porn addiction withdrawal (1)

Porn Addiction Withdrawal | Negative impacts and recovery

Overview :

I guess we can all agree when I say that ” it’s hard to control our sexual impulses especially when porn is very easily available online”

Triple A  : Accessibility, Affordability and Anonymity – The main reason behind dependence on pornography. 

We pursue a rewarding experience so frequently that we don’t even care about the serious repercussions they might have on your well-being 

Is Porn Addiction really a big problem? 

So far researchers from all around the world can’t even properly categorize or profile”porn addiction” into the various addiction models that’s already there

Porn addiction could potentially be classified in hyper sexual disorder which is a behavioral disorder that leads to problematic use of online pornography. 

Did you know? Gambling problems and Online Gaming were recently included in “substance abuse and Addictive disorder” category but porn addiction is still not properly categorized

Hyper sexual disorder acts as an umbrella to include multiple addictive behaviors like 

  • Cyber sex
  • Excessive Masterburation
  • Telephone sex
  • Pornography
  • Sexual encounters with multiple partners
  • Visitations to strip clubs

Enough with the technicality : Is pornography really addictive and bad? 

Ask yourself these questions and if you are engaging in these behaviors then yes. You have porn addiction if :

  • Having cravings and multiple unsuccessful attempts to reduce the behavior
  • Your addiction to porn is causing you to neglect the other areas of your life
  • Inability to stop usage even after being aware of its damaging psychological effects

Negative effects of porn addiction :

Continued use of pornography results in a lot of problems for certain individuals :

  • Financial
  • Legal
  • Occupational

Relationship problems

Lowered sex satisfaction:

Here’s a story that some of you might relate with. You have a partner and you engage with them sexually on a daily basis. Even though you are sexually very active and you have this need to consume porn and even get off watching it because your neurotransmitters are so used to porn that the satisfaction you get from that is higher than actual sex! 

Lowered sex drives:

Some of you might have even put off sex so you can consume porn online. Right? 

Choosing porn over sex is the ultimate sign that you are super addicted to porn and your brain craves it more than anything else! 

Sexual problems :

Anyone who watches porn online wants to get off. So porn addiction usually comes with compulsive Masterburation. Right? 

What this leads to is, in some cases, people start getting sexual problems because they have overused their organs involved and it gets some sort of a damage. 

This depends on the person’s health, genetics and so much more. But you can’t deny the fact that you are at the risk of having sexual problem

Stat : 11 out of 19 subjects who watch porn compulsively have stated that they had lower sex drives and had trouble maintaining an erection while having sex with real women

Sexual deviations : 

 When you are a compulsive porn watcher, you are exposed to all sorts of sexual deviations. You could find something hot after being exposed to it over and over but it could actually be disturbing or could be something that’s very disrespectful to your spouse or partner if they don’t share your sexual deviants

When this happens, we move farther away from our spouse because now only these kinks satisfies you and your partner doesn’t. 

Trust me, it’s important to explore in romantic relationships but there’s a limit for everything and one shouldn’t cross any lines that they can’t come back from. 

For instance, suggesting threesomes can break a relationship if your partner is possessive. Makes sense right? 

Reduced intimacy in the relationships :

From Bryant and zillmann findings, it is noted that porn makes a person less satisfied with their partner’s appearance , sexual performance and affection! 

Porn gives us unreal expectations about our partners and how sex and intimate is supposed to be like. This makes us feel less satisfied with most aspects of our romantic and sexual relationships in our life! 

If this isn’t a good reason to stop, I don’t know what is. 

Death of sex life :

If the porn addiction prolongs and continues in your marriage, the lowered sexual satisfaction and drive can lead to the death of your sex life 

It’s so funny if you think about you. People start watching porn because they are curious about sex and how to do it. This act when turned into an addiction, actually becomes a kryptonite to their sex life in the future! 

  • Dependency on porn for orgasms : 
  • Infidelity :

Stat : The rate of infidelity is 3x more for couples who consume porn together when compared to couples who don’t consume porn at all! 

Being cheated on is the worst feeling in the world, right? 

When we are in love with someone, it’s hard to digest the fact that they were sexually and emotionally intimate with someone else other than you. 

