Here’s Exactly What Happens When You Quit Porn

It's not as tough as you think.


By Marty Munson |

Porn addiction can be a destructive habit with a serious negative effect on our relationships. But even if you consider yourself more of a casual porn user, regularly watching porn could be changing your brain and your body in ways that you don’t expect. In a new video on the ASAP Science channel, content creator Greg Brown explores the psychological and physiological impact of giving up porn.

“Your brain has neuroplasticity, meaning it physically changes in response to your behavior,” says Brown. “It happens in the gray matter of the brain, which physically changes due to porn use.”

And symptoms can start to manifest as early as the second day of not consuming porn. These include trouble sleeping, difficulty focusing, increased anxiety, and even porn cravings. This is because porn use affects the part of the brain responsible for creating dopamine, the neurotransmitter which makes us crave the things we have evolved to want in order to survive, like food and companionship. Novelty and sex also fall into this category.

Related: Can Watching Too Much Porn Give You Erectile Dysfunction?

“Surfing porn, keeping a load of tabs open, figuring out which is the right one for you, keeps dopamine levels in your brain high for long periods of time,” says Brown. “This can physically change your ventral striatum, and it’s the reason why on the second day of quitting porn, you might actually physically struggle.”

Somewhere between the fourth and seventh day is when most people go back to watching porn, according to studies, with anxiety cited as the main reason—although many of the same people have stated that using porn to alleviate anxiety didn’t actually work. Around day 14 was when scientists found that subjects were able to delay gratification and focus on complex tasks for longer, as their brains had adjusted to not simply watching porn on their phones as a quick fix or distraction.

After a month of no porn, subjects reported clearer thinking and greater concentration. And finally, after three months of no porn, the gray matter in your brain returns to normal.

An important factor to note is that the majority of the research into the neurophysiology of porn involves test subjects who self-identify as having “problematic porn use” (PPU). This is not an indicator of how much porn a person is watching, but rather, the degree to which it is affecting the rest of their life. Interestingly, while the number of men who watch porn every single day has gone up over the last 10 years, the number of people who self-identify a PPU issue has stayed around the same at 6 percent.

If you’re thinking of giving up porn, or even just cutting back on your use, then there are some simple and effective ways of doing so. Firstly, it is important to understand if there’s something you’re trying to avoid that watching porn has become a substitute for, or if you have certain triggers that will cause cravings. Practically speaking, you can install porn blockers on your devices, and start building alternative habits which have similar mood regulation effects, like exercise. And perhaps most importantly, remember that porn is not real life. Figure out who and what turns you on in the real world, not behind a screen.

This article originally appeared on Men’s Health US.

READ MORE ON: addiction relationships Sex

Copyright © 2022 Rodale Inc.
Subscribe for notification