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Erectile dysfunction & porn: diving into the world of PIED

Written by Mojo, reviewed by Silva Neves, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist

Psychosexual and relationship expert Silva Neves speaking to a young man and woman on a sofa.

We’ve probably all had a look at pornography at some point. A quick porn sesh before work here, a porn marathon during a night in there. 

The pornography website, Pornhub, revealed that there were over 42 billion visits to their website in 2019. That means there was an average of 115 million visits per day. That’s a lot of porn-watching. 

Psychologists have done a deep dive into the negative effects of porn on our behavior – from shifts in sexual interest to unsafe sex. But one potential problem has fallen under the radar: porn’s connection to erectile dysfunction (ED).

With some help from psychosexual and relationship therapist Silva Neves, we’ll be uncovering: 

  1. A definition of what Porn Induced Erectile Dysfunction (PIED) is
  2. Porn induced signs & symptoms
  3. If porn really can cause ED
  4. Cure and treatment for porn & ED 
  5. How to recover from porn induced ED 
  6. Whether porn can actually help with ED

What is Porn Induced Erectile Dysfunction (PIED)?

Porn Induced Erectile Dysfunction (PIED) is a term used for linking erection issues to porn use, although PIED has not been proven scientifically. 

Often, men with PIED can get an erection when they watch porn, but struggle to get it up with a sexual partner or while masturbating without porn. This is because it is normal for people to experience better erections with porn than partners, because there isn't the anxiety of being a good lover with porn.

How to know if watching porn has a role to play in your ED 

According to Silva, it can be tricky to say whether your porn usage can be connected to your sexual issues.

That’s because the concept of PIED is based on the ‘problematic’ use of pornography, but the amount of porn use that is considered ‘problematic’ is unclear. 

“The issue is that clinicians haven't agreed on a fairly objective measure to determine what 'problematic' viewing of porn actually is.”

- Silva Neves, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist

One person’s ‘excessive porn’ is another person’s Tuesday night in, so everyone will have a different idea of what ‘too much porn’ really means.

And, problematic may not only relate to the amount of porn you watch. Read the other signs and symptoms below, which could suggest that porn has become problematic.

Silva’s advice is to recognize what is ‘normal’ for you. Analyze your porn habits in the context of your own personal life, feelings, and sexual responses – not anyone else’s.

Porn induced ED symptoms & signs

If you can relate to several of the following statements and you’re struggling with your erections, it could be a sign that you’re experiencing problematic porn use:

If you can’t relate to these, and feel like your porn-watching habits are pleasurable, satisfying, and well-integrated into your life, then it may be less likely that porn is having an impact on your erections.

So, can porn really cause erectile dysfunction?

Studies into pornography and its link to ED are limited and conflicting, with many scientific papers disputing it.  

There’s no solid evidence to prove that pornography directly causes erectile dysfunction.  

However, we do know that problematic porn usage can increase several other pre-existing issues, which could indirectly lead to psychological erection problems.

Here are some ways your porn habits could be subtly cock-blocking you:

Confusing porn with sex in real life

Mainstream porn often features muscular men who are hung like a horse and get rock hard at the flick of a switch. 

So, for men who have been watching porn, it may have created a view of sex that doesn’t represent real life.

This is worrying as it can create inaccurate standards for things like:

This can ultimately create insecurities which can lead to performance anxiety, and have an impact on your erections. 

“Those who do mistake porn for 'real sex’ can form unrealistic standards.

This can increase anxiety surrounding body shame, penis size, and how long men can last during sex, amongst other insecurities.”

- Silva Neves, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist

Increasing pre-existing performance anxiety

Watching a lot of porn can increase sexual performance anxiety because of these unrealistic expectations that porn creates about sex.

This anxiety can get worse when feeling even more pressure about performing in front of a partner.

“It is absolutely normal to have better erections with porn than with partnered sex because men feel more anxiety about their erections with partners, and (usually) no anxiety when masturbating to porn.”

- Silva Neves, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist

You can learn more about Performance Anxiety by signing up to Mojo’s free trial here.

A range of sexual interests

Men who watch porn generally have a wider range of sexual interests. So, if partnered sex is usually ‘the same’, then there could be some disinterest in sex with a partner.

Shame around sex 

Personal shame held towards porn (or your personal porn habits) could be causing anxiety. This can then have an effect on your penis.

For some men, there are external cultural and religious factors contributing to shame around sex or masturbation. Some religions and cultures may create certain standards or pressures related to sex. This could include achieving ‘sexual purity’, avoiding sex outside of marriage, or only having sex for procreation.

So, watching porn and having solo or partnered sex for pleasure may not align with these standards, and this can also lead to feelings of anxiety that will impact a guy’s erections. 

“If men feel bad about watching porn, they are more likely to feel ashamed which can lead to psychological erection problems.”

- Silva Neves, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist

There’s a lot to digest here. But none of this is a cause for alarm. Mojo is here to help you tackle any psychological erection issues that may have indirectly stemmed from problematic porn usage.

ED can also be caused by a million other things

Okay, maybe not a million. But the truth is, lots of people suffer from erectile dysfunction for a huge bunch of reasons, and these can be physical or psychological.

So, even if you are worried about your porn habits, it may actually have no connection to your erectile dysfunction at all.

The best thing to do is to talk to a doctor to rule out anything physical, and then understand more about the other causes of psychological ED.  You may find you relate to one or more of these other ED causes, and your porn-watching habits could no longer be to blame after all.  

Mojo is here to get you back on track with any psychological erection issues.

