Watching porn can be a tool of sexual satisfaction among many men and women worldwide. However, with the availability of internet pornography, the risk of suffering porn addiction is quite high.

With addiction comes the possibility of suffering depressive symptoms affecting your mental health. While research hasn't proven a solid link to pornography use and depressive side effects, too much porn can cause sexual problems and affect one's spirituality and cultural beliefs.

Can Porn Trigger Depression?

Viewing pornography may have negative consequences on a person's moral and cultural beliefs. But to say it causes depression is another instance on its own. 

While pornography addiction may contribute to emotionally related symptoms such as mood swings, irritability, and even withdrawal, there isn't enough data to prove that porn use can lead to depression.

Depression, no matter the trigger, is a serious condition. You are not alone. If you would like to talk to a qualified therapist from the privacy of your room, consider signing up for Betterhelp

However, a recent journal from the National Institute of Health [1] shows that people who view internet pornography are twice as likely to suffer from depressive symptoms than those who don't. While this study can help establish a direct link between watching porn and depression, it isn't strong enough to validate the point.

A higher percentage of women reported a relation between pornography and depression

Another study characterizes the effect of higher levels of porn use and its relation to social issues and anxiety in males aged 22-37 who watch porn several times a day [2]. This in itself lays the foundation for the exact mechanisms involved in things such as:

  • Substance use.
  • Online gaming addiction.
  • Gambling addiction.

These can impact a person's emotional and mental health, as viewing porn can lead to a false sense of sexual gratification and intense withdrawal symptoms if the addiction is not satisfied. 

To say the use of pornography can cause depression may not be necessarily true, but it can contribute to higher chances of developing related behavioral patterns depending on a person's consumption and addiction.

Can Depression Lead to Porn Use?

Most people believe that pornography use and depression are related. But determining if porn use stems from depression is equally as tricky as figuring out if it can affect a person's overall happiness. 

For instance, a recent journal [3] found that people who consume porn are more susceptible to developing depressive symptoms if they believe porn use is morally indecent.

Pornography and depression are more likely to occur if the person watching feels it’s morally indecent

The opposite can be said for those who feel okay watching pornography, showing the outcome depends on their moral beliefs. 

Therefore, believing that a person is more likely to watch porn when depressed may be invalid, but it's how they choose to cope with their affliction when they feel stressed that determines if they may resort to pornography as an outlet.

For example, most people may rely on positive coping activities such as exercising, chatting with family or friends, and finding ways to deal with their depression. 

However, if the person in question feels sexually frustrated and has unrestricted access to the internet, they would most likely choose immediate gratification such as pornography and even masturbation instead of wholesome restructuring activities.

Depressive Symptoms Examining the Connection of Moral Incongruence

Like most vices, the role of moral incongruence can affect how a person chooses to cope with their depression. Those who see nothing wrong with watching porn, men especially, may use pornography as a coping mechanism to quell their lack of sex. 

In other words, there is a higher possibility for men and women to resort to using pornography as a means to escape from their depression, especially if they believe it's okay or natural to do so. 

Their neutral moral viewpoint on pornography coupled with external circumstances such as loneliness or lack of sexual satisfaction in a relationship may influence a person suffering from depression to consider using pornography.

Depression Resources

According to AASECT [4], excessive use of pornography may cause significant spiritual, psychological, and physical consequences related to a person's mental health, which manifests sexually as:

  • Uncontrollable urges.
  • Thoughts.
  • Behaviors.

Despite porn's ability to tamper with a person's cognitive process, it is yet to be proven that it may harm one's mental health or that depression may cause an individual to regress.

Research from the National Institute of Health [5] fails to prove the link between pornography consumption and adverse cognitive side effects such as brain damage. 

However, another study conducted among 53 Swedish adolescents [6] shows that excessive porn use can negatively affect a person's mental health to some mild extent, with most boys displaying negative gender attitudes associated with viewing pornography.

Porn Addiction vs Pornography Consumption 

Porn addiction compels people to view pornographic material to appease their sexual cravings, interest, or curiosity.

