Is porn really an epidemic causing mental health issues?   

Now, more than ever, after living through a world-wide, once in a century pandemic, mental health issues are rampant. We need to strip away the surrounding stigma and talk.

What if there was ONE important thing you could do right now to improve your mental health? Would you take that vital step? Here it is: quit porn.

Even if you’re not personally a porn user, there’s a very high chance that someone you love uses porn — and is quite possibly a compulsive porn user. Why does this matter?

First, there’s no denying that porn is a big and powerful industry.

To quote PornHub’s boasts from their own data: (2019 Year in Review report)

“Pornhub keeps on growing and it doesn’t show signs of letting up. In 2019 there were over 42 Billion visits to Pornhub, which means there was an average of 115 million visits per day. One-Hundred-Fifteen Million – that’s the equivalent of the populations of Canada, Australia, Poland and the Netherlands all visiting in one day!”

(Bold print added for emphasis.)

Next, just follow the money.

Here’s what an recent Economist article states:

“Gene Munster, a managing partner at Loup Ventures, an American investment firm, reckons that since the pandemic began, spending on porn worldwide has nearly doubled.”

But why are we linking porn and mental health? 

To be clear, we are not implying that all or even most mental health issues are due to porn use. There are many other viable reasons for mental health issues. However, if you are a porn user, we really want you to consider what research has shown about the longer-terms effects of internet porn on the human brain.

Ready for a worthwhile yet challenging conversation?

Here are some questions you may have.

  • Does porn actually affect your brain?
  • If so, how does porn affect the brain?
  • Is porn harmful?

These are legitimate questions which deserve an answer based on research. Actually, there’s quite a few studies we can tap into to help answer these questions.

Brain science, or neuroscience, is a complex and ever-evolving study. Neuroscientists frequently study how the brain talks to the body by watching how the brain’s neurons fire in many different scenarios, for example.

Current scientific studies DO show that porn usage profoundly affects a person’s brain and mental well-being in several key ways — including how the brain handles an important brain chemical called dopamine.

What’s the BIG deal with dopamine

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps you feel happiness and well-being. Known as the “pleasure chemical”, it’s like chocolate for the brain (or whatever your favorite food craving may be).

Dopamine release is tied directly into your midbrain’s ventral tegmental area (VTA). Simply put, your personal reward center  — the VTA —  releases dopamine when you feed it sensory stimuli. Life’s pleasures like enjoying delicious food, a gorgeous sunset, or laughing with friends give us a natural high due to dopamine release.

The more intense the pleasure, the greater the dopamine release.

Normally, this process encourages you to pursue healthy food, friendships, and lifestyle. You feel good, so you feel more motivated to succeed. Is there such a thing as too much dopamine release? Science says YES. Unfortunately there’s more bad news.

Research shows at least seven vital ways that porn harms the brain.

 1.) Too much of a good thing — excessive dopamine-seeking does harm to the brain. 

The problem with dopamine release occurs when your brain can’t tell the difference between a good, natural high and an unhealthy high.

Let’s be honest. Sex is designed to be one of life’s most natural and intensely pleasurable experiences.

Internet porn drives cyber sex i.e., synthetic sexual arousal. In today’s world porn is free and easy to access creating the craving for excess, repeat dopamine highs.

Harvard’s Mental Health Newsletter (July 2011) notes what happens when you overload the brain’s reward circuitry, “The brain responds by producing less dopamine or eliminating dopamine receptors as a result dopamine has less impact on the brain’s reward center.”

In order to satisfy the intense cravings driven by gorging on porn, your brain will overproduce dopamine, then gradually fail to produce dopamine resulting in other health issues.

2.) Production of excess delta FosB, the “binge mechanism” in the brain, creates a brain groove. 

“One potential marker of the neural changes that accompany compulsive drug use and behavioral addictions is a protein called delta FosB.”

When delta FosB shows up, it’s like the brain’s neurons that fired and wired together when porn was viewed gang up to create a wider neural highway in the brain. Your mind just naturally goes that direction. This helps explain why porn use over time easily becomes addictive.

3.) Current research shows that drug addiction symptoms and behavioral addiction symptoms ARE very similar. 

Porn addiction is a hotly debated topic, but there is growing scientific evidence to say that it should be included as a behavioral addiction.

