5 minute read

Porn and the Epidemic of Loneliness

Last Updated: February 24, 2021

Sam Guzman

Sam Guzman has been on the Covenant Eyes team for the last five years. He is also the author of The Catholic Gentleman: Living Authentic Manhood Today and the founder of the blog and podcast of the same name. His writing has appeared in various publications and he is a frequent guest on podcasts and other media outlets. Sam Guzman is a co-author of Transformed by Beauty, which teaches how beauty can help you heal from the wounds of pornography. He is currently an intern finishing his Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. He lives in Oklahoma with his wife and five kids.

As a young college student, I received an opportunity to participate in a pastoral internship at an inner-city church in a neighboring state. After arrival and a brief orientation, I was left on my own to settle in. I had a few hours to kill, so I drove around town and finally decided to stop at a local steakhouse to eat.

I was greeted by a roar of conversation as I entered the restaurant. Countless happy families, couples, and groups of friends smiled and laughed as they enjoyed their meals.

There was nothing unusual about this—it’s a typical scene at a restaurant, after all—except for the fact that I was eating alone for one of the first times in my life. And it was an acutely painful feeling. I was in a new city surrounded by complete strangers. They didn’t know me, and I didn’t know them. We didn’t matter to each other, and it was a depressing thought. As I sat waiting for my food, I felt exposed and terribly uncomfortable.

To relieve my discomfort, I quickly pulled out my smartphone (a new invention at the time) and began shuffling through text messages and social media apps. It was a shield of sorts, to deflect the pain of being alone. And it worked. Scrolling through endless social media content, I was briefly soothed and distracted from my isolation—at least enough to get me through the meal.

The Epidemic of Loneliness

While it may sound exaggerated to say that eating alone can be painful, anyone who has done it knows that it’s true. Tragically, an increasing number of Americans are living the painful reality of loneliness on a daily basis—and not just at meals, but constantly. Loneliness and isolation are becoming the norm for millions of people.

Research shows rates of loneliness among adults have doubled from 20% to 40% since the 1980s. And according to the General Social Survey, an annual study of societal conditions in the United States, the average American has not a single close friend to confide in or rely on in a crisis. Not one.

In the U.K., 9 million people report being frequently or always lonely. The crisis is so severe that the British government recently appointed a Minister for Loneliness to help resolve the issue. “For far too many people, loneliness is the sad reality of modern life,” British prime minister Teresa May said during the announcement. “I want to confront this challenge for our society and for all of us to take action to address the loneliness endured by the elderly, by carers, by those who have lost loved ones—people who have no one to talk to or share their thoughts and experiences with.”

Social isolation is not only a painful feeling; but it can also have devastating physical effects. Studies have shown that loneliness is linked to an increased risk of a whole range of health conditions, from cancer to diabetes, and it can be significantly more harmful to health than heavy smoking or chronic obesity. Loneliness is also linked to increased risk of suicide, and it can make you twice as likely to die prematurely.

Loneliness and Pornography Use

What does the epidemic of loneliness have to do with pornography use? Studies show that loneliness can be one of the primary drivers of addictive behavior. In his book, Chasing the Scream, addiction researcher and investigative journalist Johann Hari argues that social isolation can be one of the primary causes and ongoing fuels of addiction. The more disconnected you are from meaningful relationships, the more vulnerable you are to addictive behavior of all kinds.

That addictive behavior includes pornography use. A recent study published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy found a strong positive association between loneliness and pornography use. Put simply, if you’re chronically lonely, you’re far more likely to use porn on a regular basis.

How did we get here?

The breakdown of social connections has created an epidemic of loneliness, and a whole range of social ills have developed as a result. As research has been showing for decades, the physical and emotional consequences of loneliness are very real. Tragically, millions of men and women live with these consequences on a daily basis.

But why are we so lonely? And perhaps more importantly, why is loneliness so devastating to the human person and what does it have to do with pornography? After all, our culture praises the primacy of the individual. Independence, self-reliance, and autonomy are all virtues we are told to value from a young age. If such beliefs are true, we should be able to function fine in isolation from others.

In the rest of this series, we’ll examine the causes and consequences of loneliness (Part 2) in more detail and examine how exactly loneliness can fuel compulsive behaviors (Part 3) like pornography use. Finally, we’ll conclude with practical solutions (Part 4) on how to end social isolation and heal from pornography through meaningful relationships.

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  • Comments on: Porn and the Epidemic of Loneliness
    1. Leslie on

      Good stuff!
      Thank you!

      Reply
      • Jerry on

        It definitely describes what I’m going through. Widowed after 40 years of marriage, porn and alcohol are an awful companion.

