What is Porn Induced Erectile Dysfunction and How to Beat It

Medically approved by
Dr Earim Chaudry
Last updated
20th November 2020

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What is porn-induced erectile dysfunction? A phenomenon identified only relatively recently, PIED happens when erectile dysfunction (or ED) results from excessive use of pornography.

Now, it is not the porn use per se that causes ED. What is believed to happen is that, as a result of watching a lot of internet pornography, our understanding of sexual activity can become a little distorted. As a result, you may struggle with sexual arousal when not watching hardcore porn. You may not achieve an erection without masturbation. Or you may experience performance anxiety as a result of comparing yourself to the activities you see in porn.

Many men – and younger men in particular – are concerned about this condition. While more scientific research is needed to prove a solid link between porn use and ED, if you feel that porn is negatively affecting your sex life, there are ways to kick the habit.

Introducing Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction

ED, or erectile dysfunction, is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection sufficiently hard for sex. In its broadest form, it is one of the most common sexual dysfunctions, and its impact on your sexual satisfaction – and that of your sexual partner – can, unfortunately, be significant.

There are many reasons why ED can happen. In older men, physical health is a major factor. Serious medical conditions like heart disease or diabetes can cause problems, while lifestyle choices such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and taking recreational drugs are risk factors too. 

Yet, ED can also be a result of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and childhood trauma – particularly when it occurs in young men. Among these psychological causes of ED, PIED – or porn-induced erectile dysfunction – can be one of the more common.

In this article, we’re looking at the impact that excessive pornography use can have on your erections. Yet, we’re here to help – so we’ll look at some of the ways you can tackle it too.

What is PIED (Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction)?

Porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED) is the name for the form of erectile dysfunction that results from excessive internet porn consumption. 

While it is not fully established as a medical condition, a number of symptoms have been reported. For example, it is believed that men suffering from PIED may have decreased sensitivity to real-life sex, and may become dissociated from sex as a physical experience to be shared with real partners.

This can result from seeing the impossibly perfect, airbrushed bodies of male porn actors. Or it may be caused by the consumption of unrealistic depictions of women’s bodies, sexual acts, and sexual performance, such as multiple orgasms or long periods before ejaculation. 

As a result, men can lose self-confidence and suffer from body image issues and low self-esteem – which can impact their ability to perform. Rather than a physical cause of ED, PIED suggests that pornography can have significant psychological impacts, which affect the way men engage with sex in real life.

The truth is that higher numbers of young men seem to be experiencing erectile dysfunction – with around one in four new ED patients now under 40 years old. While pornography – and porn addiction – may well have been too quickly blamed for this phenomenon, the evidence suggests that it can have a real impact. 

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PIED: The Evidence

Let’s look at some of the research into the phenomenon that does exist.

To begin with, one 2011 Italian study of 28,000 participants looked at the role of porn use on male attitudes to sex. It found evidence that high porn consumption can cause low libido in young men – and, ultimately, an inability to get an erection. Following the study, researchers commented that with many men having their first sexual experiences outside of real-life sexual relationships, their later sexual interactions did not conform to their expectations.

Similarly, a review with clinical reports investigating the neuroscience behind the link between sexual dysfunction and pornography considered a range of medical theories into the phenomenon of PIED. It speculated on pornography’s impact on dopamine levels – and suggested that pornography’s hyper-stimulating quality triggers incredibly high levels of dopamine. In this way, it becomes addictive, but also makes real sexual experiences feel a little underwhelming.

Finally, one sensational 2014 study found a possible link between the number of hours of porn watched and a reduced quantity of grey matter in the sections of the brain associated with sexual stimulation. While a very small study – and therefore not completely reliable – it suggests that pornography might be having a very serious impact on our brains’ structure.

While the evidence is so far inconclusive, scientists are increasingly convinced that a link between pornography and sexual difficulties including ED does exist. Yet, importantly, PIED itself was only one problem that was identified. A low libido and actual addiction to pornography were other issues identified. 

How to Beat PIED

All is not lost, however. If you feel that you’ve become too dependent on porn to become aroused, or if it is affecting your sexual encounters in other ways, don’t despair. You can beat the condition. Here are some first steps to consider:

  • Go to your GP: The first thing to do is to rule out other causes for your ED. Going to your GP or healthcare provider and getting yourself checked out will make sure there’s no other condition behind your ED. If your ED has a physical cause, they may prescribe an effective medical treatment such as Sildenafil (Viagra) or Tadalafil (Cialis).
  • Talk about it: You could also talk through your dependence on porn with a trained counsellor or sex therapist. They will help you understand your porn habits and they’ll work with you on any mental health issues that may be contributing to the situation.
  • Involve your partner: If you have a partner, their support will be crucial to help you get through PIED. Don’t shut them out – be honest and open about your feelings, your sexual problems, and your hope of recovery.

Steps to Cut Your Porn Use

Beyond medical and psychological help, there are some practical steps you can take to break your dependence on porn. They’ll help you get back your satisfying sex life. 

  • Go cold turkey: Try to stop watching porn completely. Set a goal of how long you will aim to go without it. 90 days, for example, might be a sensible period.
  • Stop masturbating: At the same time, it’s also important to stop masturbating. This will help draw a line between these old destructive sexual behaviours and your new approach to sex.
  • Find new hobbies: Fill the time you would have spent watching porn and masturbating with a different activity. Physical exercise is ideal, as this will also boost your overall health and wellbeing, preparing the way for better sex.
  • Rediscover pleasure: After a period of abstinence, you can start masturbating again. However, this should be without porn. This way, you can remind yourself of the pleasure of the physical sensations that don’t depend on porn, and to explore different aspects of your sexual desire. 
  • Enjoy sex with a partner: When you’re confident that you can achieve and sustain an erection while masturbating, you might feel ready to try sex with a partner again. During partnered sex, focus on the physical sensations you’re feeling as well as on your partner and their responses.
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Key Takeaways…

We’ve got a way to go before we fully understand the link between ED and porn. However, it seems clear that dependence on porn is getting in the way of fulfilling sex for a lot of men. 

Porn shouldn’t take over your sex life. If you’re experiencing ED and you think porn might be the culprit, there are ways to kick the habit. Reach out to someone you trust and speak to a professional.

While we've ensured that everything you read on the Health Centre is medically reviewed and approved, information presented here is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.

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