What is a relapse for a recovering porn addict?

The word “relapse” is overused in the porn addiction recovery community.

What IS a relapse?

Relapse is not only an action, it is a concept. For example, the action of gambling is an enjoyable pastime or many people, but for a gambling addict, it is likely a relapse. A relapse is a deliberate, conscious, thought-out abandonment of your addiction recovery plan. To properly determine the criteria for what a “relapse” is for you, you have to define what your goals are and what you are recovering from. For example, there is a difference between a relapse for “porn addiction” versus a relapse for non-porn “compulsive sexual behavior.”

What is a slip-up?

Relapses are related to but distinct from slip-ups, which are defined as a return back to the unwanted habits, or otherwise not reaching your personal goals, after a period of successful recovery. Sometimes, “slip-ups” are referred to as “slips” or “setbacks.” A slip-up refers to an incident that doesn’t quite meet the criteria for a relapse (remember that relapses are a full abandonment of your recovery plan).

What ISN’T a porn addiction relapse?

It’s important to not overuse “relapse” because it helps mental healthcare professionals to properly interpret the anecdotal experiences that we share in the community. It’s good to be on the same page. “Relapse” is a medical term for a diagnosable mental health issue.

  • Things that are outside of your control such as wet dreams (also known as sleep orgasm or nightfall).
  • Checking out a person who you think is attractive, even if it is a personal goal of yours not to do so.
  • Fantasizing. It may be a personal goal of yours to not think about porn or fantasize about sexual encounters, but it doesn’t count as a full-blown relapse.
  • Accidentally stumbling across porn and then quickly closing it. While it may be disappointing, again, things outside of your control are not relapses.
  • Non-excessive porn-free masturbation. As the mental health community does not support that masturbation is inherently “bad” or “unhealthy,” it cannot be accurately pathologized as a medical issue. Masturbation and masturbation frequency is a personal decision.
  • Masturbating once without the use of porn.

What could be considered a porn addiction relapse?

In order to have a “relapse,” you must be a porn addict. Non-addicts have “slip-ups,” not “relapses.” Relapses can manifest in a number of ways, including:

  • Deliberately masturbating to a porn video.
  • Deliberately using pornography consciously for a sustained period of time, even without masturbating to it.
  • Masturbating to porn, even without an orgasm, for an extended period of time. (edging is still masturbation!)
  • Going on a porn binge session.
  • Deciding, as a porn addict, to give up pursuing recovery.

Remember, a relapse is all about intention. If you have a one-time slip-up by accident or a fluke occurrence where you don’t give up on the recovery process, it probably would not count as a relapse within a clinical setting. Relapses are an abandonment of your recovery plan.

What could be considered a porn addiction slip-up?

Slip-ups are a less technical term that you define for yourself. Activities where you are not reaching your goals, but not technically qualifying as relapses, could be referred to as slip-ups.

  • Quickly loading up a porn website and then closing it, stopping yourself from a prolonged porn session.
  • Checking out a porn-substitute.
  • Masturbating, if you set a personal goal of abstaining from masturbation for a period of time.

The phrase “reset” is often used interchangeably with “slip-up.” Within the NoFap community, a reset refers to the act of “resetting” your day streak counter back to day one. You define your own sexual health goals. Before starting your reboot, it might be a good idea to decide on which behaviors will constitute a “reset” for you. You might “reset” your day counter as a result of either a relapse or slip-up.

What about compulsive sexual behavior?

The World Health Organization recently classified compulsive sexual behavior disorder, often abbreviated as CSBD. While our website does focus on porn addiction, a number of our users utilize it to recover from non-porn compulsive sexual behavior.

What could count as a compulsive sexual behavior slip-up or relapse?

  • Masturbating in a way that harms others or puts you at risk of serious repercussions, such as masturbating in public.
  • Masturbating very excessively to the point that it negatively impacts your life.
  • Skipping important obligations, such as work, because of an uncontrollable need to masturbate then and there.
  • Participating in sexually exploitative behavior, in a way that breaks laws or violates the consent of another individual.

Even if it is a personal goal of yours to not masturbate for a period of time, the mental healthcare community considers moderate masturbation to be a normal, non-pathological behavior. Masturbation exists in nature, whereas digital porn does not. Orgasms are considered a normal part of human life – and while you may hold personal views, moral views, or religious views about masturbation, there is not a need to invoke addiction terminology. Words can be important. If you want to abstain from masturbation for a period of time completely to “reboot” your sexuality, by all means, avoid masturbation for that period of time. But if you slip up and masturbate once without porn, call it a reset or slip-up. You failed to reach your goals. And it’s okay to acknowledge that.

Stop worrying so much!

So many people ask “was this a relapse?” when the real question should have been “did this move me closer to my goals?” Instead of focusing on the minute details of whether or not a particular thing that you did “counts” as a relapse, focus on making improvements to prevent the same thing from happening again in the future.

