Rebooting Basics: Start Here
"Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time."
― Thomas A. Edison
The goal of rebooting is to discover what you are like without porn in your life. YourBrainOnPorn.com does not have a "porn recovery program." If you are looking for a set of rules you will not find them - other than: "No artificial sexual stimulation during your reboot." By artificial I mean pixels, audio and literature. No porn substitutes allowed, such as: surfing pictures on Facebook or dating sites, cruising Craigslist, underwear ads, YouTube videos, "erotic literature", etc. If it's not real life, just say 'no.'
YBOP simply passes along suggestions from men who have recovered from Internet porn addiction, porn-induced ED, and other negative effects of porn use. Pick and choose what works for you. Please do not get caught up in, "Am I doing this right?" It is you who decide the length and parameters of your reboot, depending on your goals and current situation. I suggest this group of videos by the guys who have been there, which include:
- The basics of rebooting (Gabe Deem)
- Porn Myths: The truth behind addiction & sexual dysfunctions (Gabe Deem)
- A story of porn addiction and recovery (Noah Church)
If you are rebooting because you suspect porn-induced erectile dysfunction, please see the Porn & ED section, beginning with START HERE: Porn-induced Sexual Dysfunction. Watch this video - "Did Porn Cause My Erectile Dysfunction? TAKE THE TEST!" (by Gabe Deem)
- You will find numerous rebooting accounts here, and here including the majority of ED stories. Shorter porn-induced ED recovery stories are here
- See Porn FAQs for answers to nearly any question you can think of.
- See Tools For Change for tips on overcoming a porn addiction.
- The best resource page is Rebooting Advice & Observations which contains the cream of the crop advice posts by successful rebooters
- Porn-Induced ED Reboot Advice Vlog: Gabe Deem - 13 Minute video by a young man who recovered from severed porn-induced ED
- I suggest reading this post by the host of YourBrainRebalanced.com - My Thoughts On Rebooting.
"It's amazing what you learn doing this. I think I now fully understand the saying that 'knowledge is power.' Once you know how something works and how it affects you, it's much easier to muster the willpower to make a change if you so wish."—Recovering porn user
People arrive here with lots of different symptoms, which they're not always sure are due to their heavy porn use. Confusion is understandable because the symptoms look so different. (Also see What are the symptoms of excessive porn use?) For example,
- copulatory impotence (can get it up for porn, but not partners)
- difficulty reaching climax with a partner (delayed ejaculation)
- difficulty using condoms due to unreliable erections
- growing erectile dysfunction, even with extreme porn
- frequent masturbation, little satisfaction ("feeling like a lust-ball all day")
- morphing porn tastes that don't match sexual orientation (HOCD)
- severe, worsening social anxiety
- fatigue, irritability
- lack of motivation, depression, anxiety,
- inability to concentrate, brain fog
- distress about escalation to more extreme porn
It's important to realize that addictions or sexual conditioning alter the structure and chemistry of the brain's complex reward circuitry. The reward circuitry is home to evolutionarily ancient centers responsible for influencing or controlling all bodily functions, perceptions, moods, emotions, drives, urges, learning, memory, and of course - libido and erections. Your autonomic nervous system and most major hormones are controlled through reward circuitry structures and chemicals. Additionally, nearly all emotional and mental disorders arise from imbalances in these same structures and neural pathways. It's no wonder so many differing symptoms can arise from a reward circuitry altered by porn addiction or sexual conditioning. Although very complex alterations in brain structure and functioning occur in all addictions, the following four categories comprise many of the major changes:
- A numbed pleasure response (desensitization of your reward circuitry)
- Formation of sensitized addiction pathways (sensitization - which is also behind sexual conditioning)
- Inhibition of executive control and decision making (hypofrontality)
- Altered stress response - which manifests as even minor stress inducing cravings because stress neurochemicals activate powerful sensitized addiction pathways.
Let's debunk a common myth: Neither porn-induced conditions, nor the benefits reported by rebooters, have anything to do with blood testosterone levels. (See- Any connection between orgasm, abstinence, and testosterone levels?).