Whereas pornography consumption is the act of watching internet porn or material. It can be classified into three distinct categories, including:

  1. Recreational viewers.
  2. Compulsive viewers.
  3. Highly distressed non-compulsive viewers.

Recreational Porn Viewers

People who fall into this category make use of mild pornography consumption habits. As such, they can enjoy watching porn without neglecting their daily tasks or having it affect their sex life, relationships, or life quality. On average, a recreational viewer can watch porn for 24 minutes a week, with most users being people in a relationship.

Compulsive Porn Viewers

Those who watch porn compulsively end up forming destructive habits which interfere with their lives, job, and relationships. On average, people who fall into this category end up spending 110 minutes or more watching internet pornography. 

The need to gratify their streaming urges leads most compulsive users to make poor life decisions that affect their relationship, job security, and lifestyle, which can cause depression under certain circumstances.

Highly Distressed Non-Compulsive Viewers

Unlike compulsive viewers, people in this category often find themselves viewing porn as a means of improving their self-esteem, relationship, or missing sex life. Regardless, it can easily lead to porn addiction and unhealthy habits if not used in moderation. On average, a non-compulsive viewer may spend 17 minutes each week watching porn.

 

What Is Porn Addiction?

Pornography addiction is a mental ailment in which a person becomes emotionally dependent on viewing sexually explicit videos and pictures to the point that their addiction affects their relationship, career, family, and daily life.

In 2019 alone, over 42 billion views were recorded on Pornhub--a global source of internet pornography featuring over 115 million views each day [7]. Porn addiction is a common vice that affects both sex and demographics irrespective of age.

Unlike most mental health conditions, pornography addiction isn't an official diagnosis recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM) [8]. Meaning there are no definitive symptoms or diagnoses. But it is believed to lead to depression or at least stem from depressive symptoms.

How It's Treated and Diagnosed

Depending on porn's hold over a victim, a specialist may conduct specific treatment to combat sexual dysfunction, non-substance addictive disorder, or impulse control disorder symptoms.

  • Talk therapy is an example of an effective treatment used in aiding recreational porn viewers. It helps victims identify their triggers and learn to cope more healthily.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an ideal treatment option specializing in healing compulsive porn addicts. In extreme cases, medication and hypnosis may help remediate sexual dysfunction associated with excessive porn habits.

What Makes Porn Addiction Serious

A journal from the National Institute of Health links excessive porn consumption with damaging physiological effects such as withdrawal, cravings, and loss of motivation, with hypersexual disorder sometimes being part of the condition [9]. 

The main issue arises when exposure to repetitive sexual activity becomes a person's primary focus, they neglect taking better care of their health or accomplishing their responsibilities.

If a person with pornography addiction also suffers from anxiety disorders, they can experience a panic attack. Therefore, one can learn how to stop a panic attack and explore ways to reduce the use of pornography to help minimize the severity of the addiction.

Porn Addiction Symptoms 

 

Like most addictions, viewing pornography for an extended time may develop negative habits and even porn dependency. Unlike modern mental disorders, one cannot compare what's involved in a mental health assessment to porn addiction. 

For instance, a porn addict's psychological and social functioning cannot be measured by a CGAS score, nor is it diagnosable.

If you believe that you or a loved one may be a porn addict, it's vital to get help from a professional to remediate porn and depression symptoms associated with addiction.

Here's how you can determine a porn addict.

  1. Pornography is an essential focus of their life, and they usually put aside things just to spend time watching it.
  2. Meeting friends, family, etc., becomes monotonous.
  3. They spend less time grooming and end up neglecting personal care altogether.
  4. They feel less chemistry and attraction to their partner. 
  5. Their sex life feels unfulfilling, less passionate, and bland.
  6. They don't mind watching pornography in inappropriate settings such as school, work, and other public places until satisfied.
  7. They have an uncontrollable urge to watch porn.
  8. Decreased libido.
  9. They can't stop watching porn and socially withdraw after repetitive attempts of quitting.
  10. They put up a false facade and give off minor SOS signs indicating they may be suffering from depression or high functioning anxiety despite looking happy.

