Dr R. Y. Langham

Dec 04, 2021

Did you know that approximately 7% of American adults struggle with depression? It is true. In fact, depression is one of the most common mental health conditions in the U.S.

 

People view porn for a variety of reasons. Some view it out of boredom, to relieve stress, or as an “escape” from life, work, and/or relationship problems, while others view it for entertainment or innovative ideas of things to do in the bedroom (improving intimacy with a partner). Yet, some people view porn as a way to explore their bodies and sexuality. And, while women also view porn, men tend to view it at a greater frequency and intensity than their counterparts.

 

In fact, a 2013 study implies that some men view porn as a “stress reliever,” regardless of their relationship status – i.e., single, in a relationship, or married. Ironically, researchers also found that viewing porn can be beneficial and educational for some individuals and couples. Multiple studies also suggest that there is a link between “porn use” and the emergence or worsening of depression symptoms in some people.

 

However, to date, there is not enough “evidence” to label “porn use” or porn addiction as a “mental health condition” or connect it to a “mental health condition” (i.e., depression). Still, depression and “porn use” or porn addiction is a common occurrence in most spiritual and religious circles – and in some secular circles as well. Thus, in these circles, porn addiction is considered a “mental illness” – even if it’s not “officially” classified as one.

 

So, if you feel like your “porn use” is disrupting your life and/or causing emotional distress or depression, worry no more because porn addiction help is available. Porn recovery tools, porn addiction counseling, and weekly porn addiction support group meetings are great ways to become and stay “porn-free.” Once you become “porn-free,” your depression symptoms will lessen or disappear altogether.

 

If you are wondering if there is a true connection between “porn use” or porn addiction and depression, you have come to the right place. This article will provide you with the ins and outs of depression and porn addiction.

What Happens in My Brain When I View Porn?

Your brain is innately-wired to react positively to human necessities (i.e., food, water, social interactions, air, companionship, and sex). When you enjoy a delicious meal or experience a titillating sexual encounter; your brain responds to the pleasurable event by releasing dopamine, a hormone/neurotransmitter responsible for mood, motivation, attention, happiness, life satisfaction, movement regulation, learning, memory, and emotional responses.

Your stimulated brain ramps up its dopamine production and then tells your body to release it, causing you to feel euphoric. After a few times, your brain and body learn your dopamine patterns, so that dopamine is automatically released when you have similar (joyful) encounters.

A “porn habit” becomes a legitimate problem when your innate reward system is hijacked, overused, and/or overwhelmed, so that the things you used to enjoy (i.e., exercising and practicing self-care, having sex, spending quality time with friends, and loved ones, going on dates, investing in your career, etc.) no longer make you happy and the things you would normally “shun” (porn) are the only things that can provide you with relief.

Dopamine production declines over time, which can make some people vulnerable to porn addiction, especially if they are already viewing porn. More specifically, low dopamine levels can cause some porn users to engage in this behavior more frequently or for longer amounts of time. It can also cause some porn addicts to turn to extreme porn (porn that is considered “taboo” by general society) to boost their dopamine production and prompt its release (i.e., happiness, joy, and energy).

Let’s say that a young adult male excessively watches porn on the internet. Well, over time, he may develop a “tolerance” to his normal level of “porn use.” Because he is no longer getting the same “high” he once received, he is “forced” to up the frequency, duration, and/or extremity of his “porn use” to achieve the desired results. Thus, researchers have concluded that low levels of dopamine can affect your mental health and contribute to porn addiction.

Does “Porn Use” Affect Males and Females Differently?

It appears that way…

There appear to be subtle gender differences when it comes to “porn use.” For instance, women porn users tend to garner benefits from viewing porn, while men porn users tend to experience some adverse effects from engaging in this activity.

For example, a 2020 study found that women, who regularly view porn, are more likely to experience benefits from doing so, such as:

  • Quicker sexual arousal
  • Increased ability to have an orgasm
  • Greater sexual pleasure from masturbation
  • Multiple orgasms due to masturbation

Thus, researchers suggest that while society assumes that “porn use” negatively affects a woman’s romantic relationship and libido, the truth is some female porn users may experience a boost in their sex drive and romantic relationships after viewing porn. Researchers have also concluded that some female porn users may not experience any impact on their libido or romantic relationship after being exposed to porn. And, yet some women may experience shame, guilt, and embarrassment when masturbating to porn because female sexual expression is often “shunned” by general society.

There may also be differences between male porn users. For instance, one man’s “porn habit” may differ from another man’s “porn habit.” This variance amongst male porn users or addicts most likely stems from a difference in morals, ethics, and values. A 2017 study found that males, who believe that “porn use” is ethically and morally wrong, are more likely to grapple with depression. Why? Well, researchers suggest that a belief that “porn use” is a moral failing, evil, and/or ethically and morally wrong, can contribute to a porn addict’s feelings of shame, embarrassment, guilt, hopelessness, and despair.

