Pornography and Depression: Is There a Link?

depression and pornography

We know that pornography has existed since the nineteenth century. (1)

Pornographic materials were popular immediately after the human race perfected photography and motion movies. So it is hardly surprising, knowing that pornography meets one of humanity’s most basic needs.

Pornography is neither beneficial nor evil since it does not advocate particular sex ethics or approach. Pornography encompasses a broad spectrum of items, from homemade images of happy couples to various sensual films with a high profit margin.

An individual’s values, studies on porn-related topics, and the impact pornography have on their lives must all be considered when deciding whether pornography is beneficial or destructive.

The neurological effects of porn usage are now being discovered by science. While porn is thought to meet the sexual desires of the individual, it is glaringly noticeable that the vast audience’s mental health and sexual life are negatively impacted in several ways. (2)

We are more exposed than ever to the highly stimulating consequences of Internet porn usage due to its accessibility and anonymity. Porn appears to be hijacking our neuronal circuitry with severe effects, causing anything from despair to sexual dysfunction. (3)

The Link between Depression and Pornography

Pornography is not always about a sensual thing and tickle for the sake of entertainment. Beyond eroticism, there is a potentially sinister side.

The notion that pornography might cause mental health problems, such as depression, is spreading like wildfire. You may have come across cultural or spiritual discourse that connects both these aspects.

Some cultural ideas, religious views, personal practices, or maybe myths promote the concept that pornography is a causal factor in mental health issues like depression. Nevertheless, science produced no proper evidence to back this notion up.

depression and pornography

The American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT) has a strong stance against the idea. They contend that the research does not support these assertions.

There is insufficient evidence to categorize porn addiction or usage as a separate mental disorder or link porn to detrimental health consequences such as depression. (4)

According to researchers, it is not a diagnosable mental health disease. Neither is it a direct cause of mental illnesses such as depression.

However, despite not having a direct relation, pornography and depression have a rather complicated relationship, and some variables are common to both.

Does Porn Trigger Depression?

People who engage in sexual impulses, ideas, or activities, such as pornography consumption, may suffer unpleasant physical, spiritual, or psychological effects.

However, there is presently insufficient data to support the claim that watching pornography might cause depression. However, research has shown some connections between the two.

Suppose you have a low sense of self-worth. In that case, pornography addiction will add gasoline to the fire, leading to you demonizing yourself even more and engaging in damaging activities.

Pornography can have a significant negative impact on a person’s mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Many people use pornography to hide how they feel about themselves, relationships, and other areas of their lives that they do not enjoy.

In the process, they have not only lost out on discovering genuine affection, but they have also made themselves, and their situation feels much worse.

The guilt associated with watching pornography may significantly impact a person’s self-esteem and how they engage socially.  Pornography typically exacerbates a person’s poor self-esteem and leads them down a path of despair and misery. (5)

The increased possibility of developing depression due to or in association with pornographic usage appears to be influenced by how frequently they use it and how long they are exposed.

In a 2017 research, those who watched pornography more than once a week reported being depressed more than five times as often as people who watched pornography less than once a week. (6) Moreover, depression might raise the chance of establishing an unhealthy relationship with pornography in some situations. (7)

According to research conducted in 2019, excessive consumption of pornography can enhance a person’s risk of depression in both men and women. (8)

However, increasing the likelihood of it is not the same as causing it. Although overconsumption of pornography does not cause depression directly, its consequences may lead to high functioning depression.

Can Depression Lead to Porn Addiction?

It is complicated to find out if pornography causes depression. It is also difficult to say if depression affects one’s pornography practice. There is no conclusive proof that experiencing depression leads you on the path of porn consumption.

According to a 2017 study, porn viewers who feel porn is ethically unacceptable are more prone to depressive symptoms. (9)

However, even among individuals who do not feel pornography is immoral, the study revealed that those who consumed the most pornography had the highest levels of such symptoms.

Pornographic materials act like addictive drugs, which work as hyper-stimulating triggers that cause excessive dopamine production.

This can harm the dopamine release pathway, making it insensitive to natural pleasure factors. Persistent dopamine release depletes the calming hormone serotonin, leading to an increase in depressive symptoms over time. (10)

Research says isolation and sadness were the underlying mechanisms determining how online activities like pornography usage altered life satisfaction. (11)

While struggling with Post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental health concerns, some people use pornography as a coping mechanism to relieve depressive symptoms.

