NoFap is a popular community that focuses on quitting porn. The rules are simple. No masturbation, no edging, and most importantly — no porn.
Members will often share their personal successes and benefits. But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.
Many guys may hit a point where they don’t feel motivated. They’re riddled with anxiety. And they don’t feel like socializing. Brain fog is at an all-time high. And they can’t fall asleep for the life of them. Depression and low libido haunt them.
This period of time is known as the NoFap flatline.
If you’re experiencing a flatline — find solace in the fact it’s a sign that your brain is recovering. There are many theories for why a flatline happens. We’ll talk about the importance of understanding the flatline, so it doesn’t push you to make poor decisions.
A flatline is also temporary, often with clear stages. We’ll outline them so you know where you stand. Also, if you’re experiencing a flatline and want a smooth journey — we’ll show you how to make it through.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about a NoFap flatline.
What Are the Symptoms of a Flatline?
If you’re in the midst of quitting porn the flatline phase can be taxing on your mind and body.
What’s worse is not knowing if you’re in a flatline. It can add extra stress to the situation. We put together a list of the most noticeable symptoms to help you find out if you’re in a flatline.
Anxiety and Depression
Anxiety and depression have a different “flavor” on NoFap.
You may feel hopeless like you’ll never be free of this addiction.
Or it can feel like anhedonia. Almost nothing will give you pleasure. Video games, food, and meeting with friends won’t make you feel much if anything. You don’t care about work, school, or your goals. None of it matters anymore. Your emotions go “flat” — hence the name “flatline”.
You need to remember two things while you go through this. First, you’re improving, even if it doesn’t feel like it. And second, this phase is temporary. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Feeling like you don’t have the energy to get out of bed is a common symptom. And there isn’t much motivation to do anything. You might feel drained physically and mentally.
This can cause random aches and pains in your body.
Low energy is especially annoying because you need to get things done. And that requires energy. Moreover, you need energy to complete activities that will ease your flatline.
Stay active within reason. If you’re feeling sluggish don’t push yourself too hard.
No Urges or Low Libido
Don’t confuse an urge with horniness. Addiction-related changes in the brain create an urge to PMO. Conversely, libido causes natural arousal.
Men who don’t know about the flatline can panic when they don’t feel urges. There have been many cases of guys who return to porn to “check” if their penis is still working.
Do not do this at all costs. Remember, you’ll go back to your normal self once this phase has passed.
No urges can be seen as a positive thing. It makes NoFap easier. However, there is a cost. As mentioned above, low energy and depression will sap your motivation to go to the gym, eat healthily, and socialize.
Focusing on a task may be difficult when going through a flatline.
It’ll be hard to learn new things or retain information. Your memory can decline in this phase of NoFap. Even the slightest distraction can make you lose focus.
This is because your brain is craving dopamine. It’s looking for any excuse to satisfy itself.
Brain fog also diminishes your ability to reason and think logically. This can make it harder to say no to temptations such as junk food.
This is a common symptom for those who are actively watching porn.
Avoiding gatherings, family get-togethers, and any social event is familiar to the porn addict.
However, some guys use porn casually — and their social skills may be well-developed. But as soon as the flatline hits, a guy who was once social might become a recluse. His confidence diminishes, and his interest in talking to people vanishes.
But this symptom doesn’t affect everyone the same way. Some are disinterested in talking to people, but they can hold a conversation without feeling anxious. Other guys are anxious and prefer to avoid social contact altogether.
Sleepless nights staring at the ceiling at 3 in the morning is something many Nofappers are used to. This makes sense since a lot of men use porn to help them fall asleep.
But some men will sleep like babies during their flatline. It all depends on the individual.
If you’re experiencing insomnia, implement positive sleeping habits. Avoid screen time a couple of hours before bed. You should also sleep in complete darkness (consider using blackout curtains). Set your room to the optimal sleeping temperature which is between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit.
Why Does a Flatline Happen?
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all reason for a flatline. It’s likely a confluence of factors.
Many guys only experience some symptoms. This means that their cause for a flatline is probably different.
Let’s discuss possible causes of the flatline.
This is the most obvious suspect. Flatline has been touted as another version of withdrawals. Porn addiction is different from drug addiction in many ways — so the NoFap community found it appropriate to give their withdrawals another name.
