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NoFap Relapse: How to Get Back on Track

Written by
Dr. R. Y. Langham

August 28, 2023

Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Dianne Steven

One of the best things about the NoFap Challenge is it makes provisions for people who relapse. More specifically, it is available on a rolling basis, so for instance, people with porn addiction can start all over again. This takes the pressure off of people, who are having a hard time giving up porn and/or chronic masturbation. The NoFap community places no shame, guilt, or blame on relapsing.

Rather, NoFap continues to encourage its users to “get back on the horse” and keep pressing forward. Still relapsing is never fun regardless of the circumstances. And, although there is no shame, guilt, or blame placed on people who relapse, it is still hurtful and disappointing. The good news is relapsing does not have to be the end result. There are porn addiction recovery programs, like Stop Together, and self-help tools like NoFap to help get you back on track and keep you there indefinitely.

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What is Porn Addiction & How is It Treated?

Porn addiction involves involuntary urges to view porn. These urges are all-consuming and non-stop. Excessively using porn and/or masturbating to porn can cause devastating consequences in a person’s life, such as damaged relationships, low self-confidence, low motivation, sleep issues or insomnia, mood swings, anger, depression, anxiety, shame and guilt, unemployment, debt, social isolation, etc. Viewing porn from time to time usually is not a big deal, however, excessively viewing can cause problems if it negatively affects your life in some capacity.

Porn addicts have a hard time quitting porn by themselves, which is why it is important to seek porn addiction treatment. Addressing porn addiction typically involves a multi-treatment approach consisting of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), however, it may also involve hypnotherapy/hypnosis, addiction therapy, grief therapy, individual therapy, couples/marital therapy, family therapy and trauma therapy.

Porn addiction therapy with CBT is usually the first line of treatment, followed by medication, like SSRI antidepressants. SSRI antidepressants are the second line of treatment when therapy alone is ineffective. However, some males decide to try other approaches to treating porn addiction, such as semen retention, mindfulness meditation, porn addiction books or apps, and/or NoFap.

What is NoFap?

NoFap is a comprehensive community of mostly men, who have porn and/or porn-induced masturbation issues. Thus, NoFap is a porn addiction recovery tool designed to remove porn from a man’s life for good, and temporarily halt chronic masturbation for a predetermined period of time. The goal of NoFap is to abstain from watching porn, masturbating, or masturbating to porn. NoFap offers masturbation and porn addiction forums, apps, articles, and a fully-organized and informative website. NoFap also offers invaluable support

For instance, when porn addicts “fall off of the horse” or relapse during the NoFap Challenge, NoFappers is a nickname for people who engage in NoFap. NoFap is more like a journey to freedom from porn, rather than a worldwide “movement.” NoFap is designed to help people heal from their sexual addictions and porn-induced sexual dysfunctions, like erectile dysfunction (ED), sex-based performance anxiety, premature ejaculation (PE), impotence, low libido, sexual desire, or sex drive, etc., so they can repair the damage caused to their relationships, especially their romantic ones, boost their self-esteem and self-confidence, and accomplish their goals. 

NoFappers have reported a wide range of benefits associated with foregoing porn and masturbation for a specific amount of time. These benefits include attractiveness, a stronger immune system, stronger muscles, healthier and stronger romantic relationships, higher self-esteem and self-confidence, stable moods, better cognitive function, increased motivation and work productivity, more sound sleep, and higher testosterone levels. 

Thus, NoFap used the “rebooting” process to help men quit porn, and improve their lives. “Rebooting” resets the brain, so porn no longer has a hold on you. In fact, “rebooting the brain” restores your brain to its pre-porn settings, so you are free to pursue healthier endeavors. Once your brain is restored, you should be able to masturbate from time to time without the heaviness of porn. So, ultimately NoFap is an abstinence self-help tool designed to help you get back on track in your life.

What is the NoFap Challenge?

The NoFap Challenge is a competition that involves abstaining from using porn, masturbating, or masturbating to porn for a specific amount of time, usually 90 days. However, the challenge can occur for a few weeks, 30 days, 60 days, or indefinitely. The hope is that refraining from porn, masturbation, or masturbating to porn can and will finally free them, so they can have the life they were meant to live. The NoFap Challenge typically consists of 5-7 stages – all designed to “reboot” or “reset” the brain, break porn’s grip on you, and improve your emotional/sexual health. 

