‘Sexual Anorexia’: Porn May Be Killing Young Men’s Sexual Performance

Is excessive porn use hurting men’s ability to perform in the bedroom? Recent research and expert opinions indicates that, indeed, it is. But this notion isn’t new. Religious leaders and experts, alike, have been sounding the alarm on porn use for quite a while.

An Italian study conducted earlier this year is only one example of research that sheds light on the negative impact of pornography consumption — an issue that is often glazed over or looked at as a social “norm” with very little impact on its participants.

However, the Italian study, which surveyed 28,000 pornography users, found that many men may be suffering from “sexual anorexia.” While it sounds like a bizarrely unbelievable term, the study results seem to corroborate the notion that too much porn has a negative impact on sexual performance. Apparently, men become so accustomed to the unrealistic images they see in pornography that they can no longer get erections.

For many of the men in the Italian study, regular consumption of porn began at age 14, with daily use in their mid-20s including violent images that they had become accustomed to. While gradual, this consumption has apparently harmed their real-life relationships. Chris Matyszczyk explains:

For their belief is that Web porn simply numbs men’s pleasure receptacles, desensitizing responses to the neurochemical dopamine. This is a chemical associated with reward and, in young men, researchers believe that gorging on Internet porn simply shuts down the physiological sense of reward from sex.

Because the Web allows for so many different–and, if the user so chooses–ever more intense stimulations, the mind-body continuum begins to feel nothing at all.

“It starts with lower reactions to porn sites, then there is a general drop in libido and in the end it becomes impossible to get an erection,” explains Carlo Foresta, head of the Italian Society of Andrology and Sexual Medicine (SIAMS).

According to SIAMS data, about 28.9% of Internet users in Italy frequent porn sites. Considering the research results, this is extremely concerning. According to ANSA.it, “This placed Italy in fourth spot in Europe behind Germany with 34.5%, France with 33.6% and Spain with 32.4%.”

And while some may try to dismiss this as more of a European problem, the issue is likely occurring across the board. Psychology Today writes that regardless of education, religious views, values, diets, attitudes, marijuana use and the like, many young people are seeking assistance for this very reason. While these people are fine physically, it seems the emotional impact of porn may be profound. PT continues:

Many men don’t realize their brain’s sensitivity is declining toward normal sex because Internet erotica delivers endless dopamine hits—making erection and climax possible where normal encounters would not. When they try to have actual intercourse and cannot, they understandably panic.

The brain changes causing porn-induced erectile dysfunction arise from actual physical addiction processes (among them, numbing of the pleasure response of the brain). Quitting can therefore be quite challenging. In addition to an alarming temporary drop in libido, some men experience withdrawal symptoms: insomnia, irritability, panic, despair, concentration problems, and even flu-like symptoms. Finding a good counselor who understands addiction, and why today’s porn has different effects from viewing a Playboy magazine, can be very helpful.

For the addicted, hope is not lost, though. Foresta explains that “recovery” is possible and that with the proper help, someone can improve within only a few months. Experts recommend that someone suffering from porn addiction see a counselor who specializes in treating addiction, as he or she can help in the recovery process.