But porn addiction is also similar to drug addiction in many ways. Namely, how it affects the brain.
Here’s the common theme of brain changes when an addict quits an addiction:
- A decrease in dopamine.
- A decrease in endorphins.
- Lower GABA levels (anti-anxiety neurotransmitter).
- An increase in stress hormones.
- Elevated levels of dynorphin (this lowers the pleasure response).
These chemical changes could temporarily stifle libido. Less dopamine means there isn’t enough incentive for the brain to get or maintain an erection. This leads to fewer impulses in the spinal cord to enable an erection.
Not all guys going through a flatline experience low libido. There’s a rise in reports of low libido during a flatline as more men start watching internet porn. Men who began viewing porn as static images in magazines often report their libido unchanged during a flatline.
There’s a leading theory that suggests flatlines may be unique to internet porn users. That’s why the NoFap community calls it a “flatline” and not just an episode of withdrawal.
It’s important to understand that all addictions cause the same brain changes. Elevated dopamine leads to more DeltaFosB accumulating. This can cause addiction-related changes such as decreasing sensitivity to dopamine.
However, each reward has its own circuits in the brain. For example, porn addiction affects parts of the brain responsible for sexual behavior such as the hypothalamus. Moreover, it impacts the circuits responsible for erections.
Here’s what experts have suggested based on this information. Porn can provide stimulation regardless of if your penis is erect or not. This means that a porn user’s inability to get an erection is due to a weakening of pleasure connections in the brain. In other words, they’ve trained their brain to understand that erections aren’t required to get pleasure from porn.
Natural Rewiring: An Attempt at Recovery
Another explanation for why flatlines happen — they may be the body’s attempt at healing a damaged brain.
A study on rats revealed that ejaculating excessively produced the same changes in the brain as excessive drug use. Experts say that the changes protected the rats against overstimulation.
It’s likely that when porn users compulsively PMO, they experience similar brain changes. This might explain the flatline. It can be seen as a “protective state” to rest the brain preparing it to react to normal stimuli again.
The Flatline Timeline
A flatline on NoFap likely isn’t going to feel the same throughout. Rather, we have found that there are three distinct stages.
A flatline may happen many times within the same streak. It can also happen at different points in time for each guy. Some will have a flatline days into their streak. Others don’t experience it until a few months in.
You’re probably also wondering:
How long does a flatline last?
The answer varies. Some men get over it in a few days while others can take up to 6 weeks or more. It’s important that you don’t compare yourself to other guys. Just because your flatline is taking longer doesn’t necessarily mean your brain is more damaged. There are many factors at play.
With that in mind, let’s look at the three stages of the flatline.
The onset of a flatline is often the worst stage. This includes the first week. Moreover, in the first couple of days, you may feel intense symptoms such as:
- An intense urge to masturbate
- Higher mental fog
- Morning wood
- An unusual change in sexual tastes
- Arousal during random times in the day
This stage can be a shock for most guys. It can come as a surprise since they were enjoying the benefits of NoFap prior to this. It’s also demoralizing since many don’t know what’s happening. This is the reason for a lot of relapses during this time.
Arguably, the biggest challenge during this stage is the urge to masturbate. Hold on to the fact that it will get much easier with urges in the middle stage.
This middle stage is usually seen as the second and third weeks of the flatline. Here are some characteristics of the middle stage:
- Extremely low urges and libido
- A little more mental clarity
- Depression and lack of motivation
- No excitement and joy in the things you used to enjoy
As you can see, the middle stage really puts the flat in flatline.
Although urges are low, some guys relapse here. This is because they feel apathetic — and they just want to feel something again. So they turn to something that used to bring them a lot of excitement, porn.
Another way guys relapse is the ol’ “dick test”. The feeling of non-existent urges and libido makes some men think their pecker doesn’t work anymore. So they try to “test” things out by viewing porn.
Lo and behold, their dick does in fact work. And what was intended to be an innocent check turns into a full-blown PMO session.
Think of the middle stage as a caterpillar weaving a cocoon around itself. It’s a state of low activity and quiet development.
This is when the benefits of NoFap start to return. It’s commonly seen as the last one to two weeks of the flatline.