Lowered emotional security : 

Research has shown that people who watch porn more often have lower emotional security than the ones who don’t. This makes them give up on their relationship much more easily. 

This combined with the fact that porn addicts don’t form strong bonds with their partner will be the death of any relationship! 

Personal problems:

Lying : 

We cultivate the habit of lying which can cause some serious problems in our life. 

Stat : It is estimated that 60% adults lie within 10 mins in a conversation and 6 lies are being told by men everyday on an average. This number could be way bigger! 

Lying can affect our lives over a period of time

  • Could cause problems in relationships
  • Could affect our professional lives sometimes
  • We change as a person and look to hide behind lies rather than facing problems. 

Low motivation in life :

This is a general symptom that many porn addicts say they have : ” Laziness”. The reward center of our brain is responsible for keeping us happy for doing day to day activities. 

When our reward center is messed up, we don’t really feel good for making progress in our life or by putting in the hard work. This is why people say porn addiction will make anyone lazy and feel less motivated! 

Why do people watch porn for longer times? 

When doing normal healthy activities, our brain only rewards us for a period of time and then shuts the dopamine levels off. Whereas while watching porn, the dopamine gates are open for a long period of time! Hence they watch for longer hours and then shut off completely because their reward centers are depleted now! 

Loneliness/ Social anxiety:

The more porn a person consumes, the more they withdraw from people physically and emotionally. 

Why does this happen? 

  • Porn fills our minds with fake intimacy which doesn’t really compare with the real satisfaction one gets from having good relationships with people
  • The addiction causes shame and mental distress when the person knows they cannot stop even if they try to stop : This pulls them away from social circles and family members. 
  • Discomfort that people feel in their conversations about pornography! We as a society aren’t open about this and people in general are ashamed of this addiction and this pulls people away from society as well! 

Depression : 

People often use porn to escape from the negative feelings they have in their lives like anger, humiliation,  sadness and grief. 

Running away from emotions causes a lot of problems in people.Their mental health deteriorates because they don’t process their feelings. This leaves them feeling numb and bad unless they watch porn, which strengthens their addiction and pushes them deeper into depression

Hypofrontality : 

When we try to quit something repeatedly and we just can’t no matter what, our self control system in our body gets weakened. The more we fail at quitting, the harder it becomes because our will power would hit rock bottom. Right? 

This is called hypofrontality where our basic parts of our brain are in control and it’s not enough to argue with our brains that this isn’t good for us because the executive parts of our brain would lose all control. 

Difficulty Making decisions :

The area of our brain that’s responsible for making decisions is  : Striatum ( The reward circuitry) Now this part of our brain is affected for addicts because they keep choosing temporary rewards through the act of watching porn. 

When this happens, it’s hard for people to make decisions because there’s less grey matter in their stiatums 

Increased tendency to self harm : 

It’s been shown that people with moderate to severe addiction to porn have higher tendencies to hurt themselves. 

One might wonder how is an addiction related to sex can push a person to self harm or hurt themselves? 

These could be the possible reasons :

  • Lower self esteem because of setting higher standards of appearance shown in porn
  • The guilt of watching disturbing porn

Sexual orientation Obsessive Compulsive Disorder:

Do you believe when I say that the brain can be trained to find anything arousing? In a study done in 2016, 20% of straight men admitted to watching gay pornography and 55% of gay men watch straight porn. These numbers would have risen over time. 


Porn addiction Withdrawal Symptoms :

What is withdrawal? Why does it happen? 

Withdrawal only means this : Chemical imbalance in our brains. This chemical imbalance will readjust itself over time and that’s why many people get out of addictions over a period of time. 

Behavioral addictions are similar to substance addiction since chemicals are involved in both. 

Wait what? Are behavioral addictions as bad as actual substance abuse? 

No. Substance abuse might be harmful to health as well whereas based on the behavior one is addicted to, it could be good or bad to the individual involved. But psychologically, the feel good chemicals in the brain are involved in any type of addiction which is why it’s very hard to quit. 

This chemical imbalance in our brain makes us feel bad and numb as dopamine and serotonin is low and we wouldn’t feel happy for awhile until the balance is restored 

Take in this point. Your body repairs itself. Even the slightest imbalance is felt by you. So it’s important to be grateful for all your organs and treat it with respect rather than taking it for granted. 

