Medically reviewed by Angela Sheddan, DNP, FNP-BC
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 8/17/2021
There’s no doubt pornography is a pervasive part of our culture – and its use is growing.
Chances are, you’ve checked it out, yourself. Today’s pornography consumer is overwhelmingly male.
Pornhub, a major website featuring explicit content, reported that men make up over 70 percent of its users, with younger adults below 34-years-old a large part of that user base.
Overall, according to statistics, more than 70 percent of U.S. citizens ages 18 to 30 watch online pornography at least once a week.
It’s reported that about 60 percent of college students also watch pornography once a week.
The problem? Studies have shown that porn use can be linked to negative attitudes toward women, poor contraceptive use and may even lead to divorce.
There may also be a link between pornography consumption and depression.
If you’ve been watching lots of porn lately — and you’re feeling a bit low, read on.
The link between porn, porn addiction, self-perceived problematic pornography use and depressive symptoms is complex.
For starters, the official stance of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists is that it “does not find sufficient empirical evidence to support the classification of sex addiction or porn addiction as a mental health disorder.”
That said, it’s possible there’s a link between viewing pornography and experiencing depression (which is a mental health condition), and some studies have shown the relationship might work both ways.
One study found that some people with scrupulosity, or those with guilt or anxiety about moral or religious issues, had a problematic relationship with pornography.
Depression was also found to be a potential cause of problematic pornography viewing, but only for those who use it to escape negative emotions.
Scrupulous people, in another study, were found to experience shame related to their pornography use, and as a result, label themselves as addicted.
Another study of male college students looked at pornography use and depression and the age of onset.
The researchers found that the rates of depression in men who started using pornography in elementary school, middle school, high school and college was 11.7 percent, 7.1 percent, 4.9 percent and 5.9 percent, respectively.
In fact, kids especially may be at a higher risk of mental-health disorders resulting from pornography.
It has been found that pornography may contribute to an adolescent’s bodily insecurity as well as poor life-satisfaction, and there may be more symptoms of depression among adolescents.
However, other research has shown that pornography use and sexual esteem in adults may relate to bodily satisfaction.
The results are slightly mixed and whether or not you experience negative consequences from watching porn (or vice versa) may come down to you.
So what happens if you do notice a correlation between your porn consumption and a low mood?
If you feel your pornography use may be adversely affecting your mental health, there are several treatment options available to you.
First, here are some common symptoms to look out for, in order to determine if you are in fact depressed.
These include the following experienced almost all day, every day, for at least two weeks:
A persistent sad, anxious or empty-feeling mood
Feeling hopeless or pessimistic
Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
Little interest in or pleasure from hobbies and activities
A drop in energy or feelings of fatigue
Moving or talking more slowly
Restlessness or having trouble sitting still
Having a hard time concentrating, remembering or making decisions
Finding it difficult to sleep, oversleeping or waking in the early-morning
Appetite and/or weight changes
Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
An assortment of aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that don’t have a specific physical cause and/or those that don’t get better with treatment
If you feel any of the above symptoms, it’s wise to consult with a healthcare professional about depression treatment options, some of which may include:
Many people who suffer from depression take antidepressants to help manage their condition.
These medications work by improving the way the chemicals in your brain handle stress, and can take between two to four weeks to kick in.
You may see symptoms like poor sleep, concentration problems and appetite get better before your mood improves.
Some people find they need to try a handful of different antidepressants to find the one that works best.
It’s also important to remember that stopping antidepressants without the help of a healthcare provider can result in withdrawal symptoms.
This can happen when people who are taking antidepressants start to feel better and feel they can stop taking the medication on their own.
Instead, it’s a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider if you are feeling better. You can then slowly and safely taper off your medication with professional guidance.
It’s typically possible to taper off antidepressants about six to 12 months after beginning your course.
In addition to medication, many kinds of psychotherapy, also called talk therapy or online counseling, can help people with depression.
Talking with a healthcare provider can help you zero in on which type of therapy might be a good fit for you.
Types of evidence-based treatments of depression include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT) and problem-solving therapy.
There are some ways you can also ease depression on your own. These include keeping up with exercise, confiding in a trusted friend or relative or just socializing with others.
You may also remind yourself to set realistic goals, resist isolating yourself and understand that your mood may get better gradually.
Feeling depressed can be debilitating, but with the right therapies and understanding of the roots of your condition, depression can be treated and you can get back to better emotional health.
For more information and resources on mental health, check out the Hims Mental Health Resource Guide.
If you find your low mood seems to coincide with an uptick in your porn viewing, it might be helpful to cut back or take a break — and see if your mood improves.
Some research points to a correlation between pornography and depression, so you could be experiencing the link.
Either way, if you’re feeling depressed, anxious or any sort of psychological distress, help is available.
Speaking with a healthcare professional is an excellent first step, as they can not only pinpoint what might be causing your low mood, but help determine the best treatment options for you.
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