Although slight shocking to believe, but problematic porn watching invariably leads to a consequence when the individual doesn’t enjoy real life sexual relationship and loses the sexual drive. Although literature says that porn watching enhances sexual fantasies and facilitates real life sexual experiences, but there is a thin line of boundary, and without realization, the limits are crossed and a habit turns maladaptive.
The consequences that porn watching behaviour can lead to are manifold. The most common harmful effects are difficulty in controlling self, difficult in paying attention, and host of other mental health issues- depression being most likely.
One obvious negative effect of problematic porn watching is on social relationships (Link to the article Unique link between pornography and depression), as stated by numerous case studies and research reports. Among all social relationships, the one relationship which badly gets disrupted by porn watching is the sexual relationship with the partner.
On one hand usually people think that addiction to pornography will make a person indulge into sexual activities every now and then, the real-life sexual relationship will be experimenting and exciting, will bring on a lot of sparks to the relationship with partner, or a possible myth that addiction to pornography may also imply sex addiction! No that is not obvious.
Loss of Libido- as happens with most people
The common complaints people report regarding their difficulty in sexual relationship are- not able to feel aroused with the partner, doesn’t find the partner attractive anymore, a need of more sexual stimulation and spending very less time with the partner, since most part of the day gets consumed in watching pornography; the sexual desire is lost.
Often individuals with problematic porn watching habit, reports in the clinic, “I don’t find my girlfriend attractive anymore,” “I am feeling suffocated with my partner,” “I lost that sexual interest in my wife, although we have a good bonding.” Losing the sexual appetite is a common concern reported by most men when they seek professional help for the array of troubles they face, indulging into porn addiction.
Pornography completely alters the sexual expectations of an individual. It tends to make an unrealistic impression of sexual relations. The overly dramatized visuals meant for stimulation are never near to reality. The body projections are artificial and gives a dramatic impression. This deeply effects the partner as well; hurts their emotions and self-esteem and thus distances the partner. This threatens the sexual and emotional health of the intimate relationship.
Loss of Sexual Drive
The harmful effects of pornography on sexual health of an individual aren’t that simple and straightforward. It is even more dreaded, complex and dangerous. Ever wondered, people with problematic porn consumption become aversive and develops avoidance towards sexual activities in real?
True, this condition is real! Research has found that people with porn addiction become highly aversive to sexual activities in real.
Review of case studies of people who are undergoing porn addiction, and research studies have found that problematic porn watching leading to difficulty in establishing in intimate relationship in real. Their sexual drive gets to decrease with more exposure to porn content. Excessive exposure to unrealistic experience of sexual relationship through watching porn, makes real sexual relationships much underwhelming. They do not find their partners attractive anymore. The partner is mostly blamed for not fulfilling the altered and dramatized sexual expectations.
How Does the Brain respond to Problematic Porn watching behavior?
As the wiring of brain (internal link Brain & Porn article) being such that it is always in anticipation of more stimulation and increased craving, the brain is not able to respond well to the underwhelming real life sexual relation.
Thus, the reward circuit is not excited anymore in a real sexual relationship, and this leads to loss of interest and excitement. The person now inhibits to make an approach in a real life and neither is able to respond to any sexual moves made by the partner.
This inhibition is just the beginning, and then gradually the individual tends to distant himself/ herself from the partner. They avoid to sleep together or try to escape any opportunity that might possibly lead to an intimate moment. This running away becomes gradually more severe.
How does Loss of Sexual Appetite gradually develop?
With the passage of time, the sexual appetite is lost, and sexual thoughts or fantasies are no longer exciting to the person. As he/she spends more time alone watching porn, an emotional barrier is created, within which they feel emotionally safe. This in turn leads them to believe that nobody can understand their problem, and thus staying away from people will bring emotional safety.
This faulty thought process or a defence mechanism leads to more spirals of maladaptive thought process, of fear of having an intimate relationship, a feeling of guilt towards the partner, and others. This condition replicates somewhat, something called Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder. Since this condition is dominantly found among men, hence DSM-5 terms it as Male Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder, although diagnosis of the disorder require fulfilling of much explicit criteria. In this condition the person has persistent loss or absence of any sexual or erotic fantasies and desire for sexual activities. The symptoms need to persist for 6months and should cause significant distress to the person.
When an individual is undergoing this condition, when he/she is no longer able to connect to the partner sexually, this brings about an emotional fall apart as well, and this is extremely distressing. Talking about it to the partner is difficult; it is obvious that the partner also goes through a lot of challenges. It is far extremely difficult for a person to deal with the situation, when they discover about partner’s problematic porn watching behaviour.
How to overcome Lower Sexual Appetite resulting due to excessive porn watching
Lowered sexual drive for a usually sexually active individual can be very frustrating and distressing; more problematic if the person is in a relationship. Overcoming from this can be very challenging and mentally draining, but with adequate professional support this can be possible.
Psychotherapy sessions in this regard can really work wonders in such cases- focusing on the person’s problematic porn addiction behaviour and also to work on the relationship to bring out positive changes.
An eclectic approach of Motivational Enhancement Therapy, together with CBT sessions can be proved very helpful to overcome the addiction behaviour and adapting a more positive, and productive lifestyle. Certain CBT techniques can also be focussed on the individuals underlying mood issues. Apart from it, sensate based CBT intervention can be helpful in enhancing the sexual health of the relationship.
Very strategic and effective in this regard would be Couple sessions- where both the partners attend counselling sessions to address their relationship issues. These couple sessions can bring about positive emotional changes in the relationship. Read More
Thus, it is high time to realize what harm can problematic porn watching behaviour can do. It causes greater harm to all aspects of life than imagined. The most gets worse when it affects the personal front. When it impacts the intimate relationship, both the partners are equally affected and it is not easy to get over it. However, as said, recovery process is difficult but possible. All what is required is persistent efforts, determination, faith and patience, and there are always professional mental health experts are available to extending support whenever required (in app/web consultation page)
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.)
- Kingsberg, Sheryl & Althof, Stanley. (2018). Psychological Management of Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder. 10.1002/9781119266136.ch5.
- Vaishnav, M., Saha, G., Mukherji, A., & Vaishnav, P. (2020). Principles of Marital Therapies and Behavior Therapy of Sexual Dysfunction. Indian journal of psychiatry, 62(Suppl 2), S213–S222. https://doi.org/10.4103/psychiatry.IndianJPsychiatry_19_20