Can “Porn Use” Impact Mental Health?

Yes, there is a chance that “porn use” can impact your mental health.

Researchers suggest that “porn use” can impact your mental health in the following ways:

  • Emotional distress
  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Emotional avoidance, detachment, or withdrawal
  • Social isolation or loneliness
  • Testiness or impatience
  • Anger
  • Sexual dissatisfaction

Understand, however, that current research suggests that porn may not be the “problem.” In other words, it may be the porn user’s perception of the “porn use,” not the porn itself, that is causing the havoc.

For instance, if you believe that you have a “porn habit” (even if you don’t) or if you believe that what you are doing is inherently wrong, you are more likely to experience negative effects (i.e., depression, anxiety, and/or emotional distress) than someone, who does not believe he or she has a “porn habit” or is doing anything wrong. Thus, your perception plays a significant role in how porn will affect your mental health. This is especially true if your “porn use” contradicts your religious, spiritual, and/or moral beliefs.

Note: Understand that most porn studies have focused on heterosexual teenage or young adult men. As a result, studies on women porn users are limited. And, to date, there have been no studies on LGBTQ+ porn users. Furthermore, studies on the effect of porn on various races, ethnicities, and cultures have been absent.

What is Depression?

Depression, also referred to as clinical depression or major depressive disorder, is a mood condition characterized as a feeling of constant sadness and despair, mood fluctuations, and loss of interest in the people and things that used to spark joy and happiness.

Depression impacts your emotions, thought processes, and behavior, which means it can damage or destroy your relationships, job prospects, health and well-being, and self-esteem and self-confidence. Depression can also cause you to turn to porn to quell your distressing thoughts and “escape” from your problems. In this case, porn becomes a way to “self-medicate” or ease your emotional pain.

Your “porn use” becomes a “crutch” that you can lean on when you start feeling “down.” The more your depression escalates, the more you turn to porn. Porn is fantasy. And, for some people, it elicits a feeling of happiness, joy, euphoria, and sexual excitement. That is the selling point for depressed men and women.

Porn sells an illusion where everyone and everything is exciting, fun, happy, sexy, etc. It is not real but it feels real to many porn addicts. But, because the fantasy is not real, there may be days when viewing porn makes you feel better (stable, happy, and relieved) and days when it makes you feel even worse (even more depressed, angry, confused, frustrated, and hopeless).

It is important to understand that depression is not something you can just “quit.” Depression is not “the blues.” It is a real condition that can be triggered or aggravated by external factors like “porn use” or porn addiction. Depression can also influence your behavior (viewing porn). But, regardless of the origin, you cannot simply “stop” your porn addiction and/or wish away your depression. That means you must address both conditions (simultaneously or independently) to fully recover from it.

Depression treatment typically involves long-term therapy, antidepressants, and stress-management tools. And, porn addiction treatment typically involves porn recovery programs, porn addiction support, lifestyle changes, short-term and long-term goals, accountability, anti-porn tools, patience, effort, and faith. There is no “quick fix” for depression or porn addiction, however, many depressed porn addicts sought porn addiction help and successfully “cured” their “porn habit,” while effectively managing their depression symptoms. So, it is possible to do both.

Can Depression Affect a Person’s Romantic Relationship and Sex Drive?

Yes.

Like other mental health conditions, depression can negatively affect various areas of your life, such as your romantic relationship and sex drive. These effects are typically more pronounced if you suffer from moderate-to-severe clinical depression.

Keep in mind, however, that depression is associated with reduced or low energy, poor motivation, and decreased interest in activities that use to spark joy and happiness – all of which can interfere with your romantic relationship and sex drive. And, when you add mood fluctuations, anger, tension, frustration, and/or irritability to the mix, you have an even higher risk of experiencing relationship conflicts and a low sex drive.

Antidepressants are commonly prescribed to treat depression symptoms (i.e., reduced libido, an inability to have an orgasm, erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, etc.). These prescription medications can negatively affect your romantic relationship and sex drive.

Note: Even violent, graphic, and/or sexually-explicit video games can trigger or worsen depression in some people. And, they can also increase your risk of developing a porn addiction. Why? Because, people, who suffer from depression, are more likely to turn to porn as an “escape” from someone or something.

Could My Porn Addiction Be Triggering or Exacerbating My Depression Symptoms?

Possibly…

Although, there is not enough evidence (currently) to definitively say that “porn use” causes depression, yet there still appears to be a link between porn addiction and depression.