15 thoughts on “What is a relapse for a recovering porn addict?”

  1. This has answered a very important question for me. I was addicted to porn for over 25 years…counting soft porn. A couple months ago, I met an amazing and beautiful woman…and couldn’t get an erection. That’s when I decided to begin the recovery process. In over 2 months, I’ve had one intentional relapse to see if the ED med the doctor put me on helped. It didn’t. But then about 2 weeks later, I randomly got an erection while kissing her. I don’t know which one of us were happier. Since that relapse, I have only masturbated twice…once with sexy pictures of her that she has sent me and once with just my thought of being with her. I’ve asked her not to send me anymore nude pictures even though I don’t consider it porn. Am I wrong?
    But starting last week, I will only do it with my thoughts in moderation. Once a week from 3-4 times a day…sometimes even more.
    This has made me enjoy life more.

    1. I feel having moderation in my sex life has helped my relationship with my wife tremendously. She’s my only sexual output and that makes her so special to me it’s hard to believe I ever had sexual issues with her. I used to compare her to my standards, which came from porn. Now I have absolutely no need to compare her to anything, I just want to be with her.
      If you ever manage to drop masturbation entirely and let your woman be your only target of your sexual needs, she’ll be the best in the world.
      In my opinion, I would keep the pictures coming but not masturbate. Think of it as building resilience and willpower. When you’re with her, you can fully express all that you’ve held back for so long.

    2. I dont think there’s a need for her not to send nudes, they can be viewed as a symbol of trust between you and her. I wouldn’t recomend masturbating to them tho as it may put you in a fantasy loop of sorts, going down that spiral is usually overwhelming. Best of luck

      1. How does one get over porn and masturbation when they don’t have a woman and suffer premature ejaculation. I once lasted 100 days But recently slipped up at 29 days I had to reset it. I feel I will never find a woman so porn is my only sexual outlet.

        1. Suffering PE puts me off even looking for a woman because I know I could never satisfy her sexually, this is my issue porn is easy, you please yourself sexually but don’t have to worry about pleasing someone else.

          1. Remember there’s plenty of ways to satisfy a partner without even taking one’s pants off… Women LOVE fore play for starters. And between touching, oral, and hand stimulation, you absolutely can get the job done!

  2. Carlos López Krefting

    Hi, thanks for your newsletter, I find it very interesting, but I would like to ask you anythink :for almost 25 years, I had epilepsy, and due to this desease and the medication, I had problems to get “” normal “” social relationships, so I used porn and masturbate, now, since 21 years, when I was operated, I recovered from the desease but not from my social life, and I still watching porn on my handset when there’s a break on a movie on T.V.,but I rarely masturbate, since I have trouble to get it stiff and hold it or to ejaculate, most probably due to the medicines that I take ((they are anti-depression, and anti-anxiety…)), Do you think that I am porn addict, just by watching quite some porn???, thanks for your answer before hand, and many greetings from the Costa Brava, in Spain, Carlos López Krefting – 🙂

    1. It’s hard to tell, given your conditions, but I believe that your porn usage is inadequate from what you describe. I feel many psychological conditions are rooted in abusive habits. You could benefit from quitting porn use, but I can see how that can be difficult given your current condition. I personally believe it would be worth the trouble, though.

    1. It’s a really tricky one. I used to take a strong medicine for a condition and could not think sexually for about 10 years. Before that I had one amazing uninhibited girlfriend and even premature ejaculation did not spoil it much as it was always interesting. Then one day I got lazy and demanded oral sex which was during a time when on holiday and there we drank smoked and were lazy students. I disrespected her on front of some friends and never had another girlfriend again. But I have had some great dates. Here’s my advice.

      I had used quite a bit of porn and really tried to limit it to the girls with their clothes on still. But ten years later and I have seen pretty much everything except fetish. I think it is a good idea to watch the hard stuff, just get it out of the way. At the same time get fit, run or exercise, do something great for work or hobby, meditate if you can and you will get better: with age or confidence and hopefully mutual respect of some decent women too.
      Hope it helps
      Bye

  3. The last time I had sex was 2015 and I didn’t even last a minute, and somehow I feel this is because I had been masturbating for a very long time. Now I am 24 years of age and I have started searching for a partner, which scares me coz I have to satisfy her sexually.
    Is there a way of recovering from EP?

  4. I’M ON 500 DAY NO FAP GOAL I’ JUST THINK MASTURBATING MAKES FEEL REALLY SAD I HAVE RELAPSED A COUPLE TIMES SEARCHING UP PORN ON TWITTER THINKING ABOUT IT. ABOUT MY SELF I USED PAY FOR SEX PAYING LOT MONEY FOR PLEASURE JUST MADE ME FEEL LIKE BAD PERSON. COMING FROM RELIGIOUS BACKGROUND SEX BEFORE MARRIAGE IS CONSIDERED A SIN AND MASTURBATION IS STILL UNKNOWN I’M MUSLIM BY WAY.

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