Exposure to lurid images and films in the new media is de-sensitizing so many young people that they are increasingly unable to become excited by ordinary sexual encounters, a report said.
The result is that impotence is no longer a problem associated with middle-aged men of poor health but is afflicting men in the prime of their lives.
Too much: Men who surf the net for porn are less likely to be stimulated by ordinary sexual encounters
According to a report in Psychology Today, a respected U.S. journal, the problem is now so common that men in their 20s consider their inability to perform to be ‘normal’.
The report, called ‘Porn-Induced Sexual Dysfunction is a Growing Problem’, explains that the loss of libido 30 years early is caused by continuous over-stimulation of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that activates the body’s reaction to sexual pleasure, by repeatedly viewing pornography on the internet.
A ‘paradoxical effect’ is created whereby with each new thrill, or ‘dopamine spike’, the brain loses its ability to respond to dopamine signals, meaning that porn-users demand increasingly extreme experiences to become sexually aroused.
The Psychology Today report found that continuous over-stimulation of dopamine through looking at porn is leading to loss of libido. ‘Erotic words, pictures, and videos have been around a long while, but the Internet makes possible a never-ending stream of dopamine spikes,’ said Marnia Robinson, the author of the report.
‘Today’s users can force its release by watching porn in multiple windows, searching endlessly, fast-forwarding to the bits they find hottest, switching to live sex chat, viewing constant novelty, firing up their mirror neurons with video action and cam-2-cam, or escalating to extreme genres and anxiety-producing material. ‘It’s all free, easy to access, available within seconds, 24 hours a day, seven days a week,’ she said.
But she added: ‘In some porn users, the response to dopamine is dropping so low that they can’t achieve an erection without constant hits of dopamine via the internet.’ Many were initially shocked, she said, when they discovered their sensitivity was declining ‘toward normal sex’.
‘When they try to have actual intercourse and cannot, they understandably panic,’ Robinson said.
‘Most men are astonished to learn that pornography use can be a source of sexual performance problems.
‘Instead, many are becoming convinced that erectile dysfunction at 20-something is normal,’ she said.
‘They are amazed that heavy porn use can affect them adversely, that no one told them it could affect them.’
Robinson said recovery was possible over a period of months by giving the brain a chance to ‘reboot’ itself by shunning pornography completely.
But she said that while recovering, addicts were likely to experience a temporary loss of libido as well as ‘insomnia, irritability, panic, despair, concentration problems, and even flu-like symptoms’. The report comes just a week after David Cameron announced new measures to encourage internet providers to block access to pornography in an attempt to protect children from its harmful effects.
The findings were welcomed by Norman Wells of the Family Education Trust. ‘This research gives the lie to the idea that pornography is just a bit of harmless fun,’ he said.
‘Not only does it depersonalise those who take part in it, but it also has the potential to damage the real-life relationships of those who use it. ‘People who exercise self-control in this area and make a point of steering clear of pornography and sexual imagery in all its forms are not the repressive kill-joys they are often taken to be,’ he added.
‘These findings suggest that prizing modesty and respecting the private nature of expressions of sexuality will bring its own rewards.’