An erection normally occurs when blood flow increases into the penis, causing it to expand and become firm.
Erectile dysfunction symptoms might include:
- trouble getting an erection
- trouble keeping an erection
- reduced sexual desire
Porn and erectile dysfunction
Internet porn may be partly to blame for increased rates of ED in younger men.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) has been increasing in sexually active men under 40. It seems as though internet porn is in some ways to blame for this rise, with studies showing a correlation between porn and ED.
Now, researchers have identified pornography-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED) and pornography-induced abnormally low libido.
High exposure to pornography videos can result in lower responsivity in a man and an increased need for more extreme or kinky material for him to become aroused.
Due to porn overload, some men are no longer aroused in the presence of a partner. They begin to experience ED and can only become sexually excited when watching porn.
The role of the brain
It is necessary to understand how the brain works to be able to understand why watching excessive amounts of porn can lead to ED.
Neurons are cells that receive and send messages between the body and the brain. The brain has about 100 billion neurons, which are the basic working units of the nervous system.
Neurotransmitters send chemical messages between the neurons. A neurotransmitter called dopamine helps the flow of information to the front of the brain, which is linked to thought and emotion. It is also linked to reward systems.
Brain cells are activated by what people see or hear. If a person receives a hug, the brain releases dopamine, which makes the person feel good. A person's response to natural rewards such as sex are largely regulated by the dopamine pathway as well.
Erections are dependent on the activation of this pathway. Dopamine signaling plays a crucial role in sexual arousal and erections.
When a person watches porn, their brain is flooded with dopamine. Too much dopamine can cause problems. The brain is overwhelmed by the overload of chemicals, and it automatically takes away some of the dopamine receptors.
Although the brain continues to release the same levels of dopamine in response to porn, eventually there are fewer receptors to receive the messages. Watching porn no longer arouses the person as much or as quickly. They then have to look at more porn or search for stronger porn to obtain the original sensation.
Sexual activities that would normally give people a burst of dopamine and make them happy are no longer enough to sustain them. They constantly have to look at porn to get the sensation they need, and this can lead to ED.
Many men find themselves unable to maintain an erection in the absence of porn. The internet and other avenues provide an unlimited amount of content, so some men begin to watch massive amounts of porn to maintain high levels of sexual arousal.
When they try to engage with a real sexual partner, the arousal they feel does not fit their expectations and they are unable to maintain an erection.
Porn is designed to capture attention. The performers often do things that would typically not translate into real life. The men watching can become conditioned to this type of sexual arousal that does not carry over into real life sexual situations.
Men with PIED are unable to become sexually aroused with a partner, but have no difficulties while watching porn.
Regular sex no longer meets the person's expectations, resulting in a decline in dopamine. This can cause some men to no longer be "in the mood." Men who suffer from ED when in the presence of a partner but have no problems when watching porn are said to have PIED.
Studies have shown that some men with ED who watched porn were able to obtain a regular erection once the porn was removed.
However, the younger the age of the male when they begin to regularly watch porn, the greater the chance of it becoming their preference over partnered sex, and the less overall enjoyment they get.
PIED can also lead to other health problems. Many men recognize that there is a problem but are unable to break the cycle. They can become embarrassed or depressed when unable to perform with their partner, which can cause them to watch porn more.
Other causes of ED
Male sexual arousal is a complex process that involves many different parts working together. The brain, hormones, emotions, nerves, muscle, and blood vessels all have roles.
ED can be due to physical, psychological, and even emotional issues. Physical causes of ED can be due to damage to the nerves, arteries, smooth muscles, and tissues in the penis.
Certain medical conditions can also lead to ED, including:
- high blood pressure
- atherosclerosis, or the buildup of fats inside the arteries
- heart and blood vessel disease
- chronic kidney disease
- multiple sclerosis
- injury to the pelvic area
- surgery for bladder cancer
- prostate cancer, radiation, and prostate surgery
Psychological or emotional issues that can contribute to ED include:
A person's overall lifestyle also can play a role in the development of ED. Smoking, drinking too much alcohol, using illegal drugs, being overweight, and a lack of physical exercise can all be causes. ED is also a side effect of some common medications.
Related health problems
ED can be embarrassing for some men and they do not seek medical treatment to correct the problem. PIED was only recently discovered, and so men are often believed to have some medical or mental condition that is responsible for their ED.
Porn addiction can have serious consequences for a person's mental health, and men should talk to their doctor if they are having symptoms of ED.
There are some other porn-induced problems that can arise, including:
- Lower sexual satisfaction and sexual dysfunction: Studies have shown that some men have to use porn to become aroused with a partner. Others have developed negative feelings toward partnered sex.
- Risky behavior: For some men, porn increases their need for multiple sex partners, more alcohol, drugs, and other risky behavior. They often do not use protection and have no fear of the consequences of their actions.
The relationship between porn and ED is still being understood. Research has helped to show why more younger men have been experiencing erectile problems.
Porn addiction is serious and should not be taken lightly. There are treatment programs available to help men with the condition. Some men may not realize that they have an addiction and may be unsure how to get help.
The good thing about this type of erectile disorder is that it is generally very treatable and reversible.