How to cure porn ED

At Mojo, we use the word ‘resolve’ rather than ‘cure’. This is because there’s no formal diagnosis for PIED, and therefore there can’t be a ‘cure’.

We see tackling erectile dysfunction, along with a problematic outlook on pornography, as part of an ongoing self-development journey. It’s about integrating porn use as a functional part of your sex life.

Porn Induced Erectile Dysfunction treatment

Remember, if there’s no diagnosis for PIED, there also can’t be a ‘treatment’. 

We’ve outlined 4 key tools and techniques below, to help you get your mojo back. You should see these as ways to weave porn viewing into your life in a functional way, rather than a ‘treatment plan’.

1. Rebalancing your relationship with porn

Porn isn’t bad or good, it’s just adult entertainment. So, unless your experiences with porn are extremely negative, Silva doesn’t suggest you must cut porn out of your life – particularly if you use porn to de-stress.

“In some cases, porn can be the only coping strategy against stress or other emotional disturbances.

As a therapist, if you ask people to stop watching porn before understanding its role in their lives, you can actually make someone's mental health worse.” 

- Silva Neves, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist

However, if you feel like porn is negatively impacting your erections (and your life), you may want to look into rebalancing your porn usage. This may mean cutting down, diversifying, or stopping altogether. All approaches are fine and we are here to help.

When it comes to rebalancing any porn-watching habits, choose a realistic goal that feels like an easy first step. Silva explains an example of how you can do this:

“First, try to enjoy porn with a clear boundary of time, for example, 20 minutes (you can put an alarm on). Make sure that those 20 minutes are really enjoyable. You can use lube whilst masturbating to enhance your pleasure, if you wish.

When you're done, get on with the rest of your day. If you feel an urge to watch porn again, tell yourself that you can have another super-pleasurable moment at your next allocated time, and the waiting for that time can make it even hotter (because anticipation can be sexy).”

- Silva Neves, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist

Also think about the function porn offers you and replace it with something that offers the same reward. For example, if porn helps you calm down or de-stress, replace porn with an exercise or meditation that offers you the same release. 

Mojo’s platform has a range of exercises and meditations to help you feel calmer and less stressed. Check them out here. 

Ultimately, when you’re rebalancing your porn usage, be patient and kind to yourself. And if you have any setbacks, it’s okay. You can always pick back up where you left off.

“The most important thing to remember when cutting back on porn is to not pressure yourself or approach this journey with shame.”

- Angus Barge, Mojo Co-founder

2. Avoid making promises to partners

Silva also advises that men shouldn’t make any promises to their partners about what they will or won’t do with porn.

This could create added pressure and feelings of shame.

“If you’ve promised your partner that you’ll stop watching porn and you then break the promise, you are also likely to feel more shame, and experience unreliable erections with partners.”

- Silva Neves, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist

3. Therapy for porn & ED

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a behavioral approach that uses a combination of talk therapy, mindfulness, and exercises to begin seeing your struggle with porn and ED for what it really is, instead of what your mind says it is. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help those suffering from erectile dysfunction become aware of behaviors and triggers that may be coming from pornography usage. If you can spot and confront those triggers, you can begin to create a plan of action. 

Mojo offers lots of resources for porn and ED, including recorded expert-led therapy videos, anonymous group therapy sessions, and mindfulness exercises. We can help combat your erection issues in a holistic way from the comfort of your bedroom. 

We also have an anonymous community where you’ll hear from guys opening up about their porn and ED worries (and how they’ve worked through them).

4. Mindful masturbation 

We know ‘mindful masturbation’ sounds a bit strange, but trust us, it can make masturbation more enjoyable, and reduce your reliance on porn to get it up (or cum). 

If you’re not sure where to start, Mojo has mindful masturbation exercises that you can do on your own or with a partner – so you can get in the zone in the comfort of your own bed.

How to recover from Porn Induced ED (or as we’d rather put it: unreliable erections and problematic porn use) 

‘Recovery’ is a pretty scary word that we tend to avoid here at Mojo.

Instead, we encourage guys to see it more as an ongoing journey to have consistently stronger erections, a more satisfying sex life in the long-term, and feel happier and healthier overall.

Mojo’s porn and masturbation course is dedicated to helping you learn more about your relationship with porn, and has exercises, therapy podcasts, and meditations that can help you have enjoyable partnered and solo sex, without relying on porn. You can find it here.

Can porn help with ED? 

We’ve touched on the negative effects porn can have on your penis. But porn isn’t always bad. 

If consumed consciously and carefully, pornography can actually help your erections and your sexual relationships. Here’s how:

“Watching porn can enhance a couple's sex life as long as both partners have the same positive values about porn.”

- Silva Neves, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist

But with great porn, comes great responsibility. So, it’s up to you to keep an eye on your porn habits, how pornography makes you feel, and the impact it has on you and your relationships.

And…we got to the end! 

We’ve covered a lot in this post, so we’ll leave you with the following reminders:

At Mojo, we make getting hard, well, easier. We have the resources to understand more about your sex life, what’s going on with your erections, and the tools to help you communicate and work through them.

And if you'd rather offload anonymously to guys who really get it, the Mojo Community is brimming with open conservations about erectile dysfunction, porn, and masturbation. You’re more than welcome to tap into the conversation.

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Mojo aims to provide useful wellbeing resources to its users; however, you should not solely rely on opinions or advice available on the Website or given by the Community. Always seek advice from a qualified medical doctor or other healthcare professional before acting.