Understanding the Link Between Pornography and Depression

    man-with-depression-watching-pornography10 Min Read


    1. Is There A Connection Between Pornography And Depression?
    2. Does Porn Cause Depression? Or Vice Versa?
    3. Masculinity’s Effect On Porn And Being Depressed
    4. Porn, Depression And Women
    5. How Do You Talk To A Guy About . . . Porn? Or Depression?

    If you wanted to talk to a typical guy about something he’d actually be interested in talking to you about - what would it be? Football? Beer or wine? Golf? What about pornography or depression?

    How about if you’re his wife, girlfriend, or even mother? Are there certain topics that are off limits? If you’ve ever tried to talk to him about viewing porn or that he seems depressed I’d bet you found these two were not ones he was willing to discuss.


    Some guys talk to other guys about porn. Actually it’s not really about pornography, it’s about pictures of women they think are hot, they send each other porn pics and clips, or make jokes about, “Who would you do?” But it’s not about the really important and deeper aspects of porn, like the real reasons why they look at porn (besides being a guy and “It’s just what guys do”) or the affect it has on them or their partner (who often doesn’t truly know what he looks at online).

    Men as a whole are typically less talkative than women. A lot of women would say it’s almost universal that “Men won’t talk.” While this is a generalization, it’s mostly true. And this goes even more so for certain topics, especially about something embarrassing, like porn, or not masculine, such as depression.


    Is There A Connection Between Pornography And Depression?

    Are porn and depression connected? Absolutely. In many ways too. Here are a couple:

    • Watching pornography makes many men depressed. Not during, but after. During there’s a chemical high the negates any depressed feelings. But afterwards many men emotionally crash, especially if they feel guilty about watching and wish they would stop.
    • Depressed men watch porn to feel better. When you feel down you want to make those feelings go away. So, like many drugs, such as alcohol or marijuana, porn, which has the same drug-like effects, gives some temporary relief from the negative feelings and is an easy way to self-medicate.

    The irony is that porn can make you depressed, which is turn can cause you to look at more porn. Similarly, being depressed can lead you to look at porn to feel a little bit better, but after the high the depressed feelings return, and often more intensely as guilt and shame over watching porn (again) kick in.

    Regardless of which one leads to the other, porn and depression can be very interconnected and develop into a crazy cycle of highs and lows. Here’s an example:

    My problem is that I'm addicted to porn and masturbation for the past 9 years. My age is 24. I'm a college student. I don't have any girlfriend. No girl even looks at me because I'm very, very ugly. No glow on my face. My face looks like a drug addict due to compulsive masturbation. My life has been completely destroyed. I always fail to stop looking at porn. I can't control my urges to masturbate. I can control my urges up to maximum 5-8x day. These are the negative effects I'm facing due to compulsive porn addiction - 1) Depressed. 2) Feels lazy throughout the day. 3) My face has completely destroyed due to masturbation - Cheeks goes inside, face full of deep acne scars, my face looks like a drug abuser. 4) Completely lost interest in study. I fail my exams. How will I pass any exam without studying? My memory and concentration has become weak. 5) Sleep disorder. 6) Physically and mentally very, very weak. Please tell me how to quit masturbation and porn. I'm very, very depressed. Please Help Me!!! " -Hakim

    Hakim is pretty aware of the effects of his porn addiction. Most guys wouldn’t be connecting all of those dots. Ironically and interestingly, his list could be symptoms for either pornography or depression, as many of the symptoms for each are the same.


    Does Porn Cause Depression? Or Vice Versa?

    Yes, viewing porn can cause depression. As well as being depressed can lead to watching porn. This is likely part of Hakim’s problem.

    To start there are 2 primary reasons why pornography can make someone depressed:

    1. The subject of sex is a tough one for almost everyone to feel comfortable about discussing. The myriad of reasons why this is can be the subject of another article. Let’s just acknowledge that we all feel some level of embarrassment and reluctance around discussing the topic of sex.
    2. There is tremendous shame and guilt for most people about their porn habit. As a result, porn is almost always done secretly, which contributes to the shame we feel about things we feel we must hide.
    We’ve all had this thought –If people knew this about me what would they think of me?

