What is the relationship between depression and pornography? Are they connected? When does pornography become an addiction? Does it affect your mental health? Does it have the potential to become a mental health issue? Well, pornography is a complex topic and is still under much taboo in any given society. It gets further complicated when it becomes an addiction and takes the shape of a mental health illness such as depression. Let us explore its nuances in detail.
Relationship Between Pornography and Depression
While it is a common perception that porn viewing causes depression, there is little evidence to prove that pornography and depression are connected. No research has until now demonstrated that pornography triggers depression. However, it may affect you differently depending upon how you use, abuse, or misuse porn. For some, porn is enjoyable when watched in moderation. For others, it is a compulsion to watch. Some even end up feeling a sense of shame or guilt, which might affect their emotional health later. Hence, there is no apparent connection between pornography and depression. Someone choosing to watch porn or not watch it is not indicative of their mental health.
However, when Covid has taken over the world, and most have been restricted from stepping out, many have reportedly resorted to pornography. Many viewers do not report any problems. Some even reported that porn viewing could be a part of healthy sexual life. But that being said, there are both advantages and risks associated with porn viewing. And, while porn doesn’t trigger depression for some, its (ab)use is problematic for a specific subset of people.
Porn Consumption versus Porn Addiction
There is a clear difference between porn consumption and its addiction. Pornography and depression are linked with each other when it becomes an addiction. It becomes a physical and psychological dependence and negatively impacts several aspects of life. Some may view it a few times and not get addicted, while others may consciously watch it regularly and still not display any negative emotional or behavioral issues. Neither can be deemed as a porn addiction.
However, a person might be deemed a porn addict if they have trouble experiencing sexual satisfaction without watching porn; if they need to watch more diversified pornography to achieve arousal; if they have difficulty getting through the daily functioning of the school, work, or in their relationship, or if they want to stop watching porn but are unable to do so.
Ever heard of depression porn? Like any other addiction, porn addiction can cause depression. It is, therefore, called depression porn. There is a correlation between depression and all forms of addiction, including addiction to gambling, porn, or compulsive shopping. But there is no way to find out what comes first – depression or porn use.
Can pornography cause depression? Or do people suffering from depression tend to turn to porn. No research shows one way or the other. Most probably, it is just a cycle. Someone suffering from depression might turn to porn for distraction. A person might also feel guilty or shameful about themselves for watching porn, which can intensify depression.
Internet Addiction and Pornography Depression
Internet addiction, including pornography addiction, impacts our brain. All that we scan through the internet, such as a funny cat video, likes, and comments on social media and porn, have one thing in common. It impacts our brain, releases dopamine, and makes us feel good. And we need to go to the dopamine reward again and again. So, it makes porn addicts click on new videos repeatedly to get that dopamine release and feel good. It becomes a cycle.
Pornography Depression – What Is It?
While there is no nexus between pornography and depression, there is something called pornography depression which results from overconsumption of porn. When those suffering from depression use pornography as a coping mechanism, it increases their risk of addiction.
Over time, you may notice how there is a connection between pornography and depression. When you experience symptoms of depression, you turn to porn viewing. Alternatively, when you watch porn for too long, you tend to experience a depressive mood.
Pro Tip: It is prudent to monitor your experience to get a bigger picture of what’s going on in your mind and body.
Link Between Porn and Depression – Origin of Thought
Myths around sex, porn, and masturbation have existed for decades and centuries. This is partially because of the stigma associated with the assertion of sexuality and sexual behavior. Sexual behaviors are seen as immoral. Therefore, myths are often spread to discourage people from expressing overt sexual behavior. Some find porn to be linked with poor mental health, that it is only consumed by those who are lonely and dissatisfied in their life, and that happy people do not watch porn. There is an apparent lack of sex education that makes people have such uninformed, stereotypical biases.
Porn Addiction – A Controversial Concept
Regardless of the amount of porn people consume, those morally or religiously opposed to porn are more likely to think of themselves as porn addicts. In a study conducted in 2015, it was found that perceiving yourself to be a porn addict can cause symptoms of depression. The more you think of yourself as a porn addict, the more likely you feel depressed. A controversial concept, porn addiction is not even accepted as a real addiction.
Overview of Porn Risks
Porn addiction has the potential to cause the following risks and cause mental health issues –
- Choosing porn over people
- Developing an underground life
- Experiencing extreme mood swings
- Feeling powerless regarding watching porn
- Sexual objectification of others
- Social isolation
- Feeling angry and irritated
- Pervasive anxiety, fearfulness, and depression
- Withdrawing from social activity
- Engaging in sexually risky behavior
- Becoming too self-centered
- Accessing porn at school or work
- Sexual problems/dysfunction such as erectile dysfunction, delayed ejaculation, or inability to orgasm
- Loss of emotional closeness
- Lack of mutual sexual enjoyment
- Deteriorating trust and respect in a relationship
- Watching child abuse imagery
- Feeling sexually compulsive or out of control
- Engaging in abusive, degrading, violent, or criminal sexual activity
- Addiction to porn, self-loathing, and repeated failures to stop watching porn
Effects of Porn Addiction
Watching too much affects our sleep and leaves people wired and tired. Constant porn binging and seeking the feel-good dopamine effect makes it hard to kick this habit. It can cause pathological learning, where a user continues to pursue a substance despite its negative consequences. A compulsive porn viewer experiences depression when they miss the dopamine hit, driving them repeatedly to restore the excitement. Low dopamine can cause unpleasant feelings such as stress, hunger, boredom, tiredness, low energy, anger, craving, loneliness, depression, and anxiety. How these unpleasant feelings are interpreted affects our behavior.
We often self-medicate unpleasant feelings with more behavior/substance without realizing that it was the overindulgence in that behavior/substance that triggered those unpleasant feelings in the first place. Watching highly stimulating porn can lead to depressive symptoms. This can become a vicious cycle of depression, bingeing, depression, and so on.
Disinterested Romantic Partners
According to research, consuming pornography equates with a lack of commitment to one’s romantic partner. Constant novelty and high levels of arousal provided by porn make the brain disinterested in real-life partners. It can intercept people from investing in developing real-life relationships. It is a no-win situation for both men and women.
Reduced Social Functioning
A study conducted on educated Korean men in their 20s found a preference for pornography to maintain sexual excitement rather than having sex with a partner. In a survey conducted on university-age males, it was found that the difficulties with social functioning increased along with pornography consumption. This led to psychosocial problems such as anxiety, depression, stress, and reduced social functioning.
In an experiment, the consumption of pornography was shown to decrease an individual’s ability to delay gratification. Watching porn makes people less logical and indecisive. In another study conducted on 14-year old boys, higher levels of porn consumption led to a risk of decreased academic performance.
Unrealistic Sexual Expectations
The more pornography someone watches, the more likely they are to act out porn scripts with their partner and even conjure pornographic images during sex to maintain arousal. Higher pornography use is negatively associated with enjoying sexually intimate behaviors with a partner.
Low Sexual Desire
In a study, high school students reported a strong relationship between high levels of pornography consumption and low sexual desire. In 2008, the Study of Sexuality in France found that 20% of men aged 18-24 had no interest in sex or sexual activity, very odd for French national stereotypes. Similarly, in 2010, a Japanese official government survey found that 36% of males aged 16-19 were disinterested in sex or had an aversion to it and preferred anime or virtual dolls.
Where Can You Get Support?
While it is a general idea that pornography and depression trigger each other, there is no scientific research to back it up. But, if you think you are addicted to pornography or have problems with porn, therapy might be an excellent place to start with. Alternatively, you can also find a local support group. If you are unable to find any local group, you can also look for online support.