Can Porn Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

Research indicates watching porn may be a risk factor for some

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common sexual problem. Emerging research indicates that porn-induced erectile dysfunction is causing more people under 40 to experience this condition.

ED happens when a person has trouble getting or keeping an erection that is hard enough for penetrative sex. ED has physical, mental, and emotional causes, which sometimes intertwine to cause a person trouble getting their penis hard. 

Healthcare professionals are still exploring the role of porn and ED. However, more and more research is indicating that for some people, watching porn can cause erectile dysfunction.

Here’s what researchers know and what you should do if watching porn is interfering with your sex life. 

Man with laptop computer in bed

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Erectile Dysfunction and Porn

Pornography is a controversial topic and brings up moral issues for many people. Despite that, the use of porn is pervasive.

One study found over half of a sample of university students reported having watched porn. Some estimates put the rates much higher, at up to 99% of males. Porn has become much more pervasive in the past 10 to 15 years with the proliferation of online porn streaming sites, which began launching around 2006.

Soon after these “porn-tube” sites became prevalent, researchers noticed that ED in younger people was becoming more common. Around 2000, rates of ED in men who were under 40 were around 2% to 5%. By 2011 studies were reporting that 14% to 28% of men under 40 were experiencing ED.

It’s important to note that this correlation does not necessarily mean that porn use is causing erectile dysfunction. However, it does have researchers examining a possible link between porn and ED.

Erectile Dysfunction: Physical and Mental

Erectile dysfunction is typically associated with aging. At age 40, about 40% of men experience ED at least minimally and 5% have complete ED. By age 70, it affects 70% to some extent and 15% have complete ED.

Erectile dysfunction is linked with underlying physical issues, including cardiovascular disease, obesity, and neurological disorders. In fact, the presence of ED between the ages of 40 and 49 predicts an increased risk of cardiovascular events (such as heart attack or stroke).

However, the causes of erectile dysfunction can also be mental or emotional. Men who are under stress or who feel pressured to perform might experience ED. 

Young people who experience porn-induced ED do not have underlying physical health conditions in most cases. However, researchers believe that watching porn may change how they experience sexual stimulation and satisfaction. 

Porn and the Brain

Although sex involves physical activity, sexual arousal starts in the brain. In response to sexual stimuli, the brain releases a neurotransmitter that causes the penis to get hard. 

Researchers have hypothesized that the increased exposure to porn causes people to be less reactive to sexual stimuli.

One study found that people who had watched porn for more years had less gray matter in the part of their brains associated with reward sensitivity. According to this theory, people who watch a lot of porn may not be as sexually aroused by real-life sexual encounters, which could cause ED. 

Another study found that men who use porn may develop a preference for masturbation while using porn, rather than desiring partnered sex. The unrealistic depiction of penises and the male body in porn may contribute to performance anxiety or body insecurity that can make it difficult for a person to get or maintain an erection.

Possible Advantages: What’s Considered Healthy

Although porn can be harmful to some people, others report that watching porn is beneficial to their sex lives, both individually and with a partner.

According to one study, the top two reasons for watching porn are an increased sex drive and enhancing sexual performance. Another study found that only 3% to 8% of porn users reported problems associated with using porn.

There is no shame or concern in watching porn if you are an adult. Just remember to keep communication open with your partner, if you have one, and check in with yourself periodically about how and if porn is affecting your sex life, either positively or negatively.

Only you and your partner can decide what level of porn watching is healthy within your relationship. However, if you notice that you are having difficulties maintaining an erection during sexual contact, or if you prefer porn to real-life sexual encounters, it’s likely time to reevaluate your usage.

Other Causes of Erectile Dysfunction

Porn-induced ED might affect you, but it’s important to rule out other causes of ED. About 80% of ED cases in men under 40 have psychological origins, but these are not all related to porn. Other mental and emotional factors, like being depressed, anxious, or stressed, can also cause ED. 

About 15% to 20% of ED cases in young people have physical causes. These can include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), smoking, and obesity. Diabetes and obesity, in particular, may be associated with low testosterone, which contributes to ED.

How to Improve Erectile Dysfunction

If you are experiencing porn-induced ED, the best treatment is to take a break from watching porn. Symptoms can resolve in as little as three weeks of abstaining from porn.

However, some people might need guidance in overcoming their porn-induced ED. Talking with a sexual health professional or counselor can help if your symptoms persist even after you’ve stopped watching porn. 

Other treatments for erectile dysfunction include lifestyle changes and medical treatment, such as:

  • Getting more exercise
  • Quitting smoking
  • Eating healthy
  • Using medications like Viagra or Cialis, which help support blood flow to the penis

Summary

There’s not yet a definitive link between porn use and erectile dysfunction. Some research shows an increase in ED in younger age groups since streaming internet porn became available.

There are many risk factors for ED and ways these can be reduced and the condition treated. Some people find that reducing their porn consumption can reduce their episodes of ED.

A Word From Verywell

If you are having trouble getting or maintaining an erection, you could see if reducing your porn consumption helps. Other steps, like exercising and eating healthy, may also help.

To be safe, you should talk with your doctor to rule out any physical causes of ED, like diabetes or high blood pressure. Your doctor can also prescribe medications to help you get and maintain an erection.

Having a healthy sex life is important. Only you and your partner can decide whether and how much that should include pornography.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Does science support porn-induced erectile dysfunction? 

Scientists are still figuring out whether porn can cause ED. There has been an increase in the rates of ED in men under 40 since internet porn became more widely available. However, scientists have not proven causation, and many people can watch porn as part of a healthy sexual lifestyle without any negative health consequences.

How do you talk to your partner about ED from porn?

Having an open, honest conversation around porn and sexual performance can strengthen your relationship. If you’re experiencing porn-induced ED or think that your partner is, talk to them about what you believe is going on.

Discuss the role of porn in your sex life and how you might maintain sexual excitement while taking a break from porn. Remember, both porn use and ED are normal, common, and nothing to be ashamed about.

What helps with erectile dysfunction?

Some people experience less ED when they take a break from watching porn. If you’re experiencing ED, lifestyle changes including reducing porn consumption, exercising, not smoking, and eating healthy may all help.

In the meantime, talk to your doctor about medications like Viagra and Cialis, which can help you get and maintain an erection.

What if you can’t stop watching porn? 

Scientists are still split about whether porn is addictive. However, if you’re watching porn too much for your own comfort level and feel unable to stop, it’s a good idea to speak with a sexual health counselor. You can also talk openly with your partner or a trusted friend about how they can support you in reducing or eliminating your porn use.

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7 Sources
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