11 minute read

What Happens When You Stop Watching Porn?

Last Updated: December 7, 2022

Keith Rose
Keith Rose

Keith Rose holds a Master of Divinity degree and BA in Sacred Music. Keith worked with the Covenant Eyes Member Care Team for 15 years. He has also served as a Bible teacher, pastoral assistant, and music director at his local church. He's now the editor of the Covenant Eyes blog and the author of Allied: Fighting Porn With Accountability, Faith, and Friends. He lives in Hendersonville, North Carolina with his wife Ruby and daughter Winslow.

So, you stop watching porn—what happens next? We find both good news and bad news, I’ll start with the bad. Stopping porn, especially if it’s a longtime habit, can be tough. If it were easy, you wouldn’t bother to read this. Some uncomfortable things happen when you make the effort to stop looking at pornography. I want to take an honest look at these things, which will help you understand what’s required to turn off the porn for good.  

Because there’s good news too! First, it’s possible. Lots of people have done it, and have shared their experiences so we can learn from them. Second, there are TONS of good things that happen when you push through the difficulty and stay on the path away from porn. The good stuff makes it totally worthwhile! And understanding the good things that happen when you stop watching porn will motivate you to push through the hurdles on the journey.

Tough Stuff That Happens When You Stop Watching Porn

When you watch porn you know what happens—it make you feel good! If you’re used to the good feelings that porn gives you, it can be challenging to let those go. You can imagine that when you try to stop it’s not going to feel great.

You’re saying “no” to an outlet for sexual release

According to surveys, most people watch porn to achieve “personal arousal.”1 Obviously, stopping porn means you’re rejecting the easiest available mode of sexual arousal and release.

If you’re a Christian, and you’re trying to live out God’s plan for sexual purity, you know it’s ultimately for the best. But if you’ve been in the habit of getting aroused and finding release through porn and masturbation, saying “no” will prove a challenge.

You lose an easy form of stress relief.

Porn habits usually don’t just go away. Even if you don’t need porn for sexual release, you may find yourself coming back to porn. Why is that? For some, it’s because porn provides effective short-term stress-relief (especially when combined with masturbation).

Pornography releases a bunch of feel-good chemicals in your brain, which help you feel better and relieve the stress. Even though pornography might cause you more stress in the long run, the short-term relief makes it very appealing.

Giving up porn means you’ll have to find new ways to cope with stress. For more on this, see Porn and Stress: How to Relieve Stress Without Relapsing.

You may experience withdrawal symptoms.

People trying to stop a long-term porn habit are often blindsided by withdrawal symptoms. Just like a substance addiction, such as alcohol or drugs, quitting pornography may bring unexpected and unwanted side-effects.

Mood swings, loss of libido, and insomnia are just a few of the common withdrawal symptoms that people experience when trying to stop porn. For more on withdrawal symptoms, and some helpful tips for coping, check out 10 Symptoms of Porn Addiction Withdrawal (And How to Manage Them).

You’ll need a new way to deal with boredom.

Next to sexual arousal, most people cite boredom as their reason for watching porn.2 Take away the porn, and you’ll need to find a better way to deal with the downtime.

Although there are plenty of things to do instead of watching porn, it takes time to train yourself to enjoy new hobbies. Porn provides quick and easy excitement. When you hit that first wave of boredom, the instinct to turn to porn will be strong.

Really Good Stuff That Happens When You Stop Watching Porn

OK, we talked about the tough stuff, and I hope you’ve stuck with us this far because the positives to stopping porn FAR OUTWEIGH the negatives. If the challenges of overcoming this happen to have made you lose heart, read on. What happens next makes it all worthwhile to push through the discomfort and stop watching porn.

Stopping porn provides time for life-giving hobbies.

When you take porn out of your life, you’ve opened up your schedule for ALL KINDS enjoyable activities. Time was consumed by looking at porn you can now spend learning an instrument, reading a book, or getting exercise.

Check out our blog post, 50 Things to Do Instead of Watching Porn!

Stopping porn lets you focus on your goals.

More important than just finding new hobbies to fill your time, removing porn from your life sets you free to pursue your goals and dreams. A student wrote to us to say:

“[I finished] the first half of my college credits while still in high school.  I also have started and managed a business… I can honestly say that I accomplished these goals without wading through the regular attack of pornography many of my friends face daily.”

Removing the distraction of porn may put you on the fast-track to accomplishing your goals as well!

Stopping porn can reduce anxiety and depression.

This gets interesting, because many people turn to porn to soothe their feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. But over time, research has shown that watching porn correlates strongly with greater feelings of anxiety and depression. While withdrawal may temporarily aggravate your anxiety or depression, stopping porn will put you on the path to better mental health.

For more see:

Stopping porn can improve mental clarity and focus.

A common experience of those who put aside porn is improved mental clarity. One person shared this comment about his experience with porn:

“While I never became addicted, I noticed I could not think with the same mental clarity I had before, I could not seem to find interest in things I loved, and being an intellectually gifted and generally happy teenager before, those traits tended to massively decline over time… I was finally able to break free, experience clarity, think clearly, and have permanent, colossal boots in memory, intelligence and intellectual aptitude, motivation, decision making, etc. My common sense and problem-solving ability was back!”

