Negative Pornography Effects & Studies: The Bad, In Marriage, And On The Brain

Updated February 28, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Despite being taboo in some circles when it comes to discussion, many people watch porn or have watched it before. The internet is made up of porn, and people from all walks of life watch it. Porn remains controversial, and one of the bigger controversies is the claim that it's addictive. While porn can have benefits, porn addiction can lead to many negative effects, such as social isolation or a failed marriage. It can be hard to find objective information about pornography; most websites that talk about the negative effects of porn are sites that may have a particular agenda against porn. In this article, we'll try to cover the subject as objectively as possible.

Is A Pornography Addiction Negatively Affecting Your Life?

Porn And Marriage

For some married couples, porn can be divisive. When anti-porn advocates talk about porn and marriage, they visualize a person who does not love their partner and instead engages in porn rather than real sex. While this can happen, it is not always the case.

Sometimes, pornography can cause jealousy. For example, it may when a spouse sees their partner watching pornography and masturbating to images of another person. Although the person on screen is a porn actor/actress whom the partner has a very small opportunity of engaging with, the spouse may feel self-conscious and/or insecure. These insecurities can be about their appearance and leave the spouse wondering if they are still loved and desired by their partner.

Other marriage troubles can lead to one viewing pornography. Arguments, a lack of sex, or separation can be just a few reasons. When determining if one has a porn addiction, all these factors should be put into consideration.

However, some couples find that their marriage improves after watching porn, including watching it together. Some believe that there is no shame in enjoying pornography and that it can enhance their sex lives or serve as healthy adult entertainment. A couple can use pornography as inspiration to try out new sex moves or toys. They can watch porn to commentate on it. With that said, some couples may find that watching porn together breaks their marriage apart. It all depends on the couple, and it can be important to respect each other's boundaries around the subject.

Pornography's Effects On The Brain

You may wonder if any studies have looked at the effects of pornography on the brain. In most of these studies, the results have been mixed. However, the effects of a porn addiction may be the same as any other addiction.

Your brain releases dopamine, the feel-good chemical, as you watch porn. This gives you a rush, and those who are addicted want to feel that dopamine rush again. Repeated use can wear the brain out, and it takes more for the person to get the same feeling. This is how drug addictions work. Drugs give you that good feeling at first, and the rest of the addiction is chasing that good feeling even if the drug is not giving you that feeling anymore.

Porn Addiction

Let's tackle the concept of porn addiction. The science on what porn addiction is, how it affects people, and how to treat it is still out. However, it's safe to say that anything can be addicting. The Internet itself opens a slippery slope to addiction. Some are addicted to reading Wikipedia articles all night. Others are addicted to checking their Facebook notifications. It's perfectly reasonable to believe that someone can be addicted to watching pornography videos to the point that it affects their life.


Someone who watches the occasional porn video may not be addicted. Even a teenager who watches a lot may not be addicted, but instead, might be using it as an outlet for their sexual frustrations. An adult who is addicted to pornography watches these videos to the point where it has a negative impact on their life. Pornography addiction is not officially recognized, so the symptoms are hard to diagnose. However, behavioral addictions have many of the symptoms of pornography addiction, including:

  • Preoccupation. The person is always preoccupied with watching pornography.

  • Inability to control behavior. Those who are addicted to porn have a hard time not watching it for a night.

  • Withdrawal. Those who watch porn may feel isolated from the world.

  • A person who is addicted to porn may prefer watching porn over having real sex. This can be problematic in relationships, including marriage.

  • A person who is addicted to porn may be desensitized. They may crave videos that are increasingly hardcore and/or unrealistic to satisfy their urges.

Those who have porn addictions may have hypersexual disorder, a disorder where one has excessive sexual fantasies and desires. They may use porn to help satisfy those desires.

Can It Be Diagnosed?

Porn addiction as a mental health disorder has been debated. The American Association of Sexuality Educators Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) has said that there is little evidence that finds pornography addiction is a mental health disorder.

