Street-corner quacks are laughed at for saying excessive masturbation could lead to impotence. But a large Italian survey seems to show a link between porn addiction and erectile dysfunction.
Indulgence shown towards masturbation thus far ignores the hyperstimulation of today's Internet erotic possibilities, it is felt.
When interviewed about the survey, urologist Carlo Foresta (head of the Italian Society of Andrology and Sexual Medicine and professor at the University of Padua) mentioned that 70% of the young men seeking clinical help for sexual performance problems had been using Internet pornography habitually.
Most men are astonished to learn that pornography use can be a source of sexual performance problems. Only after they experiment for themselves do they become fully convinced that pornography use was indeed the source of their dysfunction.
Said one young man,"Lots of guys, 20s or so, can't get it up anymore with a real girl, and they all relate having a serious porn/masturbation habit. Guys will never openly discuss this with friends or co-workers, for fear of getting laughed out of town. But when someone tells their story on a health forum, and there are 50, 100 replies from other guys who struggle with the same thing, this is for real."
Those affected report that escalating pornography tastes preceded their symptoms. Escalation, their withdrawal symptoms during recovery, and the sequence and time-dependence of their recovery all point to a common cause of their impotence, namely overstimulation of the reward mechanism in the brain.
Animal models have established that the mesolimbic dopamine pathway dopaminergic neurons activate the hypothalamic erection centers. It's likely that porn-induced ED is tied to desensitization of the mesolimbic dopamine pathway. This is a hallmark of all known addiction processes.
According to Foresta, porn-related impotence is reversible. Yet it appears that recovery requires 4 to 12 weeks of avoiding intense sexual stimulation.
Of those who ultimately recover by terminating pornography use, many had previously been to doctors, undergone numerous tests, and been declared "just fine" physically. Neither they nor their health care providers considered excessive porn use as a potential cause of their continued performance problems.
When the users completely stop using pornography (and masturbation as well for a time, because it is initially so closely associated with porn fantasy), here's what occurs:
1) Withdrawal symptoms and cravings: Immediately
2) Complete loss of libido and erections: Begins towards the end of week one.
3) Absence of libido and erections, increased flaccidity ("shrinking or lifeless penis"): Continues for 2-6 weeks, dependent upon age and severity of porn use.
4) Gradual return of morning erections, libido and spontaneous erections at other times, no more "semen leakage" during bowel movements, etc.
5) Complete recovery of erectile health, sexual desire for real partners, reports of extremely pleasurable sex, contented condom use even if it was once a problem.
Sufferers typically recover within eight weeks. Those in their late teens generally require a shorter period of avoiding sexual stimulation to bounce back, but they also tend to relapse more often, which extends their recovery. Older men may need a longer period without stimulation in order to recover, but are typically more disciplined. Either way, reports are encouraging.