Porn withdrawal Timeline :

Based on my research and understanding of the human brain and behavior, it doesn’t really make sense to have a timeline and to expect different withdrawal effects based on timings. 

Every human is different. Based on your personality, your social support system, your goals and ambitions and your genetics things change differently. 

Especially in this age and time where people are exposed to a huge range of things since their childhood and how one person grows up and handles difficulties would be extremely different from another person.

Even taking a single person and comparing their ability to control their thoughts and needs would change within a span of months or even days. 

It always comes down to your mindset! 


Increased stress : 

If you lead a stressful life and have been using the world of porn and masterburation to cope with this stress, then this is going to be a bit of a test. 

Stress can be really frustrating especially when we are heavily dependent on a few habits to cope with it. 

So what can we do to deal with this increased stress? 

  • Listen to music
  • Play with pets
  • Go out and laugh with friends! 
  • Cultivate the habit of working out
  • Take a hot bath
  • Meditate
  • Play non intensive video games

Once you get the other tools to cope with stress, then things will become better! Plus stress in general can be really bad for our health and can ruin our lives! 


Cravings:

So if you have ever tried to quit before, you would know about cravings. The urge to watch porn when your brain is depleted off of all dopamine and you crave it. 

Craving can come in different intensities and these are just thoughts and emotional desires to do the addictive activity.  Cravings are the hardest part of a porn withdrawal timeline. 

How to deal with these cravings? 

  • Use Mindfulness : Don’t fight the urge : When we get the urge to do it, we generally try to talk ourselves out of it. No matter what, it’s hard to “talk ourselves out of an urge”. Instead, learn to coexist with it. Just observe it being present in a detached way. By loosening your grip on these thoughts, they lose strength and fade away if you just let it be. 

Know this : 

  • You cannot talk your way out of a craving
  • Craving don’t stop because you want it to
  • Let it run it’s course on you after which it will go away. 
  • It’s hard to replace your addiction with some other activity because nothing can give the same level of dopamine high like the ones we get with porn and sex. 

Trying to avoid cravings :

  • It is good to prepare beforehand and plan a day where you avoid being in situations where you are more likely to watch porn. 
  • People avoid being alone at peak trigger times
  • They schedule their day completely for the first few days. 

While avoiding cravings can be a good tactic, one should be ready to deal with the craving when they come. Trust me they will come. 


Overwhelmed Mind :

The sensitized addiction pathways in your body sends overwhelming signals to your brain that it needs a fix and you are trying to control all those needs with your weakened self control system. 

Yes we looked at how addiction causes Hypofrontality. This makes it extremely overwhelming for some people in the first few weeks of quitting porn. 

How to deal with being emotionally overwhelmed? 

  • Finding an outlet : If you keep these emotions in, it will definitely destroy your mental peace and you would break. Find an outlet to your repressed emotions. 
    • Go for a run
    • Write in a journal
    • Challenge yourself in gym
    • Try and do yoga
  • Give yourself a break : If you are too stressed and added to that you have these overwhelming cravings and emotions, you will break. Give yourself a break. Take care of yourself. 
  • Prioritize sleep : To get over the chemical imbalance in your brain, it’s important to prioritize sleep. Even if things are rough, prioritize sleep! 
  • Use Three Day Mindset : We humans usually evaluate our work every 24 hours and check if we have achieved the goals we have set for the day. Right? Three day mindset is when we set goals and give ourselves 3 days to reevaluate. This helps us take breaks when we are stressed and manage work efficiently without being too hard on ourselves. 
  • Happy list : Fill up an entire list about the small things in your life that have made you happy! What this essentially does is to remind us about the things that truly matter apart from the world of pornography. These are strings of hope from the other side to pull us back to the best versions of ourselves. It would be a sin to not hold on to them. . 

Irritability/Agitation : Demons in our life :

When we are used to cope with the discomforts in our life using porn and sex, stopping that activity would make us realize how our life actually us without porn. 

We might be running away from serious problems in our lives like not actually liking the relationship we are in or the way our life is going. You would have to face these things as they start showing themselves in the first few weeks of staying off porn. 

This is make us irritated because we are not ready to face these demons. Well, it’s better for face them so you they don’t hold any power over you and you can actually make healthy changes in your life so you can finally achieve genuine happiness in our life. 

