Is Porn Healthy Or Is It Simply Bad For You?

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry
Updated February 19, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Pornography is something that many people watch on a regular or semi-regular basis. The porn industry has been a prevalent part of society for a long time now, but not without controversy or stigma. With so many opinions about pornography surrounding us, it can be difficult to ascertain how we individually feel about it in our personal lives and relationships. Understanding what unhealthy porn use might look like can help you assess your own behavior and determine whether you may benefit from seeking professional help.

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Living with a pornography addiction can be hard

Why some people watch pornography 

Many people who view pornography on a regular basis tend to do so because there is some sort of positive result they associate with it. One large-scale study found that many participants felt that pornography had helped their lives in some way, which suggests that at least a fraction of the population may view pornographic content as a means to meet their needs. However, this study focuses particularly on men, which may limit or skew how universal its findings are.

When porn is consumed responsibly, it may serve as a form of entertainment or a means of exploring one’s sexuality. Some may view it as a way to discover new sexual interests or increase confidence surrounding sexual acts.

In general, people may turn to porn as a way to fulfill some type of fantasy that is lacking in their lives. Sometimes it might feel safer to watch porn to explore a fantasy than it would to attempt something in real life. 

Porn might be seen as taboo by many, but it can provide entertainment and sexual satisfaction to those who enjoy it responsibly. As long as you (and your partner, if appropriate) are aware of your pornography usage, it doesn’t necessarily have to be problematic.

When pornography can become a bad thing

Porn can be alluring because it shows people an idealized version of sexual encounters. Many porn films are highly edited and feature actors with unrealistic bodies performing unrealistic sexual acts. Because so much of pornography is created to be a fantasy, it can begin to impact a person’s ability to find satisfaction from real, less-than-perfect sexual encounters and stimuli.

Harming real relationships

A person might enjoy porn so much that normal sexual encounters just don’t feel all that exciting when compared to porn films. It might also impact relationships; not all people view porn consumption the same way, and some people have boundaries or personal needs that can be overlooked when their partner watches porn.

Aside from creating potential conflict with an intimate partner, excessive or harmful porn use may lead to unhealthy ideas about what sex, love, and relationships should look like. Some of the action shown in pornography can be viewed as exploitative, objectifying, and even violent, which can have serious implications for young minds in particular. Normalizing the maltreatment of or a lack of respect for others may lead some people to begin to perpetuate these behaviors themselves.

Impacting mental health

While watching pornography may feel good in the moment, too much of a good thing can lead to an increase of feelings from the opposite end of the spectrum, too. A porn dependency can lead a person to develop various mental health concerns.

A poor mood, lack of interest in other things, or inability to separate yourself from porn without feeling anxiety are just a few examples of consequences you may experience that relate to mental health.

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Compulsive use of pornography

Although researchers don’t all agree that pornography consumption is addictive, it can be a compulsive behavior that can cause harm when it goes unchecked. It can consume some people’s lives and have significant effects on how they function. Porn addiction can lead a person to:

  • Feel unable to control their urges to watch porn 
  • Watch porn on a regular basis despite its negative impacts on work, school, relationships, etc.
  • Abandon hobbies or other activities they used to enjoy in favor of watching pornography
  • Feel a lack of sexual arousal when with an intimate partner or need increasingly extreme or intense stimuli to feel aroused
  • Engage in risky sexual behavior, such as unprotected sex, despite its potential consequences

The consequences that can accompany these sorts of changes are numerous. You may have a hard time performing at your best on the job or at school, find yourself in conflict with your partner or loved ones, or notice significant changes in your mood.

How to navigate your relationship with pornography

Taking the time to watch porn doesn’t have to interfere with your life, and you don’t have to let it prevent you from forming meaningful relationships. The key may be to understand how to balance pornography consumption with healthy and realistic sexual behaviors or encounters. It also might help to remember that porn is often created to be a fantasy, not a reflection of reality.

Regardless of your views on pornography, removing some of the shame and fear that can come with viewing it may help you more openly talk about how it impacts you. This can make getting help easier if you need it.

Help is available for those with pornography addictions

If you feel you may be experiencing a pornography addiction, know that you are not alone. Some people find it difficult to consume porn in a way that doesn’t disrupt their daily life or relationships. There is help available, even if it feels intimidating to speak openly about what you’re experiencing.

It may help to know that therapists and other mental health professionals often work with people who are living with addictions and compulsions of all kinds. A therapist may be able to help you identify the factors that drive you to view porn and understand what needs you may want to meet to avoid the urge to watch porn.

When it comes to pornography addiction or excessive use, some people shy away from therapy due to feeling embarrassed about the subject matter. If you feel like seeing a therapist in person would be difficult for you, you may benefit from online therapy, which allows you to get help from the comfort of your own home. Speaking with a therapist online may help you feel more at ease so that you can honestly discuss the behaviors that concern you.

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Living with a pornography addiction can be hard

Research suggests that online therapy can help address addictive behaviors in addition to acting as a source of support. One study, for instance, found that online therapy could effectively reduce the severity of gambling behaviors, which may stem from the same psychological processes that may contribute to excessive pornography consumption. The quality of your care doesn’t have to change because of its format, so if online therapy seems like the best way to get started, it’s likely worth pursuing. With BetterHelp, you can connect with a therapist via phone or videoconference, and you can use a nickname if you prefer. Also, you can contact your therapist in between sessions via in-app messaging, and they’ll get back to you as soon as they can.

Takeaway

Pornography consumption may not necessarily be inherently good or bad. It may depend on whether you’re able to manage porn use effectively. If you feel like you may be using porn excessively or if you think it’s affecting you or your relationships, it may be best to seek the guidance of a mental health professional who understands your needs. With BetterHelp, you can be matched with a therapist who has experience helping people with challenges related to pornography use. Take the first step to freedom and reach out to BetterHelp today.

Take control of your habits

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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