Updated: Saturday, 21st October 2017 @ 12:35pm

Men who watch too much porn can't get it up, warns Manchester sex therapist

Men who watch too much porn can't get it up, warns Manchester sex therapist

| By Kat Woodcock

A Manchester-based psychosexual therapist has warned that pornography addiction causing a rise in the number of healthy, young men seeking medical help for erectile dysfunction.

Porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED) is a relatively new sexual issue affecting a generation of men who have grown up with unlimited access to explicit material.

Having unrestricted access to the maximum stimulus that pornography provides can lead to a number of sexual dysfunctions, according to psychosexual therapist Janet Eccles.

“Sex with a long-term partner might suffer because the porn user just isn’t excited enough anymore,” she explained.

“What gets lost here is the idea of one’s sexuality being for oneself and one’s chosen partner.”

Hundreds of men struggling with the effects of PIED have reported experiencing this exact problem on addiction forums – some of which are being inundated with millions of hits a day.

One forum user writing of his experiences said: “My porn and masturbation habits had ground my ‘poor little man’ into a desensitized, permanently flaccid, useless addition to my body that simply didn't want or fancy real female attention.”

Another man, aged 22, said: “I used to get nervous about having sex with my girlfriend because I had the constant threat of erectile dysfunction looming over me.”

“I used to resist her advances and make excuses as to why we couldn't have sex because I had either already masturbated that day and wasn't in the mood or because I was terrified of not being able to perform and having to suffer the shame, embarrassment and indignity of erectile dysfunction.”

A rising number of young men are turning to Viagra to solve the problem – but the medical approach often proves useless because the issue with PIED begins in the brain.

 “The problem is that dopamine – the hormone released that enables that pleasurable state – is part of the reward circuit in the brain and it can become desensitized to triggers,” Janet explained.

“We might see one image one day that excites us and return to it again and again, only then we find that it doesn’t excite us anymore.

“I’ve seen many clients, who despite consciously not wanting to use porn, find themselves returning to porn sites over and over again compulsively.”

Users end up seeking more extreme stimuli to achieve the same ‘high’ and research at Cambridge University has likened the brain activity of compulsive pornography users to that of drug addicts.

One 20-year-old man writing about his experiences said: “I thought it was normal, but the truth is that I was a dopamine junkie.”

“The more porn you watch, the more you need and the more hardcore porn you need to feel fully aroused.”

“At my worst, I was dabbling into occasional bestiality, frequent incest scenes or else always another hardcore type of porn.”

The compulsive need to find a greater stimulus means that the brain’s pleasure centre becomes numbed to ‘normal’ sexual experiences, resulting in a lack of arousal and erectile issues with real-life partners.

“It may be that the idea of intimate sexual contact with someone they know well just ‘doesn’t do it anymore’ for them so they may become withdrawn from their partner and avoid sex altogether,” Janet continued.

Many men sharing their experiences online have spoken of similar issues, explaining that their addiction led them to feel isolated, depressed and unconfident.

Some have even reported suicidal thoughts as a result of the addiction.

“They lose their own natural sense of being a sexual being – the natural ebb and flow of libido, the closeness and comfort of a partner and forget what sex is actually about for them,” Janet went on.

“It becomes a robotic, emotionally sterile experience, instead of a sharing, bonding one.”

As a result, men suffering from PIED and addiction are encouraging each other to quit the habit and begin ‘rebooting’ – the process of re-wiring the brain into being stimulated by natural sexual triggers.

Those in the back-to-basics stage have reported much higher sensitivity to more subtle sexual triggers such as touch and smell.

One 19 year-old man describing his ‘reboot’ said: “The first weeks were the hardest with raging cravings, complete and utter brain fog, decreasing confidence and overall happiness as well as brutal mood swings.

“My porn-wired – now unsatisfied, dopamine-deficient – nervous system turned me in to a complete wreck.

“Then I started making serious progress; urges were going down, my nervous system slowly rewired itself to respond with arousal to touch and smell, instead of just to the cold light of a computer screen.

“As my mind got clearer, my confidence got greater and my social anxiety diminished.”

Many others have described the ‘rebooting’ journey as ‘life-changing’, affecting not only their sex lives – but their entire self-esteem.

“Good sex is about having fun, it’s about being able to express yourself and share yourself in a safe, loving, exciting or tender way,” Janet concluded.

“It’s not about just copying what you see on a computer screen.”

For more information, visit Janet Eccle's website.

Image courtesy of Dan Strange, with thanks