It should be noted that behavioral disorders are still a new subject being studied, especially with the rise of the internet. For example, the DSM V only has one disorder of behavioral addictions, which involves gambling.

Some want to put internet addiction in general in the DSM and have porn addiction along with it. Some who work with the DSM also say there is hope that one day, porn addiction will be put in the DSM when there is enough evidence. They believe that while most who enjoy porn won't have an addiction to it, there are people who will become addicted, and they should be treated.

Some additions may be linked to the proposed idea of porn addiction. For instance, sexual behavior addiction, where you see sex as a reward, may be connected.

It seems there is some truth to the idea of porn addiction. Your brain can see porn as a reward and may want more of it. In the same way that food, TV, or video games can be addictive, pornography can be addictive as well. However, that does not mean that porn is necessarily bad. It means that some may exceed healthy boundaries around porn consumption.

Is A Pornography Addiction Negatively Affecting Your Life?

How To Treat Porn Addiction

Treating an addiction that has not been diagnosed can be difficult. However, some methods may help. Using internet filters or monitoring your internet usage may be helpful when it comes to controlling porn addiction. An internet filter can reduce the amount of pornography someone views, thus helping them control their addiction. Try to pick a filter that is challenging to remove or bypass. You can even use browser extensions that block off certain sites.

Overall, the science on the potential negativity of pornography is still out. The subject can be polarizing, as people have very different attitudes about porn. As such, it can be difficult to find authentic and evidence-based studies on porn. 

Online Counseling With BetterHelp

Online therapy can be a valuable tool if you want help working through a pornography addiction. If you’re uncomfortable discussing this issue in person, online therapy through BetterHelp can be a discreet option. You can participate in therapy from the comfort of your home, without having to worry about going to an office or discussing your treatment with anyone but your therapist. Also, you’ll have the option of remaining unknown—just select a “nickname” when you register, and your information will stay safe. Online therapy gives you more control over your therapeutic experience so that you can feel comfortable as you heal.  

The Efficacy Of Online Counseling 

A growing number of studies point to online therapy as an effective treatment for those living with various types of addiction, including pornography or internet addiction. In a comprehensive report published in Clinical Psychology Review, researchers from several studies examining online therapy's effects on those living with addiction. The report notes that, compared with face-to-face counseling, online therapy helps individuals absorb and retain information learned in sessions. Researchers also mentioned the treatment gap that often exists with addictions, suggesting that online therapy is a way of helping more people who may be hesitant to seek treatment in person. The review concluded that these online therapeutic interventions could create significant positive changes in individuals struggling with varied addictions.

Counselor Reviews

“Pete has been such a big help in realizing my patterns and behaviors. He has challenged me in ways that other therapists have not, and he doesn’t stray away from uncomfortable conversations. I would 100% recommend Pete to anyone struggling with addiction, codependency, depression, or anxiety. I cannot thank him enough for the way he has helped me and made me think deeply and honestly.” 

“We have just completed our last session together and I was honestly happy but sad at the same time. Joy has not only been a great impact on my first year of motherhood, but has been an efficient, kind, and down to earth counsellor. I couldn’t have asked for a better counsellor during these past 2 months. I genuinely looked forward to our sessions together that we had weekly because she honestly felt like a friend. We were able to joke with each other when necessary as well as common interests. She responded in such a timely manner and was there when I needed her the most. She did her best to accommodate me and my schedule to ensure that I got an appointment time that was best for me. She offered multiple resources for me, including articles, worksheets, and videos. Her efforts to help me overcome my anxieties and fears, as well as issues dealing with family with addiction has been the help I've been longing for. Thank you, Joy.”

The Takeaway

While there should be no shame in adults enjoying pornography produced between other consenting adults, watching pornography could become an addiction. Anyone can be addicted to anything, and too much of anything can affect your life in negative ways if it is not identified and addressed properly. Although issues of addiction can be sensitive and difficult to discuss, online therapy can provide a way to still receive support and helpful tools without ever having to leave one’s home.

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