A number of studies suggest that watching porn may impact short-term memory and other mental functions.3 Consequently, once you’ve stopped the porn for a sufficient time, your mind can regain its clarity and focus.

Stopping porn will help your relationships.

By now it shouldn’t surprise you to hear that porn can devastate relationships. Maybe you’ve experienced this as well. Some experts estimate that porn factors into at least half of divorces. Even in relationships that stick out a porn habit, couples often face serious intimacy problems because of porn. When you nix the porn, it allows your relationships to build trust and intimacy.

Andrew shared his story with us:

“God has changed my mind and heart! He has opened doors and put a greater anointing on my life than I ever had before. He has turned my life upside down. My marriage is stronger than it ever was before, and now we are doing ministry together! Victory over porn is possible! I never thought it was, but I was wrong!”

Joshua gives a similar account after making it two months without watching porn:

 “My feeling of the rush to go into porn has decreased much over time, and my relationship with my wife has grown even deeper. There were even moments of kissing and hugging that made us feel like we were going back to the time when we were dating—that deep satisfaction and happiness I once lost due to my ongoing sin of porn.”

For single people, a lot of evidence suggests that watching porn makes people less likely to get married or even to socialize.

You can learn more in our article 6 Ways That Watching Porn Affects Your Relationships.  

Stopping porn can reverse porn-induced sexual dysfunctions.  

One great benefit that many men have experienced from stopping porn is the reversal of porn-induced sexual dysfunction. A growing body of evidence indicates that millions of men suffer from porn-induced erectile dysfunction. Simply put, watching too much porn makes some men unable to perform sexually with real life women.

But the good news is, you can recover from PIED. For some encouragement, check out 3 Stories of Guys Who Struggled (and Recovered) From Porn-Induced ED.

Stopping porn frees you from shame.

Many people who watch porn feel ashamed because their behaviors don’t match up with their values. If you believe watching porn is a sin, you’ll feel guilty if you keep doing it anyway.

However, it’s interesting to note that religious people aren’t the only ones who experience shame from watching porn. A recent study found that people experience shame when their porn use is out of control, even apart from any religious beliefs about porn. When you stop watching porn, you can finally shame free from the burden of shame.

Stopping porn helps you feel more confident.

We hear again and again from men and women whose confidence has been devastated by their porn habit. When you stop porn, not only does it free you from shame, it helps restore your confidence. One commenter on our blog wrote:

“It’s working out just great. I’m able to look at my wife without guilt. My confidence is building up.”

On an online forum another individual shared:

“Once I quit it was one of the best things that ever happened to me because I got my confidence back.”

You can find hundreds of similar comments. Especially for those who have felt trapped by porn, breaking free can give a tremendous boost of confidence.

Stopping porn removes a barrier to your spiritual growth.

We periodically ask people why they come to us for help stopping porn. Time and again, the number one response we get is “to improve my relationship with God.”

For many people, porn presents a significant barrier to a deeper spiritual life. It violates many religious convictions, and gives a sense of incongruity between what they believe and what they actually do. As we saw already, this impacts feelings of shame and confidence. But it also impacts your spirituality more generally.

When you stop watching porn, you can start living out your values consistently. This removes a great obstacle to deeper spiritual growth and maturity. An anonymous member told us:

“As I became more and more honest with my challenges with the people around me, it allowed for more love, forgiveness, and acceptance to come into my life, transforming my relationship with my friends, siblings, my parents, and especially God.”

Stopping porn opens a door to a better life.

Lastly, when you get rid of porn, you step onto a path towards a better life. A porn-free you is a better you.

Aaron says:

“I’m proud to say that I have been 100% porn free for over 1 year now and I’m still going strong. I just want to encourage others to know that it can be done. That your life can be so much better without porn. You’re not missing out and everybody DOES NOT DO IT!!!”

Anonymous:

“Covenant Eyes is a beacon of hope for those who recognize the impact porn has on their life and how great and beautiful their life can be if they can eliminate it.”

Another Covenant Eyes member writes:

“Porn never added value to my life. It only took from me. Now is the opportunity to find something that brings value.”


1 Josh McDowell Ministry, The Porn Phenomenon: The Impact of Pornography in the Digital Age (Ventura, CA: Barna Group, 2016).

2 Beáta Bőthe, István Tóth-Király, Nóra Bella, Marc Potenza, Zsolt Demetrovics, and Gábor Orosz, “Why do people watch pornography? The motivational basis of pornography use,” Psychology of Addictive Behaviors 35 (2021): 172-186. doi: 10.1037/adb0000603. Cf. The Porn Phenomenon.

3 Pukovisa Prawiroharjo, Hainah Ellydar, Peter Pratama, Rizki Edmi Edison, Sitti Evangeline Imelda Suaidy, Nya’ Zata Amani, and Diavitri Carissima, “Impaired Recent Verbal Memory in Pornography-Addicted Juvenile Subjects,” Neurology Research International (2019). Doi: 10.1155/2019/2351638; Lindsey Konkel, “Why Online Porn May Make You Forget,” Live Science, December 14 (2012). Accessed September 28, 2022 at https://www.livescience.com/25543-online-porn-affects-memory.html.

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