Inside Porn Addiction

The path to healthy intimacy.

Daily Porn May Not Be Good for Your Mental Health

Can your mental health be altered by a daily dose of porn?

In my last blog, I asked the question, "Is there a relationship between frequency of viewing pornography and depression?" The initial finding was that individuals who consume porn daily are on the border between moderate to severe depression while individuals who view porn 3-5 times a week scored in the moderate range for depression. Clearly, my sample of 400 self-selected individuals seeking help to deal with porn are struggling with depression.

One insightful comment from that blog came from the Executive Director of The Grief Recovery Institute, Russell Friedman. He offered an alternative suggestion to why porn viewers were more depressed. He wrote, "...an underlying causal issue for the apparent depression is a lack of a mate or partner which fuels the desire or need for use of the porn." If his suggestion is right, individuals in committed relationships should be less depressed and use porn less frequently than single people.

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The purpose of this blog is to address two questions:

1. What is the relationship between depression and a person's relationship status (single vs. in a committed relationship)?

2. Do single people consume porn more often than married men?

Let's begin by looking at the first question about depression and relationship status.

It appears that both married and single men report moderate levels of depression. While the scores of married men were lower than single men, there was not a significant difference between their scores. However, frequency of viewing pornography was related to higher levels of depression in both married and single men. In fact, regardless of relationship status, individuals who viewed pornography daily were on the border of severe depression. This is a very significant finding as it suggests that individuals who view porn daily, regardless of their relationship status, are experiencing elevated levels of depression.

Do you think the Surgeon General of the United States would be willing to give some type of warning? I would be willing to write it for him. I imagine it would read something like this:

Warning: Daily consumption of pornography is not good for your mental health.

So what about frequency of viewing porn? Do single people view porn more frequently than those who are married?

The answer is yes.

In my sample of more than 400 men, those who were single report viewing porn more than once a week and a little less than 3-5 times a week on average. In contrast, the married men report viewing porn somewhere between once every two weeks and once a week.

Okay so here's what the data is telling us. Individuals who view porn daily report elevated levels of depression regardless of their relationship status. We also have learned that single people are viewing porn more frequently than married men.

So what happens to the men who view porn 3-5 times a week?

After reviewing the data, I decided to look more closely at this group. I wondered if there was indeed a difference in depression levels between single and married people who viewed porn 3-5 times a week. Perhaps, as Dr. Friedman suggested, married men do report less depression than single men if they aren't consuming porn daily. While the sample size reduced to 89 people, the results were interesting. Married men (n =32) scored in the mild depression range while single men (n= 57) still scored in the moderate to severe range for depression. Maybe Dr. Friedman is right after all. Married men are less depressed than single men, but this is only true if they aren't consuming porn daily.

There is lots to chew on here. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

I still don't know if porn triggers depression or if people who are depressed are more prone to view pornography. What I do know is that people who report frequent viewing of pornography are struggling with moderate to severe depression and single people who view porn 3-5 times a week report more depression than married people who view porn 3-5 times a week.

Kevin B. Skinner, Ph.D., is a licensed marriage and family therapist. He is the author of Treating Pornography Addiction: The Essential Tools for Recovery.

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