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How to deal with porn addiction withdrawal

Porn addiction withdrawal symptoms are shockingly similar to alcohol addiction. These strategies will help you handle the symptoms and quit porn for good.

Ed Latimore
Ed Latimore
Writer, retired boxer, self-improvement enthusiast

I’ve been sober since December 23, 2013.

If I hadn’t learned to recognize the symptoms of withdrawal, I’d have a tough time getting sober. The same applies to porn addiction. The symptoms of overcoming porn addiction are strikingly similar to those of alcohol withdrawal.

Many people don’t even know they’re addicted to porn until they experience withdrawal symptoms.

As men, the Porn Masturbation Orgasm (PMO) cycle can be just as vicious as those triggers that have you spending your last few dollars on booze, or rolling out of bed and having a drink as soon as your feet touch the floor.

If you’ve been following the blog, I recently explained some reasons you should definitely quit porn:

Businesses in the United States are losing close to $17 billion in productivity thanks to porn.1

But what price can you place on your self-confidence, drive, and intimate relationships?

In this article, you’ll learn the signs of porn withdrawal and what you can do about it to start building a life you can be proud of.

Signs you’re going through porn withdrawal

Porn is a far more low-risk, high-reward addiction today compared to the years prior. There’s no risk of embarrassment from going to the local adult video store. And there’s so much free porn you never have to feel the financial burden of your addiction.

Like any drug addiction, you get dopamine hits that flood the reward centers of your brain with happy chemicals. Having dealt with both alcohol and porn addiction, I can attest that the withdrawal symptoms are similar.2

If you’ve recently quit porn or have reduced your use, you may experience any of the following symptoms below:

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Heightened anxiety

Porn sends you for a loop where you become more reclusive and less comfortable in your skin – coping with life instead of thriving. That’s when porn becomes a crutch to deal with these negative feelings.

What happens when you take away someone’s crutch? They become imbalanced, and immediately grab for the crutch to stabilize themselves again.

After going cold turkey with porn or refraining for a while, you’re going to get hit with a tsunami of anxiety that tests your resolve.

The initial days and weeks without my stress coping mechanisms brought on all of the worst side effects of anxiety:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Panicked fight or flight response for no reason
  • A mind that races non-stop
  • The sense of impending dread over small things
  • Tightness in the chest and stomach

You may experience these differently depending on your level of addiction. I had to make hard decisions about what I wanted my life to look like, start new habits, and follow through with action to get past my demons.

Body aches and pains

Withdrawal symptoms can go far beyond mild discomfort and turn into downright pain. Dopamine’s main role in the body is to substitute pain for pleasure. It makes suffering bearable. That’s why you see opioid addicts literally screaming from the pain of withdrawal because opioids reduce your ability to create dopamine.

Because a porn addiction is mild compared to illicit drugs, you might think you’re just harmlessly searching for kinks and fetishes. But what you’re really doing is self-medicating. When you’re no longer on that “medicine”, all of the pain you were numbing comes back, often worse than before.

Physical withdrawals from porn can cause any stress-related symptoms, including:

  • Chronic headaches
  • Tension, stiffness, and pain in your neck, shoulders, and joints
  • Ulcers
  • Lower back pain
  • Fatigue and a low sex drive

These pains, especially when mild, can go completely over the head of porn users. But treating the symptoms, rather than the root cause keeps you in the vicious addiction cycle.

Brain fog and poor mental health

Porn teaches you to seek rewards that become harder to obtain.

The DeltaFosB brain protein is a gene regulator that acts as an activation switch for addiction.3 This switch is activated every time you view porn until eventually, you become desensitized.

Your brain’s reward system builds dopamine tolerance, making you seek more porn and better porn, more frequently. Watching porn then becomes about satisfying an impulse, rather than actually enjoying it.

The damage this does to your brain presents these common porn addiction withdrawal symptoms:

  • Mood swings
  • Depression and a sense of loneliness and isolation
  • Insomnia or poor quality of sleep
  • A lack of self-confidence and boundaries
  • Brain fog and a neurochemical imbalance that makes it difficult to focus
  • Unrealistic perceptions about sex, women, and relationships

Porn use, like drugs and alcohol, negatively affects your brain’s limbic system, cerebral cortex, and brain stem. The limbic system regulates behavior and emotion, such as the fight or flight response. Our cerebral cortex processes reason and higher thought. The brain stem handles our automatic, unconscious functions.

The concept of neuroplasticity means that you’re in charge of your brain. And what you do and experience molds, shapes, and physically changes your brain.

When you get past the sexual addiction and temporary withdrawal symptoms, quitting porn helps you rewrite the software and undo the damage created by addiction.

Check out my article on How to start no fap, to learn how to retrain your sexual response.

Good things to expect when you quit porn

It’s not all brain fog and physical pain, overcoming addiction comes with life lessons, self-reflection, and hardwon skill. Every life change I’ve ever made started with me getting honest with myself.

