Contents

⚡️ TL;DR

  • High-speed internet has made porn so accessible that it's easy to overdo it and rewire your brain. Addiction levels have skyrocketed.
  • Relationships and sexual performance are most affected. People who are hooked on porn may also underachieve in other areas of their lives (like lots of repetitive addictions).
  • Habit forming techniques, creating 'hurdles' and utilising online communities (like NoFap) are some of the most popular paths to getting on top of porn addiction.

🍾 To watch porn is to be human

Let's just agree. Watching porn is pretty fun.

We all do it – and have done so since man discovered dial-up.

A whopping 1 in 5 web searches are porn-related (and you’ll be relieved to know it's not just blokes – some stats say women consume up to a third of all porn).

Porn and masturbation hits a biological sweet-spot, releasing chemicals into our brain (the important one is dopamine). Our bodies and relationships have had trouble adapting to it – and some more than others [3] – the social, physical and psychological impacts are only now being studied and understood.

🏛 A brief history of porn & masturbation

Porn has been around forever (Ancient greeks used to design erotic tile mosaics for their floors).

Masturbation? Even longer, since cro-magnon man slipped away from his tribe unannounced to spend 15 suss minutes in the bush. It’s that normal.

But porn and erotic material has always been harder for people to access – it was in the form of sordid artworks, or real life peep shows in red-light districts, and later video tapes and magazines at your uncle’s house. So, in terms of do-it-yourself sexual climax, it was harder to come as often.

The power of the internet gives you porn on any device, in high-resolution, from anywhere from your laptop to the bathroom at work. And that has caused some sizeable problems, because it means that we can stimulate ourselves to climax much more that we have in the past.

It's a smorgasbord of synthetic sensation so many men can't refuse.

🤷🏽‍♂️ Is it an addiction or a compulsion?

Because it's so new, psychologists have a hard time classifying it – is it a repetitive behaviour (like social media use or gambling) or a hypersexual compulsion, like sex addiction?

For you, it probably doesn't matter (but rest slightly easier knowing it's not considered the worst possible addiction, or hypersexual compulsion).

🧠 Our love for brain chemicals

As much as we humans think we have evolved, there is still a huge part of our thinking that comes from our lizard brain, the central and very basic ‘operating system’ that controls our emotions and moods.

Our endocrine system, with its hormones and endorphins is very much part of this, and climaxing is a bodily function that releases pleasure chemicals (because sex is important, and the survival of the species depends on it, so the body encourages it).

The same principles apply to poker machines, Instagram news feeds and hard drugs – using them feels good, and we are drawn back to them by our lesser-selves. Willpower often loses this fight.

Porn addiction works in this very way, meaning the paths to getting on top of it are similar. First, though, let’s have a look at the problems it can cause.

✂️ Why cut down on porn?

The effect on relationships

Relationships are complicated; porn is not.

Modern porn is designed to take us to climax in a 30 minute timeframe (and, y'know, often sooner). To do that, it relies on fantasies, graphic images and depictions of bodies that not ‘normal’, or likely to be the norm in your relationship.

This changes our brains perception of normal – this is called a 'tolerance effect'. The way we see our stable relationship and significant other may suffer. As time goes on, we may find ourselves bored with our partner and our sex lives, mentally comparing it to porn’s highly-potent visual feast.

Date better

Porn and masturbation can reduce the urge to seek real relationships (and have sex with actual human beings).

From an 'anthropological' perspective, orgasm is part of our biological programming, and encourages us to reproduce.

Porn can reduce our sex drive, by providing an easy way to satisfy that drive that's not sex. Masturbation has its benefits (stress relief, etc), but may be training you to avoid social interaction for the purpose of finding that special someone.

Long story short, if you're looking for a mate, take the stairs and avoid self-love. Because it just might be that sliding doors moment.

Sex better

Years of watching porn can make orgasm boring, and often we can find ourselves going through the motions to reach climax in rapid time. This trains us to keep masturbation ‘short and sweet’ and avoid pushing the boundaries when we finally get into the sack.

If we delay orgasm (sometimes known ‘edging’ as it’s known in guru circles), we can vastly increase the sensory effects, and blow our brains out.