If an addiction-related brain changes or sexual conditioning are underlying your symptoms, you may be able to reverse the process by giving your brain a well deserved time-out from overstimulation. Rebooting is our term for recovering from porn addiction and associated symptoms, including erectile dysfunction. We call it 'rebooting' so you can envision restoring your brain to its original factory settings. Obviously, you cannot go back in time to restore point, or erase all the data as you would when you wipe clean a computer’s hard drive. However, you can heal many of the brain changes that lead to your porn addiction. (See: Does porn addiction cause irreversible damage to the brain?)
It's very confusing at first because the process is nonlinear, and each brain recovers differently. Some people have intermittent cravings and flatline periods. Some have their worst cravings in the first two weeks. Some have rather severe withdrawal symptoms. Some feel good for a short time and then go into a more challenging period. Some feel horribly anxious. Some feel *less* anxious overall, but also have sluggish libido for weeks. Others don't find out their libido was recovered until they get with a real partner after several months. Be aware of psychological symptoms that fail to improve with time. It's possible that heavy porn use obscured a pre-existing condition such as depression, anxiety, or OCD.
The quickest way to reboot is to give your brain a rest from artificial sexual stimulation—porn, porn fantasy, browsing dating apps or Craigslist, and erotica. For some a temporary time-out from masturbation and orgasm is also helpful. Many guys eliminate or drastically reduce orgasms during their reboot period (men with sexual performance problems tend to do this). On the other hand, sensual contact with a real person can be beneficial, as long as you don't fantasize about porn. In fact, some guys engage in gentle intercourse, in which they avoid getting close to the edge or orgasming. This sidesteps the chaser.
"To Masturbate, or Not to Masturbate, That is The Question"
If porn use is the cause of your symptoms, you may wonder why most men temporarily eliminate masturbation and orgasm during the rebooting period. The short answer is - "That's how most guys have done it". There's an established history of temporary sexual abstinence by men with porn-induced sexual problems and those in recovery from sex addiction. Some suggest 90 days, see - No Sex For 90 Days?? - The Sex Fast, Part 1, by Terry Crews. And many rebooters claim that a temporary timeout helps reset their sexual arousal template. As stated, YBOP has only two "rules':
- Stop using artificial sexual stimuli, and
- Do what works for you.
If you think it may be helpful for you to temporarily eliminate or drastically reduce masturbation/orgasm during a reboot, please educate yourself first with these threads on whether to masturbate or not, and the pros & cons of masturbating, a balanced approach/plan, and this thread by a nofapper who thinks no masturbation is too restrictive. Compare those experiences with this ongoing thread, The "No Arousal" Method.
Thoughts on temporarily reducing or eliminating masturbation during a reboot:
- If you have porn-induced ED, your brain is saying: "I can't do this anymore". Understand that your urge to masturbate is not true libido - you are addicted to porn, or your sexuality is conditioned to pixels. If you need porn to masturbate, or have a partially erect penis when you do, you are not horny or in need of "release". You are seeking a fix and relief from your discomfort: a temporary dopamine high.
- The majority of men who recovered from porn-induced ED chose to reduce masturbation and orgasm - at least for a while. However, long periods periods of abstinence may not yield better results. Men with severe PIED often need to rewire their sexual arousal to real partners.
- Masturbation and porn use are tightly wired together. Like Pavlov's dog that salivated when it heard the bell, you may find you start drooling for porn when masturbating. Time is needed to weaken the neural connections intertwining wanking and watching. On the other hand, eventually learning to masturbate without porn or porn-related fantasy may rewire your arousal away from porn.
- Recovery may be initially easier without masturbation/orgasm. Remove masturbation/orgasm from the equation temporarily and many guys with porn-induced ED usually experience a sharp decline in sexual desire, we call the flatline. (See: "HELP! I quit porn, but my potency, genital size, and libido are decreasing")
- Masturbation and orgasm may reactivate cravings to use porn. It has been surprising to witness that most men have an easier time eliminating masturbation than they do porn. For most guys with porn addiction, masturbation is simply not that interesting without porn, and they are amazed to discover that porn cravings, not their libido, was driving their constant search for relief.
- Those with obsessive compulsive disorder or OCD tendencies who abstain from masturbation may experience increased symptoms. Even temporary abstinence may not be for you.
