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4 Side Effects of Watching Pornography

During high school and into my early years of college was the first time I had what I considered "easy" or unfettered access to the internet. While I had dabbled in pornography before, I simply had less opportunity to access it when I was younger (early high school). But in my dorm room I was constantly connected to the internet, much in the same way we all are now, though without mobile devices. 

It was about 2005.

In the years that followed, I didn't really fight against the impulse to look at porn. While I knew it was wrong in a moral sense, I didn't really understand the physical and emotional effects it was having on me.

Today, it's no longer an issue of simple morality or even Christian values. Yes, I believe that porn is sinful and that it contributes to an incredible amount of evil in society.

However:

This article seeks to deal with the physical and emotional side effects of porn.

Because it does a lot to your mind and body that many don't realize, and it's not pretty.

We'll go through four of the most significant side effects of porn use, one-by-one. 

Need help stopping? Here are the best porn blocking services for 2023.

Covenant Eyes Software and NordLayer DNS Filtering: Covenant Eyes provides accountability software that covers URLs and images, as well as blocking options, and lots of resources for helping you quit porn.

NordLayer allows you to implement network-wide filtering, and is a much more comprehensive blocking option, with added security measures and more extensive configuration options. It's effective for both homes and businesses.

What are the side effects of pornography use? It's not pretty.

What are the side effects of pornography use? It's not pretty.

1. Dopamine overstimulation

It's well documented that porn causes a "flood" of dopamine to the Nacc, which is the brain's reward center. 

Here's how it's worded in a scientific article from the National Library of Medicine:

Neuroplastic changes begin to occur, however, as the continued release of dopamine in the NAcc leads to an increase in dynorphin levels. Dynorphin, in turn, decreases the dopaminergic function of the reward system, resulting in a decrease of the reward threshold and an increase in tolerance.

In simpler terms:

It gets more and more difficult for you to find enjoyment in things - including porn itself - as a result of the overload of dopamine in the reward center. 

Read more: Neuroscience of Internet Pornography Addiction

You build up a tolerance to the very thing that is supposed to motivate you and make you happy when you accomplish something good or enjoy any aspect of your life. This ultimately creates a kind of rut in your brain, like a river, that requires your reward center to be stimulated to the same standards established by the pornographic images.

The best way to satisfy this standard? More porn.

This leads to symptom number two.

2. Chemical depression

Assuming the porn use continues, your brain loses its ability to enjoy simple things.

Food, family, friends, TV shows, video games - whatever you're into. Even sex with an actual person loses its enjoyment, which leads you into a major component of depression that centers around the belief that life is no longer enjoyable. 

Many who get to this point believe they are dealing with a separate issue. Depression on one side - pornography on the other.

But the truth is that the two are linked and they feed off each other.

Porn use leads to depression and depression, in turn, leads to more porn use.

And because of the way your brain is being changed from a neuroscience standpoint, this type of depression would be categorized as chemical and not circumstantial.

3. Decrease in social interest

Porn is private and secluded - completely separate from any sense of human interaction. When you couple that with the dopamine issue, you become less and less interested in real people, particularly in a social setting.

Because what can they really do for you? Can conversation, listening, or sharing your thoughts meet the dopamine standard established by pornography?

Not even close.

As a result, you'll lose interest in friends, family, and then become increasingly less communicative because it just doesn't appeal to you anymore.

The cycle of depression, increased porn use, self-hatred, and isolation is commonplace.

The cycle of depression, increased porn use, self-hatred, and isolation is commonplace.

4. Self-hatred

Whether we admit it or not, we know deep down that pornography is a moral issue.

It's a reality that's impossible to escape.

And as you go down the rabbit hole of trying to meet your brain's dopamine standards, you get into more and more eclectic and twisted forms of pornography. In some cases, this can even lead to seeking out violent forms of porn.

But even before that, the genres and themes of pornography get incredibly horrendous and outside of almost every accepted societal norm.

I can't list here what I've seen and the forms of pornography that I know about.

In turn, this causes a sharp form of self-hatred. 

Again, this feeds the depression, while the depression feeds self hatred. You feel shame and anger that you're so addicted, yet you're helpless to stop it. I would summarize the cycle like this:

  • Increased dopamine tolerance
  • Loss of enjoyment in other areas of life
  • Depression when dopamine standards can't be met 
  • Dopamine standards met with more porn and more intense forms of it
  • Self-hatred when porn is becoming an addiction
  • Exacerbation of the depression cycle

So how do I stop?

There's a lot of science involved with addiction that doesn't bode well for the addict. So dealing with the question of how to stop is a much more broad topic, though we have other resources and articles on this site that can help. 

Per the link at the beginning of this article, Covenant Eyes is a good place to start. It helps you avoid being isolated and fighting in the dark.

We'd recommend starting there: Download Covenant Eyes

And I would add: Don't underestimate the power of disciplining your mind. I know I just said that addiction is tough to beat, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try and work at it.

Yes, "white knuckling" will fail - but not white knuckling will fail way more.

Like I said, there's a ton to this issue, so check back or browse around for other articles that deal with how to quit.

Can porn make you physically sick/ill?

Technically I would say no.

But the side effects of porn - particularly depression - have been shown to lead to significant health risks. 

Read more: The effects of depression on the body

Are these side effects true for everybody?

I cannot say with certainty whether or not some people have been able to engage with porn and avoid these side effects.

I can say that I've never come across a single person that said porn went well form them. And they've almost always communicated one or more of these side effects. You might experience some and not others, but I'd bet that you'll go through the whole process if you use porn long enough.

Exceptions are very rare.

Does length of time/frequency of viewing impact these side effects?

Yes, absolutely.

Those who view porn more frequently and longer will see more severe symptoms as time goes on.

The inverse is also true.

As you reduce porn use and eventually eliminate it, the side effects will subside and your brain will learn to heal, brining dopamine standards back down to a normal level.

Conclusion

Porn does a lot of damage, but you can absolutely fight back.

If you have questions, feel free to jump in via the comments section below.

I'm no expert, but I'm passionate about this topic and can do my best to help out, or at least share some thoughts and stories.

I'll see you there.

Author

  • Adam Grainger

    Adam is a software engineer with experience in blocker software and VPNs. He has helped produce software and written content for a number of churches and organizations to help people stay focused and have a better experience online.

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