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How Long Until The Brain Returns to Normal After Quitting Porn?

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You’ve probably heard that there are countless benefits to quitting porn, such as having more energy and improving your sex life. Proponents of eliminating porn consumption from your life also say that it increases your focus, makes you happier, and allows you to build stronger relationships with your friends and family.

While that’s all well and good, one obstacle that often stands in the way of freedom from porn is that their brain has adapted to regularly watching explicit content.

It can take some time to feel like your brain gets back to its normal state after you quit. On top of that, it can leave you with some pretty unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when your brain is sorting itself out.

So how long does it take for the brain to return to normal after quitting porn?

What Does Porn Do to Your Brain (and Your Life)?

Before we get into how long it takes for your brain to return to normal after quitting porn, let’s look at what we know about the effect porn can have on the brain, your body, and your life.

1. It Might Shrink the Part of Your Brain Linked to Pleasure

According to a 2014 study published in JAMA Psychiatry, watching porn might shrink a part of your brain that is connected with the experience of pleasure. 

The study results suggested that when compared to men who didn’t view porn, men who regularly consumed porn had smaller brain volume and fewer connections in parts of the brain that have to do with reward processing and motivation. 

One part of the brain where this was particularly noticeable is known as the striatum.

On top of that, they found that the more porn men reported watching, the weaker the connection was between the striatum and the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is the brain region that helps us plan, make decisions, and regulate our behavior.

It’s worth noting that these same brain regions are smaller in individuals who suffer from alcoholism or are depressed. These demographics are also less likely to have busy lives or be in relationships, which means that the study results could point to the possibility that individuals who are depressed or have an addiction might be more likely to watch porn, shrinking this part of the brain.

It’s also possible that this brain region shrinks because people who regularly watch porn get used to seeing explicit images and, therefore, don’t respond to them as rewarding anymore.

Regardless of why this part of the brain is smaller in men who watch porn, it’s still alarming that porn use could be linked to shrinking a region of your brain.

2. It Can Lead to Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction is a pretty complicated health issue that has to do with both a man’s physical health and brain. 

While there are mixed opinions on whether consuming porn can lead to ED, there is certainly some evidence that argues in favor of that perspective. 

For example, one study from 2016 notes that more young men seek help for this type of sexual dysfunction, with the proposed theory that porn’s desensitizing effects cause this.

The connection between watching porn and sexual dysfunction is discussed in Gary Wilson’s Your Brain on Porn. If you’re struggling with internet porn consumption, this book is the most comprehensive topic overview.

3. It Can Teach You to Seek Instant Gratification

As we all know, many of the best things in life don’t just materialize in front of you if you snap your fingers. However, frequently watching porn can teach your brain to value instant gratification rather than delayed gratification. 

This tendency doesn’t just carry potentially negative consequences for your sex life, but it can have a rippling effect through every corner of your experience.

According to a study published in the Journal of Sex Research, people who watch porn online typically have higher delay discounting rates. Delay discounting is a term that describes the phenomenon where the longer it takes to receive a reward, the less valuable it is perceived to be.

This study suggests that cutting back on porn (or removing it from your life entirely) could help you achieve a mindset that focuses on bigger-picture goals that are far more rewarding and take more time to reach.

4. Viewing Porn Can Damage Your Relationships

While this likely isn’t news to you, it’s worth noting that having a porn habit or addiction can damage your relationships. 

It can cause problems in your romantic and sexual life, but it can even impact your friendships and your relationships with family members.

5. It Often Develops Into an Addiction

Because there is so much porn out there, and it’s super accessible at any time, it’s all too easy for a bad habit to turn into an addiction - this can get in the way of your ability to do regular daily tasks, maintain relationships, and can encourage the growth of other mental health disorders.

According to some studies, between 86% and 96% of men consume porn frequently. 

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How Long Will It Take for Your Brain to Return to Normal After You Quit Porn?

If you’ve been struggling with porn addiction, the reality of what porn can do to your brain might have you pretty freaked out. Luckily, though, research broadly suggests that your brain can return to a healthier state after stopping habitual porn consumption.

How long will it take your brain to return to normal, though?

The answer to this question will have a lot to do with your particular circumstance. For example, how long you’ve been using porn, how often you were using it, your physiology, and more can impact the road to recovery.

Your experience quitting porn might look different from reports you read online from other recovered addicts. The most important thing is understanding that it will likely take some time to feel like your brain has returned to “normal” and that you might encounter some obstacles along the way.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to how long it takes for your brain to return to normal. Unfortunately, no studies are available that look specifically at how long it takes the brain to recover.