In this 2017 WebMD article Dr. Christman, staff urologist with the Naval Medical Center in San Diego states, “Sexual behavior activates the same ‘reward system’ circuitry in the brain as addictive drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamines, which can result in self-reinforcing activity, or recurrent behaviors.”

Psychology Today lists ten symptoms of addiction. Item number ten on this list notes that behavioral addictions are as real as substance addictions, based on similar reward-motivated behavior patterns.The fact is, behavioral addictions include a pattern of repetitive, compulsive use fueled by an ever-growing need for dopamine.

Other  symptoms of an addiction include:
  • an inability to quit after repeated attempts
  • loss of control
  • self-medication to soothe inner pain
  • fueling desire without true pleasure

 

4.) Loss of gray matter in the prefrontal cortex over time leads to “addiction-centered” decision making and lack of self-control.

In a 2018 study on the effects of porn on the prefrontal cortex of the brain, author Kendra J. Muller concludes:

“Pornography use affects the executive functions of the brain, rewiring its structure, and decreasing gray matter volume (Kim et al., 2017; Kühn & Gallinat, 2014).”

This is concerning if you value your mental health. Gray brain matter normally helps us make decisions and exercise self-control, among other important functions.

5.) Loss of a healthy sex drive often occurs after long-term porn use, affecting romantic relationships.

Anhedonia (loss of normal sexual pleasure) and anorgasmia (inability to orgasm) may occur because the brain is no longer aroused in a normal fashion.

According to Time magazine, “A growing number of young men are convinced that their sexual responses have been sabotaged because their brains were virtually marinated in porn when they were adolescents.”

“Many heavy porn users find themselves ending an existing relationship with someone they genuinely care about because of the shame they feel when they can’t perform sexually, or their partners end it for them because they don’t feel a healthy sexual and romantic connection and don’t know why,“ states Robert Weiss PhD, LCSW. (Licensed Clinical Social Worker)

6.) Early-onset erectile dysfunction in younger men is quite potentially linked to brain patterns affected by porn. 

A former science teacher, Gary Wilson explains this process and the damaging results of binging on porn in his TedX talk. According to Wilson, one result doctors are seeing is an abnormal increase in much younger men suffering from erectile dysfunction (ED) as a potential side effect of porn. This type of ED can be linked to a brain pattern problem. Because the porn wires the brain’s appetite for new and ever more unusual sexual experiences, normal sex doesn’t work to release dopamine.

“It’s not just clinicians who hear these complaints. The website yourbrainonporn.com, a popular forum for males struggling with pornography, has quite literally thousands of posts discussing ED and other forms of male sexual dysfunction — delayed orgasm (DE), inability to reach orgasm (anorgasmia), and even a loss of pleasure in general (anhedonia),” says Weiss in a 2017 Huffington Post article

 

7.) Depression, shame, and loss of self-esteem are secondary mental health consequences of unhealthy brain-rewiring due to compulsive porn use. 

Do depressed people turn to porn? Or does viewing porn cause depression? One can find research to prove both points. One doctor decided to conduct his own survey. He reported that the most frequent porn users were the most depressed.

Those trying to break free of porn addiction have reported depression lifting over time after being porn-free. Other porn users speak of feelings of depression and shame due to their porn habit.

For instance, the recent spa shooting in Atlanta is one real-life example. A former roommate reported that the shooter Robert Long, aged 21, “expressed a ‘deep feeling of remorse and shame’ about his porn addiction — and ‘needed to return to prayer and to return to God’.”

Fueled by greed, the porn industry has done untold damage. 

You or a loved one may be losing health, sleep, time, and money as well as struggling with depression, loneliness, and compulsive sexual behavior due to pornography addiction. Mental health issues also deeply affect important relationships, creating feelings of isolation.

You’re not alone! The World Health Organization (WHO) now officially recognizes Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder (CSBD). 

In fact, WHO recently updated their diagnostic manual International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) to include Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder (CSBD) under the parent category of Impulse Control Disorders. While not specifically calling porn an addiction, The ICD-11 says,

“Compulsive sexual behaviour disorder is characterised by a persistent pattern of failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses or urges resulting in repetitive sexual behaviour. Symptoms may include repetitive sexual activities becoming a central focus of the person’s life to the point of neglecting health and personal care or other interests, activities and responsibilities…” (ICD-11)

Don’t lose hope! Help is available to break your porn habit. 

While compulsive sexual behavior is a hard challenge to face, you CAN create new pathways in your amazing brain. Just like fixing any other problem, though, you’ll need to be willing to first admit your need for help.

