Does Porn Addiction Cause Male Sexual Dysfunction?

Males who are heavy porn users, especially those who are compulsive/addicted, have long reported issues with sexual dysfunction. The most common complaint is erectile dysfunction (ED), though delayed ejaculation (DE) and anorgasmia (inability to reach orgasm) are also common. Interestingly, these issues typically do not occur when using porn; these individuals only seem to struggle when they’re trying to be sexual with a real-world partner. They also report that their sexual dysfunction occurs even when they find the other person wildly attractive and that their issues are not related to age or physical health.

In recent years, researchers around the world have studied the consequences of heavy porn use, and the results have consistently confirmed the correlation between heavy/compulsive/addictive porn use and male sexual dysfunction. For example, a large-scale French study of online sexual behaviors and consequences found that the most common online sexual behavior is porn use, with 99 percent of participants engaging in this activity. The amount of time spent looking at porn ranged from 5 minutes per week to 33 hours per week. And one of the most commonly reported consequences of heavy porn use was sexual dysfunction—usually some form of ED.

Other research has produced similar results. So it’s clear that sexual dysfunction is a common problem for heavy porn users.

The authors of the French study suggest that perhaps men who already suffer from ED are less confident in their sexual abilities and therefore turn to porn. However, after many years of working with compulsive porn users, I think a more accurate explanation is that men who spend the vast majority of their sex lives searching for, looking at, and masturbating to an endless and constantly changing supply of intensely arousing sexual imagery—getting a fresh jolt of adrenaline and dopamine with every new image or video—become conditioned to this unrelenting neurochemical rush. Then, over time, they find the excitement created by a real-world partner does not measure up. A single real-world partner is just not enough to create or maintain their arousal.

Signs you may be dealing with Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction (PIED) include:

  • You have no sexual struggles issues with porn, but you struggle with a real-world partner.
  • You can get and keep an erection with real-world partners, but orgasm takes a very long time.
  • You can only climax with a real-world partner when you replay clips of porn in your mind.
  • You prefer porn to real-world sexuality.
  • Your real-world partner complains that you seem disconnected during lovemaking.

Signs that you may be dealing with porn addiction include:

  • You are preoccupied to the point of obsession with pornography.
  • You’ve lost control over your use of pornography (generally evidenced by multiple failed attempts to quit or cut back).
  • You’re experiencing negative consequences related to your use of porn (not just PIED, but ruined relationships, depression, anxiety, isolation, trouble at work or in school, etc.)

Unfortunately, many porn addicts do not seek help for this issue, choosing instead to address their symptoms and consequences in a piecemeal fashion— seeking mental health counseling for depression, anxiety, and relationship problems, and seeing medical doctors for antidepressants, anti-anxiety meds, and Viagra and similar drugs (which don’t help because they address physical rather than psychological issues). Many men will see a therapist and take pills for extended periods without ever addressing their compulsivity with porn. As a result, their core problem, porn addiction, goes unaddressed and their symptoms not only continue but grow worse.

For more information about porn addiction and its consequences, check out my books, Sex Addiction 101 and Sex Addiction 101, The Workbook.