The Connection Between Pornography And Depression

While some use pornography to distract themselves from symptoms of depression, research suggests that pornography abuse can actually exacerbate the condition.

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Finding A Link Between Pornography And Depression

Depression is a mental disorder that affects a person’s mood, typically leaving them feeling sad, hopeless, and unmotivated. When someone is depressed, they experience a decrease in serotonin levels. Since serotonin is released during an orgasm, it is here that we find the link between pornography and depression. It has also been indicated that people seek out pornography to avoid emotional discomfort, especially those who lack appropriate coping skills to deal with unwanted feelings.

When someone thinks of pornography addiction, they often correlate it with sex addiction, but this is not always the case. Watching pornography and having an orgasm can initially feel good and provide a distraction from feelings of anxiety and depression; hence, one of the many reasons people use it. When people are depressed, they tend to find all sorts of coping skills that can distract them from feelings of depression. 

However, pornography addiction can lead to depression. Like drug addiction, where a person can develop a tolerance for their drug of choice, a person who watches pornography excessively can also build a tolerance towards pornography. This tolerance to pornography can lead to decreased pleasure the more one views it. Over time, the person would need more stimulation and dopamine to produce the same pleasurable effects they felt when they first started watching pornography; hence, the reason pornography becomes addictive.

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Dopamine’s Role In Depression And Porn Abuse

When the brain is constantly in a state of arousal, it begins to shut down its release of dopamine to protect itself from this overstimulation. Dopamine is responsible for pleasure, satisfaction, and motivation, so when it is no longer released, a person can feel moody, tired, and unmotivated, among many other symptoms. Additionally, dopamine plays a significant role in sleep patterns, motivation, learning ability, mood stability, and awareness. When dopamine is not functioning correctly, all bodily functions it affects are likely not working correctly either. 

Now that we have a better idea of dopamine’s role in the brain and body and how pornography affects dopamine, we can better understand the link between pornography and depression. In addition to depression, pornography addiction has also been linked to distress, anxiety, isolation, loneliness, irritability, anger, and decreased sexual satisfaction.

People tend to isolate themselves when they lack motivation and pleasure; furthermore, people often self-isolate when they watch pornography for privacy reasons or because of feelings of shame. Increased isolation can regrettably lead to loneliness and distress. Anger, irritability, and decreased sexual satisfaction are produced when the brain’s reward center has become impaired due to pornography abuse. Dopamine is no longer produced, nor is the pleasurable effect commonly sought out by pornography use. 

What Is A Dopamine Detox?

To address dopamine dysfunction, there are growing holistic approaches to establishing normal levels of dopamine, but more research is required. One approach is known as a dopamine detox, also known as dopamine fasting. A dopamine detox, according to Medical News Today, includes sustaining from dopamine-producing activities for a certain amount of time. The hope is that the absence of said “pleasures” would decrease reward sensitivity. However, there is currently no scientific evidence to support this method.

It is suggested that when someone avoids dopamine triggers for a certain amount of time, usually several hours to days, it will reset their brain to produce dopamine as it initially would have. Some have described feeling more relaxed and balanced after a dopamine fast. In the case of pornography addiction, a person may want to avoid smart devices, computers, magazines, or anything else that may trigger the dopamine release from this addiction. Other dopamine triggers include sugar, shopping, and gambling.  

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Treatment For Porn Addiction And Depression

Beyond dopamine detox, there are multiple treatment options for depression and pornography abuse. For the treatment of depression, it is common that an individual’s symptoms will be managed with medication or psychotherapy, or both. Psychotherapy, or “talk therapy,” can address multiple mental illnesses and emotional difficulties, and it employs multiple treatment techniques to help individuals address and change certain emotions, thoughts, or behaviors. There are several forms of therapy an individual can choose depending on their needs, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), psychodynamic therapy, and many more. There are also online therapy options for those considering virtual treatment for depression and porn addiction. 

Find Help Today For Depression And Pornography Abuse

Most things that overstimulate the brain, including pornography, can produce negative feelings and affect brain function. Fortunately, the brain can return to a functional state with retraining and reconditioning. Through counseling and therapy, a person who struggles with pornography addiction can learn to recondition their brain and develop new and healthy coping skills.

However, if you are experiencing depression and pornography addiction, it is important to seek treatment that will address all of your specific needs. Learn more about your online therapy options today. 

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Published:

Author

Amber Biello-Taylor, CAP, LCSW

Photo of Amber Biello-Taylor, CAP, LCSW

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