The “NoFap Flatline“ is a commonly-reported phenomenon that many of NoFap’s community members who are going through a reboot experience. Don’t worry; even though it might sound scary, the “NoFap flatline” won’t kill you. In this quick guide, we will discuss what the flatline is and how you can deal with it.
What is the flatline?
NoFap is a sexual health website and recovery platform. Most people are members of NoFap to recover from porn addiction, problematic porn use, and non-porn compulsive sexual behavior (such as excessive masturbation). However, anyone pursuing sexual self-improvement is welcome, and NoFap users have a wide variety of personal goals.
Whenever people go through the NoFap program, they often opt to abstain from porn use and masturbation temporarily. Abstaining from porn and even masturbation for some time is known as going through a reboot. A reboot generally lasts between 7-90 days, after which the person decides which sexual behaviors they want to reintroduce back into their lives. For recovering porn addicts, a reboot is intended to unhook them from porn and reconnect them with real partnered sex again.
During a reboot, people report going through a wide variety of positive and negative experiences. One of these rebooting “side effects” is known as the flatline, which is a period of decreased libido, sexual interest, arousal, and even mood. While many people search for information regarding the “NoFap flatline” online in relation to our program, the flatline isn’t exclusive to NoFap members but is something anyone recovering from porn addiction might experience.
What are the signs of a flatline?
While the following signs of a flatline should not be used for any medical diagnosis, NoFap users commonly report the following potential “symptoms” associated with the flatline:
Less sexual arousal throughout the day. You might have used to wake up with a morning wood but don’t anymore. Sometimes, people report experiencing zero sexual arousal whatsoever (thankfully, the flatline appears to be a temporary phenomenon). This lack of sexual arousal can occur in both people with penises and vaginas.
Less sexual interest. You might not be interested in sex with your partner and may even be less interested in masturbation. Your libido might feel like it is at an all-time low.
Decreased ability to become sexually aroused. You might struggle to obtain or maintain sexual arousal (unless if you’re using porn). This sometimes leads to distress in people who are especially concerned about erectile dysfunction. Don’t worry, your dick won’t fall off or shrivel up and disappear.
Feeling tired or sluggish. While this is a commonly-reported “withdrawal” effect of reducing or eliminating porn use for heavy porn users, many NoFap Fapstonauts report that their flatlines were accompanied with feeling less energetic throughout the day.
Feeling less motivated. You might feel less motivated to pursue recovery or less motivated to pursue things that you generally enjoy or don’t have trouble doing.
Low mood. You might feel like you experience less enjoyment from everyday activities. Sometimes, these negative feelings could contribute to further issues, such as anxiety, boredom, or sleeping issues. This shouldn’t be confused with depression. If you experience a significant depression episode, you might want to consider visiting a therapist in your area. If you are experiencing suicidal ideation, seek assistance immediately.
Traditionally, the flatline only referred to a lack of sexual arousal, but based on people’s anecdotal reports, the definition has grown to include the potential associated mood changes, as well. The flatline phenomenon that rebooters report has been documented in peer-reviewed academic literature. One popular recovery coach, Mark Queppet, referred to there being two types of flatlines: a sexual flatline (sexual dysfunction or decreased libido) and an emotional flatline (low mood or decreased motivation). Within the NoFap community, people in the flatline might experience one, several, or many of the above-listed signs of the flatline.
“After a few days of brain tantrums (cravings), I went into a flatline for weeks. Basically I felt totally indifferent about girls, sex, everything. A little voice from the porn beast nagged at me in the back of my mind, but mostly, I just didn’t care. And my penis was very lifeless and small. It was like somebody just pulled the plug on whatever machine provides my sex drive. No libido at all.”
When does a flatline occur?
There is a huge amount of misinformation floating around about NoFap, rebooting, and porn recovery. While preparing this article, we searched online and found some spammy-looking blogs and social media comments filled with pseudoscience about the flatline. Many of these blogs include “timelines” that tell people what to expect on particular days of their reboot.