Dealing with irritability :

  • Acknowledge the problems : Make a list of things that’s making you uncomfortable
  • If your life feels boring, enter “boredom” In the list
  • If your job is too boring or hard for you to handle : Face that problem. If you are in an unsatisfactory career, it’s better to face it rather than living a miserable life by using porn to distract yourself. 
  • Go for a quick walk or run to process your emotions

Restlessness:

Like we discussed above in the negative impacts of porn, heavy porn usage shrinks the part of the brain that helps reward us whenever we do something thats productive and healthy. 

When this system is not functioning because of heavy porn usage we don’t get the motivation to do the things that are necessary. 

Dealing with restlessness and laziness from porn addiction :

  • Get used to being uncomfortable : So it’s quite obvious by now that we are not going to feel like doing things for a few days to a few weeks. Dwelling in that feeling of restlessness will not help us progress as the guilt of being unproductive can force us to relapse as well. So it’s better to get used to stepping out of our comfort zones! 
  • Avoid sugars and high fat food : It hurts more to consume sugarly content to beat laziness as it consumes our energy to digest them. Having energy to do our day to day tasks is important. 
  • Stay hydrated : Staying hydrated boosts our energy levels and helps improve brain function. 
  • Exercise everyday : Exercising will improve our mood and can help give us enough time to get over the feeling of restlessness. 

Insomnia :

Insomnia is a sleeping disorder that occurs to people trying to quit an addictive habit like porn and is observed in a much more severe intensity in substance use disorder. 

Usually in porn withdrawals, people might experience acute insomnia for a few days where they might find it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep. 

Stat : At least one third of the world population is dealing with insomnia and it’s quite prevalent. 

So make sure you don’t take any extreme measures to deal with insomnia. 

Did you know? Two thirds of the people diagnosed with insomnia remain untreated. 

This is because they turn to other addictive habits like alcohol and other sleep inducing substances rather than getting treated 

Know this :

  • Do not use sleeping pills because they are quite addictive and you will get dependent/ addicted to it which would be a more difficult thing to get over. 

Dealing with insomnia cause of porn :

  • Get through the first few days : Insomnia caused by porn is often short lived and will fix itself over a short duration. 
  • Try relaxation therapy : Where people use various methodologies to relax their minds because insomnia is often caused by emotional arousal. 

There are many treatments to insomnia like :

  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Biofeedback
  • Imagery training
  • Meditation
  • Abdominal breathing
  • Stimulus control therapy
  • Sleep restriction therapy
  • Paradoxical intention therapy
  • Sleep hygiene education
  • Cognitive therapy
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy

We are discussing this in detail because different people experience these withdrawal symptoms in different levels and hence we need to address them in depth because there could be people out there who are getting emotionally and mentally disturbed once their long standing coping mechanism of porn is withdrawn from their lives 

It depends on how good your life without porn is and your tolerance level. 


Anxiety/Social anxiety :

We have discussed how heavy porn users have social anxiety because of the fake intimacy and the shame and emotional distress that people experience around this habit. 

This feeling might increase in the first few weeks of quitting porn. Since we don’t have the escape we have to sit there and face all the emotions around social anxiety. 

Did you know? 7-8% of the world popular has social anxiety 

How to deal with social anxiety caused by porn? 

  • Focus on your breathing : Sit or lay comfortably and take slow and deep breaths and repeat this until you feel relaxed and better. 
  • Prepare ahead for social events : Even if you are very anxious/ uncomfortable/ disinterested in meeting people, don’t avoid important meetings and get-togethers. And definitely prepare for it in advance so your anxiety is under control. Perhaps this will open up a world of opportunities that you always craved but never really acted on because of your porn addiction! 
  • Find your anxiety calmer : Using our senses to focus on a color, sound/song, smell, touch or taste can help us relax and calm ourselves. So find the thing that would help calm you like a song, chocolate, or a picture and use it when you feel anxious! 
  • Start small and expand your comfort zone : Just cause you stopped porn, you can’t expect your anxiety to disappear in a day and you’ll be very comfortable with people. Start small and go from there rather than attempting to be too social out of the blue. 
  • Keep a journal : Keeping a journal to track your thoughts and feelings if anxiety can act both as a release and a way to introspect and track your thoughts. 
  • Understand and adapt with your personality : Most people with social anxiety are introverts who often require to be alone in order to gather their thoughts and recharge themselves. So don’t be too hard on yourself and embrace being alone sometimes because it’s a necessity and not a problem. 
  • Go on a vacation : Taking a break can help change our mindset and give us a better perspective at the end of it all. 