Spending time with loved ones and exercising are examples of healthy coping techniques that have long-term benefits. Detrimental and unhealthy coping methods such as pornography, on the other hand, provide immediate enjoyment while frequently resulting in adverse long-term effects.  (12)

Overview of Pornography Risks

The following issues can arise as a result of pornography addiction:

Social Isolation

  • Withdrawing from social activities,
  • Building a private life
  • Manipulating and telling lies to others
  • Becoming self-centered,
  • Preferring porn to people

Emotional Dysregulation

  • Getting irritated over minor inconveniences.
  • Feeling enraged and depressed.
  • Experiencing severe mood swings, high functioning anxiety, and fearfulness

Sexualizing and Objectifying People

  • Treating people as sex objects.
  • Judging people based on their bodily features.
  • Disregarding the privacy and safety concerns of others.
  • Being insensitive and showcasing sexually damaging behavior.

Sexual Complications

  • The disappearance of sexual desire with a real partner.
  • It becomes challenging to get aroused achieve orgasm without using porn.
  • During intercourse, intrusive thoughts, fantasies, and pictures of porn are experienced.
  • Increasingly demanding and harsh in intercourse
  • Having a difficult time relating love, care, and affection to sex.
  • Feeling obsessive and out of control sexually.
  • Getting fascinated by risky, demeaning, abusive, or illegal sex.
  • Loss of the ability to orgasm, delayed ejaculation, and erectile dysfunction.

Developing an Addiction to Porn

  • Having a solid and persistent desire for porn.
  • Controlling ideas, as well as exposure to and usage of porn, gets complicated.
  • Despite unfavorable repercussions, unable to stop watching porn.
  • To get the same impact, needing more severe material or intensive pornographic exposure.
  • Discomfort and irritability on deprivation of porn.


Psychological Impacts of Pornography

Pornography’s effects on relationships, individual health, and society are more widely discussed than it has ever been. Pornography is extensively used and generally problematic. It has an apparent detrimental influence on marriages and gender relations, causing men and women to devalue each other.

Here is a detail about some of the significant psychological effects of pornography that adversely impact porn consumers.

Modifications in Body Perception

One’s ideals of beauty and sense of attractiveness are shaped in part by the visuals one consumes. Some people are dissatisfied with the quality of their love relationships due to their usage of pornography. Consumers of pornography with a BMI of above 25 expressed increased dissatisfaction in their relationships. (13)

Pornography comes with the potential of continuous exposure to body types that correspond to standard notions of attractiveness or fitness.

If a person compares their own body to these norms and feels like they fall short, their self-esteem may suffer. They could start to think of their bodies as being unsatisfactory. It may enhance relationship unhappiness if they compare their partner’s body to those seen in porn.

This also explains the connection between female teen pornography and psychological distress. (14)

Increased Self-gratification

If one wants to keep control and direction in their life, they must learn to delay gratification. In general, the healthiest people have mastered the skill of self-control and delayed gratification. However, consistently giving in to the impulse to view pornography leads to a loss of the ability to resist gratification. (15)

The practice of delayed gratification fades by the wayside when your brain gets increasingly focused on the things you find pleasurable. As a result, It is no surprise that people addicted to porn are prone to fail miserably in essential aspects of their lives.

Degraded Moral Values

Your subconscious mind is swiftly analyzing, interpreting, and making sense of what it is being fed when you view films. As a result, the mind automatically translates and modifies our behavior in one alarming way.

Pornography drives its consumers to lower their sexual boundaries. It motivates them to pursue sex and, in some situations, form intimate and unhealthy relationships with individuals who are prepared to have sex with no restrictions.

As incredible as it may seem, having sex with everyone available indicates a lack of self-control. (16) At a certain point in life, a mature person must handle his sexuality. Instead of being a slave to your sexual urge, you should learn to master and control it.

Moreover, hundreds of hours of pornography establish specific ideas about what sex should look like. Thus, the average 16-year-old who consumes pornography is practically learning about sex from the films they view. That is problematic since porn promotes a distorted fantasy and overblown reality of what actual sex is like.

Social Isolation

depression and pornography

Pornography necessitates seclusion in most circumstances. Anything that is done in secret by customers frequently results in humiliation. One of the first side effects of accessing pornography is social discomfort in public, leading to further guilt.

People find it challenging to communicate genuine intimacy with others when they feel alone and ashamed. It also makes it tough to progress and evolve as a person and attain their full potential.

Many individuals are already suffering from guilt and sadness due to pornography. It might be tough to restart a social life if a consumer’s pornography habit has dimmed their drive to be social. (17)

Physical Impacts of Pornography

Many young people view pornography as a source of notions about the domain of adult sex. Regrettably, pornographic websites do not provide any danger or damage warnings. They advertise themselves as a never-ending source of pleasure and amusement.

