Pornography and Depression: What is the correlation?
In an era where most of us spend the majority of our time over the internet, glued to our devices, the use of pornography isn't anything uncommon. But at what point does pornography become problematic? Or is it problematic in the first place? What is the relationship between watching porn and mental health?
These are specific questions that all of us as young adults often wonder about. Since times immemorial, there have been various taboos about the expression of sexuality and watching porn. There have been superstitions and myths that often relate these spectrums to poor mental health. Time is now to debunk these myths and assumptions and find out what exactly is the truth.
Can pornography use lead to depression?
Various cultural beliefs and traditional notions have propagated the idea that the expression of sexual desires, pornography, etc., cause an adverse effect on the mental health of individuals. So far, there has been no scientific study to prove such an assertion clinically. It has been observed that the societal projection of shame on matters concerning sex is the backbone of such notions circulating widely amongst us.
As per the findings of the AASECT or the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists, there hasn't been enough proof to determine that the use of pornography or its addiction is a clinical mental health condition. There has been no evidence to prove any adverse side effects of the same behaviour as well. Moreover, studies have been inconclusive about the fact that watching pornography can lead to depression or any other adversity to men's mental health.
Can depression lead to the use of pornography?
It is widely believed that people often experience some negative spiritual, physical, or even psychological repercussions due to their habit of watching porn and having overt sexual urges, behaviours, or thoughts.
Although there has been no corroborative evidence proving that depression or any pre-existing mental health condition leads to excessive consumption of pornographic content.
There have been some substantial research studies conducted on the same.
A study conducted in 2019 that surveyed about 507 women and 250 men concluded that depression appeared to increase the risk of establishing a problematic relationship with the usage of pornography.
However, one significant aspect of the findings of this study is that the conclusions were limited to the people who used pornography as an escape route to unpleasant feelings and distress.
This study, therefore, can not be regarded as a base to prove the causal relationship between depression and pornography.
Another research conducted in 2017 that interviewed 583 senior male prospects concluded that 14.7% of the sample consumed pornography more than thrice per week. The same percentage did report the feeling of depression.
This study also found that people who have watched pornography right from elementary school level or junior middle school, their high school, or early college days had experienced depression in an alarming ratio.
The significant lacunae of this research are that the 'feeling of depression' was self-reported by all people. The fact that this depression wasn't clinically proven makes it insufficient to prove the assertion considered here.
Another point is that all of these people sampled for this research viewed porn and sex with a grave moral wrong - hence they experienced adverse side effects.
Normal v. Problematic pornography use
According to the American Psychiatric Association, there are only two kinds of addiction that are recognised-
- Substance, drug or alcohol addiction and
- Online gaming
In fact, online gaming has been internationally recognised as the only kind of internet-based addiction. Even the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM) rejects the idea of identifying watching excessive pornography as a hypersexual disorder.
However, excessive consumption of pornography becomes terrible for the body and brain if it starts creeping into our mental and physical well-being and interferes with our ordinary daily course of activities. It can have mental side effects too.
When should you seek support if you are worried about pornography use and depression?
Neuroscientific and Psychiatric studies suggest that aspects such as:
- Reduced sexual and relationship satisfaction
- Stagnant life
often lead to excessive consumption of pornographic content.
If you feel that one of the reasons mentioned above could be a pushing factor for your excessive urge to watch porn, you can approach a counsellor or a therapist and seek help.
As an endnote, we must realise that our perceptions of external circumstances determine our stress or anxiety levels. Watching porn, if associated with bad morals or shame, leads to more negative feelings in our minds when we tend it. This could lead to some sort of adverse mental health circumstances. However, no clinical and scientific study has proven any causal link between pornography and depression and vice-versa.