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pornography and depression

Some cultural beliefs, spiritual beliefs, or myths support the idea that there is a causative link between pornography and mental health conditions such as depression. However, at present, there is not enough evidence to support this.

According to the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT), there is not enough evidence to classify pornography use or addiction as a mental health condition or link it to any negative side effects, such as depression.

Can pornography use lead to depression?

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According to AASECT, people may experience negative physical, spiritual, or psychological consequences related to their sexual urges, thoughts, or behaviors, such as pornography use.

However, there is not currently enough evidence to support the idea that pornography use can lead to depression. That said, research has found some links between the two.

For example, one 2019 study that surveyed 507 women and 250 men found that depression seemed to raise the risk of developing a problematic relationship with pornography.

However, this was only the case for people using pornography to escape unpleasant emotions and women with sexual problems related to using pornography.

How likely someone is to experience depression alongside or related to pornography use also seems to depend on how often they use it and how long their exposure to it is.

For example, one 2017 study that surveyed 582 senior male students found that 14.6% of those who used pornography more than three times per week reported experiencing depression, compared with 2.8% of individuals who reported using pornography less than once per week.

The same study found that those who started using pornography at elementary school, junior middle school, high school, or university had depression ratios of 11.7%, 7.1%, 4.9%, and 5.9%, respectively.

Individuals who morally disapprove of pornography may also be more likely to view their relationship with pornography as addictive and feel sexual shame, which may ultimately lead to higher levels of depression.

Problematic pornography use also seems to have a positive correlation with:

  • loneliness
  • anxiety
  • headaches
  • narcissism
  • neuroticism
  • reduced life, sexual, and relationship satisfaction

Can depression lead to pornography use?

In fact, the AASECT do not recognize pornography addiction as a mental health condition.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) currently only recognizeTrusted Source one potentially internet-related addiction: online gaming.

The APA did consider adding pornography addiction as a subtype of hypersexual disorder,

but they have not included it in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition.

That said, neuroscientific research has suggestedTrusted Source that internet pornography addictions may involve a similar framework and basic mechanisms consistent with substance addiction.

However, other research has suggested that this is not the case.

Several preliminary and small-scale studies have also suggested that people may engage more with pornography when they have depression, especially men.

For example, one study from 2017 found that men with depression may use pornography more frequently as a coping aid — especially those who morally reject pornography.

Also, an upcoming study suggests that returning male U.S. veterans who experience depression have an increased risk of developing problematic pornography use.

Some research also suggests that having it may change how someone negatively interprets or perceives their use of pornography.

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People who think that their pornography use may be excessive or impacting their lives negatively should talk with a doctor or mental health professional.

Although there are no specific treatment options to help people reduce their dependency on pornography.

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