- Key point: Our information comes from those who have posted rebooting accounts. There may be many guys who easily recover while continuing to regularly orgasm.
- Key point 2: Longer is not necessarily better, when it comes to complete abstinence from ejaculation. You need to be flexible and monitor the effects of orgasm as you progress in your reboot.
- Caveat: Some guys with porn-induced ED eventually need to orgasm in order to jump-start their brains after a reboot or extended flatline.
- Masturbation is NOT a relapse. Applying the word 'relapse' to natural rewards is complicated, at best. If you choose to use the word relapse, apply it only to porn and porn substitutes.
YBOP is NOT an anti-masturbation website. I need to shout this, because I've read this nonsense on many forums, where debates over Internet porn degrade into masturbation debates. The name of this site is "Your Brain On Porn." Confusion occurs because:
1) This generation sees masturbation and porn use as synonymous, and
2) Men who recover from ED often do so best by also temporarily eliminating masturbation/orgasm. Temporarily eliminating masturbation, or reducing your frequency, is all about recovering from an addiction and porn-induced ED - nothing else. We do not advocate abstinence as a permanent lifestyle.
Although there is nothing wrong with masturbation, it may not be the all-around health panacea touted by the media. Nor is masturbation comparable to sexual intercourse, as not all sex is created equal (See: The Relative Health Benefits of Different Sexual Activities. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2010) In addition, ejaculation induces multiple brain changes. While this is nothing to be concerned about, chronically overriding normal sexual satiation mechanisms via internet porn may induce further unwanted changes. As it is for most things in life, moderation may be the key with masturbation. As an aside, masturbation doesn't occur in some native tribes: WEIRD Masturbation Habits.
"What if I Can't Quit Masturbating," or "I Have a Girlfriend/Wife/Partner?"
Relax and focus on giving up porn. The last thing you want to do is to become so "anal" that you never attempt to give up porn. Check out this thread on The Orgasm Reboot, and this thread on a cult being developed around masturbation being unhealthy. The take away from both threads is that guys quit trying because they think they delude themselves that rebooting is all or none: "If you masturbate you have failed". This is complete nonsense. Here's one guy's experience:
"If you are struggling, I would try to cut just porn out first. I found it too difficult to do both nofap and pornfree at first, but then I tried just pornfree alone. I found that my urge to masturbate slowly decreased to a healthier amount, and that I felt no reason to view pornographic content. If you can do both, go for it. But if you continue to fail after a few days, I would recommend this. It did wonders for me."
Apply black & white thinking to your porn use, but not to masturbation or sex with your mate. Today's internet porn is the problem. Porn use is what altered your brain and caused your sexual dysfunction or ED. If quitting porn is all you can handle, then simply stop using porn and gauge the results. As stated, sexual stimulation with a partner can be a good thing, although orgasm can cause cravings, and may slow ED recovery. In fact, fooling around with your partner is great as it wires you to the real deal. Some guys suggest gentle intercourse with no ejaculation, while others mix in ejaculation. If you have ED and decide to regularly orgasm, do not compare yourself to rebooting accounts where guys abstained from orgasm. If you are trying to reboot and have a partner see the following FAQs:
How Long Should I reboot?
Many websites that link to YBOP say we suggest 60 days, or 90 days, or 8 weeks, etc. We don't have a program or a set amount of days, as the time is completely dependent on the severity of your condition, how your brain responds, and your goals. Time frames found in rebooting accounts are all over the place because brains are different, and some men have porn-induced ED or DE. The men who reboot reverse porn-induced ED use their erectile health as a barometer (see: How long will it take to recover from Porn-Induced Sexual Dysfunction? ).
Guys without ED must use other benchmarks (see: How do I know when I'm back to normal?). It's not uncommon for younger men to experience improvements long after the end of their rebooting phase.
Think of a reboot as discovering what's you and what was porn-related - whether it be ED, social anxiety, raging sex drive, ADHD, depression, etc. Once you have a clear understanding of how you were affected by internet porn, you can steer your own ship. I think every guy undertaking this journey should read this post by the creator of YourBrainRebalanced.com: The Top 3 FATAL MISTAKES Rebooters Make
And if there's one thing I'd like to share with you all it's this: Approach this thing not with the mindset of "achieving x number of days", but with the mindset of putting distance between yourself and porn, so that it's something that truly feels like it's in your rearview window.
