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Why Quitting Porn Will Improve Your Mental Health (And so Much More)

Last Updated: August 17, 2021

Dann Aungst

Dann Aungst is a recovering sex addict and the author of the book From One Addict to Another. Dann is passionately involved in educating and helping others become free from porn and sex addiction in faith-based recovery. Dann has spoken at men’s conferences and is the president of Road to Purity, a non-profit organization that educates men on authentic godly relationships and understanding true purity, providing tools for recovery in live workshops as well. Dann also does addiction recovery coaching and is in the process of becoming certified through the American Association of Sex Addiction Therapists. Dann lives in Colorado and is a member of a local Catholic church. Like him on Facebook!

Does any of this sound like you?

  • “In recent months or years, I seem to find less enjoyment in life.”
  • “My significant other tells me that I don’t connect with her like I used to.”
  • “No one understands me.”
  • “When I’m not looking at porn, I feel anxious, almost as If I need a drug fix.”
  • “I seem to feel angrier lately without any explanation.”
  • “I occasionally experience some sexual dysfunction like impotence, but I’m too young!”

If you look at porn regularly, or even occasionally, this could quite likely be a major factor in these feelings or experiences. A common misconception is that porn doesn’t hurt anyone. And while there are numerous effects on society (material for a later article), the plain fact is that porn really does hurt the user, and in a very significant way.

How does porn actually hurt me?

While there are mountains of research and medical journals that support this fact, the simple straightforward answer is that porn is one of, if not the most, addictive behaviors or substances around today. Like most addictive phenomenons, pornography devastates our health, our general well-being, our relationships, and our spirituality.

The real issue is the act of taking something as natural and powerful as sex, and then perverting and consuming it in a manner in which it is not intended. What happens when we take a behavior or item created for a specific purpose and misuse it?

Think about this. What happens if you do the dishes and then put the silverware in the microwave to dry? It blows up. It’s an extreme example of what happens when you use something as its not intended. Porn is this extreme example.

9 Ways Porn Use Impacts Your Mental Health and Well-Being

So, how does consuming porn impact my mental health and well-being? Here are nine ways porn use impacts the user:

1. Addictive

When a sexual act is engaged in, the brain releases dopamine, which stimulates the pleasure center of the brain. This makes sex enjoyable with your spouse and creates a desire to continue, often creating babies and expanding mankind. Porn, however, overstimulates the brain, causing it to release too much dopamine.

This, while intensely enjoyable, causes receptors in the brain to shut down due to being overloaded. The result: you need more of the stimulus, more frequently and more intense to achieve the same initial experience. The brain begins to crave this experience—like a hard drug. Hence, addiction.

2. Decreased Enjoyment of Everyday Life

A normal dopamine experience in the brain is what creates our average enjoyable or pleasant experiences in everyday life. However, the overstimulation of the dopamine receptors from porn results in the brain shutting down many of these receptors. This impacts many regular life activities by making them perceived as less enjoyable than they once were. Most things in life become dulled or subdued. Happiness can seem unattainable.

3. Depression

Unfortunately, this reduced enjoyment of life commonly leaves a person to feel subdued or feeling flat without emotion. The real problem becomes when the user realizes that the only thing that makes them happy (by overstimulating the dopamine receptors) is porn, resulting in an even deeper addiction. This results in a reduced self-worth system which can sometimes have devastating results.

4. Anxiety

When the only thing that creates enjoyment is an activity (porn) that overstimulates the dopamine receptors, anxiety sets in when the dopamine is low. It’s kind of like a junkie having withdrawal symptoms.

5. ADHD Symptoms

The average time spent looking at a porn scene is 18 seconds. Then the user gets bored and moves on to the next scene. This behavior trains the brain to constantly need ever-changing stimuli. This need to change behavior patterns results from experiencing quick boredom and creates an inability to focus on simple tasks for an extended period of time. Real-life examples are revealed in adolescents who start having difficulty in school because they can’t pay attention, or with adults who have difficulty at work for the same reason.

