All right, so it’s been 80 days since I last looked at pornography. To some of you it may not seem like a long time, but to others it will seem like an eternity. In this post, I’m going to explore the connections between NoFap and social anxiety.
A year ago, I never thought I would have been able to stay away from porn for this long. I had known about NoFap for many years, and I’d been trying consistently to overcome what I recognized to be a porn addiction for a long time, but to no avail.
So what’s changed?
A lot has changed, yet at the same time, everything’s the same. I’ve certainly changed in many respects, but the main thing is that I no longer had any escape from my darkest feelings, my most creeping fears. You see, that’s what addiction is, really. An escape. An addiction can only arise on a traumatic base. We’re trying to escape the trauma of childhood, or sometimes adulthood.
Feelings of anxiety, depression, fear. Anger and pain. We tend to brood on traumatic events without really experiencing the emotions associated with them. After all, many of us have been encouraged to believe that what traumatized us wasn’t actually that bad. Normal even. You’re just being a pussy, is what was implied.
For example, in the aftermath of my parents’ turbulent divorce when I was seven years old, my mother would yell at me for asking when dad would come back home. My dad wouldn’t talk about any of it at all, which was even worse. Your pain is irrelevant and annoying to us, their reactions told seven-year-old me.
So fast forward a bit, and I’ve seemingly got my life pretty much together on the outside. Doing quite well at school, excluding the social aspects like, you know, having friends. I had learned to fake happiness to keep my mother from getting pissed at me (though she always found an excuse anyway), and to keep the gears of my life turning. Inside, I was dying.
I was severely depressed, had crippling social anxiety, fear of abandonment, which is probably why I couldn’t make any friends. In adolescence, I started playing an inordinate amount of video games. It was my first addiction, my first medication. A few years down the road, though, I ditched the games and started to watch so much porn, you wouldn’t believe. I’m talking hours a day. With short breaks in between, of course.
This short introduction is intended to make clear the causes of my porn addiction in the first place. Now let’s get into the consequences. Namely, anxiety.
Crippling porn-induced social anxiety
I’ve researched the subject a lot, having dealt with crippling anxiety of the social variety for my entire adult life. I’ve come to the conclusion that, while certainly my traumatic childhood is the root cause of my anxiety, porn addiction has been the fuel for the fire, so to speak. Sure, at first porn acted as a drug of sorts, allowing me to escape my painful reality into a world of boobs and ass and above all the illusion of acceptance.
But as time went by and my use became more and more intense and disruptive, the medication became the main problem. Aside from preventing me from feeling and dealing with the traumatic feelings head on, in order to resolve them, porn in itself had completely skewed my views of sexuality and social interactions. I viewed men and women as mere objects for sexual gratification, and I was constantly fantasizing the most depraved sex scenes in the recesses of my mind.
Even this wasn’t the end of my woes. Constant ejaculation is incredibly unhealthy, whatever the mainstream media says. After years of multiple daily orgasms, I started to become physically frail and ill, and mentally dull.
All in all, my porn addiction was ruining my life.
So this brings me to the topic of this article, anxiety.
Specifically, porn-induced social anxiety.
The plight of millenials
It’s obvious to me now that porn has this effect on men (I don’t know much about the effects of porn on women, though I imagine it isn’t pretty either). There are many aspects of porn addiction that come together to produce this anxiety. The guilt and shame from repeatedly hiding your activities, the constant overstimulation, the objectification of both men and women. All these things affect us in ways that are hard to see, until the become too painfully obvious to ignore.
Let’s start with the guilt and shame.
The furtive aspect of porn use is undeniable. Porn use seems to be an accepted outlet in our society, but normally it’s still considered a very private and even shameful activity. So what happens when the addiction starts to tighten its grip and porn use becomes compulsive? An addict is not in control of his actions when the compulsive ritual starts. This means that we start jerking off in places where it’s not really, *ahem*, acceptable.
Visiting a friend? Rub one off in the bathroom. Out in nature? Rub one off in the woods. At a party? You get the picture.