When I first stepped foot into a boxing gym, I wasn’t very good – in fact, I wasn’t good at all. But I stuck it out in the name of getting better.

After turning pro, I immediately found some success. I even fared well competing against fighters like Dominic Breazeale – a heavyweight Olympian who would go on to fight the Bronze Bomber, Deontay Wilder.

When I eventually suffered my first and only loss as a pro, I grew from it because I accepted it, rather than making excuses.

I explain all of that to say that I needed every bit of that resolve once I decided to quit porn. But just like the reward of enduring the physical and mental grind of boxing, the rewards of quitting porn use are sweet on the other side.

Expect these life-changing benefits once you quit porn:

  • Increased willpower from correcting bad habits that carry over into your personal and professional life
  • Freedom from internalized sexual failure, erectile dysfunction, and premature ejaculation
  • Healthy and productive relationships with women, family members, and loved ones
  • The ability to focus and think with logic and strategy, rather than compulsiveness
  • Self-respect and self-esteem gained by your willingness to stick with something difficult

There is a better life waiting for you on the other side of porn addiction. If you’re worried that you won’t make it there, check out the coaching offered by The Freedom Specialists. They will hook you up with a custom plan and provide accountability so that you finally shake the internet porn monkey off of your back. Check them out here—>The Freedom Specialists

How to quit porn

Beating your porn addiction can be your greatest victory, but you need a plan. Addicts are called addicts, and not “former addicts” for a reason – you never get to stop putting in the work.

Once you recognize porn addiction withdrawal symptoms, it’s time to get honest with yourself about the next steps you need to take.

Here are some good life habits to help with your recovery process:

  • Handle your hunger cravings, sleep, thirst, and other self-care needs daily
  • Eat to fuel your body with nutrition, and cut out junk foods that trigger cravings and crashes
  • Meditate to strengthen your mind, willpower, and well-being
  • Get help from a cognitive behavioral therapist (CBT) that specializes in pornography addiction and substance use disorders
  • Unfollow sexual content on social media
  • Join online support groups related to No Fap and quitting pornography use and dependency
  • Repurpose your time toward your projects, career, and business interests

Be sure to also check out these 5 easy ways to finally quit porn.

Wrapping up: Getting past porn addiction withdrawal

New data is coming out every day showing the seriousness of porn addiction. Withdrawal is a natural stage of addiction, but it doesn’t have to be a stopping point.

If you’re going to navigate addiction recovery and beat it, don’t forget:

  • Porn addiction withdrawal comes with physical and mental symptoms, similar to alcohol addiction
  • Quitting porn frees you of compulsive habits, improves your sex life, and gives you real-life confidence
  • It takes a plan of discipline, physical training, and mental growth to fight the symptoms of porn addiction and stop viewing porn for good

My course, Vicebreakers: The Complete Program For Kicking Your Bad Habits and Addictions gives you a headstart in dealing with your withdrawal symptoms. You’ll gain the tools to recover from porn addiction and substance addiction, even if you’ve already relapsed thousands of times.

As I always say, the rest is up to you.

Get 1-on-1 customized help for your porn addiction today

Freedom is possible, and sooner than you think…

Being addicted to porn is more than just “being addicted to porn.”

You’re addicted to the ritual, the excitement, and even the letdown afterward. But then you realize that you hate how it makes you feel, so you try to quit…except you can’t.

At least not for long. Every guy who’s ever tried to quit porn knows that it’s damn near impossible before you give in. 

Well, The Freedom Specialists are here to help. They have a revolutionary program that not only digs deep into triggers but trains you in

  • Breathwork
  • Visualization
  • Nervous system reprogramming
  • Rewriting your identity
  • Mindset shifts

And much more to help you finally get the porn monkey off your back. If you’re finally ready to free yourself from the chains of pornography addiction, check out this program.

Escape porn addiction now

References

  1. The Family Research Council. Pornography: America's Public Health Crisis https://www.frc.org/blog/2018/08/pornography-americas-public-health-crisis. August 15, 2018. (accessed March 28, 2022) 

  2. Blum, Kenneth Blum. Badgaiyan, Rajendra D. Gold, Mark. National Library of Medicine. Hypersexuality Addiction and Withdrawal: Phenomenology, Neurogenetics, and Epigenetics_._ October 7, 2015. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4627834/ (accessed March 27, 2022) 

  3. Nestler, EJ. Barrot, M. Self, D.W. National Library of Medicine. DeltaFosB: _A _sustained molecular switch for addiction. September 25, 2001.(accessed March 28, 2022) 

Ed Latimore
About the author

Ed Latimore

I’m a writer, competitive chess player, Army veteran, physicist, and former professional heavyweight boxer. My work focuses on self-development, realizing your potential, and sobriety—speaking from personal experience, having overcome both poverty and addiction.

Follow me on Twitter.