By: Shane James O’Neill
As I’ve mentioned here before, I began to watch pornography before my body was able to respond to the content. My first love was the fantasy world of pornography. Which, tragically enough, isn’t actually unique. Most of the hundreds of millions of pornography addicts in North America began watching pornography as children.
Another thing that isn’t unique to my experience in life is depression and anxiety. When depression hits, it really throws down. I lose my love for life, my interests, my motivations, my care. It’ll take me hours to find a reason to get out of bed or out of the car, or wherever I happen to be when it hits.
And anxiety, who wants that stuff? — who thought up connecting anxiety with butterflies, anyway? It feels like a brood of scorpions was shaken up and let loose in my guts.
There are a lot of things that kill people — cancer, car accidents, drug overdoses. But did you know that suicide has the second highest cause of death in the United States? Suicide. Right behind heart disease. The last count was over 42,000 people in 2014. Every year, about two percent of our population hope that death is better than life and they decide to find out.
Those numbers are crushing, and year by year the numbers go up.
Porn and Depression
As you may know, pornography hijacks the pleasure center of your brain. It floods your neuro-network with dopamine. Which is to say, the more you watch pornography the harder it is to find happiness outside of pornography. Over time, it becomes harder and harder to find happiness in pornography and it gets harder and harder to find happiness in other areas of life.
How it works
Pornography can create, agitate, and trap you in depression and anxiety. Porn can create depression and anxiety by robbing joy from other areas of your life, thus triggering an episode of depression. Porn can agitate depression by over-using your dopamines while watching pornography, leaving you feeling more hopeless and helpless. And porn can trap you in depression by draining you of life, instead of fulfilling the promise of giving you life.
I had a friend pass away several years ago. Needless to say, I felt pretty awful. I remember during the week that he died, I tried to watch pornography at least twice a day, every day that week. I had trained my mind to know pornography as my primary coping activity. My body knew it was sad, so my pleasure center was screaming, “Watch porn!”
The crazy thing was, my body couldn’t respond to the pornography — I was too sad, too broken. It would be like the world’s worst friend finding their buddy dead and wanting their dead friend to “feel better” and come back to life, so they stick a syringe full of heroin into their arm. My mind wanted my body to feel pleasure, but my body was dead to it.
Depression had already set in for me and my screwed up pleasure-center was trying to give me something that would really just make me more depressed. But my body was already there, it was dead to such things.
Where do we go from here?
My uncle once told me to approach every person as though they have pain somewhere. That still strikes me as profound. It’s just rough to see the statistics (and many of our experiences) bear that truth out. Suicide is at an all-time historical high, so is depression, and anxiety, and pornography.
Our society is still learning to evaluate the causation in the correlation, but we’re quickly seeing the connections between mental health and pornography.
This culture is hurting deeply — as we are all sticking heroin-filled syringes into our loved ones, thinking the small, sad smile that comes onto their faces is a sign that they’re happy.
The problem is big and it’s weaved itself into our imaginations and our coping mechanisms. Porn is there for us when we’re sad, when we’re happy, when we’re lonely, after a difficult day at work, after a fight with our spouse, and it’s even there for us when a loved one dies.
Pornography is not the sole issue for our mental health problems, but it is a big contributor to our issues.
Certain things are worth fighting for and other things are worth fighting against. Fight with us!
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Shane James O’Neill is the Editorial Director for ProvenMen Ministries. He is currently working on a graduate degree in apologetics at Liberty University’s Rawling School of Divinity.