Learn more about the link between pornography and depression

In this article we are discussing pornography and depression

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Can depression lead to problematic pornography use? 

There is currently no evidence to suggest that depression can lead to problematic pornography use. 

However some studies have suggested that individuals, especially men, were more likely to engage with pornography when they have depression. A 2017 study suggested that men with depression may use pornography as a coping mechanism. 

Other research also proposed that depression may negatively impact how someone perceives their consumption pornography. 

What is problematic pornography use? 

The use of pornography, frequency, length of time used, and type of material is different for each individual and so we can not provide set guidelines as to what constitutes “normal” pornography use. The important distinction between occasional use of pornography and compulsive use does not therefore involve the length and frequency of use but is related to control and distress. Whether you feel that you are in control of the behaviour and whether the behaviour causes you any distress. 

For example, if someone is unable to stop using pornography even though they would like to, have tried, and are distressed by this behaviour it may be cause for concern, even if they don’t use pornography very often, when comparing to the norm. 

Nevertheless, someone may use pornography daily and not be distressed by their behaviour nor deem it as a problem. 

It is therefore important for the individual to feel in control of their use of pornography, what they view, how often and where they are watching. 

As aforementioned there is no universal definition for what constitutes problematic pornography use as it is individual to everyone and based on their own definition of what is normal and problematic to them. 

However, there may be behaviours to look out for that may suggest that the consumption of pornography may be problematic or compulsive, such as, choosing porn over socialising, increased isolation, losing track of time whilst viewing pornography, feelings of guilt following the consumption of pornography, difficulty completing important tasks and keeping up with day-to-day life in order to view porn and avoiding physical relationships with someone new or physical contact with your partner. 

Symptoms of anxiety and depression may be experienced when the use of pornography feels compulsive, interferes with day-to-day life and causes distress. 

Problematic use of pornography has been linked to loneliness, anxiety and a decrease in life, sexual and relationship satisfaction. 

 What are the signs of problematic porn use?

As aforementioned each individual’s experience of pornography is different but there seem to be a few common indicators of problematic porn use. 

These may be increased levels of hypersexuality, low mood, decreased levels of self-esteem, feelings of distress regarding pornography, body image concerns and difficulties in relationships. 

Hence if someone notices that their use of porn is impacting their life negatively it may be important to seek out the help of a professional. 

Treatment options 

There is help available if you think that your use of pornography is impacting your life or causing distress, or if you think you may be experiencing depression. You can talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. 

Therapy can help you better understand your relationship to pornography use and its impact on your relationships, social life and self-esteem. It can also aid in developing new coping mechanisms if pornography has been used to cope with adverse feelings or events in the past. 

There are also many effective therapies and treatment options to help with depression. The NHS also offers an online self-assessment test for depression that you can access through their website if this is something that is worrying you. 

Treatment options can include online or in person one to one therapy, online or in person support groups or self-help materials. 


To conclude there is currently not enough evidence to suggest that the use of pornography can cause depression nor that people with depression can develop problematic pornography use. 

However, if you are distressed by your use of pornography it may be important to seek out help. 

Last updated on: 2022.04.25

Author: Antigone Lanitis

Reviewed by: Marina Moran