Porn, like other potentially addictive drugs and behaviors, can induce long-term brain alterations and influence behaviors that are harmful to other different parts of the body. (18)

Erectile Dysfunction

depression and pornography

Erectile dysfunction is the most frightening physical change that men report.  That is, they are unable to achieve a firm and erect penis. Delay in ejaculation or a slow response to genuine partners is typical in others.

They do not get ED while watching porn, but only when they try to have real-life intercourse. As a result, many single guys are unaware of their situation.

Erections can be caused by viewing porn often, but they are usually only generated by hardcore pornography, which is unhealthy. This might cause significant issues as either partner may feel inept for not being capable of performing sexually or for appearing to be unable to stimulate sexual desire in the other, resulting in performance anxiety.

It has generated a tremendous deal of humiliation, embarrassment, and upset in many men’s spouses, as well as a fear of inadequacy. (19)

Sexual Satisfaction

When nearly 6,400 adolescent pornographers were polled, many said they felt pornography had some self-perceived detrimental impacts on their lives.

Many participants reported a general decline in sexual satisfaction as one of the unfavorable outcomes. In addition, the desire for more stimulation to achieve orgasm was also mentioned, which was seen as an undesirable side effect of porn watching.

When compared to pornography consumers who did not believe their usage was problematic, those who subjectively described their use as inappropriate were more likely to report sexual dysfunction. Some acknowledged putting their fundamental necessities and responsibilities on hold to watch porn.

This was frequent among persons who claimed to be addicted to pornography. Those who said they had seen pornography before the age of 12 were far more inclined to think it was troublesome and obsessive. (20)

Aggressive Sexual Behavior

Consumers of pornography are more prone to engage in aggressive behavior during their sexual interactions. It is not entirely clear how porn influences sexual behavior.

However, one of the reliable research findings suggests that sexual aggression, including perpetration and victimization, is linked to pornography. (21)

This might be because of the scenes shown in pornography, which influence people’s perceptions of what a sexual experience should be like.

Uncontrollable Sexual Desire

Pornography consumption induces uncontrollable sexual desire, which results in compulsive sexual behavior or hypersexuality.

Pornography consumption also appears to be associated with a more permissive attitude toward sexual encounters and casual sex, which seems to be contributing to the hookup culture trend.

When Porn Consumption Becomes a Problem?

depression and pornography

If you experience the following things, your pornography consumption might become a significant concern for you.

  • Spend a lot of time watching porn that starts adversely impacting your career, home, education, or social activities.
  • If you browse porn for the sake of satisfying a desire to watch, as if you are getting a fix.
  • If you watch porn to de-stress yourself emotionally
  • If you feel remorseful or depressed about watching porn.
  • If you are resisting the temptation to view porn.

If you experience the following, it is high time to watch for these signs.

How to Treat Pornography Addiction?

Pornography addiction is characterized by a persistent need to consume pornography that disrupts daily living. Pornography addicts may have strong desires, ignoring their obligations, and engage in self-destructive actions.

While there is no clear definition or recognition of pornography addiction as a legitimate mental disease, the treatment is easily obtainable.

Psychosocial, cognitive-behavioral, psychodynamic, and pharmacologic techniques are all used in most treatment regimens.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Individual psychotherapy is a popular treatment option for porn addiction. CBT, in particular, aids in focusing on triggers and reshaping how you think about your porn addiction, as well as preventing complications. CBT also aids in the exploration of why you are compelled to use porn and the transformation of negative or dysfunctional ideas into more constructive or productive ones. (22)

Group Therapy

A person with this form of addiction may benefit from group therapy sessions since interacting with others and developing emotional intimacy is a vital tool in helping them overcome their addiction.


Some cases of pornography addiction may benefit from medication. With selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, pharmacologic approaches have focused on addressing co-existing mental illnesses and hypersexual or compulsive sexual behaviors. (23)

Pornography and other sexual addictions have been linked to mental health issues like depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in certain circumstances. As a result, recovering from a porn addiction may necessitate a dual diagnosis treatment program.


Final Thoughts

There is presently no large-scale, compelling evidence to back up the claims that pornography usage causes depression or that those who are depressed acquire a pornography addiction.

The medical world is still debating whether or not pornography addiction is a mental illness.

However, excess of everything is harmful, and the same goes for porn consumption. And establishing an addiction to it might lead to a slew of issues. As a result, it is critical to pay attention to your concerns, reach out, and begin developing healthy habits to overcome this.

Even though pornography is widely used, it is essential to recognize the mental health implications that it may have. Talking to a therapist or joining a support group could be beneficial if your usage is causing you distress.

If you are worried about having an unhealthy connection with pornography, it is good to talk to a mental health expert about controlling your consumption.

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