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

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 straight forward 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.

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 difficult 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 object 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. Then 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.

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 behavior 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 excellent resources for addressing and healing an addiction can be found at Road to Purity, in addition to the accountability and resources offered by Covenant Eyes.