    That thought certainly happens with porn. And the answer is always negative.

    When you do something you’re uncomfortable with anyone knowing about, and you feel you must hide, guilt comes along afterward. The shame that results can make some feel depressed.

    Most porn viewers, and especially porn addicts, live a cycle of anticipation (looking forward to viewing), the high of viewing, and a crash into feeling depressed because they gave in and did it again. Unfortunately, the escape from these negative feelings is often the excitement of anticipating looking again and the high that will come with it.

    This cycle can make it difficult to determine which is causing which since both contribute to the other. Here’s an example:

    Thank you for letting me vent. I have had enough porn for 25 years. I am ready to leave this man that makes no apologies for any pain he has caused. I’m not going to be 65 while my husband looks at porn to satisfy his porn addiction. I am a very good looking 50 year old. I don’t need this kind of treatment from him. He constantly says I am insecure. For 25 years I have been insecure…now it is toxic…..I love him very much….but I can’t do it with him anymore. He has crossed so many of my boundaries. He says ‘I will stop looking at porn’….then he puts the pressure on me to satisfy him in the same way…..(last Christmas I did not give him sex the night before so he would not get a Christmas tree and he told me why…...I had to get it). For 25 years my husband has left the bedroom at 10 pm and does not come back until 2am. When we fight and he gets hurt he retreats to his office to sit in depression and be comfortably numb and look at porn to satisfy him…while I am in tears in the next room. It is a vicious cycle. He goes into deep depression into his office for days (weeks, months too) at a time. I’m feeling so depressed myself about having a husband that doesn’t love me. I look at him and I hear his words that I need more self-confidence. But actually I am dying inside. I can’t possibly trust him. When I went to the Toyota dealer this morning to have my car serviced a very nice man helped me. I felted treated so nicely...much nicer than my husband treats me. I told my husband that this man was so nice. He said I wanted to f**k him. But all I want is a friend." -Kelly

    So, is Kelly’s husband depressed because he keeps looking at porn, or is he depressed and using porn to make himself feel better? Could be either and most likely it’s both. Which one came first is really not that important at this point.


    Masculinity’s Effect On Porn And Being Depressed

    What part does masculinity play in all of this? A big one actually. You can see it in the common excuse that normalizes porn – “It’s just what guys do.”

    As for depression in men and masculinity. It looks more like – “You don’t talk about that.”

    Societal messages about pornography make it a normal thing guys do, which unfortunately only complicates dealing with the negative effects it causes. If every guy looks, then how can it be bad for you? My girlfriend must be overreacting because all guys do it. It’s no wonder it’s so difficult getting guys to see the negative impact porn has on them when all the outside messages tell them it’s okay.

    While masculinity teaches men that porn is a normal guy thing, it says depression isn’t. The messages of masculinity – strength, power, control – are the complete opposite of the experience of being depressed. Another complicating factor is that low-level depression in men is very common and typically goes unrecognized. This leaves a lot of guys stuck feeling depressed but either unaware or unwilling to admit it because it goes against the masculinity code.

    One element of masculinity – courage – can actually be helpful with both porn and depression. It takes courage, the hallmark of a true man, for a man to open up his mind to the truths about porn and humbly admit he’s doing something harmful. It also takes courage to admit you could be depressed, especially since most of us have been or will be at some point in our lives (I have been a number of times).

    Porn, Depression And Women

    Yes, women can struggle with pornography and depression too. The most obvious way is women being hurt and even becoming depressed over their partner looking at porn. But women can also develop a porn addiction themselves and have the same vulnerabilities to becoming depressed over it, just as we’ve already discussed happens with men.

    It may be surprising to learn that women can look at porn too, but some do. Usually, erotic media like porn is consumed differently by women, but not always. Check out this story about one woman’s complex addiction to online porn and how it played a huge role in her sex life.