Be aware that some young men with porn-induced ED take longer to reboot than older guys who did not start early on Internet porn. However, these same young men may eventually need to kick start their libido if their reboot is taking a long time. See - Started on Internet porn and my reboot (Erectile Dysfunction) is taking too long
What's Allowed During a Reboot?
This is probably the number one question we are asked, other than "How long will it take for my ED to be fixed"? Again, we have no program, only insights from men who have recovered. If your only goal is to unhook from porn, then stopping porn may be enough. That said, many men eliminate all artificial sexual stimuli and temporarily eliminate masturbation/orgasm (if you have a partner see the above links). Some have to eliminate sexual fantasy as well - at least for a while.
It's important to understand that recovery is not about porn per se. It's about reversing dopamine dysregulation and sexual conditioning (sensitization). Your reward circuitry knows exactly what cocaine is, but has no idea as to what porn is. For behavioral addictions such as Internet porn and gambling, your reward circuitry only knows squirts of dopamine. For example, the lesbian porn that jacked-up your dopamine last month may no longer give you a buzz today. Now you need transsexual porn. As odd as this may sound, to the primitive part of your brain there's no such thing as (a definition of) porn. It all comes down to whether you are reactivating sensitized addiction pathways, and whether you are overstimulating your brain's already desensitized dopamine system.
Questions about what's "approved", or what's a "relapse", or whether X, Y, or Z, will slow someone's reboot cannot be answered. A better question is, "What type of brain training leads to addictive changes in my brain, and am I repeating it?" Your fundamental problem is that you are hooked on artificial sexual stimuli, and need to make a change if you want to return to your normal sexual responsiveness. See Porn Then and Now: Welcome to Brain Training to understand this concept.
A short list of what it helps to avoid includes: (Also see this FAQ - What stimuli must I avoid during my reboot - Did I relapse?)
- Porn: all types. If you need to ask, then the answer is, 'bad move.' If it's not an in-person connection with a real person, don't use it (and that includes cam contacts).
- Avoid behaviors that mimic your porn addiction. Which usually means behaviors that substitute the synthetic and the two-dimensional for the real deal.
- Eliminating artificial or synthetic means don't engage in "cam to cam" or chat rooms.
- Surfing Facebook, dating apps, YouTube, Craig'sList or similar sites for pictures and sexual stimuli is like an alcoholic switching to lite beer.
- Fantasizing about porn is nearly the same as watching it, as you are re-activating your brain's Pavlovian conditioned response.
- "What about fantasizing about real women?" See this FAQ for a full discussion: What about fantasizing during a reboot?
- Reading "erotic" stories counts as porn fantasy.
Right now some readers may be thinking: "Must I avoid all dopamine-producing activities?" Of course not! Quite the opposite. You want to replace your addiction with as much fun as possible, especially exercise, socializing, meditation, even touching and smooching. A few couples employ slow, gentle intercourse and avoid orgasm (see: Another Way to Make Love). Research shows that these activities actually help regulate your dopamine levels and your mood (unlike intense video games, TV, junk-food and so forth).
Some guys think that replacing Internet porn with hours of video gaming or mindless surfing may have slowed down their rebooting process. Who knows? Certainly, Internet addiction does exist. The difference comes down to subtly different neurochemical effects that involve activation of the reward circuitry through oxytocin and opioids. When in doubt, steer for the kinds of activities your brain evolved to pursue, and which your ancestors regularly engaged in.
What is "allowed", and encouraged, is contact with a real-life partner. In fact, rewiring to the real deal may be a necessary step for some guys, as sexual conditioning, not addiction, is the primary challenge. Kissing, touching, fooling around are all "allowed. For some guys, even intercourse with orgasm is beneficial (note - some men, especially those with porn-induced ED employ gentle intercourse without orgasm to start). Erections are great, but should not be forced through vigorous stimulation or fantasizing, as the goal is to rewire to real life sexual scenarios.
A related question often arises: "If too much dopamine caused the problem, won't dopamine producing activities desensitize my reward circuitry?" This question is too simplistic as addiction is far more than low dopamine signaling, and porn-induced sexual problems can occur with a full-blown porn addiction. Sexual conditioning, or sensitization, seems to play a larger role for porn-induced sexual dysfunctions in young men.
