A recent study found that one in four patients seeking their first medical help for a new problem with erectile dysfunction was younger than 40 years old. Several research studies using a variety of assessment instruments have revealed further evidence of an unprecedented increase in sexual difficulties among young men.
The prevalence of ED among young men, represents a significant change from rates reported in large studies in 1999 and 2002. Men under 40 are now reporting rates of sexual dysfunction only found in men over 40 in the pre-online-porn age.
Researchers surveyed 312 men, ages 20 to 40, who visited a San Diego urology clinic for treatment. The rates of organic causes of erectile dysfunction in this age cohort are low, so the increase in erectile dysfunction for this group in recent years needs to be explained.
The study’s authors believe that pornography use may be part of the reason, however the data does not suggest that it is the only explanation.
The problem could be rooted in the biology of addiction. The researchers found a relationship between porn addiction and sexual dysfunction.
Not all men reporting ED were clearly porn addicted – but there was a clear correlation between reported sexual dysfunction in partnered sex and internet pornography viewing.
Pornography use varied widely across all the men surveyed. About 26 percent said they view pornography less than once a week, while 25 percent said one to two times a week, and 21 percent said three to five times weekly. At the other extreme, 5 percent said they use pornography six to 10 times a week, and 4 percent said more than 11 times a week.
A separate survey of 48 females found no association between pornography and sexual dysfunction, even though about 40 percent said they also watch pornography.
Young men with the heaviest use of online porn were among the most likely to report erectile dysfunction or other sexual issues.
Porn-addicted men are more likely to have erectile dysfunction and are less likely to be satisfied with sexual intercourse, according to findings presented.
Sexual behavior activates the same ‘reward system’ circuitry in the brain as addictive drugs and this can result in self-reinforcing activity and addictive behaviours. Internet pornography has been shown to be a strong stimulus of this circuitry, which may be due to the ability to continuously and instantaneously self-select novel and more sexually arousing images or videos.
Watching too much internet porn can increase a person’s tolerance to sexual stimuli and regular uses are less likely to respond to real-world sexual activity.
Men who are habituated to the stimulation and novelty of pornography, and specifically internet pornography, can become de-sensitized to the point that they are not easily aroused by thier sexual partner.
The real world has to compete with the unreal online sexual fantasy world – with the result that some men find themselves unable to participate in normal partnered sexual activity.
The findings about ED rates in young men raise concerns that teen’s sexuality could be affected if they’re exposed to pornography. There appears to be an impact on the brain from exposure to internet pornography – and it also seems that that impact can potentially be reversed by ending exposure.
Some of the men included in the study were able to resume normal sexual relations with a partner after stopping the use of online pornography. Like many other addictions, withdrawal can be difficult, and not all men were able to stop, but those who did remain porn-free generally reported an improvement in their condition within weeks.
The researchers conclude that since terminating internet pornography use is sometimes sufficient to reverse negative effects, there is a need for sexual dysfunction investigation using methodologies that have subjects remove the variable of internet pornography.