The reality is that there isn’t currently any way to predict when a flatline will occur or whether one will occur at all. Flatlines can happen once, multiple times, many times, or not at all. Flatlines can happen in the first days of a reboot or months later. Roughly 25% of our surveyed users who were going through a reboot reported experiencing a flatline – and they appear to occur most often within the first months of recovery.
How long does the flatline last?
Everybody is different, and a wide variety of factors might influence how long a flatline lasts. While you can look at other people’s stories who have experienced flatline, no two reboots are the same. Your body and brain are unique, and so are your genetics and life experiences. Some people report flatlining for days, while others report flatlining for months. Based on what we’ve seen, it looks like people who used more porn and started using porn at younger ages might be more likely to experience a longer flatline.
Many people believe that how you react to a flatline could influence how long it lasts. If excessive porn use ultimately caused your flatline, using more porn in response to a flatline probably won’t help speed things up. While it may “reawaken” your libido for porn, you’ll only be delaying the recovery process to become fully aroused by porn-free solo or partnered sex again. Unfortunately, some people with severe porn-induced erectile dysfunction have reported not getting an erection until after months of abstaining from porn and masturbation.
“After 1 week, it felt as if my penis had no life. That it basically was dead. I was afraid as hell. But after two-three weeks, the morning erections started returning.”
Why does the flatline occur, and what is the science behind it?
The exact brain mechanisms behind the flatline aren’t yet known. The flatline is merely a phenomenon anecdotally reported by many heavy porn users who quit using porn – and we have yet to see any peer-reviewed academic research on it. Some people believe that the flatline could be considered a withdrawal effect of porn addicts quitting porn. However, the most common theory floating around the recovery community seems to be about conditioning. There are plenty of studies that support the idea that many porn addicts “wire” their brains to prefer pornography instead of people, and in the absence of porn, they don’t experience sexual arousal. After cutting out porn, it might take your brain some time to achieve porn-free sexual arousal. Regardless of what might be the exact cause of the flatline is less important than the solution to flatline – to keep on sticking to your recovery parameters, staying as porn-free as possible.
How do you deal with the flatline?
Remember that the flatline is common. About 25% of our surveyed users going through a reboot reported experiencing a flatline. NoFap has millions of followers, so you are in good company.
Remember that the flatline is temporary. Our website was created in 2011 and we have yet to hear of a “forever flatline.”
Remember that recovery is not a linear process. It might be super frustrating to overcome a flatline, only to experience another flatline in a few weeks. Your ability to become sexually aroused without the use of porn could vary throughout the recovery process. But the best way to deal with it is to keep moving forward – things should get better over time.
Learn to appreciate the flatline. Some people consider flatline to be a welcome relief compared to intense cravings that seem never to go away.
Don’t use porn to test your erection or sexual arousal. Some people get so concerned about flatlining that they’re worried their genitals don’t work anymore. However, if you are attempting to reverse porn-induced sexual dysfunction (such as erectile dysfunction), using more porn will only prolong the recovery process.
Take care of yourself. While you may not be able to control whether or not you have a flatline, you can put your brain and body in the best possible place to outlast it. Get enough sleep, exercise, eat well and work on reducing your stress levels.
Don’t hesitate to seek out additional support. Whether it is participating in the NoFap community more, enrolling in our accountability groups, or finding a porn addiction therapist in your area, connecting with others could be very beneficial. The flatline isn’t the only obstacle when it comes to reducing or quitting porn use, so you might as well set yourself up for success. If you are experiencing prolonged sexual dysfunction, you probably want to consult with a physician to rule out any potential physical causes.
Get re-bought-in to the recovery process. Think about your reasons for pursuing healthier sexual habits and the positive effects that the porn-free lifestyle could have on your life. Recovery is totally worth it. You’ll thank yourself later for your resilience now when you’re living a life free from problematic porn use and sexual compulsivity.