Pornography and relationships
For a lot of people, pornography is a form of entertainment. It is sometimes encouraged as a healthy stimulant to a relationship and to enhance intimacy within a couple. What is not often talked about however, is the effect that pornography can have on relationships and a person’s mental health.
At some point for a small group of people, viewing pornography turns from an occasional form of entertainment, to a form of addiction. Instead of increasing intimacy in a relationship, it becomes isolating. It can cause fear and anxiety with a partner who realises that their significant other is substituting intimacy with pornography. It can affect a person’s mental health as well with people expressing levels of elevated depression, anxiety and loneliness.
A lot of couples don’t know how to deal with pornography addiction within a relationship. Women report experiencing trauma and many males struggle with compulsive behaviours, depression and anxiety. It inevitably makes bonding and connection more difficult between partners. There is debate within the psychology community as to how much of a problem this really is, but the number of people suffering from addiction who are seeking help to stop a ‘porn addiction’ is increasing.
Some of the problems which can arise from a pornography addiction are:
Porn can teach the viewer to objectify their partner
From studies, pornography is thought by many to objectify women. There can be violent behaviour shown towards women and quite often, the male’s face is not shown. Sex is supposed to be a mutually respectful, intimate and trusting experience between both partners. Pornography can blur these lines.
Porn can set unrealistic expectations
Movies are shot in studios with flattering lighting. Women in the movies have often had a lot of beauty treatments as well as plastic surgery which can make female partner feel like they are not attractive enough or meet the standard of what they think their partner expects. It quite often also depicts sexual scenarios that are sometimes unattainable or could be off limits to some partners. It can become more about the physical expectations of the act rather than the intimacy which can cause problems within a relationship. One partner may feel their needs are not satisfied on either an intimate or physical level based on these expectations.
It can destroy trust
What may start as an innocent act, can quickly turn into an addiction. With addiction often comes hiding the act from the partner. A partner may not be aware their loved one is spending their free time engaging in this act. It in itself could mean that the person addicted could withdraw sexually from their partner, instead preferring to watch pornography rather than being intimate. Their partner may feel they are no longer attracted to them or may even suspect infidelity. Some people when finding out their partner has been watching pornography at an addictive level may cause similar feelings to that of cheating. In their mind, it breaks a trust based on intimacy.
When the addiction is discovered, a partner may decide to try and give up the pornography for their partner. This can cause feelings of resentment and depression. If they relapse it can cause feelings of being a failure. It can cause anxiety and a feeling of isolation. Like any kind of addiction, it is not something that can be fixed overnight.
What are the signs/symptoms of a pornography addiction?
Here are some of the warning signs that someone may be addicted to pornography
- Being consumed with thoughts of porn even when you are not actively viewing it
- Viewing porn on your cell phone during work or in social situations where you might be seen
- Feeling ashamed, guilty, or depressed about your porn viewing
- Continuing to watch porn despite any harm it has had, is having, or may have on your relationship, work, or home life
- Experiencing reduced sexual satisfaction with a partner when pornography is not involved
- Keeping your porn secret from your spouse or domestic partner
- Getting upset when asked to cut back or stop using porn
- Losing track of time when viewing porn
- Trying and failing to quit
It can lead down a dark path
Studies show that those who view Internet pornography for hours each week have decreased gray matter which is a major component of central nervous system, compared to those who do not view it. This means there are fewer neurons and neuro cognitively in the pleasure centres of the brain. This leaves the brain craving more, while making it harder for the same images to provide pleasure. Over time, the senses dull and it's harder to find pleasure in the images, or even in everyday life. This leads addicts searching for things they would never had thought of; but they may not necessarily like what they see, which contributes to symptoms of anxiety and depression. A person in the throws of a pornography addiction will likely not be satisfied by what is considered 'softer' content. They need to find something more to find this pleasure which can lead to viewing material which can be violent and disturbing. It is not something that they would ever have thought of looking at before, but over time they have slowly become desensitised. This can lead to a feeling of shame contributing to depression. Soon viewing pornography may not be enough and a person also needs to turn to drugs and alcohol to get what they feel they are missing. What started out as something harmless, has now become destructive to their life.
Seeking help is something that partners need to engage in together in order to heal and move forward together. It can be helpful to seek help or support from others who are going through a similar thing. Group therapy can help in this situation as well as couples and individual therapy. Admitting there is a problem is the first step to change.
If you or someone you know would like some help, contact us today.
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