That said – there is evidence that masturbation can also train the body for game day, using the same ‘edging’ technique. If you’re worried about whether you’re training too much, work out if you're preferring it to the real deal. If that's the case, pull back.

Porn-induced sexual dysfunctions

Since 2010, there has been a monumental increase in the numbers of men showing signs of erectile dysfunction, reduced ability to get or maintain an erection. Premature ejaculation, or PE, is also on the rise, especially amongst younger, healthier males.

It’s no shock that experts reckon that internet porn may partly be to blame.

The logic is this: years of Internet porn consumption can create a mismatch between what your brain expects, and what real sex is like (which we all know is pretty different). When expectations are not met, dopamine levels drop and the complicated erection machine may fail to fire. In the same way, we may create a neural pathway through repetition that leads to climaxing quickly, and manifests itself as premature ejaculation.

💪 How to do it

The art of delayed gratification

Delayed gratification is the fancy way of describing the act of giving up short term dopamine hits for long term life-improvements. In other words, it’s discipline, or willpower.

Yep, this is a skill that you can learn to help you to get on top of porn addiction, AND can have awesome knock-on effects in other parts of life.

Delaying gratification can help improve what you eat, how often you exercise, and even how driven you are to succeed in your job and relationships.

Start small, habit-forming

Delaying gratification requires a big effort from you. It’s bloody hard - and not always practical – some of us are better are being disciplined than others.

So set the goal small, and use a calendar. Knock over a week at a time, then aim for three weeks, which is the magic number.

Research suggest that habits take between 21-66 days to form. A physical calendar and a red marker becomes a big help here, marking off every day that you abstain from porn and masturbation. If you relapse, reset your counter and start from scratch if you break that. If you keep failing to get to 3 weeks, accountability tools like Stickk and Go Fucking Do It are great.

As a side note, many men report wet dreams after 2-3 weeks of abstaining from porn (and any ejaculation).

Online communities

It’s nice to know that you’re not the only one in the world with a bit of a problem, nor the only one who’s tried to cut back.

In fact, the internet is ablaze with people who support one another through cutting back on porn, abstaining from masturbation, and even going hardcore against porn and what it stands for. You can really choose your own strain of community that aligns with your personal values.

Reddit’s NoFap community and No Nut November (which started as more of a meme than anything) preach the benefits of giving up masturbation. If you’re after clinical evidence, you won’t find much – these pages are filled with unverified, anecdotal tales of extreme performance and of testosterone boosts, and lots of them are tongue-in-cheek.

Humans can be strange and often that's the stuff that motivates us. Browse on.

Make it harder for you to access

If porn is a problem, there are simple ways to put up little 'hurdles' that make it that much harder to consume porn. This is a common tactic with lots of addictions.

The first is blocking it on your browser. You can use a network blocker (that blocks the internet and specific sites across your computer / phone) or a browser blocker (easier to install, but easier to get around if you’re desperate).

Swerve is great if you use Chrome and Freedom is an excellent and cost-effective network blocker.

Delete Instagram

Looking at sexy pictures on Instagram – which, let’s face it, is pretty much half the platform – can be the slippery slope to porn consumption. Try deleting the app and accessing it only from your desktop, or phone browser.

That makes it a bit harder (no pun intended) and less of an easy option.

Know your own triggers

If porn is a thing you consume in the morning, or late at night when you’re drunk, start seeing the pattern and putting barriers in place. That might mean scheduling early activities with friends, cold showers when your mind is running hot or sleeping in a different room from your laptop and phone. Awareness is a huge part of beating any compulsion.

Rewire your arousal to real people

Finally – and excitingly – start looking forward to physical contact and fun relationships with real partners. Nothing can beat the real thing.

You don’t need to have sex to “rewire.” In fact, slowly getting to know someone is probably the best path. Snuggling, making out, hanging out… whatever you can do to connect sexual arousal and affection to a real person, may be essential to your recovery.

✈️ Next steps

Is it a problem?

Masturbation is normal. Arousal is normal. It’s not something you should be guilty about dabbling in, but know that it can get out of control and affect your life, and the people you love. Simple as that.

Take action

Speak to a psychologist on Lysn, our mental health partner.

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