Do You Need A Sexual Reboot?
"The Guardian reported on research that suggests porn addicts experience brain changes similar to drug addicts."
Sometimes studies and research can bring amazing news to light — like how beer actually has some health benefits — but other times, they can dispel ideas we've held as truth for years.
For example, there are several misconceptions about masturbation and, unfortunately, many of the positive assumptions have inaccurate foundations. Masturbation doesn't necessarily help your sex life or ward off prostate cancer, and there is such a thing as too much of it. Just like most things in life, it’s possible to do something to an excess, and it can become detrimental to your health.
Consequences of Excess
If you spend too much time masturbating, you might start experiencing some not-easily-recognizable side effects. For example, your testosterone levels may be lower, which means that when you’re out at a bar, you’ll be less likely to approach women. You also might find it harder to reach orgasm with your partner (which is a little more noticeable).
If you suspect your frequency of masturbation may be having a negative influence on your life, it’s important to look into what these effects may be and what you can do about them. Even if you consider yourself an addict, there are ways to cut back and help alleviate your problems.
The Science of Addiction
The Guardian reported on research that suggests porn addicts experience brain changes similar to drug addicts. The study, done by Cambridge University neuropsychiatrist Dr. Valerie Voon, also found that porn addiction can actually cause an alteration of sexual tastes.
In the pleasure center of the brain, dopamine is released when goals are accomplished. It’s also released when someone is sexually excited or sees something sexually novel. Because pornography is full of novel sexual “partners,” it fires the reward center of the brain.
Changes in the brain can occur after repeated mental experiences; when dopamine is released while watching porn, the images get reinforced, which can change sexual taste. Porn allows the viewers to experience “sex” without having to go through the work of courting someone, so there’s no work to accomplish the goal usually associated with dopamine release.
Meet the Fapstronauts
A group of people on Reddit are striving to meet their personal goals, whether they’re cutting back on masturbation or eliminating porn from their lives. More than 75,000 people subscribe to the subreddit (a specific sub-page of the site) called /r/NoFap (“fap” meaning “masturbation”) where they offer each other support and share their advice on how to give up masturbation, porn or both.
A survey of 1,500 /r/NoFap participants reveals interesting insights about the subreddit's users and their experiences. For example, 90% of respondents are men, and 69% started watching porn before age 14. Before taking on /r/NoFap-related goals, 59% of respondents watched porn for four to 15 hours a week.
The Cycle of Rebooting
A large number of subscribers “reboot” in order to break out of their typical masturbation or porn-viewing routines. Rebooting involves between two to four months of abstinence from masturbation and porn in order to “reset” the way you think about sex.
Many of the survey respondents experienced similar effects while in the process of rebooting. For example, 35% said they went through “the surge,” which involves an increase in energy and sex drive about one to two weeks after the person stops masturbating.
Another common occurrence is “flatlining,” which involves a temporary and dramatic decrease of libido. About 30% of respondents experienced this two to six weeks into their abstinence from masturbation. This stage can be alarming as most people don’t want to lose their sex drives altogether. But others have found flatlining meaningful.
Reddit user “nowboarding” posted in /r/NoFap about his flatlining experience and said: “Flatlining has actually turned out to be a godsend for me… It tells me I’m doing something right. For the first time since I started masturbating, I feel like I’m on top of my sexual arousal in non-sexual situations!”
So when /r/nofap participants accomplish whatever particular goals they set for themselves, what is the result? Why is it all worth it? For starters, 60% of survey respondents said they experienced improvements in their sexual disfunction, while 67% reported increased levels in their overall productivity and energy.
Their social and personal lives benefited, too. Sixty percent said they developed a better understanding of what their strengths and weaknesses were. Of the addicts who took the survey, 56% were more willing to talk to women.
If your habits regarding porn or masturbation are negatively affecting your life, it may be time to explore ways to reduce your participation in those activities — you may find yourself healthier and reinvigorated.
ProjectKnow.com is a resource site for learning about addiction, and a service to connect those suffering from addictions and other compulsive disorders to treatment providers. Part of the goal of ProjectKnow is to create compelling content that helps to generate awareness around addictions of many types.