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Watching Porn Killed My Self-Confidence and Made Me Hate My Body

“I developed a huge lack of self-confidence, I started to hate my body and I didn’t know how to start and keep real relationships.”

Many people contact Fight the New Drug to share their personal stories about how porn has affected their life or the life of a loved one. We consider these personal accounts very valuable because, while the science and research is powerful within its own right, personal accounts from real people seem to really hit home about the damage that pornography does to real lives.

We received this true story from a female Fighter that shows how porn can deeply damage self-esteem and self-confidence. Some stories, like this one, show how women can get hooked to porn just as easily as guys, and how it can affect their relationship with their partner as well as themselves.

Hi FTND,

I’m a girl and I struggled heavily with porn for about 12 years.

I was a really quiet and well-behaved girl back in primary school and a great student. I don’t really know how I made first contact with porn, but I do remember that this all began when I was only eight years old. I didn’t realize it was unhealthy, but now I keep asking myself: What kind of horrible world is this, where an 8-year-old little girl can get hooked on porn?

It was fun at first, but afterward, everything started to collapse around me.

I developed a huge lack of self-confidence, I started to hate my body and I didn’t know how to start and keep real relationships. (I never even got into a serious relationship until after my struggle really stopped.) I started to become attracted to women, in a sense, because the porn I watched always focused on women, although I identify as straight. Watching so much porn had affected me in so many ways.

Related: How Watching Porn Can Hurt Your Mental Health and Self-Esteem

When I met my first and current boyfriend, he struggled with porn too. When I first found out, I was devastated. It ruined our relationship because I never felt good enough for him and it seemed like he only wanted the women on the screen. It was so tough on both of us. But now he has been clean for about one year, thanks to our love. I’m so proud of him!

Unfortunately, for me, I am still not happy. I mean, 12 years of watching porn (even when I desperately wanted to stop) plus worrying about my boyfriend’s porn habit, were too much for me to handle. At one point, I developed a serious depression with continuous suicidal thoughts. This included a deep hatred of myself and my body. I really don’t know how to overcome this, and I feel completely stuck.

Related: 10 Reasons Why Porn is Trash and You Deserve Better

As I struggle so deeply, I am just so mad that society’s completely casual attitude around porn influenced me to keep going for years.

I hope with your help, this won’t happen to another innocent 8-year-old girl. I’ll keep fighting!

T.

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Porn’s impacts on mental health

The makeup, surgery, Photoshop, acting, and editing that go into porn give us an unrealistic view of the human body and sexuality. In fact, research suggests that consuming porn can result in poorer body image—both for the consumers and for their partners.Tylka, T. L. (2015). No harm in looking, right? Men’s pornography consumption, body image, and well-being. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 16(1), 97–107. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0035774COPY  Tylka, T. L., & Kroon Van Diest, A. M. (2015). You Looking at Her “Hot” Body May Not be “Cool” for Me: Integrating Male Partners’ Pornography Use into Objectification Theory for Women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 39(1), 67–84. https://doi.org/10.1177/0361684314521784COPY  Don’t buy into the unrealistic, airbrushed fantasies of porn. You deserve to feel confident in your skin rather than comparing yourself to impossible standards.

Studies have found that when people engage in an ongoing pattern of “self-concealment,” which is when they do things they’re not proud of and keep them a secret, it can not only hurt their relationships and leave them feeling lonely, but can also make them more vulnerable to mental health issues.Laird, R. D., Marrero, M. D., Melching, J. A., and Kuhn, E. S. (2013). Information Management Strategies in Early Adolescence: Developmental Change in Use and Transactional Associations with Psychological Adjustment. Developmental Psychology, 49(5), 928–937. doi:10.1037/a0028845COPY Luoma, J. B., et. al. (2013). Self-Stigma in Substance Abuse: Development of a New Measure. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 35, 223–234. doi:10.1007/s10862-012-9323-4COPY Rotenberg, K. J., Bharathi, C., Davies, H., and Finch, T. (2013). Bulimic Symptoms and the Social Withdrawal Syndrome. Eating Behaviors, 14, 281–284. doi:10.1016/j.eatbeh.2013.05.003COPY 

