene Expression Underlies Rapid Drug Tolerance. Gene Brains Behavior, 8(4) 369-376. Doi:10.1111/J.1601-183X.2009.00479.X; Angres, D. H. & Bettinardi-Angres, K. (2008). The Disease Of Addiction: Origins, Treatment, And Recovery. Disease-A-Month 54: 696–721; Doidge, N. (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself. New York: Penguin Books.
[19] Park, B. Y., Et Al. (2016). Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review With Clinical Reports. Behavioral Sciences, 6, 17. Doi:10.3390/Bs6030017; Love, T., Laier, C., Brand, M., Hatch, L., & Hajela, R. (2015). Neuroscience Of Internet Pornography Addiction: A Review And Update, Behavioral Sciences, 5(3), 388-433. Doi:10.3390/Bs5030388; Voon, V., Et Al. (2014). Neural Correlates Of Sexual Cue Reactivity In Individuals With And Without Compulsive Sexual Behaviors, PLoS ONE, 9(7), E102419. Doi:10.1371/Journal.Pone.0102419; Kalman, T. P., (2008). Clinical Encounters With Internet Pornography, Journal Of The American Academy Of Psychoanalysis And Dynamic Psychiatry, 36(4), 593-618. Doi:10.1521/Jaap.2008.36.4.593
[20] Volkow, N. D., Koob, G. F., & McLellan, A. T. (2016). Neurobiological Advances From The Brain Disease Model Of Addiction. New England Journal Of Medicine, 374, 363-371. Doi:10.1056/NEJMra1511480; Rothman, E. F., Kaczmarsky, C., Burke, N., Jansen, E., & Baughman, A. (2015). “Without Porn…I Wouldn’t Know Half The Things I Know Now”: A Qualitative Study Of Pornography Use Among A Sample Of Urban, Low-Income, Black And Hispanic Youth. Journal Of Sex Research, 52(7), 736-746. Doi:10.1080/00224499.2014.960908; Morgan, E. M. (2011). Associations Between Young Adults’ Use Of Sexually Explicit Materials And Their Sexual Preferences, Behaviors, And Satisfaction. Journal Of Sex Research, 48,(6), 520-530. 8(6):520-30. Doi:10.1080/00224499.2010.543960
[21] Olmstead, S. B., Negash, S., Pasley, K., & Fincham, F. D. (2013). Emerging Adults’ Expectations For Pornography Use In The Context Of Future Committed Romantic Relationships. Archives Of Sexual Behavior, 42, 625-635. Doi:10.1007/S10508-012-9986-7; Morgan, E. M. (2011). Associations Between Young Adults’ Use Of Sexually Explicit Materials And Their Sexual Preferences, Behaviors, And Satisfaction. Journal Of Sex Research, 48,(6), 520-530. 8(6):520-30. Doi:10.1080/00224499.2010.543960
[22] Kalman, T. P., (2008). Clinical Encounters With Internet Pornography, Journal Of The American Academy Of Psychoanalysis And Dynamic Psychiatry, 36(4), 593-618. Doi:10.1521/Jaap.2008.36.4.593
[23] Doidge, N. (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself. New York: Penguin Books.

Send this to a friend

Like all websites, we use cookies. By continuing on this site, you agree to our use of cookies. More

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close