In fact, a 2019 study found that frequent or extreme “porn use” can increase your risk of developing depression, regardless of gender. But, the likelihood and severity of your depression symptoms depend on the length and frequency of your “porn use,” the amount of money you spend on porn, and how porn makes you feel.

A 2017 study also suggests that 15% of young adult males, who view porn more than three times a week, struggle with depression, as compared to 3% of young adult males, who only occasionally view porn (less than once-a-week).

Researchers also found that 12% of the young adult males, who began viewing porn in elementary school, 8% who began viewing porn in middle school or junior high, 5% who started viewing porn in high school, and 6% who started viewing porn in college, experienced some degree of depression.

Note: Research implies that religious porn addicts, who reside in spiritual, anti-porn communities, are more likely to experience new or escalating depression symptoms, as compared to non-religious porn addicts, who reside in more secular communities. For example, Christian porn addicts, who feel “forced” to hide their “porn use” for fear of being “shunned” by God, the congregation, their families, and others in the community, are especially at-risk of becoming depressed and suicidal.

Suicidal ideation is common amongst religious porn addicts because anti-porn sentiments are often promoted in these communities (i.e., “Porn is shameful, evil, and disgusting!”). As a result, these individuals may experience guilt, shame, hopelessness, and helplessness – all the ingredients needed to trigger depression and/or suicidal attempts.

But, even though “porn use” and porn addiction appear to be linked, some studies suggest that this behavior does not directly exacerbate depression. However, a “porn habit” may inadvertently exacerbate depression symptoms, especially if this “habit” prevents you from spending time with friends and loved ones, socializing with peers, going to work, taking care of the household and/or child responsibilities, and/or maintaining your hygiene.

And, because depression symptoms typically involve “escapism,” social isolation, and binge-like or compulsive behaviors, it makes sense that people, who excessively view porn, would turn to it more amid depression.

So, not only could your “porn use” be inadvertently triggering or exacerbating your depression symptoms, but it could also lead to a host of other symptoms, such as loneliness, migraines/headaches, anxiety or panic attacks, neurosis or impatience, narcissism, low self-esteem and self-confidence, and sexual/relationship dissatisfaction.

Or, Could My Depression Be is Feuling My Porn Addiction?

Yes, some depressed individuals can become addicted to porn.

Even though porn addiction is not “officially” recognized in the DSM-5 manual, the consensus by researchers and mental health providers is that there is a link between depression and “porn use.” Currently, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) only “officially” acknowledges one internet-based addiction – video games addiction (internet gaming). But, although porn addiction is not listed in the DSM-5, the APA still includes porn addiction under the subheading of “hypersexual disorders.”

Neuroscientific studies indicate that porn addictions are formed and progress in a similar way as drug and alcohol addictions. During these studies, porn users were given MRIs to scan their brain activities after being exposed to sexually-explicit images (porn). Researchers discovered that the brain activities of porn users (after viewing porn) were like those of substance abusers after being shown alcohol ads.

Limited studies also suggest that depressed people, especially depressed men, are more likely to view porn and/or develop a porn addiction, than those, who are not depressed. In fact, a 2017 study found that depressed men may use porn as a “coping mechanism” or a way to “escape” internal distress and/or external problems (like relationship issues).

Researchers also found that American veterans, struggling with depression, are more likely to turn to porn to ease their angst or reduce their PTSD symptoms. In fact, according to some studies, depression can alter how a person interprets or perceives his or her “porn habit.” For instance, a 2018 study found that depressed individuals tend to view porn as “beneficial” – even though it is negatively affecting their life satisfaction, relationships, and sexual health.

Thus, the truth is without porn addiction treatment, porn can and will destroy your life. Seeking porn addiction help can help you get a grasp on your depression, so you can return to the land of happy “porn-free” living!

Note: If you feel that your “porn use” is triggering or aggravating your depression symptoms, it is important to seek porn addiction treatment for it. Your mental health provider may opt to have you work on your “porn habit” and depression symptoms concurrently. Or, he or she may decide that you should address your “conditions” independently (depression than “porn habit” or vice versa).

Is There Anything I Can Do for My Porn Addiction While I Address My Depression Symptoms?

Absolutely!

If given the okay from your doctor, it is possible to treat porn addiction and depression at the same time!

If you want to get your porn addiction under control, while tackling your depression, you may want to try “Stop Together.” Stop Together is an online porn recovery program that can help you take back control of your life, happiness, thought processes, behavior, and self-esteem, and self-confidence. Stop Together offers porn addiction help (i.e., CBT therapy sessions) right when you need it. It is not only affordable and accessible but also reliable and effective.

With Stop Together, you can return to the happy, “porn-free” life you once had. And, with Stop Together, you can repair damaged relationships and mend broken friendships. Stop Together also takes the pressure off you while you address your depression symptoms. So, this program may be exactly what you have been looking for!