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A man stares at a computer screen in the dark.

If you’re trying to stop your internet pornography addiction, you’ll experience the porn withdrawal timeline. This timeline means to expect withdrawal symptoms and discomfort as you heal. 

Understanding the porn withdrawal timeline will help you anticipate some of the various stages of withdrawal until you begin to thrive.

Porn Withdrawal

When you stop watching porn, you’ll suddenly begin to notice all of the temptations that arise in your daily life. Sexually explicit imagery, consistent access to porn, and the triggers in your everyday life and activities bombard you.

To properly manage these cravings, you need to understand the neurochemistry behind them.

Brain Reward System

Your brain finds and repeats the things that feel good. This wiring is called the “reward system.” 

When you eat fatty foods, have sex, masturbate, do drugs, or anything similar, you trigger your brain’s reward system. The brain starts to create something called dopamine, also known as the “pleasure chemical.”

Dopamine is the reward for doing the activity. It tells you that the action feels good. Therefore you remember the action and repeat it. This reward system helped your ancestors learn and adapt to their environments and stay safe. 

With internet pornography comes infinite variety. Your brain loves variety. When you are exposed to the same thing or similar things repeatedly, you become desensitized. Your brain produces less and less dopamine, which means you get less of a reward.

To get that same hit of dopamine you got the first time, you have to try something new and seek greater variety. The lack of the same reward causes you to click through different, perhaps more extreme, types of pornography.

Understanding how dopamine impacts your brain and your choices is the first step in navigating your porn withdrawal timeline.

Dopamine Dysregulation

What makes masturbation and internet pornography truly addictive is that it causes an overproduction of dopamine.

Essentially, your brain hasn’t adapted fast enough to keep up with the advent of internet porn. With the variety of porn available, your brain creates more dopamine than it can handle.

Due to the overabundance, dopamine receptors begin to shut down, which means you become less sensitive to the overwhelming imagery. So ultimately, you’re killing off the neuroreceptors that make you feel good.

As a direct result, you seek out more intense pornography or engage in high-risk sexual behaviors. You’ll try to replicate that initial dopamine surge you experienced the first time.

Escalation in the type of pornography you watch or the intensity of your actions are signs that you’re developing a chemical dependence.

A man with dark skin lies in a bed with all white linens. His hand is to his forehead, signaling that he is having a hard time sleeping

Difficulty sleeping is a hallmark side effect of withdrawal.

Common Porn Withdrawal Timeline Symptoms

When you stop masturbating to pornography, the first thing that will happen, other than temptation, is that you’ll begin to notice withdrawal symptoms.

You should expect these symptoms to occur on the porn withdrawal timeline.

Some symptoms you may experience include:

  • Difficulties sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog or lack of focus
  • Headaches
  • Stiffness or pain in your joints
  • Nausea, fever, or other flu-like symptoms
  • Flatline, which is characterized by having little or no sexual desire
  • Intense mood swings
  • Depression, feelings of despair, and overall sadness
  • Intense sexual cravings and urges to self-soothe by watching porn

These are all common symptoms because you’re in a state of withdrawal. Dopamine is a powerful neurochemical. When you condition yourself to have it regularly, you’re bound to have repercussions from cessation. 

Managing Porn Withdrawal Timeline Symptoms

You can help manage your withdrawal symptoms while walking the timeline of porn withdrawal. These will become a form of self-care to you and help you naturally produce dopamine through outlets other than pornography and masturbation.

Self-care activities to help manage withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Mindfulness Activities. Mindfulness activities, especially meditation and yoga, help a person stay present and overcome their desire for masturbation. Daily meditation can help give your brain a “natural high” without falling back into negative behaviors.
  • Spend Time with Loved Ones. Getting out of the house and distracting yourself may feel like you’re not coping with your recovery. But that is not the case. One of the central tenants of recovery is developing empathy for others. Once your brain fog lifts, you may find you form deeper bonds with loved ones.
  • Exercise. Exercise also provides you with a natural high that can help release endorphins, potentially even helping relieve symptoms of depression
  • Choose a Calming Phrase or Word. These words are unique to each person. It can be something like “you can do this” or something more fun — whatever reminds you of why you started and your goal. With time these words will naturally calm you, much like a meditation mantra. 
An older man is in a yoga pose - wearing a grey tank top and dark pants.

Yoga allows you to stay grounded and present, making it an effective coping mechanism.

The Porn Withdrawal Treatment Plan

Your porn withdrawal timeline starts with stopping. For some, this journey can take years. But it all begins with a single step in the right direction. 

Stop Negative Behaviors

While it may sound extreme, to properly heal, one needs to go “cold turkey.” Avoiding masturbation, sexually explicit imagery, orgasm, and everything similar to do a complete “reset.” 

To properly stop negative behaviors, you need to seek out the things in your life that trigger them. A hallmark of porn addiction is using masturbation or sex as a means of self-soothing when you experience an extreme emotion. 

Therefore, to entirely stop the behaviors, you need to avoid the things that act as stressors or triggers. 

These triggers could be not looking at your phone in the evening, avoiding traffic peak hours, or staying away from people who create stress for you. 

You also can try altering your routines to help curb the cravings.

Find and Treat Causes

The next step of your porn withdrawal timeline is to find out what caused the addiction. 

At the Begin Again Institute, we understand that trauma is the root of addiction. Therefore we help our clients work backward and figure out where their need for dopamine began.

Healing usually is easiest when you remove yourself from your day-to-day environment and allow yourself the support and opportunity to think. That’s why our 14-Day Men’s Intensive is set in the beautiful mountains of Colorado, allowing you the peace to investigate and reset your addiction thoroughly.

An older woman sits on the kitchen counter while an older man embraces her waist. She has her arms over his shoulders and they're heads are pressed together.

Reconnecting and creating renewed intimacy in your relationship can be rewarding.

Learn How to Reconnect and Be Intimate

When you are in cycles of addiction, you push away those you love and care for in pursuit of what you crave.

When you reach the point of recovery, you’ll find you can experience genuine empathy. You’ll be able to reconnect with people in ways you may have long forgotten.

Emotional intimacy may be one of the most critical aspects of this reconnection. Rather than keeping things superficial, you’ll find yourself more willing and able to dive deep and share about yourself and learn about others. 

You’ll rediscover what makes you… you. You’ll find a new love for everyone in your life, and your porn withdrawal timeline will start to feel like a distant memory.

  • Category: Recovery
  • By John Squires
  • May 19, 2021

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