Changing moods :

Our body and mind gets used to the immense dopamine release and with this chemical imbalance in our mind, the emotions are all over the place. 

It takes a strong mind to handle mood swings and stay strong through it and almost all of us have handled it at some point in our lives. Which means we can handle it now too. It all depends on how hard we are willing to fight it. 

Ways to deal with mood swings caused by porn :

  • Social support : Surrounding ourselves with friends and family is key to coping with mood swings. Later in this article we will cover the many benefits of building healthy relationships and how it helps us. 
  • Avoid stress : When your emotions are off and changing quite often, it doesn’t make sense to try and focus on work or any stressful activity. It’s better to take off and rest. 
  • Prioritize sleep : Lack of sleep can aggravate any mood swings that you already have and it’s important to get enough sleep. 
  • Proper diet : Beware of what you put in your mouth. Things like Alcohol, sugar and caffeine can worsen mood swings and push you deeper into sadness.  Calcium supplements are proven to reduce emotional fluctuations and help deal with bigger demons like depression and anxiety. 
  • See a doctor : If things get out of hand, do not hesitate to go see a doctor. Put yourself first always! 

Boredom :

Sometimes people cite that their life is boring and that’s the reason they chose to relapse! Trust me boredom is inevitable because we have all this excess energy and time which we used to spend watching and fantasizing porn and all other sexual desires. 

Imagine being at home alone, not having anything to do, feeling low, irritable, overwhelmed and with intense mood swings and boredom. This will definitely push us to relapse. Right? 

Dealing with boredom :

  • Find yourself a routine : Routines give structure to our lives and will definitely help beat boredom. 
  • Explore other pleasures in life : This could be something as simple as binge watching TV series or reading a novel. You can even explore new things that you haven’t done in your past.  
  • Connect with others : Even if you don’t feel like talking or hanging out with your family or friends, put in an effort to do it. It helps ease the boredom and gets you out of boredom
  • Dream : One might think ” Well I can’t even control my thoughts about sex and porn. How can I dream? “. Even if your thoughts are so out of control and is all about sex, give it an outlet and create a hobby out of it like writing an erotic story. 

Depression in some cases :

There’s no scientific proof behind the idea that porn triggers depression and is completely based on stories from porn addicts. 

These symptoms can vary a lot based on their mental health and genes. Depression can be triggered if such sudden change in lifestyle occurs. But porn wouldn’t be the sole reason behind it as there might be more important issues to worry about. 

Reduced cognitive functions at first : 

To be more clear, ” We cannot think straight”. Our brains are very needy at this point and the more we deny it, the harder it gets. 

This can drain your mental energy and we cannot think straight at all. This is especially true when we are undergoing cravings and we are having a tough day! 

How to deal with this? 

  • Patience! Patience! Patience! : When you can’t think straight, it doesn’t make sense to talk logic or suggest solutions. Just sit through the cravings and you will be fine! 
  • Run with your routine : Bury yourself in work when this happens. This is more comfortable because we will be doing what we always do which is easier. 

Isolation/Loneliness : 

Once we stop watching porn,  the demons in our life that we were suppressing so far start coming out. 

For instance, if you have been feeling lonely in your life for awhile and you cope with that using porn and Masterburation, then when you stop this behavior, the things you were running away from will start showing up. 

To cope with loneliness one can :

  • Join a external class or club 
  • Strengthen the relationships you already have : This might mean we would have to put in the effort first to build and nurture the relationships with the people in your life. 
  • Adopt a pet
  • Join the gym : This is a perfect solution for people of all ages since gym fits in the schedule of a student and a working professional and will release feel good hormones to help make you feel better! 
  • Keep Busy  : Plan your day, the day before itself so you can have proper balance in your day! Do you believe in this practice? This helps us set proper expectations for the day! 

