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Common Porn Withdrawal Symptoms

Ending porn addiction isn’t as simple as just not viewing pornography anymore. When watching porn escalates to the point of compulsive, uncontrollable behavior, it can cause long-term damage that takes time and effort to repair. 

When you become dependent on a habit, it’s difficult to break. Like other addictions, those recovering from pornography addiction often experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. It’s important to recognize the common porn withdrawal symptoms and how to overcome them to help you on your road to sobriety.

How Porn Affects the Brain

Watching pornography affects your brain’s neurochemistry. It tampers with the brain’s reward system and hard wires your brain into thinking continuous dopamine stimulation is normal. 

Each time you watch porn, you get a little burst of dopamine, a pleasurable feeling. The next time you watch, the brain remembers that stimulation and reacts accordingly. The more you watch, the more reinforced the behavior becomes. Your reward system is hijacked to expect porn and expect it often.

You begin to develop cravings, and they’re impossible to control. Your brain develops dependence and tolerance for these cravings, which increase compulsively. As your tolerance increases, so does your need for an increased amount and more explicit porn. The brain needs a little more each time to get its fix. It’s all about recreating that initial dopamine high and satisfying your cravings.

When your brain is repeatedly exposed to porn, it causes the frontal lobe to shrink. This portion of the brain is responsible for decision-making and willpower. Oxytocin and vasopressin, hormones related to memory, are also at work. They continue reinforcing the behavior, tying the memory of viewing porn to sexual pleasure. Your brain remembers what you see, and it wants more. 

Common Porn Withdrawal Symptoms

When you stop watching porn, it’s like going on a dopamine detox. You will naturally face pushback as you begin to unwire your brain’s behaviors. The experience is powerful and can be paralyzing for some people.

Withdrawal symptoms can manifest in various ways and may be slightly different for everyone, said Nate Geyer, a Counselor at Begin Again Institute.

“Most easily identifiable, and at times most unpleasant, are the somatic withdrawals from compulsive pornography use. These include sleep/wake disturbances, fatigue, racing heart rate, sweating, body aches, and even issues with appetite and digestion,” he said.

Pornography withdrawal can impact a person’s physical and mental well-being, Nate said.

“Those experiencing withdrawal will notice increased irritability, higher anxiety, depressed mood, lack of presence in the moment, reduced empathy, and ultimately cravings for more pornography,” he said.

Other withdrawal symptoms include: 

  • Loss of sex drive
  • Lack of focus or concentration (brain fog)
  • Nausea, fever, and other forms of physical sickness
  • Heightened social anxiety
  • Intrusive thoughts about porn
  • Flashbacks or dreams about porn

How Long Does Porn Withdrawal Last?

The intensity of porn withdrawal symptoms can be exhausting. But it’s essential to remember that withdrawal will eventually end. How long porn withdrawal symptoms last and how bad they are depends on the person and other factors like how long the person has been viewing pornography and how frequently, Nate said.

“One person may encounter brief or mild withdrawal symptoms lasting only a couple of days, and another may experience more intense symptoms over a longer period, potentially lasting several weeks,” he said.

Ways to Cope with Porn Withdrawal

Each person’s experience is individual, but there are many common experiences, too. You aren’t the first to experience a porn addiction, and you likely won’t be the last. 

Coping with pornography withdrawal symptoms can be challenging, but it’s possible, Nate said. 

“Counseling and sharing one’s emotional experiences is crucial for challenging negative thinking patterns and embracing authentic connections during withdrawal,” Nate said.

Coping mechanisms include:

  • Spending time outdoors and exercising
  • Practicing meditation and mindfulness
  • Taking care of your physical health through a healthy diet, sleep, hydration, and exercise
  • Engaging your support network
  • Educating yourself about withdrawal symptoms
  • Changing your environment and removing temptations, such as electronic devices
  • Working with an accountability partner
  • Journaling about your experiences
  • Joining a support group
  • Finding replacement hobbies
  • Seeking professional help

Many people experience shame or guilt surrounding porn addiction, but you don’t have to go through it alone. Nate said sharing your challenges with loved ones or a mental health counselor is important.

Entering a treatment program can help by providing an immersive experience with professionals on-hand to provide the support you need.

Start Recovery Today

While porn addiction alters your brain, it can adapt and recover. You can heal and overcome addiction no matter where you are in your recovery journey. It’s never too late to start the recovery process. Mental health professionals can guide you on your journey to uncover the root cause of your addiction, treat it, and achieve lasting recovery. 

What does treatment look like? At Begin Again Institute, we offer several programs to treat those with porn or sex addiction and build a solid foundation for lasting recovery. We provide education, trauma-focused therapy, and practical takeaways in a powerful group setting. Contact us today to start your recovery. 

  • Category: Pornography Addiction
  • By Begin Again Institute
  • January 19, 2023

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