What is the Relationship Between Anxiety & Porn Addiction?

Dr R. Y. Langham

Mar 02, 2022

Porn has quickly become accessible, affordable, and extremely popular over the last few decades. “Porn use” and porn addiction have skyrocketed in the past three years, and some experts point to coronavirus (Covid-19) as the cause. However, porn has been around since the beginning of time which means that the only way to quit it and reclaim your life is to seek porn addiction help.

According to a 2019 study, committed couples, who use porn, are not automatically linked to unpleasant consequences. Researchers suggest that a porn user’s values, beliefs, and morals can influence or contribute to these unpleasant consequences. Thus, researchers have found that “porn use” is linked to anxiety.

This anxiety is linked to moral disapproval (condemnation) or one’s personal and religious beliefs when it comes to viewing porn. Thus, study results suggest that committed couples, who heavily use porn, and those, who view porn as “highly immoral” have high levels of anxiety.

Therefore, the frequency of one’s “porn use” is also not necessarily linked to poor relationship satisfaction either, especially when it comes to emotional attachment with a partner or spouse. However, porn appears to be indirectly linked to relationship satisfaction when it comes to anxiety, depression, and moral disapproval (condemnation). In other words, when “heavy porn use” is coupled with a high level of porn-related moral disapproval (condemnation), anxiety and depression levels escalate. The result? Relationship dissatisfaction.

Understand that there is limited research on the connection between moral condemnation and “porn use,” especially in areas like emotional distress, psychological disturbances, and religious implications. Thereby, trying to reconcile your integrity (morals, values, and personal beliefs) and religious beliefs with your actions, such as viewing porn, can lead to anxiety.

Are There Different Types of Anxiety?

Yes, there are several types of anxiety, such as:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Social anxiety (formerly known as social phobia)
  • Panic disorder and panic attacks
  • Agoraphobia (a fear of places and situations that could be hard to escape or that make you feel uncomfortable)
  • Phobias
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Note: The most common anxiety disorders associated with “porn use” are generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and social anxiety, although any anxiety disorder can lead to “porn use” and porn addiction.

Can Anxiety Lead to “Heavy Porn Use” and Porn Addiction?

Yes, anxiety can lead to “heavy porn use” and porn addiction.

The truth is anxiety often leads to “porn use” and later porn addiction. But “porn use” and porn addiction can also lead to anxiety. For instance, if you are worried, concerned, afraid of, nervous about something, you may use porn to “escape” these negative emotions and ease your anxiety.

On the flip side, excessively viewing porn can cause you to develop anxiety, especially if you are religious and find porn-watching immoral, evil, or sacrilegious. Keep in mind, however, that you do not have to be religious to experience shame and guilt from your “porn use.” Anyone can experience anxiety before or after viewing porn.

“Porn use” and anxiety can easily turn into a relentless cycle of anxiety – “porn use” – anxiety – “porn use” – anxiety…. and so on and so on. Thus, “porn use” is closely linked to anxiety and vice versa.

Listed below are the ways that anxiety and “porn use” are linked:

  • Anxiety can cloud your thought processes, judgment, and decision-making skills, making you think something is true, healthy, or acceptable when the opposite is true – i.e., viewing porn is healthy and normal when “nothing” could be further from the truth.

  • Anxiety prevents you from being present and engaged with loved ones and friends. It can also prevent you from performing important tasks, such as raising children, working and paying bills, maintaining personal hygiene, and/or socializing with peers. As a result, anxiety often leads to self-isolation and emotional detachment from others.

    People, who suffer from anxiety, and have self-isolated, are at risk of using porn or becoming addicted to it. In other words, porn is used to “escape” problems, reduce emotional distress, and/or eliminate boredom – or whatever is causing your anxiety. It is either the anxiety fueling the “porn use” OR the “porn use” fueling the anxiety.

    Instead of addressing the turmoil in life, some people try to ignore or dismiss it by turning to the first thing that crosses their path, which in some cases, is porn. Porn is accessible and “free” most of the time, so it makes sense that these individuals use it to reduce their stress and anxiety. It provides respite or a place to “hide” from life issues.