Incidentally, guys have recovered from porn-induced ED while taking prescription medicines such as antidepressants, ADD drugs, and anti-anxiety meds. A few have recovered while regularly using pot or alcohol, though they seem to report more relapses.
The Process of Rebooting
Obviously, this process is very difficult at first. Your brain is still seeking to rely on the artificially intense "fix" of neurochemicals associated with heavy porn use. It has strengthened the neuronal connections that link your distress with the short-term relief of internet porn—and with any other cue it associates with porn, such as being home alone, seeing a sexy image, anxiety, arousal and so forth. The only way to weaken this subconscious link is to stop using (reinforcing) that brain pathway, and seek your mood medicine elsewhere. Gradually, the neuronal connections to porn and porn fantasy weaken. We call this "unwiring & rewiring," and you will find that many of the tools here can help with that. One guy described the process this way:
"When you remove a source of pleasure from the brain, it is like taking away the leg of a table. The whole thing becomes rocky and unstable. The brain really has two options: one, to make you hurt like hell in every way it can think of to 'encourage' you to put the table leg back again, or two, to accept that the table leg is really gone, and figure out how to re-balance without it. Of course, it tries Option One first. Then, after a while, it starts to get to work on Option Two, all while still pushing Option One in the meantime. Eventually, it seems like the brain re-balances, giving up on Option One, and fully succeeding at Option Two."
Rebooting not only stops activating the old pathway, it also helps return your brain to normal sensitivity. Remember: Numbed brains are desperate for stimulation. This is why your free will lies in restoring normal brain sensitivity. Said another guy:
Something I think helps: set an amount of time to reboot and stick to it. You will maybe feel depressed, anxious, annoyed, frustrated, start doubting if it "works", etc. It's normal. It's your brain wanting its feeding. Accept you will feel bad and keep going. Just keep saying to yourself: "I will do this for this amount of time and in the end I will see, at least I will be sure if this works or not. If I wanna screw up again after that, 3 months of my life won't kill me". Take one day at a time and do other stuff. See what are the worst periods when it is harder to resist and do something about it right now, plan ahead. You are an addict so it's not JUST about will power, you have to make sure you have the right environment to do this. And you have the power to do this if you really want it, if for nothing else, at least for your girlfriend. After about 2 months it gets really easier, and after 3, the urges are nothing but thoughts that pop up now and then, which you can easily block. More like habits you broke and which will take longer to forget, but no longer urges per se. No more need, craving, no more HAVE TO DO THIS. For me it was so. You may feel huge changes even after just a couple of weeks, but don't let them fool you. You are addicted. You can't take one more drink, you will want to binge. You know this is true as you lived it yourself. Trust the process for an amount of time and you will be very very happy for it.
Needless to say, rebooting is only a critical first step, not a permanent cure. Human brains are vulnerable, and some more than others. If you're here, chances are your brain will always be somewhat vulnerable to supernormal stimulation, such as today's internet porn. Too much of any intense stimulus can lead to a downward spiral. Moreover, your brain now has a strong porn pathway, which will always be easy to reactivate. Rebooting doesn't guarantee you can safely use internet porn in the future. Moreover, sex is, perhaps, the most fundamental human drive. So your brain evolved to jump on, and wire up, sexual cues in ways that it didn't for, say, gaming or drugs. This is another reason why future porn use is problematic.
It took me 1 try to get to 1 month (where I am now). I first read/watched the materials here diligently. I spent about 2 weeks gathering knowledge, clarifying my motivations (revulsion and hope), planning how I would navigate rebooting. I also apply my experience from quit-smoking, wherein a 'slip' usually guarantees a full-blown relapse. I wonder if many dudes stumble on YBOP and quit PMO the next day with little preparation but a plan to be tough, and then relapse and don't see the results they want.
Once you've rebooted, masturbation without porn fantasy, based on real potential partners and realistic scenarios, is less problematic (and increasingly enjoyable). If frequency begins to escalate and you notice signs of desensitization, you can always reboot again. Sex with a partner offers even more soothing satisfaction.