Dependency on porn for orgasms :

If you have a partner with whom you are sexually active with, and yet you are so used to porn that you can’t stop even with a good sex life, then you have developed a dependency on porn. 

During your withdrawal time, you might get an urge to watch porn while having sex or a need to visualize your sex life like it’s part of a porn movie. 

This just means that the neurotransmitters in your brains are so altered by this compulsive porn usage, that even while having sex you visualize it like it’s filmed in camera. 

Loss of libido : 

Loss of libido is expected while withdrawing from porn since we are changing a major part of our lifestyle that we have been doing for so long. This change will take awhile for our body to adapt and that’s why we lose our libido. This actually helps us in our withdrawal time and its important that we do not get anxious about losing your libido. If you have reached this point then you are already 70% off your addictive habit.


Positive withdrawal signs : 

Better relationships :

We would notice ourselves being more open to people and have more time and energy to invest in relationships. 

The more time we spend with our parents, friends, partners and colleagues, the better our lives become. Right? 

Reading this now might seem like a lot and that’s because of how porn has affected your brains. Trust me I have been there! 

Here are some amazing benefits of having better relationships in life :

  • We live longer
  • We heal quicker : Shorter recovery times 
  • Reduces our blood pressure and keeps us calm and relieve anxiety
  • Better immune systems because our body produces more oxytocins! 
  • Better heart health! 
  • Greater sense of purpose
  • Low stress in life

Seeking out other behaviors that can replace porn :

This can be useful if the replacing behavior is not as bad as “porn watching”. Being addicted to gaming, gambling, excessive internet usage or smoking and drinking are really bad habits to replace porn with. 

Whereas habits like running, jogging, working out, driving, reading, writing, painting, binge watching series and movies are not bad replacements for porn. 

This can be a good thing for people who are addicted for a long time and are desperate to get out of this habit! 

Better control over decisions : 

Being addicted to anything damages our brain’s prefrontal cortex which is the brains control center and is responsible for various important functions like analyzing consequences before acting, decision making, impulse control and so on. 

After a few months of quitting, this part of our brain will heal and repair itself and our cognitive functions would improve. 


How to get over porn addiction / Behavioral addiction? 

Having a solid plan :

Most of the attempts at stopping such behavioral addictions are not well planned at all. 

“Relapse” Is mentioned in the definition of addiction. You are “addicted” to porn because you have attempted to stop but you can’t even after acknowledging the potential bad effects it could have on your body. 

1) Remembering that withdrawal doesn’t last

2) Feeling the fear/ desire of a life that you would miss out on :

3) Knowing how to deal with stress 

4) Redefining your problem :

Most people think the behavior that we are addicted to is the problem. While we focus on just this, we miss out on many other problems that these addictions cause which should be the ones we should be fighting. 

For instance, porn addiction could potentially lead to 

  • Lack of time to focus on progressing in career
  • Lack of energy
  • Spoiling the relationship we have with our friends
  • Lack of intimacy 
  • Temptations to cheat as an attempt to seek sexual satisfaction. 

So when you try and focus on solving these problems and when you prioritize these, and start working on it in layers so you can actually have a good chance at getting over your porn addiction. 

When your body and mind is craving sexual content, it might be hard to focus on the facts and problems but you can try and focus on the emotions (fear, anxiety) that these problems make you feel individually. 

5) Gratitude for your body :

Like we mentioned above, our body repairs itself whenever there is a problem. Problems can be external like infections and substance abuse or internal like chemical imbalance in your brain which is brought about by your addiction to porn

Be grateful to your body because so many people have huge regrets about their addictions and how they wish they could have changed when they had the opportunity to. 

Trust me, if you can’t stop your addiction, life will force you to at some stage after which you wouldn’t have a choice at all. 

One might wonder, what’s the worst that could happen with porn addiction? 

  • Not being able to be faithful to your partner
  • Broken marriage
  • Loss of motivation which leads to average life
  • Leading a lonely life
  • Not being able to have kids
  • Not being able to live your life the way you desire! 

Hope this article helped!

AUTHOR SECTION

Written by Sai Subramaniam

Sai has over 4 years experience writing about mental health and productivity. He shares his thoughts about love, life and business in this blog. His goal is to help people become the best version of themselves and is guided by experts in the psychology and mental health field to help educate everyone about lifestyle and productivity

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