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Why Your Dopamine Wants You To Quit Watching Porn

Unlimited porn is not without consequences



Unlimited access to porn is an experiment we have enrolled in for the last 15 years or so.

Many people are becoming aware of the problems watching porn can bring. And several authorities, such as Andrew Huberman, have started talking openly about it.


At the same time, it is more widespread than ever, and mainstream media portrays it as harmless.


What is actually going on?


Hundreds of millions, if not billions, are watching porn regularly. Most people think it is just an easy outlet for sexual energy without consequences.


But, even watching porn on occasion can be very bad for your brain, which surprises many people.


This article is not written for moral or religious reasons. I am simply coming from a place of someone who has struggled with porn addiction myself. And trust me, online porn is not good for the dopamine system.


What Is Dopamine?

To understand how watching porn affects the brain, we first need to understand what dopamine is. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter essential for both motivation and pleasure.

It is often called the pleasure chemical. But of even greater importance is the effect dopamine has on motivation.


Dopamine is a molecule in our brain that impacts our excitement, level of motivation, and willingness to push through discomfort to reach rewards such as money, food, or sex.

It motivates us to do important things, such as getting a promotion, earning more money, and getting more friends.


But it is also responsible for our energy to complete small tasks in our daily lives, and if we have healthy dopamine levels, we will be less prone to being lazy and taking the easy way out.


How Porn Exploits Our Dopamine

You can keep your dopamine levels high for unnaturally long periods by watching porn compared to what would happen during sex. That is because you can click on the next video as soon as you have watched a video for a few minutes or seen an image. Your dopamine spikes as soon as it sees something new, as novelty and variation stimulate dopamine.

That is the reason why many people open endless tabs and videos. It keeps the dopamine elevated. You can’t do this in real life, after all. If you have sex, no new tab or swipe will elevate your dopamine constantly.


When you keep clicking on the next video or image and see a new performer or scene to keep your dopamine levels elevated, a very bad process starts to happen in the brain. It causes a numbed pleasure response.


You will get numb if you overstimulate yourself with something that spikes your dopamine a lot. A numbed pleasure response is what happens to addicts, regardless of whether they are addicted to drugs, alcohol, or porn. They simply can’t feel the same pleasure anymore from other things than their drug of choice.


Most people know that doing drugs is bad and that binge drinking often is bad for your health. But watching porn, especially long sessions, has a terrible effect on the brain as well.

Watching porn can result in a reduction in the number of dopamine receptors in your brain. In practice, this will mean that you feel the effect of dopamine less when it is released (numbed pleasure response).


After a lot of sexual activity for a man, there is a period of reduced interest in females. This is the body’s natural satiation mechanism, called the Coolidge effect. Porn can override this natural process.


You can click a button and see a new performer. The brain will light up again and get renewed sexual interest when new content shows up. As a result, you may overextend the natural satiation mechanism by watching porn, especially if you see a lot of content during your sessions.


Side-effects of a Disrupted Dopamine System

Having a disrupted dopamine system may give you a lot of side effects. Here are some of them:

  • Low energy/drive

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Low self-confidence

  • Poor ability to focus

  • Low sex drive

  • Poorer relationships and social skills


I experienced no motivation or drive to accomplish anything in my early twenties. That doesn’t really make any sense for a person that age.


There was something very wrong with my dopamine system, and as soon as I quit porn and got more disciplined with my digital habits in general, I felt a strong drive returning that hadn’t been there for years.


The good thing is that if you stop watching porn, your dopamine receptors will start repairing themselves. I had to go through some periods where life seemed grey, dull, and boring when I quit porn as I didn’t have porn to stimulate me anymore. But, when a few weeks passed, I once more felt energized, and small things could give me pleasure in a way that hadn’t happened in years. It was like the world opened up to me again. And it all makes sense when you understand how dopamine works.


Dopamine motivates us, and we feel more pleasure from life’s small activities if we have a healthy dopamine system. I will not pretend that avoiding porn was a magic cure that made all my problems disappear overnight, far from it. But it gave me the strength and emotional stability to fix my life. And countless other people also report similar experiences when they give up porn. Here you can find some of them.


The more you watch it and the more unnatural your way of watching it, the worse. By this, I mean if you do a lot of clicking, looking for the perfect scene, and continue to watch it for a long time.


If you insist on watching it, the best and least harmful way would be to watch one scene and not pace back and forth and open new tabs. The easy, instant pleasure you get is not worth it, though, considering how it can affect your life.


In your personal life, you want dopamine working in your favor. If you have a healthy dopamine system, you will easily get excited and have a lot of drive and energy. You need to be mindful of the stimuli you allow in your life. These days, we have so many highly stimulating substances and activities around us that it is difficult to moderate our consumption.


You can get entertained whenever you want by your phone, you can drink alcohol, eat junk food, watch porn, and do countless other things.


You don’t have to live like a monk, but by limiting your consumption of easy pleasure, you will fare a lot better in your life and have dopamine working in your favor, not against you.

As the Roman statesman Seneca said:

“Pleasures, when they go beyond a certain limit becomes our punishments”.

Your dopamine spikes a lot whenever you choose instant gratification, but it will crash below the baseline in the aftermath, making you feel sluggish and low energy.


Quitting porn will not magically remove all the problems you have in your life. But, it will make you better equipped to handle other challenges in your life, and your brain will thank you for it.

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