Ditch Porn? Does Watching Porn Negatively Effect Your Happiness

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Is porn evil?

It might be….

I am not saying this because I'm deeply religious, or think that porn warps morals or because I have a jealous girlfriend.

It's because the facts and research prove that porn is addictive and harmful.

Read on to discover these facts and research about how watching porn can effect us.

(Side note: One proven way to improve your happiness and life satisfaction is to focus on goals that truly matter. To get started, check out this FREE printable worksheet and a step-by-step process that will help you set effective SMART goals.).

Porn is harmful because it is addictive.

I'm not talking about American Psychiatry Association addiction; I'm talking about biology gone wrong addiction – the kind that makes your life less happy.

If you are one of the many Americans that watch porn on a regular basis, take the simple test below for ‘life less happy' addiction. If you don't watch porn, imagine that you are one of your friends that does.

If you were sufficiently motivated:

  1. Could you avoid eating spinach, apples, lettuce, bananas, & berries for one month?
  2. Could you avoid drinking soda and consuming high-fat, high-calorie food for one month?
  3. Could you avoid watching porn for one month?

I don't know how you answered #1 and #2, but I do know how the average person would respond: 68.3% of Americans over the age of 20 are overweight.1 At some point in their life they were motivated to avoid unhealthy foods. Probably multiple times, possibly every year. And yet they failed.

(Side note: One positive way to improve your life is to read and learn something new every day. A great tool to do this is to join over 1 million others and start your day with the latest FREE, informative news from this website.)

68.3% of adult Americans are addicted to unhealthy food.

In the same way that smoking addicts find themselves drawn to cigarettes, food addicts find themselves drawn to snacks and soda. The actual number of food addicts is lower than 68.3%, because many people are overweight because they don't exercise, but the point remains – even if a psychologist may not classify them as addicts, they are biologically compelled towards harmful behavior, which to me is the definition of addiction that matters.

Addiction can be caused by more than just harmful chemicals like nicotine and alcohol.

But that's food. How can I possibly claim the same of porn? Let's start with me.

I won't pretend to be a saint.

I don't fit any clinical definition of addiction, but I would have failed my own test. I'm healthy and fit, but would not be able to avoid all high-calorie/high-fat food for one month.

After being alerted to the dangers of porn, even of ‘moderate' consumption, by Your Brain On Porn, I decided to quit.

The sex I had during that time period was the best in my life.  But after three weeks, I went back.

Evolution has not prepared your brain for today's Internet pornInternet porn addiction is not a “sex addiction” – it's an Internet addiction. Although masturbation is often involved, this is an addiction to novel pixels on a screen.” -Uncle Bob

Dopamine and our reward circuitry has gone astray.

Dopamine is the neurochemical of pleasure and motivation.  Does thinking about time alone with your significant other create excitement? That's dopamine. Does thinking about a new car, house, or promotion create excitement? That's dopamine.

Thousands of years ago, dopamine drove us towards activities that ensured our survival and the propagation of our genes. But as Uncle Bob said, that was before – our bodies weren't designed for our modern-day environment of abundance.

Let's talk about sex.

Our bodies motivate us to have sex by releasing dopamine. Once we've had sex and gotten too tired for more, we can actually still be goaded to have more, but only in response to new, receptive sexual partners.2345 It's called the Coolidge effect.

The reason this matters is best illustrated by another study.

Each subsequent time a man was exposed to the same erotic film, his arousal decreased. The minute he was introduced to a different film with different women, his arousal shot back up.

You can see this visually below. The yellow band was when the subject was shown the new female.

But why is this a problem?

The brain releases dopamine in response to novelty.

In the world of high-speed internet, a single google search is all that stands between an impressionable 15-year-old and millions of dopamine-releasing naked females.

For you female readers who don't know how it works, porn users don't search out a single stimulus and then masturbate; they masturbate with one hand while clicking between tabs with the other.

Back in 1970, when a man had a surge of excitatory dopamine, his only choice was his imagination or a still Playboy page (which he would have already looked at many times). Now a single click will provide a new, moving image.

Pop – dopamine!

Each click releases a surge of dopamine. The surge in dopamine further stimulates novelty-seeking behavior.

The porn, internet underground is a massive dopamine pill.

Here is the root of the problem: if you have an over-abundance of dopamine, your body will adapt by decreasing your number of dopamine receptors.  That's called tolerance, and it makes us less sensitive to pleasure and creates a host of other problems.6

If you'd like a more complete account of the neuroscience, I suggest this overview.

In carefully controlled moderation, porn releases dopamine, makes us feel good, and that's that.

In not so carefully controlled moderation, porn releases so much dopamine that it desensitizes us. There's a reason that Men's Porn Use is Linked to Unhappy Relationships, but I think it has more to do with sensitization than with self-esteem, as that study suggests.