Physiological Effects and Symptoms of Porn Addiction

Because porn addiction is not a diagnosable treatment, most symptoms vary from person to person. However, some of the noticeable physiological effects of porn addiction include:

  • Chemical imbalances in the brain: Porn addicts experience a hard time controlling their emotions and mood as porn gratification triggers higher serotonin emissions in the brain leading to depression symptoms.
  • Changes in the brain pathway: Excessive pornography rewires addicts' neurological circuits in the brain, making it harder to feel satisfied; thus, they develop new pornography kinks to achieve more gratification.

Is My Pornography Use Normal?

To determine if your pornography use is normal, try asking yourself the following questions.

  • Do I make enough time to enjoy myself with my family, friends, and loved ones?
  • Does porn use affect my school, work, or relationships?
  • If I had to choose between accomplishing an important task or watch porn, would I bail out on my chores?
  • Do I feel sexual cravings that lead me to watch pornography?
  • Do I view porn only when curious or trying to understand new things about my sexual health?
  • Would I ever consider using pornography as an emotional outlet or comfort when things go wrong in my day? 

If the answers to these questions are mostly positive, it suggests that you're a normal recreational porn user. Alternatively, if you find yourself led by uncontrollable urges to view porn at school, work, or in the presence of others--this is a clear indicator of unhealthy porn use. 

If you or a loved one is having an existential crisis caused by excessively viewing pornography, here's how you can get treatment to help combat the vice.

 

Where Can I Get Help for Porn Addiction?

It can be hard going old turkey with the accessibility of internet pornography and the mild nudity of social media all around you. 

Here are a few useful strategies you can use in the fight against pornography addiction.

Online Therapy 

Sites such as Betterhelp and Talkspace offer 24/7 professional care and anonymity, making it ideal for porn users dealing with severe self-esteem issues, high functioning anxiety, and depression. 

Moreover, these online therapy sites allow addicts to get professional assistance from accredited physiotherapists from their home confines using a tablet, smartphone, or computer.

Therapy

Working with a psychologist is an effective treatment option that helps remediate the severe effects of using porn. It’s also an excellent way for addicts to feel relieved and motivated when fighting against oppressive pornography use and depressive symptoms. 

Through therapy, one can seek medical advice from a licensed professional as both patient and doctor study any depressive symptoms examining any triggers that lead to viewing pornography.

Pornography addicts can also use extensive therapy options like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which has frequent use among people with perceived addiction and those who relapse often. Through CBT, one can learn better relapse prevention skills than going cold turkey and fighting any urges through sheer willpower.

 

FAQ

Is It Normal To Watch Porn?

Yes, watching pornography is completely normal. Res

earch shows that, on average, nearly 28,258 users view porn every second [10]. The increasing availability of internet pornography has made it much easier for men, women, and youth to access free worldwide porn.

However, porn consumption can be problematic when children from as young as 11 and below get access to pornographic sites. 

At this age, viewing porn may affect brain development and rewire its reward circuitry [11]. Leading to negative sexual behavior, loss of control, perceived addiction, and may even trigger depression symptoms in some people affecting their school, life, relationships, etc. 

At What Age Is It Normal To Watch Pornography

The most acceptable age for porn consumption ranges between 13 to 17 and upwards. One study shows that the percentages of children below 18 who report seeing porn at some point are above 40%, with 78% of 16 to 17-year-olds report seeing porn [12].

Research also shows that roughly 67% of 13-year-old boys and 40% of girls, respectively, have seen at least one form of pornographic content. Another study shows an increased spike in porn consumption of children aged 17 to 18, with over 93% of males and 62% of females report watching pornography [13].

The rise of pornography use among the youth is not surprising. Many teens are getting to learn more about their bodies, sexuality, and newly developed emotions at this age. Adolescence plays a vital role, causing teens to naturally seek out pornography due to their increased hormonal activity and increased attraction towards the opposite sex. 

 

Is Porn Bad For You?

Whether you view porn as good or bad, it all depends on your spirituality, morals, and beliefs. According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health [14], excessive pornographic use and masturbation can lead to adverse effects associated with compulsive watching, such as sexual dysfunction and relationship dissatisfaction

It can be destructive, addictive, and a hindrance to building pure relationships and is also believed to cause depression in most people with excessive pornography consumption habits. 

Pornography can also be a healthy habit for individual or partnered sex lives. It can help couples understand what pleasures them and teach them new ways to explore their sexuality in moderation.