6. Reduced IQ

The same consequences that created the ADHD symptoms and the difficulty in focus and concentration also reveal themselves in a reduced IQ. Scattered or unfocused brains will test lower in IQ exams.

7. Aggressive or Violent Behavior Tendencies

Because of the overloaded dopamine receptors, the need or craving for more frequent and more intense experiences, especially in the sexual arena, can lead to the desire for violent stimuli. Most commonly these tendencies are revealed in sexual tastes, but they can also show up in general everyday behavior. Extreme cases are revealed in the growth of sexually violent behaviors. New aggressive sexual tendencies will commonly show up in the bedroom.

8. Relationship Troubles

When we look at porn, our brains are unable to bond to the screen or inanimate objects we are looking at for sexual arousal. This is another one of those “what happens when you use something as it is not intended” scenarios. The fact is, when we consistently have sexual arousal and orgasms without a real person, we begin to train our brain to see people as inanimate objects. Especially our spouses. Trust me, women can tell if you are connecting with them or are using them as an object in the bedroom. In general, we begin to have difficulty connecting to other people because our brains see them as objects, not people.

9. Erectile Dysfunction

When the dopamine receptors of the brain are overstimulated from porn, the brain starts to train itself that stimulation from masturbation is the only way to achieve an erection. This ultimately trains the brain to “prefer” porn over a real woman.

When a man whose brain has been trained to prefer porn gets in the bedroom, the brain quickly gets bored with the woman and says, “What’s next?” Then during intercourse, the brain says, “This doesn’t feel like what I’m used to for sex.” When both of these events happen, the erection is diminished or lost completely, resulting in erectile dysfunction, or in this case porn-induced erectile dysfunction.

Every one of these above symptoms contributes to a general sense of poor well-being. While some of these do represent physical health, a decrease in physical health also impacts our mental health.  Additionally, consistent porn use frequently results in a person with deep selfish and narcissistic behavior tendencies. Individuals with these behavioral tendencies tend to feel isolated and rejected, which further negatively impacts the sense of well-being and mental health and creates a downward spiral that leaves some feeling hopeless.

Can all of this be fixed?

The short answer is yes.

For complete and lasting recovery, a person must address four areas of the addiction: behavioral, spiritual, emotional, and chemical. Addressing these areas is beyond the scope of this article, but here are a few great places to learn more:

 

  • Comments on: Why Quitting Porn Will Improve Your Mental Health (And so Much More)
    1. Jeremiah Grande on

      I have broken free from the chains of pornography. But the fleeting glances from our sexualized culture don’t make it any easier. Seeing a photo with a see-through top or all the “parts” covered doesn’t exactly keep a man’s brain safe. That is where my battle is & I have my weak points. Thank you Covenant Eyes, for your resources & ministry. God Bless!!

      Reply
      • Moriah Bowman on

        Jeremiah,

        Praise God that you have found freedom from pornography! Sin is always a battle, but with God, we find healing and hope.

        Glad to hear that you have benefited from our resources and ministry!
        Blessings,
        Moriah

