At first glance pornography may seem harmless. After all, it is just images and videos, how much harm can it do?
If you look deeper you will find some huge issues with pornography. One of the huge problems with pornography is it's effect on people's mental health. In fact, pornography can make you feel more lonely, can hurt the relationships you have with others, and can even lead to and worsen depression as well as other mental health diagnoses.
A certain feeling that is sure to exacerbate a current mental illness is loneliness. One way people try to cope with the feeling of loneliness is through pornography use. Pornography not only doesn't lessen the feeling of loneliness, but it can actually increase the feeling of loneliness. It then becomes a self-perpetuating cycle as people who are experiencing loneliness turn to pornography which in turn can make their negative feelings worse.
One reason pornography increases loneliness is because of the harm it brings to relationships with others.
Pornography affects romantic relationships for numerous reasons:
It can become more difficult to get aroused without the aid of pornography
User can begin to lose sexual interest in their partner
The partner usually views it as trust being broken
Both experience less emotional closeness and sexual satisfaction
It has also been found that pornography use is associated with more conflict in relationships, less romantic attachment, and the odds of breaking up or divorcing become twice as likely.
Pornography doesn't just hurt romantic relationships but it also hurts relationships with friends, family, and other loved ones. As an addiction, one common symptom of pornography use is not being as involved in certain
areas of life. This could include areas such as work, family life, social life with friends, and elsewhere.
As these areas of life become neglected, the relationships with those people can begin to deteriorate and become less meaningful. People could also begin to notice slight changes in behavior which can include lower feeling of self-worth and increased aggression.
Overall, relationships big and small can be affected by an addiction to pornography. As these effects occur, mental health soon begins to decline as well.
Decline in Mental Health
Both loneliness and relationships struggles have a negative effect on mental health. Not only that, but if a pornography user tries to conceal their addiction it not only makes their relationships worse and increases the feeling of loneliness, but can increase the risk for severe psychological problems.
Some mental health diagnoses are associated with pornography use including anxiety and depression. The most common and significant finding in pornography addictions is the link it has with depression. This association mainly comes from the way it can temporarily get rid of feelings such as sadness, fear, anger, and boredom. Now keep in mind this is just a temporary fix, it is not a healthy way to cope with these feelings.
"What begins as a form of self-medication can escalate into a vicious cycle of depression, relapse, and self-hatred."
Not only is pornography associated with depression because of the self-medicating effect that it can have, but it has been found that it can lead to depression in some instances. This is mainly due to the fact that pornography makes us feel worse about ourselves and about our bodies. These feelings can include body-image issues, poor self-esteem, and insecurity. Whether these feelings stem from guilt or low self-esteem, pornography can exacerbate the negative feelings we do have and makes users more at risk for depression.
Although pornography does not directly cause depression and other mental health diagnoses, it can certainly lead to declines in mental health through the symptoms/feelings it can cause in pornography users.
Ways to Get Help
If you have decided that you want to quit that addiction once and for all here are a few steps you can take to do so:
Set a specific but memorable date for when you will quit for good
Change your surroundings including objects, people, and places
Fill you life with new activities to do in place of your addiction
Remember what did not help you quit in the past
Create a support system so people can help hold you accountable
Confide in others
There are also many organizations that can help. One such organization is Fight the New Drug. They have a range of articles full of research-based information, personal stories, social media accounts, and a podcast called Consider Before Consuming.
Another organization that you can check out is called Fortify. It is a program designed for those who are attempting to quit pornography. Their "basic plan" is free so be sure to check it out if you are interested.
If you are religious, be sure to check out any recovery programs your local church provides. An amazing resource called the 12-step addiction recovery program is a useful tool when overcoming pornography addiction. Check that out as well as a list of other resources and programs listed here. These include group meetings as well as organizations that can help with pornography addiction and those who have felt betrayed from someone else's pornography use.
Brower, N. (2021). Effects of pornography on relationships. Utah State University. https://extension.usu.edu/relationships/research/effects-of-pornography-on-relationships.
Camilleri, C., Perry, J. T., & Sammut, S. (2021). Compulsive internet pornography use and mental health: A cross-sectional study in a sample of university students in the United States. Frontiers in psychology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7835260/.
How porn can impact mental health and fuel loneliness. Fight the New Drug. (2021). https://fightthenewdrug.org/how-porn-can-impact-mental-health-and-fuel-loneliness/.
How the porn industry capitalizes on the loneliness and depression of its consumers. Fight the New Drug. (2019). https://fightthenewdrug.org/why-porn-leaves-you-lonelier-than-before/.
How watching porn can impact mental health. Fight the New Drug. (2021). https://fightthenewdrug.org/how-porn-can-impact-mental-health/.
Pereyra, S. (2016). Pornography use and loneliness: Assessing correlations using three associative models. Brigham Young University. https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=7417&context=etd.