In fact, a number of peer-reviewed studies have found a link between pornography consumption and mental health outcomes like depression,Harper, C., & Hodgins, D. C. (2016). Examining Correlates of Problematic Internet Pornography Use Among University Students. Journal of behavioral addictions, 5(2), 179–191. https://doi.org/10.1556/2006.5.2016.022COPY  anxiety,Wordecha, M., Wilk, M., Kowalewska, E., Skorko, M., Łapiński, A., & Gola, M. (2018). 'Pornographic binges' as a key characteristic of males seeking treatment for compulsive sexual behaviors: Qualitative and quantitative 10-week-long diary assessment. Journal of behavioral addictions, 7(2), 433–444. https://doi.org/10.1556/2006.7.2018.33COPY  loneliness,Butler, M. H., Pereyra, S. A., Draper, T. W., Leonhardt, N. D., & Skinner, K. B. (2018). Pornography Use and Loneliness: A Bidirectional Recursive Model and Pilot Investigation. Journal of sex & marital therapy, 44(2), 127–137. https://doi.org/10.1080/0092623X.2017.1321601COPY  lower life satisfaction,Willoughby, B. J., Young-Petersen, B., & Leonhardt, N. D. (2018). Exploring trajectories of pornography use through adolescence and emerging adulthood.55(3), 297-309. doi:10.1080/00224499.2017.1368977COPY  and poorer self-esteem and overall mental health.Koletić G. (2017). Longitudinal associations between the use of sexually explicit material and adolescents' attitudes and behaviors: A narrative review of studies. Journal of adolescence, 57, 119–133. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2017.04.006COPY 

Related: 50 Good Reasons to Stop Watching Porn Forever

Although it’s fairly common for consumers to use porn as an escape mechanism or self-soothing technique, research indicates that those who consumed pornography to avoid uncomfortable emotions had some of the lowest reports of emotional and mental wellbeing.Brown, C. C., Durtschi, J. A., Carroll, J. S., & Willoughby, B. J. (2017). Understanding and predicting classes of college students who use pornography. Computers in Human Behavior, 66, 114-121.COPY 

Another study examined the relationship between the frequency of online pornography consumption and mental health problems, particularly in the context of “experiential avoidance” or trying to avoid negative emotions. The study found that frequent pornography consumption was significantly related to greater depression, anxiety, and stress as well as poorer social functioning.Levin, M. E., Lillis, J., & Hayes, S. C. (2012) When is Online Pornography Viewing Problematic Among College Males? Examining the Moderating Role of Experiential Avoidance. Journal Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity: The Journal of Treatment & Prevention, 19 (3), 168-180.COPY 

If you have been struggling to quit an unwanted porn habit, please know that you’re not alone. It can feel really lonely and frustrating, but there is hope. While research shows that consuming porn can fuel the cycle of loneliness, research also shows that it is possible to overcome a porn habit and its negative effects.Young K. S. (2013). Treatment outcomes using CBT-IA with Internet-addicted patients. Journal of behavioral addictions, 2(4), 209–215. https://doi.org/10.1556/JBA.2.2013.4.3COPY Nathanson, A. (2021). Psychotherapy with young people addicted to internet pornography. Psychoanal.Study Child, 74(1), 160-173. doi:10.1080/00797308.2020.1859286COPY 

According to one study of individuals trying to quit porn, researchers found that shame actually predicted increased pornography consumption while guilt predicted sustainable change.Gilliland, R., South, M., Carpenter, B. N., & Hardy, S. A. (2011). The roles of shame and guilt in hypersexual behavior. 18(1), 12-29. doi:10.1080/10720162.2011.551182COPY 

Need help?

For those reading this who feel they are struggling with pornography, you are not alone. Check out Fortify, a science-based recovery platform dedicated to helping you find lasting freedom from pornography. Fortify now offers a free experience for both teens and adults. Connect with others, learn about your unwanted porn habit, and track your recovery journey. There is hope—sign up today.

Fortify

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