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How to Quit Porn In 3 Steps, According to Science

Quitting porn used to be a lot easier. Until the 90s, pretty much all of the X-rated content under the sun was kept within the confines of sketchy sex shops. You actually had to get in your car, drive somewhere, and pay for porn.

Today, however, stepping away from the $15 billion porn industry is a Herculean task. The internet has made access to porn fast and free. Not to mention, having a smartphone in your pocket means porn is always a click away. In fact, 1 out of every 5 mobile searches is for porn.

Your browsing history is your own business. But if you’re ready to live porn-free, we’ve got science-backed, battle-tested advice to make that happen. Coming up, we’ll cover the side effects of viewing porn, why it’s so hard to stop, and how to use science (not guilt) to kick your porn habit.

But before we do that, let’s address a question you probably have on your mind.

Do You Actually Need to Stop Watching Porn?

There’s a saying that goes: 90% of men watch porn, and the other 10% are lying. It turns out that’s an understatement. A recent study found that 98% of guys used internet porn in the last six months. But if millions of guys are masturbating to porn every day, how bad can it really be?

Generally speaking, masturbation is a healthy and normal thing for guys to do. But pornography adds an addictive element into the mix. One recent survey found that 18% of men think they are addicted or are unsure if they are addicted to porn. This rise in porn addiction prompted the World Health Organization now recognizes porn addiction as a behavioral disorder.

Even if you’re not suffering from a full-blown pornography addiction, recreational porn use can still impact your mental health and your sex life. Here a few problematic side effects:

  • Clinical depression is twice as common among internet porn users
  • Compulsive porn use can diminish real-life sexual satisfaction
  • Porn use increases the marital infidelity rate by more than 300%
  • Porn can desensitize you to real-life sexual partners, causing porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED)

We’re not doctors, we’re just dudes. But it’s safe to say the costs of porn might outweigh the fleeting benefits.

3 Steps to Stop Watching Porn (Forever)

Some people might claim that quitting porn is a matter of willpower. But compulsive porn use is like any other addiction: there’s a chemical dependency in your brain. In the case of porn, that chemical is dopamine—that’s why you get a rush every time you wank it.

Going cold turkey might work for a week, but chances are you’ll pick up your porn habit again once your willpower withers. Instead, you need a real plan that gets to the root cause of your habit so you can kick it for good.

1. Install Blocking Software on Your Digital Devices

If a person wants to quit drinking, they don’t keep a cabinet full of booze. Likewise, if you want to quit porn, you need to make it as hard as possible to access. Here are a few popular options for porn blocking software:

Net Nanny: Paid web filtering service that lets you block explicit content on your computer and smartphone

Self Control: Free Mac app that allows you to block any website you want for a predetermined amount of time (or indefinitely)

Cold Turkey: Another free extension that not only blocks porn, but can lock you out of apps and even the whole internet. Works for Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and more.

Here are two more resources:

How to block sites on an Apple device

How to block sites on an Android device

2. Break the Habit Loop

Most guys have internal cues that prompt them to look at porn: they’re bored, tired, lonely, or anxious. Every time you watch porn, your brain creates new reward connections associated with that cue. The more connections you make, the harder it becomes to break the habit, which is how an addiction forms.

In order to break the habit loop, you simply substitute a healthier activity for porn whenever you get the craving. For example, you could go for a run or call a friend. This will be difficult at first, but if you follow step one, you should be fine.

3. Join an online support group

This isn’t as cheesy as it sounds. In fact, accountability can determine whether you stay on the wagon. Take Reddit’s r/NoFap community, for example, which hosts “rebooting” challenges in which participants (“Fapstronauts”) abstain from pornography and masturbation for a period of time.

There’s also Fight the New Drug, a research-based nonprofit that educates men (and women) about how porn affects your brain and your loved ones, and how to make informed decisions about using it.

Covenant Eyes (creepy name, right?) takes accountability to a new level. This software monitors your screen activity and analyzes it for explicit content. The activity report is then sent to your accountability partner who can encourage good behavior (or help you change bad behavior).

Behavioral psychologists agree that three weeks is the standard amount of time it takes to form new habits. So, in theory, if you quit porn for three weeks, the odds of staying porn-free are in your favor.

No Porn, No Problem

What happens when you stop watching porn? Do you become a miserably horny, sexually repressed nerd? On the contrary, you might feel like a new man.

Jack, an anonymous user in the r/PornFree community on Reddit, says he's "better off without [porn] on so many levels."

"I'm more confident, emotionally sensitive, energized and overall more content with life," says Jack. He adds that his sexual performance has improved, he has a deeper respect for women, a clearer brain, sleeps better, and has improved focus at work.

If you’re not convinced you can survive without perusing PornHub on a regular basis, just remember: If civilization lived without internet porn for millions of years, you can live without it for three weeks—and beyond.

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