Understand that recovery and brain rewiring are long-term projects. 

Medical help and trained therapists are gradually becoming more available as awareness of compulsive porn use grows. You’ll need more than one tool to help you succeed though.

Accountability is essential.

No one should have to face their biggest challenges alone. In fact, accountability is a proven tool in quitting porn. How?

Choosing to become accountable to a trusted friend or partner creates a lifeline of connections and healthy conversations. 

“I was caught in pornography for many years and while I knew that I disliked the compulsive behavior, I wasn’t sure how to end it. Being a female addicted to pornography felt taboo, but I became more empowered as a I learned about the brain chemistry underlying the behavior and experiences from my childhood that shaped my beliefs about myself and relationships. Through inner healing classes/counseling, self-reflection, accountability, and positive coping skills I’ve found freedom from pornography.” — Anonymous

Literally hundreds of Ever Accountable fans have shared similar success stories with us. 

Have you ever wondered how YOUR life could change?

Don’t just take our word for this, though. See how holding yourself accountable can forever improve your life.

Start your FREE Trial

What if you were finally able to focus on healing relationships?

“…The biggest benefit of having this is the reports. It shows that I can be trusted once again. That’s very important to me. My family means everything to me. I have broken trust and am slowly earning it back.” — Anonymous

“Your program has helped save my marriage. It has been highly effective to keep me away from pornography. — A happy Ever Accountable user

What if our accountability app could bring YOU hope and freedom?

I’ve found freedom from pornography and hope to one day be a light for other women who live in that same dark place and are looking for a way out.”  — Anonymous

“… I now am a more social person and someone who does more activities with others. Ever Accountable has, in short, changed my entire life for the better….Thanks from the bottom of my heart, “ — David

At Ever Accountable we’re committed to helping you quit porn. Give us a try at NO charge. We offer a free 14 day trial to help you get a taste of freedom.

You can’t overcome porn without accountability. But quitting porn is indeed possible. The rewards are great!

Start your journey to freedom by clicking here today.

 

Works Cited

Admin. “’Compulsive Sexual Behaviour’ Classified as Mental Health Disorder by World Health Organization (by the Reward Foundation).” Your Brain On Porn, www.yourbrainonporn.com/miscellaneous-resources/world-health-organizations-icd-11-compulsive-sexual-behavior-disorder/compulsive-sexual-behaviour-classified-as-mental-health-disorder-by-world-health-organization-by-the-reward-foundation/.

Austin. “What Is DeltaFosB and Is It Involved in Addiction?” Brain Stuff, Brain Stuff, 20 Feb. 2020, brainstuff.org/blog/deltafosb-drug-addiction-signaling.

“High Dopamine Levels: Symptoms & Adverse Reactions.” Mental Health Daily, 2 Apr. 2015, mentalhealthdaily.com/2015/04/01/high-dopamine-levels-symptoms-adverse-reactions/.

Kim, Sohye, et al. “Early Adverse Experience and Substance Addiction: Dopamine, Oxytocin, and Glucocorticoid Pathways.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, vol. 1394, no. 1, 2016, pp. 74–91., doi:10.1111/nyas.13140.

Muller, Kendra J. “Pornography’s Effect on the Brain: A Review of Modifications in the Prefrontal Cortex.” BYU ScholarsArchive, scholarsarchive.byu.edu/intuition/vol13/iss2/2/?utm_source=scholarsarchive.byu.edu/intuition/vol13/iss2/2&utm_medium=PDF&utm_campaign=PDFCoverPages.

Riemersma, Jennifer, and Michael Sytsma. “A New Generation of Sexual Addiction.” Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, vol. 20, no. 4, 2013, pp. 306–322., doi:10.1080/10720162.2013.843067.

Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S. “All About Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 12 Feb. 2017, www.huffpost.com/entry/all-about-porninduced-ere_b_9220706.

Robert Weiss PhD, LCSW. “The Consequences of Compulsive Porn Use.” Psych Central, Psych Central, 6 July 2020, psychcentral.com/blog/sex/2020/07/the-consequences-of-compulsive-porn-use#4.

Wéry, Aline, and J. Billieux. “Online Sexual Activities: An Exploratory Study of Problematic and Non-Problematic Usage Patterns in a Sample of Men.” Computers in Human Behavior, Pergamon, 14 Dec. 2015, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0747563215302612.