    I have been dating and engaged to a man for four years who is addicted to porn in my opinion. In his words he has been watching it in every conceivable way since he was 12 or so. When we started dating I didn't know he was doing it until he let me use his computer for school and I decided to look at some of his pictures, there I found a plethora of porn type pictures and sites. I was floored and hurt beyond compare!! I let it go for some time but was consumed by the fact that it was there so I mentioned it. He told me it was no big deal and that all guys do it and I was being ridiculous. Throughout the next four years we have had countless arguments over it and broken up so many times over it and gotten back together. Him always promising that he's stopped and won't do it again. I always end up finding it again in the end. I would look on his phone and find it constantly so as a result he has locked his phone up saying he has stopped and won't unlock his phone till I learn to trust him. I respond by saying I don't know how to trust him when he has lied about it for years and has the phone locked. In my opinion if he has stopped then he should not be locking his phone up I should be able to check and see if it is still there. Since he has started a new job recently the men he works with are all porn perverts. It is all over the wall of the shop and they constantly show him web sites and pictures he should look at and go to. He continuously says it’s just a guy thing and doesn't understand why I can't grow up and learn to deal with it. He has recently yelled at me and said he doesn't care how I feel about it and that he will look at it anytime he wants. This is a problem. I do not trust him that he has stopped and that he won't do it because of the men he works with and his past actions. I have in the past also found an additional phone that he has looked at porn on most likely to hide it from me and keep his main phone clear of it. I'm devastated and very hurt. It has made me feel ugly and not worthy, being a very attractive woman I don't understand why he needs it. I have a very healthy sex drive and give it up and want sex whenever he is interested, so why does he continue to do this to me?? He says I have way to many rules about it and that it should not be a big deal but it is huge!! It affects me every day. It's all I can think about. I am consumed with trying to find his password out to get into his phone and see if he is still doing it and it’s just ridiculous – I want my life back!! I want him to stop but he doesn't think he has a problem and will not get help – what do I do? Do I just end this long relationship over porn and bikini garbage or try and convince him we need counseling. Help me please I feel like I am developing depression over this and I do not want to live this way and also don't want to give up on our love but it's been a long four years of lies, disrespect and secrets that I do not see an end to." -Amanda

    Amanda describes a common experience for a lot of women. The cycle of finding out their partner is looking at porn, his promising to stop, her not trusting that he has, obsessing about it, finding it again, fighting about it, then him promising to stop again – the cycle just repeats over and over again. This pattern leads to depression for quite a few women. Want proof? Just read the comments at the end of the articles we’ve written about porn that are posted on this website.


    As Amanda stated, pornography also causes depression for many women because it makes them feel “ugly and not worthy,” and “I do not want to live this way and also don't want to give up on our love.”

    How Do You Talk To A Guy About . . . Porn? Or Depression?

    A lot of men need help and they almost always won’t admit it or aren’t willing to ask (here’s another effect of masculinity again). Add to this the difficulty of talking about sensitive and embarrassing topics like porn and depression and you’ve got a big challenge. And finally, most couples can’t communicate well to begin with. So, it’s no wonder most partners just ignore both of these for so long.

    Unfortunately, there’s not a quick do 1, 2, 3 in order to be able to talk about either of these topics. But here’s one way to start – talk about porn or depression indirectly, not directly. Rather than say, “I think you’re addicted to porn,” try “I’m concerned that our sex life is suffering because of what you’re looking at online.” Talk about the affects you see rather than the problem. You partner’s not stupid, he’ll know what you’re talking about. The same approach goes for depression.

    Going much deeper than this on your own is usually not going to go well or be productive. So, getting some professional assistance from an experienced and knowledgeable counselor is your best option. And if your partner isn’t willing, do this without him.

    Pornography and depression are extremely common problems, but they’re also very hard to talk about and address. However, don’t let the obstacles prevent you from dealing with them and removing their negative effects from your life.

    Know a guy who could be looking at porn or depressed – or both? Share with other readers what signs you see.


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