“Rebooting the brain” is crucial for quitting “bad habits” and replacing them with healthier ones. Men, who join the NoFap Challenge tout its benefits. In fact, researchers have found that men, who join the NoFap Challenge, experience a variety of benefits, such as higher self-esteem and self-confidence, stronger muscles, more dates, healthier romantic relationships, more sound sleep, and better sex. Moreover, this challenge is conducted on a rolling basis, so men who relapse can restart again.

Is It Common to Experience a Porn Addiction Relapse While Doing the NoFap Challenge?

Yes, it is very common to experience a porn addiction relapse while doing the NoFap Challenge, which is why it is available on a rolling basis. Some of the reasons why porn addicts relapse are high levels of stress, feelings of not deserving to be free, happy, and fulfilled without porn, depression, a NoFap flatline, brain fog, anxiety, depression, boredom, a lack of results, poor memory (i.e., forgetting the negative consequences of partaking in porn), porn triggers, a lack of commitment to quitting porn or masturbating to porn, and strong urges and impulses. 

Truthfully, NoFap expects you to relapse at least once during the 90 days. This is normal. The goal is to pick yourself up and start again. The only downside to relapsing is that you have to start over each time you “fall off of the horse.” Restarting, however, makes you stronger and teaches you what not to do the next time. If you relapse, do not fret, and do not blame yourself. Remember, no one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes sometimes, so do not beat yourself, instead, look at the relapse as a “teachable moment.”

How Can I Get Back On Track If I Relapse During or After the NoFap Challenge?

As mentioned previously, relapsing is normal – even during or after a NoFap Challenge. It happens to almost everyone at least once, sometimes more than that. If this happens to you, it is not the end of the world. You can still recover from porn addiction by brushing yourself off and starting again. 

After much thought and research, I have compiled a list of things you can do to get back on track during or after a NoFap Challenge, such as:

  • View the situation as a “teachable moment”

If you experience a porn addiction or PMO (porn, masturbation, and orgasm) relapse, view it as a “teachable moment,” because it is. Relapses are learning tools. They reaffirm your porn triggers and help you identify what is working and what is not. So, instead of berating yourself for making a mistake, turn this negative experience into something positive aka a way to emerge stronger and better when you restart the challenge.

  • Try to identify your porn triggers

One of the most important things you can do should you relapse is to try to identify what caused you to relapse – i.e., your emotional and/or physical porn triggers. This is critical to your NoFap success. For example, an emotional trigger may be boredom, anxiety or depression, illness, failing at something, and/or feeling inadequate in some way.

An example of a physical trigger may be a breakup or divorce, watching an R-rated movie that contains nudity, seeing a Victoria’s Secret commercial with models in lingerie, or even just sexually fantasizing about someone. Other things that could possibly cause a relapse are being lonely or alone at home, being unable to sleep at night, or working on a computer for long periods.

If you are unsure or unaware of what led to your relapse, you will be unable to prevent it from happening again. So, grab a piece of paper and a pen and write down what you were doing before your relapse. You will likely need to document the whole day or several days in some cases. Sometimes, it is apparent what led to a relapse and sometimes it is not, so it may take some digging to unearth the true cause of your relapse.

Once you know the root cause of your relapse make positive changes in your life – i.e., thought processes and behavior, and avoid those triggers at all costs.

  • Prepare for the “chaser effect”

What is the “chaser effect?” Well, the “chaser effect” occurs after you relapse. It is the result of a “starved body.” In other words, you have been abstaining from porn and/or masturbation for a while, so your body is craving it. This ups your risk of a porn addiction relapse. Most porn addicts or PMO addicts tend to binge porn and/or excessively masturbate after the relapse. This is common.

The “chaser effect” typically occurs from orgasming from porn or from having sex with your real-life partner after a NoFap streak (the number of days you have gone without using porn and masturbating without relapsing). This is because you have been unable to orgasm for a long time. Binging porn after a relapse is detrimental because it makes it harder to restart the NoFap Challenge.