Let's keep it simple. If you can control your porn consumption (that is, abstain for a month if you wanted to), you're probably fine. If you can't, that probably means you're at least partially addicted.

Finally, one proven way to improve your happiness and life satisfaction is to focus on goals that truly matter. To get started, check out this FREE printable worksheet and a step-by-step process that will help you set effective SMART goals.

This is post 6 of the Month of Happiness. Check out the rest!Day 1: Psychostimulants: They might give you happiness; they might give you a heart attackDay 2: How to Harness the Power of Laughter: An Easy, Effective, and Infinite Source of JoyDay 3:  Three Good Things, A Small Gratitude Exercise for a Large Boost of HappinessDay 4: The Right Way to Fake a Smile For Health and HappinessDay 5: Emotional Contagion: 5 Ways to Get Your Environment to Work for YouDay 6: Ditch Porn – It’s Playboy on (Dopamine Draining) SteroidsDay 7: Why I “Remain” an Introvert, Though the Science Suggests Extroverts are HappierDay 8: Yoga – It Isn’t Just for Female HipstersDay 9: Watch More TV; It Makes You Happy!Day 10: Kaizen: Accomplishing Big Goals with Tiny StepsDay 11: Omega-3 Supplementation – Good For The Heart & Vitamin Shoppe’s Bottom LineDay 12: Good Sleep: Not Optional for Happiness and High PerformanceDay 13: One Tab at a Time: 7 Tips to Browse the Web More MindfullyDay 14: Optimism, The Blind Man’s GambleDay 15: A Story of Change, The 5 Willpower Techniques That Create ActionDay 16: Zest, The Spice of Life… or is it?Day 17: Exercise: Better than ZoloftDay 18: Relaxation: The Magic Tonic That Cures Headaches & Relieves IndigestionDay 19: Spirituality for the Irreligious – Getting the Benefits Outside the CathedralDay 20: Meditation – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Beautiful

19 thoughts on “Ditch Porn? Does Watching Porn Negatively Effect Your Happiness”

  1. Amit, you write the most amazing things!

    I knew beforehand that porn is bad and addictive (or the internet is). I just didn’t understand the science behind it all. This was an eye-opening read. I have to ask though, does the same count for erotic stories? 😛

    I write those stuff sometimes as part of my freelance writing services. The thing is, I think it’s also prevalent in the internet though lesser in extent. Can anybody be addicted to erotic short stories? LOL (?)

    • LOL

      You’ve activated my curiosity. I’m wondering where these erotic stories you write end up…

      I’m also wondering… are erotic stories are the female version of porn (with the exception being the works of Tucker Max).?

      To answer your question, here is an unfortunate truth – our reward systems are hijacked on a daily basis – by facebook, by web browsing (Kaylee has a post on that coming on Wednesday), by television, by news, and much more. At what point do these activities create tolerance and addiction? I don’t know – the research is extremely new (re: addiction research the focus until recently was nicotine).

      The proxy that I use is – can I abstain for 30 days? I’m fairly certain that some readers of erotic short stories would not be able to, BUT the portion that would answer no to that question would be much much larger for: porn & TV watchers, smokers, those who eat unhealthy, etc….

      In fact, where people substitute porn with erotic short stories, their mental health is likely improving.

      Okay hm…. that last sentence came out naturally as the end of my thought-process, but you’ve actually raised a very interesting idea that could potentially help porn addicts (sort of like nicotine patches 😉 ).

  2. What an interesting post. I have long been an opponent of porn for some of the same reasons you point out. Mostly because of the victimization of females all over the world and pornography encourages the thinking of females of body parts. The world is a dangerous place for females…of ALL ages. Until the world cries out for them we will never be a civilized world.

    • “The victimization of females”…. you know it is really quiet sad – I never even considered that as one of the reasons to distance ourselves from porn. I think men in general take the stance that porn is so normal, that we don’t even consider its potential effects on women. Thank you for pointing that out – the men of the world collectively need to get their act together.

  3. Interesting, informative article. I’m a marriage and family therapist and I’ll share this with my clients who could benefit. Thank you!

    • Thanks Lori! It’s nice to have people actually interested in the information reading it, rather than people on google searching for porn 😉 I hope it helps those clients!

  4. Actually, men are the primary victims of porn…and a the women (and men) who make it and sell it are actually the perpetrators. The heck with the feminists. Women should get smart and start learning about the biology of their men and get serious about sticking up for them.

    • Nice attitude troll. Try this:
      – Male addicts, and the women in their lives, are the victims of porn. (Which means all women, since I’m pretty sure there are no women in modern societies with zero porn-abusing men anywhere in their lives. )
      – The female models/actresses are also victims, as time spent making porn takes away from time spent doing something valuable to society and better for their own self-esteem and future.
      – The men (and like 2 women, total) who produce & sell it are the perpetrators.