If the middle was the cocoon phase, think of leveling up like a butterfly emerging. However, you still have some work to do, opening that cocoon won’t be easy. The strength you garnered in the last stage will pay off big time here.
This is what you can expect while leveling up:
- Your urges are less frequent and not as intense
- You’ll feel a spike in energy levels
- Your confidence will rise
- Staying disciplined is easier
- Healthy sex drive
Leveling up can feel deceptively good. This is because it feels like you’ve recovered, but you’re not. Some of the negative symptoms of your flatline are still present. But overall, you feel confident, happy, and energetic. Stay vigilant with your abstinence and use the energy from this stage to double down on your healthy habits.
How to Make It Through a Flatline
Your brain will lay many pitfalls and traps throughout the three stages.
To successfully navigate them, you need to understand what’s happening in your brain. Think for a minute about what humans do when faced with pain. They run from it. And in their escape, they run to pleasure.
Running back to your bad habits can feel like an attractive option. This craving for dopamine is your lizard brain screaming to return to its comfortable nest.
By doing that you’d be delaying your recovery.
Think of a flatline like an uphill climb on a mountain. Eventually, you’ll reach the second half of the climb which is downhill — and you can relax. But if you turn back, you won’t make it to the other side.
Here’s our secret to making it through a flatline:
You need to shift your attitude. Learn to view flatlines positively.
Here are some men from Your Brain On Porn who see it as a good thing:
|“Letting desire go feels good. It’s not that I want to be desireless forever, but right now I’m having all the success I want with women. I don’t have to get them in bed. Just having fun with them and fooling around is already a success. And the women seem to appreciate that. And I, in turn, appreciate female contact more than ever. It helps so much in this process.” – Chad|
|Flatlines are scary because they shatter a lie that we have bought for so long—namely that the world’s “man” is hypersexual. He lives a life that is a constant stream of sex. Multiple partners, sometimes at the same time, women begging for sex. He has a reputation as someone who can bed anyone and can fulfill her every sexual need. In our obsession, we spend great lengths of time watching porn. The flatline is uncharted territory for men, but it is part of the rebalancing process.” – Toby|
Here’s a quote from a Redditor’s wife when he stated why he’s afraid of flatlines:
|“Why?” my fiancée asks. “You’ve been horny for days with no outlet. You’ve taken nightly Tylenol for blue balls and torn yourself away from your computer screen for push-ups. You still don’t have an outlet, but suddenly you’re not horny anymore. Your brain has finally got the message that you have no orgasm outlets, and it stops trying to trick you into one. What’s so bad about that?”|
You need to accompany this mindset change with action. Here’s what we recommend:
- Exercise and physical activity
- Meditation and mindfulness
- Healthy lifestyle choices
- Seeking support from friends, family, or a therapist
- Getting support from the Nofap community
With your symptoms, it might feel impossible to do this. We completely understand. There’s no intrinsic joy in any of this during a flatline. But you have to force yourself through a few sessions. Before you know it, you’ll start to feel the benefits of these habits.
What Happens After a Flatline?
Once the flatline is over, many men say it’s the “happiest they’ve ever felt.”
One of the biggest gifts of coming out of a flatline is increased self-control. Urges and thoughts about PMO may never stop — no matter how long you’ve been clean. But the urges will be less intense and infrequent. And you can use self-control to better manage them.
You’ll feel incredibly confident and productive. There will almost be no sign of anxiety, and your motivation will be high. The ability to recognize and favor healthy lifestyle choices will be something you get to enjoy after a flatline.
All this is because you chose to say no to cheap, easy dopamine. You delayed gratification and earned your dopamine by doing something productive.
Flatline is a temporary and natural part of the path to recovery.
There are many symptoms that’ll show you if you’re in a flatline.
However, NoFap is a personal choice. If you decide to accept the challenge, do it in a healthy and safe way. If your symptoms persist, consider seeking professional help. Your symptoms may be due to a medical condition, not a flatline.
Every man will have a unique experience during his flatline. The timeline, challenges, and response to those difficulties will be different for each guy. We encourage you to stay the course despite your trials.
Seeing the other side of a flatline is a rewarding experience. It’s a glimpse into how your life will look and feel after recovery.
We wish you all the best.
-Mr. Mind Blowing