Recovery is Non-Linear (repeat this several times)
"You must have long range goals to keep you from being frustrated by short range failures." — Charles C. Noble
When you begin the reboot you may feel rotten...for weeks. Cravings and anxiety about all kinds of things may be intense, or paradoxically, your libido could "flatline" for a while, and it may be a couple of months before it bounces back. "Testing" with porn to make sure you're still functional tends to increase the time needed to reboot, so you have to brave The Void of not knowing how you're doing—or risk slowing your progress. That said, people usually start experiencing good days, too, after a couple of weeks—especially if they use the other Tools to produce good feelings in new ways.
But progress is not linear, and good days can be followed by miserable days. Miserable days can also precede excellent days. It's almost as if there's a pendulum deep in the brain, which frequent, intense stimulation has anchored at one extreme. When you stop using internet porn, the pendulum swings back and forth before settling in the middle. The process is disconcerting because the neurochemical fluctuations affect your mood, your perception of your life, your optimism, your ability to socialize with others and even, possibly, your sexual responsiveness. Be patient and the situation will stabilize.
"Some tumultuous events happened in my family when I was in junior high, which was around the same time I first discovered a porn magazine. I think something snapped. I just stopped trying. I stopped caring. And I started to let my sexual impulses totally sabotage me for the next 20 years. Right now, I feel like I'm getting back that old junior-high self. I feel like I'm picking up where I left off and finally becoming who I was to become had I not lost my way: a disciplined, kind, intelligent, respectable, hard-working, strong, caring, gentleman."
Finally, try not to get too rigid about this healing process. Make your motto "Persistence not perfection." Be gentle with yourself. Rebooting is a funny thing. The people who do it the most smoothly keep a sense of humor, accept their humanness, love sex, respect their sexuality, and gradually steer themselves into a new groove. They don't bludgeon themselves, or threaten themselves with doom. Sex is a very fundamental drive. It's best to ease your way through this shift, to forgive yourself if you slip, try again, and so forth.
Bottom line: Rebooting requires a big commitment and a lot of courage. Is it for you? Read the stories of men who have used this method: Rebooting Accounts.
Finally, a post from reddit/nofap, by saxoman1
You've been doing this for years.
No, not nofap, PMO. You have been PMO'ing for years. Sitting in front of a computer for (many) hours at a time. Keeping your brain bathed in soup of dopamine, deltafos-B, and other chemicals for artificially long periods of time. How?
- By looking at explicit imagery of people having (mostly) unnatural sex.
- By keeping yourself on the edge of orgasm (edging) for hours and hours (to maintain the "high").
- By using a "death grip" hand on your genitals because you've lost normal sensation.
For many of you, when the normal stuff didn't do it anymore, you escalated to more and more extreme forms of porn (or used more and more porn). Searching for that perfect video/picture. Meanwhile, your primitive brain continues to tell you that you've hit the evolutionary jackpot, yet all you do is fertilize your screen.
Many of you did this in your formative years (preteen and teens) when our brains are the most malleable. Even if this is not the case, years of PMO have rewired your brain. You have formed deep neural ruts wired for PMO, you are now addicted.
All this has gone on for years.
My point is this:
If you've been doing this (or something like this) for years, how could you possibly expect a mere 3 days - 50 days (usual relapse window) of abstaining to heal you?
Yet you are telling yourself, after a few weeks, that "This isn't working. I still have PIED, ED, or no sensitivity. I am flatlining. I still have no girlfriend/boyfriend, etc."
Excuse me! A few weeks may seem like a lot now, but compare that to the amount of time you've been PMO'ing. Doesn't it seem ridiculous when you look at it this way? You are giving your system a break from that neurochemical bath so that it can "reset" or "reboot".
So buck up! You need time to heal (a good amount of time). The purpose of this post is to put things into perspective. Some people heal more quickly than others. We are ALL different, so don't spend your time comparing yourself to other fapstronauts/femstronauts!
So whenever you feel frustrated/vulnerable, just affirm the theme of this post:
"I've been PMO'ing for YEARS, so I don't expect a mere _________ [insert time unit] of abstaining to heal my brain. I will continue. I WILL persevere!"
Good luck to all my brothers and sisters in arms out there!