As the addiction progresses, controlling the urges becomes more and more difficult. The secrecy and naughtiness of it all even becomes fuel on the compulsive fire. Which makes us feel even more shameful and guilty when it’s over.
Humans or things?
Next, let’s look at the problem of objectification of other humans.
High-speed internet porn is a superstimulus, meaning it’s a stimulus that isn’t readily found in nature. Maybe some ancestor of ours randomly stumbled into a harem when running away from the sultan’s guards and proceeded to get it on with all of the women, but apart from that, I can’t see anything close to internet porn being available to pre-twenty first century humans.
Being super stimulating, porn allows us to fully shut off the outside world, especially useful when we’re feeling bad and don’t want to face the world around us.
In people who are in especially difficult situations, or have a lot of trauma in their past, this can mean full immersion into the world of porn. At this point, porn starts to seem more real than reality itself. We start to project ideas and images from porn over onto the world around us. The addict starts to mentally undress everybody he sees, imagining them in all kinds of sexual scenarios. In short, other peoples’ bodies become the main attraction. In fact, their bodies become detached from their personalities, becoming actual objects for the addict’s pleasure.
Even after 80 days of no porn whatsoever, I still feel the lingering effects of this disgusting habit of objectification, although it’s gotten a lot better.
What this does to a person’s mind, especially the mind of an adolescent, is difficult to quantify, but easy to identify in retrospect.
We start to objectify people, true, but what does that truly mean? It means that we stop relating to people as, well, people. We still talk to them, sure, or maybe we just talk at them. And we only talk to people when strictly necessary, when we go to the store or in order to avoid further social interaction. In the mind of the compulsive porn user, though, these people might as well just be faceless sex robots.
However, no matter how far along we are on the porn addiction spectrum, we still retain the light of knowledge, the light of our true nature. I know I did. What I mean is, even at my lowest points of objectifying others, I still knew that it was wrong. That it wasn’t healthy, that I needed to fix this. And eventually I realized I needed help.
Cognitive dissonance develops, which means holding two separate ideas or beliefs simultaneously.
We have started to believe that people are, in fact, sex objects, but we also have the clear knowledge, no matter how deeply buried, that this is not so, that every human being is precious, that objectifying another person is the lowest crime.
This internal dissonance contributes the lion’s share of the addict’s social anxiety. The addict has a very solid reason for being anxious in social situations: he truly cannot connect with others. Starting to see the connection between social anxiety and NoFap?
Social anxiety is not a disease. It’s a symptom of something a lot worse.
The scourge of superstimuli
Let’s touch on the effects of endless self-gratification through superstimuli on the development of social anxiety.
Dopamine, as you may know, is a motivator hormone. It motivates us to seek good food, sex, shelter. Wealth and social approval. Dopamine is what drives you to have a bit of honey in your tea, or to watch the next episode of The OA.
When we introduce superstimuli like porn, video games, or social media into our lives, the regular, natural stimuli of our ancestors start to become very unexciting in comparison.
This is because, neurochemically, the superstimuli cause our brain to bombard itself with dopamine, so much so that the neural pathways become oversaturated so to speak, and we become sensitized to dopamine. This simply means that we start to need more stimulation to feel good.
This is why it’s well known that compulsive porn users consistently start using more and more bizarre, degrading, shocking, even violent pornography as their addiction develops. There’s a reason we have furry porn, smurf porn, cake-fart porn, and so on.
Putting the pieces together
What does this mean for social anxiety, though?
Well, normally, in a human being with a healthy brain, dopamine will be released during social interactions, driving us to make friends and connect to others. Or to find a mate. The trouble starts when suddenly, the dopamine released from social situations is no longer enough to elicit the motivation response. What we’re left with is all the stresses and embarrassments of being social, with none of the rewards. If it sounds shitty, that’s because it is.
All these aspects of porn addiction work in tandem to make us absolutely miserable social pariahs. Believe me, I’ve been there. Still am, a little bit. But I’m getting better, every single day. That’s what I want for all of you fighting this new drug. We need to get our heads straight, and then we need to help others to do the same.
We’re in this together, never forget.