Online Porn Viewing Linked to Erectile Dysfunction in Young Men

Online Porn Viewing Linked to Erectile Dysfunction in Young Men
August 17, 2016 Elysia L. Richardson
online porn

The search for sex is virtually at anyone’s fingertips. With a few clicks of a mouse, one can choose the time and place, and instantly, the next adult fantasy is ready to “turn up” on your screen anytime you are.

Access to adult content on demand almost anywhere at anytime has hooked millions of viewers, who keep logging onto XXX-rated sites from their tablets, laptops, and smartphones for more.

But men who pass the time with marathon porn binges could be developing what some call an online porn addiction and, unknowingly, inviting a silent partner into their virtual beds — erectile dysfunction (ED).

Psychosexual therapist Angela Gregory of Nottingham University in the UK recently told BBC that she has seen a noted increase of men in their late teens and early 20s who are struggling with erectile dysfunction, the inability to achieve or maintain an erection, and she links the condition to excessive viewing of online pornography.

The relationship between online porn and men’s sexual health is explored further in the new documentary Brought Up on Porn, which was recently released by BBC Newsbeat.

Online porn access: Too much of a good thing?

According to an article on WebMD, there are an estimated 420 million adult web pages online, and the number could be higher. Gregory suspects that easy access to adult content that can be viewed on mobile devices at anytime has contributed to the problem. And while there are no official scientific data to support her claims, as BBC notes, she says she has seen a rise in the number of young men who are being referred for ED in the past five years.

“Our experience is that historically men that were referred to our clinic with problems with erectile dysfunction were older men whose issues were related to diabetes, MS [multiple sclerosis], cardiovascular disease,” she told BBC.

However, she said, “These younger men do not have organic disease, they’ve already been tested by their GP [general practitioner] and everything is fine.”

She then went on to explain to BBC why she asks affected men about their sexual habits.

“So one of the first assessment questions I’d always ask now is about pornography and masturbatory habit because that can be the cause of their issues about maintaining an erection with a partner.”

Gregory is not alone in her observations.

The website YourBrainOnPorn.com also addresses porn-induced erectile dysfunction in young men. The site’s authors say they saw a shift occur around 2011-12, when men in their 20s who grew up with online porn reported needing several months to a year to recover from ED.

“Many men cannot believe that Internet porn has caused their ED—until they stop using it and recover completely,” says an article on the site. “Instead, men tend to assume their ED with a sexual partner is caused by anxiety, low testosterone, the fact the person is not their ‘type,’ or lifestyle factors such as smoking or poor diet.”

“If you are under 40, and not on specific medications, and don’t have a serious medical or psychological condition, your copulatory ED almost certainly arises from performance anxiety or Internet porn—or a combination of the two.”

Porn addiction similar to drug, alcohol addiction?

There is is still disagreement over how to classify excessive porn watching, or if online porn addiction is even a thing. While there is no official medical definition of internet pornography addiction, researchers have studied its effects on viewers, which have been compared to those of drug and alcohol addiction.

One such study released in 2014 was conducted by Cambridge University researchers, who found that the brains of compulsive pornography viewers showed similar activity to those who have drug and/or alcohol addictions.

They studied MRI scans of porn viewers and found that the reward center of the brain reacts to sexually explicit content in the same way the brain of a drinker reacts to seeing an ad for an alcoholic beverage.

A 2014 news release from the American Osteopathic Association, which addresses internet pornography, highlights research that found a decrease in gray matter in online users who viewed internet pornography for hours on a weekly basis, which means fewer neurons and neuroconnectivity in the pleasure center of the brain.

Changes in the pleasure center also mean viewers won’t get the same pleasures from explicit images despite the brain craving more of them. Also, according to the news release, Sister Marysia Weber, DO, an osteopathic family physician certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, said high-speed internet can rewire the brain’s pleasure center, particularly when it is joined with pornographic images.

“Internet pornography leaves people wanting more and more, but they may not necessarily like what they see, which contributes to symptoms of anxiety and depression,” Weber said. “Over time, your senses dull and it’s harder to find pleasure in the images, or even in everyday life.”

Online porn addiction and substance abuse: Is there a link?

When online porn no longer satisfies, some viewers take their quest for sexual stimulation offline and attempt to re-create the images and fantasies now imprinted on their brains, or perhaps create new ones altogether.

Many become involved in casual sexual encounters and risky behaviors with people they do not know well or people they might not know at all, oftentimes while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Perhaps to muster up the nerve to go through with such risky encounters, one may take a hit of meth or cocaine or a shot of an alcoholic drink to build a false confidence so they can go through with the whole thing.

Even some of the pornstars who participate in the sex industry have battled their own substance abuse disorders and addictions. Drugs and alcohol play a significant role in the sex worker industry, according to a report from Harm Reduction International.

Such risky sexual behavior also put people at a number of health risks, including STDs, STIs and unexpected pregnancies, among other things.

When substance abuse accompanies sex, affected persons now may be battling two disorders, a hypersexual one as well as one of substance abuse. Dual-diagnosis treatment may be needed to help people in this group.

Promiscuous behavior is common in viewers of online porn, particularly among teenage boys, ages 12 to 17, who are believed by some experts to be at higher risk of developing an online porn addiction that could harm their sexual health and make them candidates for ED at younger ages.

However, ED medicines won’t help such patients, Weber says, because they treat the organ’s function and not the brain, which is where the problem lies.

Porn-watching an act of compulsion, some say

It is important to note, however, that some experts do not consider excessive porn watching an addiction, but rather an act of compulsion, when a person acts on uncontrollable urges, even when it doesn’t make sense to do so. Because there are no standard criteria to diagnose porn addiction, as WebMD notes, some experts are opposed to calling excessive porn watching an addiction for that reason as well.

Also, the seeking out of pornographic images isn’t about pleasure. When compulsion enters the picture, it’s part of obsessive-compulsive disorder, writes Elizabeth Hartney, PhD, for website VeryWell.com.

“In contrast, someone who experiences a compulsion as part of obsessive-compulsive disorder may not get any pleasure from the behavior he carries out. Often, it is a way of dealing with the obsessive part of the disorder, resulting in a feeling of relief,” she says.

People who use porn to cope with life have gone past viewing porn for pleasure. At this stage, which is called the online sexual compulsivity level by clinical psychologist, Alvin Cooper, PhD, people are unable to cope with life without being either sexually aroused or gratified and have lost control and have a “diminished capacity to regulate activities of daily living.”

According to RealFamiliesRealAnswers.org, the habit-forming potential of viewing porn should not be underestimated. “Sexual compulsive users rarely can change their behavior without treatment,” it says.

Are you struggling with addiction?

The viewing of graphic images online, whether on mobile devices or the television screen, is desensitizing young men to sexual activity and robbing them of their sexual health and virility. For some, it is also providing a slippery slope to drug and/or alcohol addiction.

If you have ED, it is advised that you see a doctor to find out options for treatment. If you are battling a drug and/or alcohol use disorder while coping with the viewing of online porn, Elevate Recovery Center can offer programs that support your recovery goals. Call one of our treatment representatives, who are available 24-7, at 844-318-0073 to review plan options for your needs. Begin your journey today; make the call.

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