(Article medically reviewed by Dr. Zac Hyde M.D)
Sometimes things have to get worse before they can
Ask any recovering drug addict about withdrawal
if you have any doubts about that.
It’s no different with a porn addiction.
Too much fapping to porn, especially the hardcore stuff, leads to a “dead stick” in your cockpit when you’re not actively using pornography.
Which can be scary to you and disappointing to your partner.
It can also do a number on your self esteem, leading to social withdrawal, anxiety and depression.
But if you all of a sudden decide to stop fapping, you can experience a period of “flatline” where you penis won’t respond to anything but porn. But you’re not using porn now…
So your formerly reliable morning wood abandons you entirely as you work your way through this recovery phase.
And let’s be honest with each other here. If you’re not even getting morning wood, your libido has left the building.
The bad news is, this is normal. If you’re trying to quit porn you should expect a period of this scary and embarrassing problem.
But if you stay the course and stay off the porn, you’ll find that life will come back to your penis and your personality, eventually.
Fortunately, there are several ways to make that life come back faster, which we’ll get to in a moment.
Flatline and No Morning Wood
There hasn’t been a lot of research on the post-fap flatline, but here’s a breakdown of what most people think is going on.
Using too much porn leads your body to develop a tolerance to dopamine, a hormone responsible for most pleasurable sensations including arousal, sexual stimulation, and orgasm.
Porn delivers a more intense dopamine reaction than in-person arousal, so pretty soon you can only get aroused by porn.
If you quit using porn, that intense dopamine reaction isn’t available but your body still needs a lot of dopamine to get you aroused enough to get hard.
Look at it this way….
Flatline is a little bit like your refractory period. After you’ve ejaculated, your body takes some time to recover enough for round two.
After you’ve short-circuited your pathways to arousal, your body needs some time to get back to normal.
So a positive way to look at this is, you’re just going through a very long refractory period, but instead of taking minutes or hours to recover, you’re looking at days or weeks.
How long it takes to return to normal varies wildly, and is impacted by things ranging from genetics, to diet, to lifestyle choices (more on that in a bit).
But science has found one possible factor:
Younger men may have longer recovery times than older men (source).
Research has found that men old enough to still call it “jerking off” instead of “fapping” recover from flatline much faster than those in their 20s.
There are three prevailing ideas about why this might be:
There’s something about the physiology of older men that makes the dopamine-porn problem less long-lasting. Likely due to the info coming next….
Earlier exposure to pornography does cause changes to brain function and even structure, including arousal and hormonal responses like dopamine. If you’re young when you stop fapping, you were even younger when you started.
Older men started masturbating to Playboy, Penthouse, and the lingerie section of the Sears catalog. Younger men started with immediate access to hard-core video porn. The latter has a stronger impact on dopamine than the former.
This doesn’t mean that if you started fapping at age 13 and are flatlining the same year you became old enough to buy booze that you’re doomed. You can rebuild a normal erectile response just like anybody else.
But it will very likely take a bit longer.
It also doesn’t mean that if you’re 54 and developed a porn habit after a divorce that you can “quit any time you want.”
A shorter recovery time doesn’t mean no recovery time.
Nofap Signs of Recovery
If you’ve ever broken something or otherwise had to get physical therapy, you know how painful recovery from anything can be.
But at least you also know that the pain is a path that leads to a more normal life.
This is also true of porn induced flatline.
Once you stop fapping, the process I described earlier kicks in. You enter the Withdrawal Phase of your porn and masturbation addiction.
The most noticeable and worrying part of this phase is the lack of wood. No morning wood. No evening wood. No wood at all. But those aren’t the only common effects of this phase.
Others Flatline Symtoms include:
These all come from a sudden lack of dopamine in your system after years of periodic flooding. It’s withdrawal, plain and simple, and experiencing them is a hopeful sign. It shows you’re on the road to recovery.
Next comes the Coasting Flatline Phase.
Here all those secondary symptoms start to disappear as your body misses the dopamine less and less. However, the main problem is still present.
Your body is no longer panicking because of lack of dopamine, but your tolerance is still there.
Your libido will be basically gone. No boners. No real attraction to girls. Often you won’t even get horny enough to want to masturbate.
Again, this can be worrisome but it’s a sign that you’re moving in the right direction. Stay the course.
The final stage is a normal, healthy libido and regular dopamine response. How long it takes to get here varies from person to person, and can take days, weeks or even months.
One last word to the wise: this isn’t a consistent upward slope of recovery. It’s more of a two steps forward, one step back situation. You will wake up after days of feeling fine and suddenly feel like you’re back in the withdrawal phase.
This is also normal. Stay. The. Course.
How to Nofap Reboot Faster
Like I said, people recover at different speeds and nobody can predict what your “baseline” time for recovery is going to be…but you can do things to recover faster, whatever you baseline is.
Here’s the best advice I’ve found on doing just that:
Avoid Downtime In Front Of Your Computer: Porn isn’t the only kind of screen time that can mess up your brain and hormone function, and it keeps you from being active and healthy. Also, the temptation to relapse and start the whole process over can become overwhelming.
Start A New Hobby: Use it to replace the time you used to spend fapping. It removes temptation and starts to train your brain to respond to other things.