What we do know is that there are a lot of factors that can influence how long your recovery process takes. These include:

  • How many years you’ve been watching porn: A person who has been watching porn for fifteen years will likely have a longer recovery process than someone who has been watching porn for one year.
  • Your age: Younger brains have more neuroplasticity than older brains, meaning that being younger might help you recover from porn addiction faster. Being older can mean recovery happens quicker if you have ED from too much porn consumption, as it typically means you’ve had more sexual experiences with partners.
  • Your past sexual experience: Men with more sexual experience might not require as much time for their brains to reboot after quitting porn as men that haven’t had as many sexual experiences with a partner.
  • How often you were watching porn and for how long: The more often you’ve been watching porn and the longer your sessions, the longer you can expect your recovery to take.
  • Whether you have ED and how severe it is: Porn addiction can lead to ED, and if this is your circumstance, you might find that it takes longer for you to recover than someone who doesn’t have porn-induced ED.
  • How extreme your tastes became: It’s common for porn tastes to escalate over time, leaving you watching more extreme content than ever when you first encountered explicit material. The more intense point your habits have escalated to, the longer it will take for your brain to get back to normal. 
  • Whether you quit entirely or still occasionally watch porn: If you are committed to removing porn from your life, you’ll find that your recovery happens faster if you consistently avoid explicit content. Otherwise, you’ll find that you periodically get set back in your recovery.

Other factors can influence how long it takes for your brain to reboot after a porn habit or addiction. For example, if your mindset surrounding quitting is optimistic and excited, you might feel your brain is back to normal much sooner than if you are dragging your feet and feeling helpless and frustrated.

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A Common Timeline for Porn Addiction Recovery

Like stopping a drug, withdrawing can leave you desperate to relieve your discomfort with your drug of choice (or, in this instance, porn.) 

It isn’t unusual to experience withdrawal symptoms when you quit porn. 

Some common withdrawal symptoms that you might experience include:

  • Insomnia: Quitting porn can initially leave you with excess energy when you usually go to sleep, making it difficult to get the rest you need.
  • Mood swings: Were you using porn as a coping mechanism to deal with anxiety, stress, anger, or other negative emotions? If so, you might go through a period where you feel your mood is all over the place. Finding healthier ways of dealing with unpleasant feelings can help you stay the course.
  • Boredom: It’s not uncommon to develop a habit where you use porn simply out of boredom. You might be saddled with relentless dissatisfaction once you’ve removed it from your life. If you are planning on quitting porn once and for all, it’s a good idea to line up some healthy hobbies that you can turn to when that feeling of boredom hits.
  • Change in Libido: If you’ve been consuming porn regularly for a while, it will take some time for your brain and body to get used to your new life without porn. Some men find that quitting porn sends their libido to the moon, while others notice a significant drop in their sex drive. Over time, your libido will find a healthy balance.
  • Loneliness: Some people use porn to deal with issues, particularly those related to physical or emotional intimacy. When you take away the crutch, though, it can sometimes leave you with intense feelings of loneliness. It’s essential to recognize that these feelings aren’t new, but you were masking them through compulsive porn viewing.
  • Replacement Addiction: If porn has been a central coping mechanism for you, it’s essential to be careful not to replace one addiction for another. If you plan on quitting, it’s a good idea to come up with a list of healthy coping mechanisms you can employ when you desire to watch porn.

It’s important to remember that these withdrawals are just a phase, not your new normal. Like quitting a drug or a bad habit, your brain and body will take some time to adjust to your new, healthier lifestyle.

How long withdrawal symptoms last can vary significantly between individuals. 

For some people, they might last as long as several weeks or months. However, they should diminish over time as your brain recovers.

  • When you first quit, your dopamine levels drop, leaving your brain in deprivation, confusion, and shock. The dopamine hits you’d been sending to your brain are no longer arriving, and you’ll likely start noticing withdrawal symptoms in the first few days after quitting. You might experience mood swings, anxiety, headaches, irritability, and pornographic thoughts.
  • One to three weeks after quitting, common symptoms include low libido, loneliness, social anxiety, difficulty focusing, and generally feeling low energy. According to some sources, about half of men feel that their withdrawal symptoms are essentially going away after twenty-eight days without porn. For others, it can take another month or two. Remember, there are a lot of different factors that can influence how long you start to feel like your usual self again, so it’s important not to get discouraged if it takes you longer than the average Joe.
  • Between weeks four and seven, some men experience outbursts of overwhelming emotion, random temptations to watch porn, difficulty sleeping, or depression.

You’ll likely notice the positive effects of quitting porn at the two-month point and beyond if you haven’t already. Your sex drive might balance out to healthy levels. You feel more focused, have more energy, and begin to feel happier.

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Is It Time for You to Remove Porn From Your Life?

Though the task of quitting porn can be daunting, there’s a good chance the only regret you’ll have when it’s all said and done is that you didn’t pull the plug sooner. Quitting porn takes quite a bit of willpower, but it can give you your energy, time, relationships, and brain.

Removing the possibility of watching porn from the equation may be all porn addicts need to ditch this harmful habit. 

In a world where porn is available anywhere you go, we’ve found that the most significant path to success consists of blocking porn effectively on all of your devices. At TechLockdown, we offer the best DNS filtering and step-by-step tutorials to help you remove porn from your technology and your life for good. 

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