Pornography is any picture, videos etc., that is designed to stimulate sexual excitement. However, compulsive use of pornography has a number of side effects that are yet to be talked about.
A substantial rise in negative mental health reports among students across the globe, being a matter of concern, led researchers to investigate potential contributors to this rise. One of the reasons for this was an increased prevalence of pornography.
A study was conducted to explore the potential relationship between compulsive use of pornography and its effects on mental health.
It was identified that emotional factors like being alone, lonely, bored or being aroused about it and other factors like engaging in sexual activities, peer pressure or being drunk were the main causes of pornography consumption.
In both sexes, about 20% of participants reported severe levels of depression, anxiety, and stress associated with compulsive pornography use. Males scored significantly higher on depression and anxiety than females.
It was also found that frequent pornography use caused failure in the fulfillment of various essential life obligations like accessing pornography over spending time with others, neglecting daily obligations, and rushing through work in order to access the websites. These behaviours indicate a negative influence of such use on an individual’s normal functioning, including social behaviour, revealing similarities to substance-use addiction.
The factors that helped the participants in decreasing the use of pornography were mainly holding oneself accountable, faith, moral principles, personal motivation, and counseling.
A survey at a Polish university revealed some self-perceived effects of pornography among university students. These included effects like sexual stimulation; a decrease in sexual satisfaction; a decrease in the quality of a romantic relationship; neglecting basic needs and everyday duties; and self-perceived pornography addiction.
Use of Pornography & It's Effects in Adolescents:
According to a study conducted by The University of New Hampshire, a substantial number of internet users are exposed to pornography. The study used an online survey to question a sample of about 600 college students about their experiences with online pornography before the age of 18.
It was revealed that 72.8% (93.2% of boys; 62.1% of girls) had seen online pornography before the age of 18.
A considerable number of participants had viewed criminal sexual activity, including child pornography and sexual violence, at least once. A significant number of girls were involuntarily exposed to it.
A small minority of participants, 12% of boys and 18.7% of girls felt that pornography had a strong effect on their attitudes or emotions; for example, sexual excitement (80% of boys; 27% of girls); embarrassment(73% of girls and 25% of boys) and disgust (51% of girls and 20% of boys). Half of the boys and about one-third of the girls felt guilt or shame.
About an equal number of girls and boys were less eager to seek sexual activity and had unwanted thoughts about the experience.
Effects of Pornography on the Mental Health of Minor Population:
As the internet has become a part of our daily lives, researchers have tried to investigate the effects it has brought upon adolescents and their development. One particular topic of concern is internet exposure to pornography among minors and its effects, with specific relevance to the young population.
There is additional concern over the effects of pornography on sexual development, negative attitudes towards women, and the acceptance of deviant or aggressive behaviour. Juveniles who are exposed to pornography are more vulnerable and likely to experience damaging effects from pornography use, and may develop a variety of aggressive behaviors.
It was found that over half (59%) of respondents believed that internet pornography arouses sexual desires and encouraged them to be sexually active as a minor.
Almost 49% of the respondents indicated that pornography promotes a negative attitude towards women.
About 49% indicated that pornography made them believe that unprotected sexual activity was okay.
It was also found that males were more likely to report pornography seeking than females.
Delinquent behaviour was reported four times more often by pornography seekers than non-seekers.
Also, a two-times higher number of pornography seekers were involved in substance use as well.
Online exposure to pornographic material is more explicit, or disturbing, and may contribute to depression. Results suggested adolescents exposed to internet pornography suffered from a higher degree of emotional challenge than offline seekers.
A meta-analysis of risk associated with the consumption of pornography indicated that frequent consumption of pornography caused a four-times higher risk of sexual aggression compared to participants who infrequently sought out pornography.
To sum up, frequent pornography consumption has several side effects on mental health. These include isolation; deceiving behaviour; mood disorders like mood swings, fearfulness, feeling powerless in relation to porn; sexually objectifying people and judging them primarily based on their gender; being insensitive about sexually harmful behaviour; negative effects on relationships which in turn might take a toll on one’s mind; self-loathing behaviours; persistent feeling of guilt and shame; craving pornographic material constantly etc.
How to Overcome Pornography:
Trying to overcome an addiction can be hard, but never impossible. One should remember that falling back into the habit once again does not mean you’ve failed; instead, remind yourself that you’ve learned quite a lot and are much stronger now. Getting over an addiction is not a one time thing; but a process.
Accepting that you’re dealing with pornography addiction.
Understanding the need to give up watching pornography.
Getting rid of digital or physical evidences of pornography.
Replace watching pornography with a healthy habit; eg: developing hobbies like running, journaling, swimming etc.
Finding a friend who’d remind you of your recovery journey and hold you accountable when needed.
Joining support groups; to let yourself know that you are not alone.
There are several therapies that deal with pornography addiction as well; eg: cognitive behavioural therapy; acceptance and commitment therapy.