  • Some anxious people also turn to porn even though they know that it is not real. Porn provides these individuals with balance, equilibrium, and peace. Because porn is fantasy, it takes their minds off of what is bothering them and helps them enter a world of sexual fantasies.

  • Porn offers anxious people an opportunity to connect with others on a screen – an inexpensive alternative for intimacy. However, it also chips away at relationships, triggering loneliness, emptiness, shame, and detachment from others.

  • Some people who struggle with porn experience anxiety after using it. Studies suggest that “heavy porn use” can cause chemical imbalances in the brain – chemical imbalances that can trigger or worsen anxiety.

  • A hallmark sign of addiction is an urge for more of the substance or activity (i.e., porn). As such, porn addiction, like all other addictions, produces uncontrollable urges to view porn at higher and higher rates. As a result, it can become increasingly harder to experience sexual desire, release, and satisfaction in the real world. The result? Even more anxiety.

What is Social Anxiety?

Does the mere thought of entering large crowds of people cause you to feel sick? Does the idea of socializing with others cause your stomach to clinch up? Do you experience a cold sweat, shakiness, headaches, nausea, diarrhea, or excessive perspiration when “forced” to attend an event, celebration, party, or get-together? If the answer to one or more of these questions is yes, you may be suffering from social anxiety.

Approximately 7% of adults in the U.S. struggle with social anxiety.

So, what is social anxiety? Well, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, social anxiety involves a continuous and extreme fear of socializing or performing in the presence of others, especially when the people or situations are unknown or when the person is at risk of experiencing criticism or scrutiny.

If you become physically ill or overly anxious at the thought of socializing with others but calms down once you are alone, there is a good chance you are suffering from social anxiety. People, who struggle with social anxiety, are deathly afraid that they will behave in a way that is embarrassing, shameful, or degrading (i.e., exhibiting anxiety symptoms that cause others to laugh at them or avoid them).

In layman’s terms, social anxiety, previously referred to as “social phobia,” is an extreme fear of being judged and negatively perceived by others – to the point of feeling inadequate, incompetent, inferior, self-conscious, ashamed, uncomfortable, and/or anxious in group settings. The exact cause of social anxiety varies; however, genetics, societal expectations, environmental factors, and brain chemistry and brain structure irregularities can contribute to this condition.

Social anxiety is characterized by a significant fear in one or more social situations, facial flushing, rapid speech, extreme fear of being criticized or judged by others, fear of saying or doing something embarrassing in social situations (in front of other people), shakiness, palpitations, discomfort when meeting new people, the scrutinization of your words and actions following an encounter, and excessive perspiration (extreme sweating).

Social anxiety can be triggered by a host of situations, such as having to present something at work, having to use a public restroom, having to eat in front of others, meeting new people, stating your opinion in front of others, going on dates, and/or having to make small talk with someone else.

Examples of Social Anxiety

James

James finds it nearly impossible to walk down the street because he’s anxious and self-conscious. James feels like people are constantly watching him from their windows. He also dreads running into someone on the sidewalk and being “forced” to say, “Hello,” to him or her. When James tries to say, “Hello,” to someone, his voice cracks, and the other person knows that he is afraid. James is terrified that others laugh at him or make fun of him because he is awkward in social situations. So, when he is in the presence of others, he keeps his eyes down and avoids eye contact with them. Doing this makes James feel safe. He prays every day that he will make it home from work, errands, grocery store without having to talk to someone.

Lily

Lily absolutely hates standing in the grocery store checkout line because she’s afraid the other shoppers are watching her. She knows that the other shoppers are not really watching her, but she can’t shake the feeling. Lily also thinks that people are staring at her on the security cameras placed around the grocery store. Moreover, Lily feels like she must talk to the other shoppers while she shops, which is upsetting. She tries to smile at the other shoppers, but her voice is weak. Lily is sure that she’s making a fool of herself because of it. Lily’s self-consciousness and social anxiety are out of the roof.

Stephen

Stephen does not want to go to work because he is expected to attend group meetings. These meetings always involve sharing project details with the boss and co-workers. Just the thought of speaking in front of his co-workers and boss can increase his anxiety. Sometimes, Stephen is unable to sleep the night before a group meeting because of his anticipatory social anxiety.