 

Do All Guys Watch Porn?

No, not all men watch porn. However, based on research data, men are the most active porn consumers compared to women. Unfortunately, modern society has taught many, especially women, that all men view porn. 

Some men prefer having a basic relationship without pornography, while others find it repulsive and morally wrong based on their strong spiritual and cultural beliefs. 

Moreover, the average working-class man may find it sexually stimulating, whereas the older 54 to 67-year-old male may find pornography a distraction from spending time with their children, grandkids, friends, colleagues, etc.

Conclusion

Even though pornography has no solid diagnosis under the manual of mental disorders, it is not entirely justified as a means that causes depression. That said, many experts are trying to establish the link between pornography and depression, with data suggesting a connection between the two.

Despite the ongoing research, many people are affected by pornography addiction globally. Therefore, if you or a loved one suffer from porn addiction, consider seeking medical advice and professional treatment. You can also explore therapy, meditation, exercise, etc., as a means to cultivate a healthier, porn-free lifestyle.

 

References

  1. Mattebo, Magdalena, et al. “Pornography Consumption and Psychosomatic and Depressive Symptoms among Swedish Adolescents: a Longitudinal Study.” Upsala Journal of Medical Sciences, Taylor & Francis, Dec. 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6327603/. 
  2. Wordecha, Małgorzata, et al. “‘Pornographic Binges’ as a Key Characteristic of Males Seeking Treatment for Compulsive Sexual Behaviors: Qualitative and Quantitative 10-Week-Long Diary Assessment.” Journal of Behavioral Addictions, Akadémiai Kiadó, 1 June 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6174597/. 
  3. L. Perry, Samuel. “Pornography Use and Depressive Symptoms: Examining the Role of Moral Incongruence - Samuel L. Perry, 2018.” SAGE Journals, journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/2156869317728373. 
  4.  “AASECT Position on Sex Addiction: AASECT:: American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists.” AASECT, www.aasect.org/position-sex-addiction. 
  5. Reid, Rory C, et al. “Neuroscience Research Fails to Support Claims That Excessive Pornography Consumption Causes Brain Damage.” Surgical Neurology International, Medknow Publications Pvt Ltd, 2011, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3115160/. 
  6. Mattebo, Magdalena, et al. “Pornography Consumption and Psychosomatic and Depressive Symptoms among Swedish Adolescents: a Longitudinal Study.” Upsala Journal of Medical Sciences, Taylor & Francis, Dec. 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6327603/. 
  7. Baxter, David, and Nicole Prause. “Pornography Use in the Setting of the COVID-19 Pandemic.” AKJournals, Akadémiai Kiadó, 27 Apr. 2020, akjournals.com/view/journals/2006/aop/article-10.1556-2006.2020.00015/article-10.1556-2006.2020.00015.xml. 
  8. “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5).” DSM-5, www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/practice/dsm. 
  9. de Alarcón, Rubén, et al. “Online Porn Addiction: What We Know and What We Don't-A Systematic Review.” Journal of Clinical Medicine, MDPI, 15 Jan. 2019, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6352245/. 
  10. Enough Is Enough: The Porn Industry Archives, enough.org/stats_porn_industry_archives. 
  11. Love, Todd, et al. “Neuroscience of Internet Pornography Addiction: A Review and Update.” Behavioral Sciences (Basel, Switzerland), MDPI, 18 Sept. 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4600144/. 
  12. Vandenbosch, Laura, and Steven Eggermont. “Early Adolescent Boys' Exposure to Internet Pornography: Relationships to Pubertal Timing, Sensation Seeking, and Academic Performance - Ine Beyens, Laura Vandenbosch, Steven Eggermont, 2015.” SAGE Journals, journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0272431614548069. 
  13. Sabina, Chiara, et al. “The Nature and Dynamics of Internet Pornography Exposure for Youth.” Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., Publishers, 11 Dec. 2008, online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/cpb.2007.0179.
  14. McNabney, Sean M, et al. “Effects of Pornography Use and Demographic Parameters on Sexual Response during Masturbation and Partnered Sex in Women.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, MDPI, 30 Apr. 2020, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7246896/.
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