Recovering from Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction, Boundaries, and More from My Reddit AMA

porn-induced erectile dysfunctionOver the past week, the world has watched as the coronavirus has spread exponentially. Many are either quarantined, self-quarantined, or practicing social distancing, such that our society has ground to a halt.

 

With these practices in place, so many who are struggling with pornography are at home, isolated, bored, anxious, and often with access to the internet. I imagined that these circumstances made their struggles even more challenging, and based on the response that I’m getting in my latest Reddit AMA, I was right.

 

I’ve included some excerpts below of answers to questions that have been coming up more often for me in my practice.

 

How to Recover from Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction

I think about porn-induced erectile dysfunction as a learned response to a problematic behavior; you’ve trained your brain to respond sexually only to a certain form of sexual stimulus, so that nothing outside of porn does the trick.

 

Learning happens when we associate a stimulus with a response with a reward. Stimulus – response – reward. E.g., you don’t feel good, you watch porn, you feel better (any addiction is, after all, about changing your mood). With overuse of porn, you’ve taught your brain that only certain sexual stimuli will be arousing to you.

 

The good news is that you can unlearn this by simple not watching porn and, usually, not masturbating for a while. Also be mindful of other sexual stimuli that you take in (e.g., might not be helpful to avoid porn by revisiting Game of Thrones). Abstaining from masturbating can be helpful because you may have trained your brain only to respond to your own touch, so pausing masturbating can be a way to help you learn to respond to other forms of sexual touch.

 

What to Do It Your Partner Uses Porn Problematically (& You Want Him to Get Help)

Ultimately, your partner needs to decide if he wants to change or not. But you get to decide on what his continued use of porn means for you. Essentially you’re talking about boundaries, then.

 

Boundaries are ways of communicating what we need and what doesn’t work for us. Boundaries need to be clear and direct to work, something like, “I’d like you to call and make an appointment to see a therapist.” You can also add something about why that’s important for you (but you don’t have to do this): “I really care about us, and I think we need help with this problem. I think a therapist could help, and you going to see one would help me feel safer and cared for.”

 

If he doesn’t do anything, then you get to decide what that means for you, and it’s helpful to communicate that as well. “I noticed you haven’t made an appointment yet. I understand that doing so might be hard for you (empathy, compassion), but if you don’t make an appointment, I’m going to feel less hopeful for us (consequence).”

 

Arousal and Tolerance in Porn Addiction vs. Arousal in Healthy Sex

The “search for something new” with porn can be a response to what we call tolerance. With substance use, for example, the drinker needs to drink more after a while to get the same buzz, and with porn, it’s not uncommon to get bored with the same old vanilla porn and want something else to get excited. The search for something new can, in this way, cause problematic porn use to become even worse.

 

I can understand that you might be concerned about thinking this way with your wife someday, but the desire for novelty can increase sexual passion and intimacy in the context of a healthy sexual relationship. “The search for something new” isn’t like that; it’s engaging an addictive neuropathway (arousal) in ways that perpetuate addictive behavior. The healthy form of arousal can increase sexual excitement and play, and so that’s when you might see people experiment with different forms of sexual play (e.g., role playing, etc.).

 

It might be helpful to recognize that “the search for something new” is a trigger for you. Get to know that feeling, what that feels like in your body, how it shows up in your thoughts, and then by curious about why you’re wanting to pursue something new (emotional awareness). Then engage an alternative activity.

 

Live near Ventura, Camarillo, or Oxnard, CA?

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Contact me today to get started.

 

 

Jeremy Mast
jeremy@jeremymast.com

Jeremy is a licensed marriage and family therapist (CA LMFT90961) in private practice in Ventura, California. He helps those struggling with drugs, alcohol, and out-of-control sexual behaviors awaken to new possibilities for their lives. He lives with his wife, son, and cat in beautiful southern California.

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