      Now as a free-market capitalist myself, the answer is not to somehow restrict their ability to produce, but rather to educate the victims – male and female – to take responsibility for their own actions and futures by quitting.

      For that we need more articles like this, so thank you.

  5. I pretty much agree with this article, and I’ve experienced the desensitization you discuss. I used to use porn twice a day for about an hour total. I was addicted. Luckily, I realized that and broke the addiction a while ago, without much difficulty.

    Recently, however, I learned something that made me not only grateful for porn, but grateful that I had access to and used it often at a young age.

    I learned that when I was born, doctors removed the most sensitive, pleasurable piece of tissue on my entire body. We call this a circumcision but really it’s genital mutilation plain and simple. I don’t want to write much about it cause I’ve just learned just how nasty this procedure is and it makes me feel awful. Also it seems people don’t really want to hear about it. Basically the foreskin is where all the the great tingly pleasure feelings come from and removing it robs men of 70-80-90% of the sensation in their penis, depending on exactly how much is removed. It’s completely wrong and immoral.

    I’ve been struggling to come to grips with this info over the past few days and trying to comfort myself, and one thought has comforted me the most: I’m so grateful I’ve had porn.

    It probably sounds crazy to you, but I think porn has been great for me. It has allowed me to masturbate many, many times without paying much attention to my penis. It taught me that sexual satisfaction doesn’t necessarily have to come from my genitals. It allowed me to exercise my ability to become very aroused and control my arousal, independently of my genital stimulation. And I got to do this for many years before the thought that my penis is crippled even entered my mind. It’s pretty awesome actually.

    All the pleasure I’ve gotten from masturbating to pornography has helped me realize that, even though the physical sensation in my penis is greatly reduced, my feeling of sexual satisfaction doesn’t have to be reduced by my circumcision. It could even be greater because I’ll have thought about where I want to put my attention to give more satisfaction to me and my partner before my first real sexual experience.

    That’s right. I’m a virgin. And I’m 20. And I’m grateful for my previous addiction to porn!

    I know it has probably had a few negative side effects, but overall I think it has affected my life in a profoundly positive way, and it makes me feel better when I’m thinking about my circumcision. I got to have hundreds (more like thousands) of solo sexual experiences fully believing that my penis was perfect.

  6. Dude this sucks, two birthdays, two christmas, s two ny eves, two 4 of julys, to damned long, still no morning wood nothing,,can’t wait to see a shrink coming up , maybe a dopamine script will help.

  7. the author explains the situation very well. We definitely need more public discussion about this topic as it is one of the least discussed but most prevalent problems in the western world. As some of the well educated commentators here point out here, there are various degrees of problems because we’re exposed to internet pornography in various degrees and all individuals have differences.

    Indeed, recent studies reveal that brain dopamine receptors are getting drained by online porn consumption, leading to more cravings with porn. This ‘numbs’ our brain’s reward circuitry, making higher levels of stimulation necessary for us to feel good again. This leads to a large variety of mental and eventually physical symptoms too, such as erectile dysfunction.

    I got lucky to get accepted into a scientific program testing phase that, among other things, evaluates the effects of porn consumption on our brains. From what I know the program is due to be launched soon at http://revivedme.com.

    I got a highly detailed analysis which points out that porn consumption is in fact one of the major reasons for my various symptoms such as general fatigue, loss of motivation, excessive anxiety and so on. I’ve been following their detailed recovery instructions now for 5 weeks and things are definitely turning better now. I can feel my motivation slowly getting restored and overall I feel better and happier. I also used to feel consistently sick, but now I’ve noticed I feel healthier too. My erectile dysfunction is getting better but still persists. According to my analysis it should not even start to properly heal until the 8th week so I am very optimistic.

  8. You speak interestingly about the mechanisms of arousal, but you fail to make the case that “porn is evil”. You say that it desensitizes us, but don’t show why that is bad. Doing most pleasurable things a lot makes makes them less pleasurable. Masturbation desensitizes similarly. Is it evil? The tenth watching of a favorite movie is less pleasurable. Is Star Wars evil. You claim that that desensitization harms our sexual relationships, but don’t make that case past citing another article – and one that doesn’t really make your point about desensitization.

  9. Don’t I know it. Worst part tho is if you take lots of cocaine over the years and get off to porn double as much .Eventually all u can think about is getting a dopamine fix. Trying to repair the circuitry is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Still struggling.

  10. Well well well,—- And well done sir. You have saved my sexual life. I was on the verge of death, when i happened to come across this wonderful article and the moment i finished it i vowed not to watch this poison for one month at least.

  11. Dont expect!to be healed in 90 days, I’m still recovering from this and its almost 2018, back still hurts from death grip! Peeing a lot etc! I’m freaking out!


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