Imagine that you’ve been in a desert for days, wandering by yourself in the sweltering heat. Suddenly, you come to an ocean of water…but it’s salt water. You haven’t quenched your thirst for a long time, so that ocean looks pretty amazing, even if it’s salty. Would you drink it?

You probably shouldn’t—salt water will actually leave you thirstier than before, and if you drink enough of it, it could actually kill you. While it may look appealing and satisfying, it’s only going to hurt you and leave you worse off than before you took a drink.

Similarly, many people turn to porn as a means of momentary companionship and human interaction. There may be a void in their life, or they’re feeling sad and lonely, and porn seems like it could do the job for at least a temporary feeling of connection. Unfortunately, studies show that porn can actually leave viewers feeling worse off than before they clicked. With time, viewers can become more depressed, lonely, socially isolated, and mentally anxious than ever. We get countless personal stories that reinforce the numerous studies that show how watching porn is never worth it.

Depression

“Any time [a person] spends much time with the usual pornography usage cycle, it can’t help but be a depressing, demeaning, self-loathing kind of experience,” says Dr. Gary Brooks, a psychologist who has worked with porn addicts for the last 30 years. [1]

It is hard to say what comes first, pornography or depression. However, pornography is often used to temporarily silence feelings of sadness, fear, anger, or boredom. This habit can quickly lead to depression, or worsen existing depression. It’s like a chicken and egg scenario: you’re not really sure which one comes first, but either option isn’t a good one.

Pornography floods the brain with dopamine and makes us feel good. Over time, as more dopamine is released, viewers can feel the effects of the feel-good dopamine less and less, which leads people to search for hardcore porn more often.

For many, a porn habit can become a substitute for the feeling of happiness. As a viewer self-medicates feelings of sadness with graphic sexual images and videos, they are missing out on building some real, amazing relationships with their spouse, friends, and/or community. In the end, no amount of pornography will take away life’s problems. In fact, studies show that it will just become one of them.

Social Isolation

Naomi Wolf, an author and political activist, has traveled all over the country to talk with college students about relationships. “When I ask about loneliness, a deep, sad silence descends on audiences of young men and young women alike,” she says. “They know they are lonely together … and that [porn] is a big part of that loneliness. What they don’t know is how to get out.” [2]

Pornography has a huge negative impact on relationships. As humans, we are hard wired to have real life relationships and build personal connections with others. We need social interaction and sense of community to thrive. When that’s missing, viewers may turn to other sources instead—like the momentary connection of watching porn performers on a screen. However, every human needs real, genuine companionship, not only the fake intimacy that porn can offer.  The more someone views porn, the more they might feel socially awkward and the more they might start missing out on building those connections.

As individuals turn to porn more, they may lose their desire for real sex altogether. The natural (and beautiful) flaws of reality and real people simply can’t compare to the photoshopped fantasies presented by pornography. Emotionally, viewers become more withdrawn from those they love, retreating into further isolation. Porn pulls them away from their friends and family, causing them to miss out on reality, and to disconnect with those they love.

Mental Anxiety

“If you have a low self-worth, pornography addiction only fuels the fire and pulls you farther down the spiral of despising yourself more and continuing to participate in the destructive behaviors,” says Dan Gray (LCSW, CSAT), a certified sex addiction therapist that works with people to overcome porn addictions and compulsive porn use. [3]

Porn can take a huge toll on a viewer’s overall mental, physical, and emotional health. Through pornography, many try to cover up how they are truly feeling about themselves, their relationships, and other aspects in their life they aren’t happy with. In the end, not only have they missed out on finding/experiencing genuine love, but they are left feeling even worse about themselves and their circumstances.

The guilt and shame associated with viewing pornography can be detrimental to an individual’s sense of confidence and self-worth, and negatively affect the way they interact with others. If an individual has a low self-esteem, pornography often worsens it and takes them down a path of anxiety and destruction. It’s just not worth it, in the end.

Why This Matters

In a 2005, a study of 400 internet users displayed a significant link between porn use and loneliness. In an airbrushed and sterilized atmosphere, porn creates unrealistic expectations of physical love between two human beings— ones that real women and men could never match up to. This can naturally lead to unrealistic expectations and deep dissatisfaction for the porn viewer.

Studies show that the more porn a person consumes, the harder it becomes for them to be aroused by a real person or a real relationship. As a result, many porn viewers start feeling like something’s wrong with them—they don’t know how to be turned on by a real person, much less form a real intimate connection with one. And that can result in harm to mental and emotional health.

At the end of the day, staying away from porn is worth it because going back to it again and again can quickly lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and loneliness. It may satisfy for a few minutes, but what results afterwards just isn’t worth it. Odds are, it’s probably not something that makes you feel like you’re contributing something positive and healthy to your life, and that’s reason enough to kick it to the curb.

 

What YOU Can Do

Feeling disconnected is a huge reason why people turn to porn. SHARE this article to let people know they are not alone and that there are serious mental costs to viewing porn.

Need Help?

If you can relate to these negative feelings when you watch porn but can’t seem to quit, we can help. We created the Fortify app to help people take a step toward freedom from pornography by tracking their behavior and giving them valuable resources to rid their lives of porn. The best part? The app is completely free for Fortify users. Sign up at fortifyprogram.org to get started.

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Citations

[1] Interview With Dr. Gary Brooks, Oct. 23, 2013.
[2] Wolf, N. (2004). The Porn Myth. New York Magazine, May 24.
[3] Except from a guest post with FTND: http://fightthenewdrug.org/the-serious-mental-costs-of-watching-porn/

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