People often think that viewing pornography can lead to depression. However, this is just a myth, and science has not found any conclusive scientific evidence to back this statement.
Read on to learn where this myth stems from and much more.
Here's the Short Answer
A common myth associated with pornography is that viewing porn can lead to depression. However, there is no scientific evidence to back this claim, and research has not shown any conclusive proof that porn can work as a catalyst in causing depression.
However, that doesn't mean that porn can't impact people in other ways. The way porn may affect you depends on your background, how frequently you view porn, and how you let it affect you. Some people may associate shame with porn and feel guilty about watching it later. This can impact their emotional health, especially when porn is watched compulsively.
Can Porn Consumption Lead to Depression?
According to science, there is no evidence that shows a link between viewing porn and depression. A study conducted in 2007 reported that people who viewed porn more frequently tend to feel more lonely. However, this study was self-reported; hence there was a lot of room for error.
Another study which was conducted over a larger population explored the question of whether there is a link between depression and porn. It concluded that some people associate feelings of shame and guilt with viewing sexual content. This could also lead to a certain amount of distress and impact their emotional health.
However, neither of the researches proved that there is a concrete link between watching pornography and a direct or indirect trigger for depression.
How About the Opposite - Do People With Depression Watch More Porn?
The answer to this question is not really a straightforward one. Depression affects people differently, and it's hard to determine how it alters an individual’s porn usage. Establishing a link that watching porn can trigger depression is complex, and the same can be said about the opposite question.
A study found that people who view porn are more likely to display symptoms of depression if they believe that watching sexual content is morally wrong. However, amongst people who don't associate feelings of shame and guilt with porn, depressive symptoms were found only in people who watch porn at the highest frequency.
It can be said that depressed men are more likely to watch porn at a high frequency and may use it as a coping mechanism. This statement holds more accurate for men who don't view pornography as immoral while also showing depressive symptoms. Hence, it can be said that depressed men are more likely to watch porn.
Pornography and Depression: Where Did This Notion Come From?
It is no secret that there are still many stigmas associated with masturbation, sex, and pornography. This leads to the birth of a lot of unscientific claims that are just myths. A commonly heard myth about masturbation is that it can lead to acne or hair growth on the palms of your hand. Often these myths are spread around to discourage people from masturbating or exploring their sexual desires since doing so is viewed as immoral by some people.
A lot of stereotypes about porn stems from the fact that a sector of people may view porn as ‘wrong’ or that it is viewed only by people who are unhappy. People also believe that a happy couple would never indulge in porn and that it can be addictive or unhealthy.
These myths originate due to a lack of sexual education and awareness. Most people don’t know that porn can be viewed and used in a healthy way, too.
Does Porn Consumption and Depression Affect Men and Women Differently?
Yes, according to the limited data, pornography viewing can affect the two genders differently.
Effects of Porn Consumption on Women
Watching porn can be more favourable for women, as concluded by a study held in 2020. It proved that women who saw porn regularly would experience various positive outcomes such as an increase in the number of orgasms, easy arousal, reduced difficulty in having an orgasm and experience higher pleasure while masturbating.
The study also proved no adverse effects of women watching porn on their relationships. It also doesn't impact their relationship satisfaction or sexual relationship with their partners. Instead, pornography seemed to help women while masturbating and showed no link with depression. Moreover, this further proves how porn can benefit women when viewed healthily.
This was also reflected in statistics that showed that there had been an increase in the number of women who watch porn.
Effects of Porn Consumption on Men
In contrast to women, men can be affected differently while watching porn; this holds for men who believe porn is morally wrong but continue to watch it. There is a higher link of such men experiencing depressive symptoms than others. The feeling of shame and guilt is tied to this behaviour.
What Are the Effects of Depression on Libido and Relationships?
Depression is a mental disorder that negatively influences how a person thinks, acts and behaves. Depression can affect different facets of a person's life. It can hamper a person's social life and negatively influence their work and personal relationships. Depression can also affect a person's sex life and profoundly impact different aspects of their life.
Some common symptoms of depression include:
- Lack of participation in social activities
- Less interest in activities that cause pleasure
- Lower motivation
- Low energy
All these symptoms can lead to a person losing interest in sex or experiencing a reduction in their sex drive. Along with that, depressed people may also display symptoms of anger, frustration or tension that can further sour a relationship.
When Is Porn Consumption a Problem?
Like all other things, porn is good for you only when used and viewed in moderation. There is always a thin line between using something in acceptable amounts and doing it excessively.
Porn consumption can be problematic when it starts interfering with a person's day to day life and affects their ability to function or negatively impacts their relationships. Some common signs that you may be using porn negativity include the following:
- Experiencing rising incidents of social and relationship conflict due to porn
- Spending more time watching porn
- Thinking frequently about porn
- Struggling to fulfil your social responsibilities
- Watching porn in inappropriate settings such as workplace or family settings
- Prioritising watching porn above your social obligations
- Struggling to stop or reduce watching porn
- Negative effect on mental and physical health
Are You Concerned About a Porn Addiction?
Not everyone faces a porn addiction. There are no simple measures to evaluate how much porn is good or bad. It depends on an individual's experience and history of being able to view or use something in moderation while maintaining a healthy balance. Some people may easily watch porn every day without affecting their lives, while others may struggle to watch porn once a month.
If you are worried about getting addicted to watching pornography, you can be on the lookout for the symptoms listed above. If these symptoms apply to you, try to reduce watching pornography. If you are unable to do so, talk to a loved one and gather information about how you can manage your addiction.
Where Can You Find Support?
Unlike earlier times, there are a lot of resources available nowadays that can help you moderate your addiction and get rid of it. Therapy is an excellent place to start. Search for therapists who specialise in sex addiction near you.
Your therapist may ask about your feelings and experiences while watching porn. You should try to be as truthful with them as possible and talk about the frequency and kind of porn you view. You can also try finding local support groups with other people dealing with porn addiction.
What Does Treatment Look Like?
Addiction treatments may include inpatient or residential treatment. The treatment may differ for every person depending on the severity of their symptoms. Some programmes remove other distractions and help a patient live at a care centre where they can focus all their energies on recovering from addiction.
Summing Up on Pornography and Depression
It is a common statement that porn can trigger depression. However, this statement is not backed by science and has roots in a lack of education and awareness. Some research shows that people who are depressed are more likely to view porn.
If you believe that watching porn is causing you distress, it may be helpful to seek professional help or join a support group or seek therapy.
- Grubbs, J. B., Stauner; Perceived addiction to Internet pornography and psychological distress: Examining relationships concurrently and over time. - https://doi.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fadb0000114
- Joshua B. Grubbs, February 2014; Transgression as Addiction: Religiosity and Moral Disapproval as Predictors of Perceived Addiction to Pornography - https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10508-013-0257-z
- Samuel L. Perry, September 2017; Pornography Use and Depressive Symptoms: Examining the Role of Moral Incongruence - https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2156869317728373
- Brian J. Willoughby, June 2018; Understanding Associations between Personal Definitions of Pornography, Using Pornography, and Depression - https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13178-018-0345-x