    2. JP on

      I totally agree that freedom from porn is a multi faceted battle that encompasses behavioral, spiritual, emotional, and chemical issues. We must look deep into our past to realize that it has nothing to do with porn. Porn is just the drug that we choose to cope. Being exposed to porn at a young age leaves us stuck in an immature state. We never learn how to deal with the emotions of life. When we face an uncomfortable emotion we choose to run from it by turning to the one thing that will give us a feeling of relief. Our brain learns to seek this chemical release and porn is the straight line to it. As we grow into adulthood we take this method of coping with us. Anytime that we face an uncomfortable emotion we revert back to the child and seek relief from the one thing that we will work. We become isolated and are incapable of establishing healthy connections. We seek God, but all the prayers will never make it go away. Porn is evil and it allows us to be influenced by evil spirits. They influence us and keep us separated from God. Isolated we go through life seeking something that we can never find. We let our shame and secrets infect everything and everyone around us. We lose hope and believe that we can never be free. But all is not lost and there is hope. I have faith in God and he has led me to freedom, but the path was not easy. I had to let go of my secrets and face the truth of the trauma that I caused my wife. I chose to seek out connections with a 12 step group because there’s strength in fellowship. I finally forgave myself and gave myself grace. I haven’t forgotten what I have done, but I dropped that weight of shame that I was carrying around. I sought out professional help and found a CSAT that helped me resolve the trauma of my childhood. I was able to face my emotions as an adult and not a child. I learned to hold my wife’s pain and not go into shame and anger. I chose to eliminate anything that was allowing unhealthy images into my head like television and unfiltered internet. I have Covenanteyes on my phone and there are no secrets from my wife. I have found freedom in a new healthy way of living. I see all people as God’s children. I have defeated this at the root and I am not tempted or triggered. The thought that led to the feeling which led to my acting out just isn’t there anymore. Life is stressful but I can face it with the maturity of an adult and the faith in my God.

      Reply
      • Seriouz on

        Thank you so much for your transparency as what you describe resonates with me so deeply. I was introduced to porn by my father at the age of 3 years old and here I am 46 years later, still damaged and fighting it.
        I could never understand why I never felt like a real man and even though I generally don’t act immature, I feel like a kid inside. What to described has made everything make sense to me.

        Thank you brother.

    3. Pat on

      I Have a question. Can the 12 step group be a secular group or does it have to comprise of born Again Believers/saved sinners?

      I would find it hard to find let alone trust a christian for fear of judgement.

      Reply
      • Moriah Bowman on

        Hi Pat,

        I am pretty sure that there are many 12-step groups that are not religious-based. If you are uncomfortable sharing with a Christian group, I would encourage you to look into the secular groups! However, please know that Christians struggle with addiction too. We are ALL sinners. Religious 12-step groups are full of Christians working to overcome addiction. So, please do not fear judgement!

        Blessings,
        Moriah

      • Dann Aungst on

        Hi Pat;
        In my professional experience, I know that the 12 step program of SAA or SA are modeled after AA and are formed on a Christian foundation. However, in recent many years, many groups have gotten away from the Christian piece of it by inserting “higher power” in their step one. There are other groups that loosely follow 12 step protocols that are completely secular. Also understand that the Born Again or Saved sinners connotation falls within a certain religious belief system. Much of the Christian models don’t hold to the “born again” terminology, or the “once saved always saved” belief system, as we are on a continuous journey and can always choose to fall away or turn from God. Thats our free will.

    4. Ijeoma on

      I’m a 38,a virgin still single and I struggle with porn and masturbation like twice in a month.i really want to stop totally but when I get those raging hormones I fall back to porn and masturbate .I need help

      Reply
      • Moriah Bowman on

        Ijeoma,

        Thank you for being honest and reaching out for help. Do you have an ally to help hold you accountable to recovery? I have found that it can be very difficult to heal when we are on our own. Reach out to someone you trust—a friend, family member, mentor, etc.—and ask them to walk alongside you and pray for you! If you aren’t using Covenant Eyes Screen Accountability yet, I would highly recommend you try it out (with your ally!).

        Overcoming addiction is not easy, but it is possible. I will be praying that God grants you the strength to overcome porn and masturbation. Keep fighting, friend!
        Blessings,
        Moriah

      • Dann Aungst on

        Hello Ijeoma
        Recovery from porn definitely needs an ally or accountability partner. But more than that is typically needed. Porn and masturbation is really a symptom of a deeper problem that needs to be discovered, addressed and healed. Counseling is an excellent way to accomplish this, however it can be expensive or undesirable by some. A program that guides you through helping and discover is powerful. At Road to Purity, we offer a free program that does just that. I invite you to check it out at http://www.roadtopurity.com.. there is an offer on the home page with the link and special code to access the application. I strongly encourage you to use this along with accountability steps and use of covenant eyes application on all electronic devices. You may also contact me directly through our website if you wish further help. God Bless… Dann

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