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porn withdrawal symptoms

If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by your porn consumption, you may have tried to cut it out of your life. But if you’re still experiencing intense urges, you may ask yourself, “Am I experiencing porn withdrawal symptoms?”

There’s a reason people become dependent on porn. It can be addicting. A porn addiction can ruin relationships, damage your health, and consume your life. The first step to overcoming it is recognizing that you have an addiction and learning how to manage the withdrawal symptoms. 

Understanding Pornography Withdrawal

To understand why porn withdrawal happens, it’s essential to know what’s happening inside the brain. The brains of porn users show similarities to the brains of people with alcohol or drug addictions. The brain’s reward system is triggered when watching porn, just like when a person with an alcohol addiction sees a drink.

It’s more than just pleasure bringing you back for more. The chemicals in your brain are constantly at work outside of your control. Dopamine and endorphins release when the brain sees something it likes, such as pornography, triggering a high. But the more you watch, the more you need. Your brain may start to experience dopamine dysregulation and become desensitized to the porn that previously gave you pleasure.

Additionally, oxytocin and vasopressin, hormones related to memory, release, tying the memory of viewing porn to sexual pleasure. Repetition of the behaviors means these chemicals are continuously released. It’s difficult to stop something that feels good to your brain.

Dangers of Pornography Addiction

So, if it feels so good, why stop? Eventually, that pleasure fades. Even though you no longer enjoy the experience, you can’t stop. As the habit continues, it can take priority over your daily activities, responsibilities, and relationships. 

Those with porn addiction often struggle to maintain relationships. You may prioritize watching porn over intimacy with your partner or lose attraction to them. Many people experience shame or guilt about their addiction and may hide it from their loved ones. Secrecy builds distrust, and distrust often kills relationships.

Your idea and expectations of sex may have become distorted by excessively watching porn. You may crave increased or more explicit content as you increase your tolerance. Trying to fulfill these cravings can result in financial and even legal trouble. It’s an endless cycle that can be difficult to escape. 

What are Porn Withdrawal Symptoms?

Once you escape the cycle, it’s difficult not to get sucked back in. Many people experience withdrawals from pornography just like with any other addiction.

Nate Geyer, a Counselor at Begin Again Institute, said a person can identify the symptoms of pornography withdrawal by considering how they feel and noting how those feelings align with what they know about the addiction.

Withdrawal symptoms can manifest in a variety of different ways, Nate said.  

“Under the surface, pornography withdrawal can impact one’s emotional and mental well-being,” he said. “Those experiencing withdrawal will notice increased irritability, higher anxiety, depressed mood, lack of presence in the moment, lack of empathy, and ultimately cravings for more pornography.”

Other withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Headaches and stiffness or pain in other parts of your body
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Agitation
  • Lack of focus or concentration (brain fog)
  • Nausea, fever, and other forms of sickness
  • Little or no sexual desire, known as a “flatline”
  • Excessive sexual thoughts
  • Depression, despair, and other forms of sadness
  • Mood swings
  • Avoiding socializing
  • Flashbacks or dreams about pornography

How Long Does Porn Withdrawal Last?

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.

It can be helpful to talk to a counselor or enter a treatment program to get your needed support.

Managing porn withdrawals takes mental discipline. If you are struggling, remind yourself of your goals and why you made them. You are more than your porn addiction, and you can overcome it. 

Managing Porn Withdrawal

Coping with pornography withdrawal symptoms can be challenging, but it’s possible to overcome this setback and move into recovery, Nate said. 

Methods for managing your porn withdrawal include:

  • Taking care of your physical health through sleep, healthy diet, hydration, and exercise
  • Not isolating yourself
  • Learning about your withdrawal symptoms so you understand them and what to expect
  • Changing your environment and removing temptations, such as electronic devices
  • Practicing meditation
  • Seeking professional help
  • Journaling about your experiences
  • Joining a support group
  • Finding replacement hobbies

Although handling pornography withdrawals can be challenging, your community can help, Nate said.

“Surrounding oneself with supportive and dedicated individuals is the first step along the path of success,” he said. 

Nate said sharing your challenges with loved ones or a mental health counselor is important.

“Counseling and sharing one’s emotional experiences are crucial for challenging negative thinking patterns and embracing authentic human connection during the withdrawal period,” Nate said. 

Getting Help for Porn Withdrawals Symptoms

Fighting porn withdrawal symptoms can feel like an uphill battle. You’re not just dealing with physical symptoms. You’re redirecting chemicals in your brain. At Begin Again Institute, we recognize these struggles and approach healing by addressing the root cause of the addiction and finding the “why” behind the behavior. Our counselors are trained to approach healing with compassion and without judgment. Contact us to start your journey toward recovery.

  • Category: Pornography Addiction
  • By Begin Again Institute
  • January 17, 2023

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