Ever since the pandemic struck the world, we have been facing its repercussions in the face of anxiety and depression. For some people, this has led to the excessive usage of porn and has surprisingly helped several to have a healthy sex life.
That being said, there have been many myths associated with watching porn. For instance, pornography is not an addiction, or it does not cause mental health problems. What do you think, how far they are true?
While it is very little to no evidence from research that pornography and depression are directly linked, it can affect you in other ways – depending on the usage as some watch it occasionally while others develop an addiction to it. Those who feel distressed after watching porn – triggered by shame and guilt, may face mental health issues.
Let’s dig deeper into the connection between pornography and depression and check what the researchers say about it.
Pornography and Depression – Are they interlinked?
If you want a straightforward answer, then, NO! Pornography and depression are not connected. That means pornography does not directly affect your mental health.
However, loneliness is what triggers depression, according to a research study published in the Journal of Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity in 2007. Those who watch porn tend to feel lonely in comparison to the others who don’t watch it.
Another survey done on 1638 individuals in 2018 proved that watching porn does not cause depression but it’s the difference in perception of the individuals who watch it, that causes mental health issues. For instance, if we put it in simple words; those who feel guilty and ashamed after watching porn are likely to feel depressed.
Moreover, the latest study by a Hungarian researcher, Beáta Bőthe at the Laboratory for the Study of Sexual Health, argues that watching porn does not have a negative impact on your mental health. Hence, it does not cause depression, according to her.
Are depressed people likely to watch porn more?
While it’s hard to say for sure if depressed people are likely to watch porn more, it looks like those who think the act is morally wrong to feel overwhelmed and suffer depression after it, says a 2017 published article.
People who do not consider watching porn immoral use it to cope with anxiety and depression. It is especially true for cisgender men who do not morally reject watching porn.
Porn Consumption in America
It might sound surprising but the data says, around 40 million Americans daily visit porn websites. Not just that, 35% of the downloaded content from the internet contains porn, and 34% of users have experienced inappropriate ads, links, and pop-ups, causing unwanted exposure to porn.
According to the studies, pornography usage is more common among adults. However, very few of them have reported experiencing any consequences due to it.
Bőthe’s research article that was published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine last April shows 3 unique profiles of porn watchers.
- Infrequent consumers (68-73%)
- Frequent consumers (19-29%) (without incident)
- Frequent consumers with problems due to it (3-8%)
The number third bullet shows how lesser the number of people who watch porn and suffer health complications because of it.
Maybe the most alarming thing is teens and children watching porn. Pediatric research on Sexual Media and Childhood Well-being and Health estimated that around 42% of young people ages 10 to 17 have visited porn websites and 27% of them have reported watching it intentionally. Exposure to porn at such a tender age can have drastic and lifetime effects on one’s perception of how sex life should look as well as body images and power dynamics.
8 Symptoms of Problematic Porn Usage
While the symptoms may vary from person to person, below, we have compiled the most common ones that happen due to problematic usage of porn.
- Increased levels of hypersexuality
- Sensitivity to boredom
- Discomforting feelings about watching porn
- Lower self-esteem
- Low satisfaction with their physical and psychological needs
- Dissatisfaction with body image
- Strained relationships.
How Porn addiction affects you?
Porn binging can leave people feeling wired and tired. A compulsive viewer who seeks the feel-good dopamine through porn is hard to get off it. It can lead to pathological learning, in which a consumer “continues to pursue a substance despite its negative consequences”.
Excessive pornography lowers the dopamine hit due to repeatedly restoring the excitement. Hence, the individual suffers stress, tiredness, boredom, hunger low energy levels, cravings, and unpleasant feelings.
Following are how pornography affects your private and social life:
Disinterest in Real-life Partners
According to research, pornography increases one’s expectations regarding sex and makes one more demanding around their romantic partners. If their expectations are not met, they lose interest in their partners. Hence, it eventually intercepts people from developing and focusing on their real-life relationships.
Lowered Social Functioning
A study revealed that a preference for watching porn to maintain sexual needs over having sex in real life could lead to a variety of psychological problems, including anxiety, depression, and lowered social functioning. The difficulty level of these issues increases with the increase in consumption.
Decreased Academic Performance
Porn consumption can cause ‘delay of gratification’ – a condition in which an individual forgoes an immediate reward in favor of gaining a more valued one in the future. It makes people more impulsive, indecisive, and less logical. A study done on 14-year-old teens showed pornography reduces academic performance in children.
Low Sexual Needs
A study on pornography done in France shows that there is a strong relationship between pornography and low sexual desire among high school students. 20% of men aged (18-24) have experienced low sexual desires due to porn consumption. Similarly, in 2010, another survey in Japan showed that 36% of men were not interested in sex and instead preferred anime or virtual dolls for their sexual needs.
Solutions to the Pornography Addiction
While we have already enlightened you on the fact that, pornography and depression are not associated directly, those who suffer from problematic pornography due to personal reasons can do the following things to cope with it.
- Set goals: Rather than making unattainable goals to instantly deal with the issue, make small and attainable goals and work towards them to control the behavior.
- Make changes to your environment: Avoid anything that can trigger the urge to watch porn. Change the settings on your browser, phone, or internet to make it difficult to watch porn.
- Get Help: take help from anyone you are comfortable sharing your problem with. Talk to them about it and ask them to encourage you on little achievements.
- Find Distractions: if boredom is what triggers you to watch porn, find other distractions to stay busy.
- Workout/Exercise: staying physically fit and active helps a lot to overcome anxiety and depression. It provides you with a way to invest your energy in more productive things.
- You can also choose to have a plan in terms of planning an activity that can be constructive and more productive as compared to watching porn.
- You can also seek help from the support groups in which you might find strength in talking to others who have firsthand experience regarding the same issue.
Porn Addiction vs Porn Consumption
Porn consumption and Porn addiction are two separate conditions. The latter is likely to cause depression, whereas the first one can prove to be healthy for your sexual life.
Some studies have described addiction as “a habit that you want to stop, but can’t, due to psychological or physical dependence. Moreover, it causes a negative impact in one or more areas of life.”
If a person watches porn a few times but not regularly, he/she is not addicted to it. In fact, if they watch porn on a daily basis and do not suffer any kind of anxiety and depression, that means they are not dealing with its addiction.
Pornography Depression and Internet Addiction
Just like screen addiction affects your brain, porn addiction does the same. People develop an addiction to it as it releases dopamine and gives them the feeling of pleasure and reward – making the individual repeatedly perform the activity.
Basically, it works as; when a person surfs through the internet, their brain searches for something that makes it feel good, for instance, a funny video on the internet, likes and comments on social media, or an intriguing new porn video, all of them help in releasing dopamine that makes them feel good.
Dopamine needs to be kicked constantly to get more of it. Therefore, a person doesn’t stop after watching one funny video. They need to constantly scroll down and look for new ones to get that feeling again.
Similarly, porn addicts check porn websites constantly for more new videos to get that dopamine dose.
Therefore, messing with brain chemicals like that can cause exacerbate depression – the person feels good while watching it as long as they are getting the dopamine hit, however, as soon as it wears off, they feel depressed and need different porn to get that same feeling.
Are pornography and depression linked? Not scientifically. But there is such a thing as ‘pornography depression’, which can result in the worst depression on overconsumption of porn. Not just that, people who watch porn to cope with depression can become an addict, which can amplify other depression symptoms. If you are suffering from pornography depression, it would be best to get help.