    2. Bob on

      For me loneliness and isolation we’re just a part of what led me to use pornography to medicate. I am a truck driver and it is a lonely isolated lifestyle. One that I hate however, if dealt with in a healthy way and surrender to God, it can be overcome. I have shared a short video testimony with Covenant Eyes. There are a number of other reasons why we choose to medicate with porn.

      Reply
      • Keith on

        Thanks for sharing, Bob I am thinking about driving myself. I have thought about it being lonely. If you are interested, I would be happy to give you a call from time to time for fellowship if you can receive phone calls on the road. I am constantly reaching out to other guys. I am probably lonely too. My room mate is gone a lot.

    3. Matt D on

      I think loneliness has a lot to do with addiction to Pornography. It’s not a good thing at all, and I wonder why I struggle with this. Thanks for the eye opener

      Reply
    4. Kevin Briden on

      I became an Uber driver to help with the loneliness after I work my day job when I’m out of town and away from family and friends.

      Reply
    5. Jason Bolster on

      It’s undeniable that loneliness contributes to my porn use. At first, I just ascribed it to the lack of accountability, but it’s more than that. I’m driven to find artificial company which can offer a superficial tonic for the dull ache.

      Reply
      • Tim Mosher on

        Yes, and the tonic becomes toxic. A corrosion which burns the mind and soul, leaving deep scars. There is nothing quite like freedom from this demon once it has tried to lure you into the depths of its depravity.

    6. Kevin Haggerty on

      I also believe that another cause for extreme lonliness is social media. It has become the norm to get your self worth on a variety of social sites, see how many have “liked” us, how many have read our posts and the list goes on.
      Then there is the comparison game that occurs. We compare our lives with others who post these wonderful and perfect looking lives, and feel we could never live up to such ” wonderful lives”.
      How many times we all have seen whole families out for dinner, and all on the smart phones. No one talking with one another, but secluded in their own private world. This is commonplace today. We’ve replaced human touch, talk, intimacy with a screen we feel we have to become attached too. God created us for community, not detachment.
      This opens wide the door I believe for addiction.

      Reply
      • Sylvanus on

        Hhhmm… 🤔 Lord have mercy on me!

    7. Stephen D Fox on

      Is this going to be a weekly series. When is the rest of it coming out?

      Reply
      • Chris McKenna on

        Hi, Stephen – the second post has been released. Sorry for the delay!
        Chris

    8. Rose on

      Yes, sir. In the minds of the young teen age girl I experience that tragic moment of being attached to it. With no replacement activities and failure for constant change that I ought to have I still fall back and read in wattpad, listen erotic music and triggered me to watch.

      Reply
    9. Jay Stringer on

      Sam,

      I really appreciate your thoughts on this. Looking forward to reading your series!

      Reply
    10. Jonathan Stokes on

      Yes. I too have occasionally had porn viewing problem since mid 90’s.
      I have seen it all online. Hard core to the soft stuff. Prefer the gentle lovemaking videos actually but still it is not substitute for loving a real person.
      Porn is a crutch that can sometimes emotionally make the human spirit less connected.
      The way to defeat this loneliness is do not listen to the devilish,chattering,loathing ego within our minds. Do the exact opposite of it’s negative suggestions. Love and take care of yourself and others around you.
      Get active in your community and push back against the unhappiness inside.
      Just love yourself. You are a endless gift of love for us all.
      Porn is not the answer. Feels good but fleeting. A real loving man or woman partner is so much better than loneliness.
      Be more spiritual and grateful for your life and any good in your life.
      You will be given more as you spiritually mature.

      Love for yourself and others can defeat the porn addiction eventually.

      You are here to do good.

      Never give up. Keep on trucking.

      Blessings to all.

      Reply
    11. Zim99 on

      Yes, It is a difficult addict to deal with, to me it all started in 2016, after the death of my mother, I was so angry to God for letting her die, I started loosing interest in every thing I love, and become a loner, I would like to be alone, and I would just veaw my phone, check Facebook, until one day I come across a diary, and I thought I must read it, and I discovered that it’s a diary a girl dating another girl, well that really interests me, as I read it everyday,
      I become addicted and wanted more, I checked others and I would read them, before I knew it I was veawing it in the internet, where they would have pictures and after pictures I go for videos, of those girls porn, after that I found myself Masturbating.

      I found myself very deep, wanted to stop byt its difficult, I once confess to one of my church mate, we prayed, and I stop going there for a long time, but now I have relapse, even though I do it once or twice a year, still its eating me up, but the diaries I keep on going back more often to them.

      I have prayed about it and repented, buy I go back to those diaries, I’m seaking help. I don’t want to live in this sin any more.

      Zim

      Reply

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