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I have a question regarding abstinence from pornography, and also possibly celibacy, and how these two lifestyle choices affect hormone levels.

Trends such as No Fap have been emerging recently. An excerpt from their website states :

No Fap held you to sharply increase your testosterone levels.

Is this true? From my research, I see no evidence to suggest this. Links to any studies would be appreciated. It is clear that people participating in No Fap have experienced psychological changes, but whether these changes are present on a hormonal level is an interesting proposition. If there is no hormonal change, what does this infer about what has happened to the minds of participants?

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  • $\begingroup$ My immediate response, although I have zero evidence to back this up, would be it's along similar lines to quitting eating chocolate. You're simply stopping a habit that you enjoy. It sucks at first but then you get used to it after a period of time. More likely to be to do with dopamine than anything else. $\endgroup$ – Persistence Apr 17 '17 at 0:29
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your answer. Yes, after doing more research it would seem that a pornography addiction desensitises the dopamine receptors in the brain and hence affects the wellbeing of the person in other activities. I suppose this could have the same kind of effect as low testosterone or adrenaline does. $\endgroup$ – Charlie Apr 17 '17 at 1:07
  • $\begingroup$ I've written this up for you as a proper answer, if this solves your query I'd appreciate it if you marked it as accepted $\endgroup$ – Persistence Apr 17 '17 at 3:53
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In the context of breaking a pleasure producing habit, such as masturbation (with or without pornography), testosterone plays very little part.

There are two factors at play here:

  • Habitualisation - the tendency for an orgasm to repeat behaviours that it has become accustomed to.
  • Addiction/Dopamine Response - it feels good so I'm going to carry on.

The first bullet point is obvious, if you've always done something, it's going to make you feel different if you stop. If generally in society it is perceived as being a bad thing (thus making you feel guilty for partaking, even subconsciously), stopping that habit will make you feel good. Especially once you've gotten over the relapse stage.

The second bullet point is more involved. Orgasms, along with the viewing of sexually stimulating material, release dopamine into the blood. Over time, the dopamine receptors in the brain become desensitised and require more and more dopamine to get the same buzz. This is exactly why drug addicts need bigger and bigger doses of their drug. Consequently, once one has stopped partaking in the dopamine producing behaviour the receptors gradually begin to return to normal levels of sensitivity. This results in a generally better mood and a potentially higher libido. To those that don't know the root cause, this increase in mood and libido may appear as though testosterone levels had increased, however, this is likely not the case.

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