Try New And Novel Things: Dopamine response is higher when you do new and novel things. It’s one of the reasons porn initially hurts libido. A relationship gives you the same partner day after day, while porn can switch partners minute by minute.
Trying new activities and experiences makes that physiological fact help instead of hurt.
Avoid Boredom At All Costs: Boredom can “numb” your dopamine response, slowing your recovery. Also, just like cheating on your diet, boredom leads to cravings, which is the last thing you need while recovering.
Avoid All Forms Of Dirty Dopamine.
You won’t cure your dopamine tolerance and addiction by fapping to memories of porn, or by replacing your porn with drugs. Stick to the “clean” dopamine responses from exercise, positive social interaction, and success in work and with family.
We’ve updated this article to include important new information about Edging.
If you’re attempting to reboot it’s extremely important that you read this section to avoid relapsing.
Nofap, No Morning Wood Part 2: Edging Dangers
Edging is defined as masturbation without the climax, where you take yourself to the brink, but stop just prior to the release.
Edging has gained a lot of fans in recent years, especially among men attempting to develop bedroom superpowers
And while it might help you overcome premature ejaculation or gain more control during sexual encounters, edging has some pretty serious drawbacks.
One of the most notable examples lies at the intersection of three things: porn addiction, nofap, and the dopamine reboot period.
Below, we’ll discuss all of these in more detail.
With any luck, you’ll learn what many men have had to discover the hard way:
Edging isn’t “diet masturbation,” and in a lot of cases, it’s worse than jacking off to completion.
Edging Without Climaxing
Many men wrongly associate the porn-dopamine connection with orgasm and not arousal.
This causes them to drift back towards masturbation and pornography use by lying to themselves about how it will affect them.
In their mind, they aren’t hindering the rebooting process so long as they only edge rather than actually finishing the deed.
Again, edging is the practice of bringing yourself to the brink of orgasm, then allowing yourself a “cool down” period before starting up again.
Since the climax isn’t achieved, many men consider this a harmless way of feeding their habit.
This should sound familiar to anyone who’s had a friend struggling with addiction before.
“I’ll only smoke when I’m drinking.” “I’ll cut back to just one beer.”
“I can watch as much porn as I want as long as I don’t orgasm.”
These logically-empty phrases are virtually identical.
Because they attempt to circumvent the problem by pretending the issue is something else.
But rest assured, the problem will always be the way the nicotine, alcohol, or fapping interferes with dopamine.
That’s why all of these activities eventually contribute to relapses, even if we don’t want to admit it.
The Deal with Dopamine
When it comes to edging and pornography use, there are three approaches to watch out for.
- Watching porn without masturbating
- Masturbating while watching porn, but not ejaculating
- Masturbating without porn, but not ejaculating
Now, the first two should seem problematic right off the bat.
I mean, if you’re dealing with porn-induced erection problems, you should avoid porn at all costs, right?
But what’s wrong with a little bit of innocent edging if you’re only using your imagination to get hard?
Because it still messes up your dopamine response – and that’s ultimately the entire issue here.
Remember, addiction of any sort has to do with unnaturally high dopamine levels, which can be achieved in a lot of different ways.
Watching porn and even searching for new porn on the internet can raise your dopamine levels massively.
Masturbation on its own also raises your dopamine response, especially if you drag the process out.
And this can be enhanced depending on what you’re fantasizing about while you do it.
And if you’re a former porn addict edging with the monitor off, guess what you’ll be thinking about?
Not really much of a difference now, is there?
Edging and the Nofap Reboot
In the end, you can’t escape the facts.
In order to reboot properly, you need to avoid masturbation in all its forms – edging included.
In fact, since edging can keep dopamine levels elevated for as long as you go at it, it may be the worst offender.
In essence, when edging you’re creating a tidal wave of dopamine as you take yourself right to the brink.
Then you cool down for a few seconds, and go at it again and again and again.
This type of edging is the perfect recipe for porn induced dopamine burnout.
That ugly mental state where you don’t want to talk, make eye contact or engage with other people.
Where you don’t smile, take risks or enjoy the little things in life.
When you’re at this point, your electronic screens and your couch are your best friends.
Which is exactly where you were before you decided to nofap in the first place.
Because you’re still training your body to react to the wrong stimuli.
And this will ultimately hurt your erection potential when the proper stimuli come about (real sex with a warm body).
In a way, edging is like placing a brick on your dopamine gas pedal.
And this will end up rewiring your brain toward addiction, not away from it.
In fact, you might end up with the inability to climax at all.
So ditch the porn and the fapping and allow your body to reset itself without interference.
If you take the time to do this properly, the sexual and mental rewards will be significant.
You’ll know you’re on track…
When a walk in nature, socializing with friends or real sex sounds better than another round of mindless self copulation.
Nofap No Morning Wood- Conclusion:
I’m not saying this is going to be easy. Nofap no morning wood issues are serious, common, and hard to recover from.
I’m just saying that if you’ve lost your libido or your morning wood from too much porn use, the only way out is to kick your habit.
That means no porn, no edging and no masturbation for a while
The road may be long or it may even be short if you’re lucky. And parts of it will definitely be unpleasant, no doubt about that..
But the destination is worth the work it takes to get your morning erections, your self confidence and your life back on track.