Binging porn can also mentally, emotionally, and physically exhaust you. So, the best thing you can do is be aware of this probability and prepare for it. By only using your electronic devices in open spaces and around other people, installing anti-porn software on your devices, seeking porn addiction therapy, practicing mindful meditation, telling someone you trust that you have relapsed, attending support group meetings, etc.

You should have already done these things to prepare for the NoFap Challenge, however, some people remove these “blockers” or “deterrents” once they feel “cured” or once the challenge is over. If so, you will need to reinstall them as a safeguard for the “chaser effect.” Taking these steps will help ensure your NoFap success.

  • Love yourself despite the relapse

This may not seem important but it is. Guilting yourself because you relapsed will only breed more relapses and more disappointment, shame, and guilt. Thus, it is impossible to recover from porn addiction or PMO addiction if you are feeling anxious or depressed due to a relapse. So, give yourself a break. In other words, forgive yourself, and keep moving. Do not forget to encourage yourself with positive affirmations or self-talk, and a reminder to never give up on your goal of becoming porn-free.

  • Review your NoFap goals

Perhaps, you got side-tracked or distracted from your NoFap goals, leading to a porn addiction relapse. If something threw you off causing you to relapse, it is probably time to review your NoFap goals again. Maybe, you just need to be inspired to become porn-free again. Reviewing your goals can motivate you to stay the course and continue on your path toward porn addiction recovery. If your goals have changed or if it is no longer a viable option for you, change it.

For instance, if one of your NoFap goals is to be able to masturbate from time to time, but every time you try to masturbate without porn (i.e., with your real-life partner), you end up feeling sexually dissatisfied, you may want to completely give up masturbation to avoid reactivating your porn addiction. Your NoFap goals should reflect what you are looking to improve in your life. If it is not, then it is time to evaluate what you need to feel free, whole, and happy.

  • Get off of social media

A good way to get back on track after a relapse is to get off of social media for a while. While social media is a good way to reconnect with friends and loved ones and share your life with others, it can be the devil’s den for people trying to quit porn. Social media sites like Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram can trigger urges to view porn in some cases. For instance, if a porn addict, who recently relapsed, sees sexy people on one or more of these sites, it could make it harder for them to get back on track.

Moreover, social media sites can boost dopamine in the brain, causing you to crave more of what you are seeing on these sites. Some males, who are trying to break from porn and/or masturbation may replace one “bad habit” (i.e., staying on social media sites for long periods) with another one – porn or PMO addiction. In other words, a social media obsession could theoretically cause a person to return to porn.

One reason for this relapse is sitting at a computer or using an electronic device with porn a hop and a skip away on a porn site. This could be enticing. Using porn could then trigger urges to masturbate to porn again, making it harder to achieve success with NoFap. So, if you relapse, deactivate your social media profiles – at least until you have a firm handle on your porn or PMO addiction.

  • Exercise

Exercising or working releases serotonin and dopamine (hormones/neurotransmitters) in the brain, which tends to produce a “natural high” in the body. Thus, this is a good way to get back on track after relapsing. Understand that most relapses have very little, if anything to do with porn, rather, the core cause of these relapses stems from too much stress and energy and not enough places or situations to work it off. You are used to releasing this stress and energy sexually while watching porn, however, there are healthier ways to do this.

One way to get a hold on your relapse quickly is to try to stay busy by exercising. Do something productive like working out at the gym, going for a jog or run around the neighborhood, dancing, swimming, playing golf or tennis, practicing yoga, or joining a sports team to keep your mind focused and your body in tune with your mind. Do not, however, isolate yourself from other people during this time, because most people watch porn and masturbate when they are alone. So, surround yourself with other people as much as possible.

  • Stop edging 

One of the worst things you can do after relapsing is edging. Edging involves engaging in sexual stimulation until you get to the point where you are about to ejaculate – then stopping it before you do – then restarting again. If you started edging during the NoFap Challenge or after your relapse – stop doing it. Edging, whether with porn or without, will be detrimental to your NoFap success.

The truth is if you edge while on NoFap, you are likely to relapse. You will also diminish the NoFap benefits you have acquired. This happens because edging boosts dopamine in your brain, which will keep returning to porn. Excessive dopamine prevents the brain from “rebooting” or “resetting.”


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