Here’s a simple test: Try to masturbate (alone) using no porn and no fantasy—only sensual touch. Use the same speed and pressure as you would during intercourse. How erect is your penis without porn? If your penis is not fully erect, or it takes effort to become erect, then the chances are that anxiety is not the source of your problems.
Recent behavioral addiction research suggests that the loss of libido and performance occur because heavy users are numbing their brain’s normal response to pleasure. Years of overriding the natural limits of libido with intense stimulation desensitize the user’s response to a neurochemical called dopamine.
Dopamine is behind motivation, “wanting” and all addictions. It drives the search for rewards. We get little spurts of it every time we bump into anything potentially rewarding, novel, surprising, or even anxiety-producing.
In the last decade or so, addiction researchers have discovered that too much dopamine stimulation has a paradoxical effect. The brain decreases its ability to respond to dopamine signals (desensitization). This occurs with all addictions, both chemical and natural. 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.
Erotic words, pictures, and videos have been around a long while, but the Internet makes possible a never-ending stream of dopamine spikes. 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, 7 days a week. Overstimulation of the reward circuitry in the brain is a very real possibility today.