Once the meeting is over, a big wave of relief spills over Stephen. He can finally relax. But the memory of the meeting is still centerstage in his mind. Stephen is convinced that he made a fool of himself, and his boss and co-workers could see just how afraid he was when speaking and how stupid he acted in their presence.

The next group meeting is about 7 days away, but Stephen is experiencing intense social anxiety at the thought of the future meeting. He knows that he will stutter, stammer, and falter when it is time to speak. Then, his face will turn red, he will forget what he was going to say, and his boss and co-workers will be eyewitnesses to his embarrassment, shame, and humiliation.

Tamika

Tamika avoids going to her college classes on the first day because she knows that most college professors instruct students to introduce themselves to their peers on this day. Just thinking about sitting there, waiting to introduce herself to a room full of strangers, who are staring at her, makes her feel dizzy and sick to her stomach.

Tamika already knows that she will be unable to think clearly, because of her extreme social anxiety. She is also sure she will end up leaving important details out of her introduction. She believes that her voice will quiver, and she will sound frightened and indecisive. This social anxiety is just too much for Tamika to bear, so she skips the first day of her classes to avoid having to introduce herself to the other students.

Is Social Anxiety Linked to “Heavy Porn Use” and Porn Addiction?

Yes! Social anxiety is linked to “heavy porn use” and porn addiction.

“Heavy porn use” can worsen social anxiety. More specifically, using porn can shut off communication with the outside world. In other words, some people, who struggle with social anxiety, use porn to “escape” their nervousness at being around others. While others use it to reduce their angst before speaking in front of others, running errands or attending social events, presenting at work, going on dates, etc.

These individuals state that watching porn before doing something that involves other people takes the edge off of their worries, concerns, and fears. Porn behaves like drugs and alcohol in that it dulls your senses and lowers your inhibitions so you can “loosen up” and socialize with others.

Conversely, “heavy porn use” and porn addiction can also trigger or worsen social anxiety in some people. Using porn can cause feelings of shame and guilt, prompting users to hide this behavior from other people. Because porn users, in general, do not want others to discover what they are doing in their free time, they refrain from going out in public and interacting with others. Many also develop a phobia or fear of going out, dating, talking with, and/or socializing with peers.

In this case, it is a fear of being “found out” (porn habit) that fuels social anxiety. And, it’s the social anxiety (from the “porn use”) that causes some anxious people to turn to or to keep returning to porn. Thus, a person with a porn habit may stop going out for fear that others will discover what he or she is doing (porn-watching). This fear of going out can cause him or her to ramp up his or her “porn use,” possibly leading to full-blown porn addiction.

How is a Comorbid Condition Involving Anxiety and Porn Addiction Treated?

Anxiety and porn can damage your health and well-being. Thus, the only way to “break free” from an anxiety/porn cycle is to seek porn addiction treatment. Porn addiction support is vital to recovery, especially when you suffer from a comorbid or co-existing condition like anxiety and porn addiction. While it is normal to occasionally experience anxiety, it is not normal to experience it so severely that it causes you to turn to porn. Thus, if you are experiencing anxiety and porn addiction, it may be time for you to seek porn addiction treatment.

More specifically, if you suffer from an anxiety disorder and porn addiction, both conditions need to be treated. Treatment will likely include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), porn addiction therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), medications (anti-anxiety medications), support group meetings, and self-help tools (books, apps, rehab, forums, hypnosis, an online porn recovery program, etc.). Researchers suggest that the best results stem from a porn addiction treatment that includes therapy, medication, and self-help tools.

So, if you’re looking for a reliable online porn addiction recovery program to support your prescribed treatment plan or help you get a handle on your anxiety and porn addiction, check out Stop Together. Stop Together offers 200+ therapy sessions designed to help you become more confident (in and out of the bedroom), happier, and more fulfilled in your relationship. This program will help you leave your loneliness, isolation, shame and guilt, anxiety, and depression behind, so you can fully embrace a “porn-free” life.