Depression and Pornography
Q: For years I have struggled with chronic depressive symptoms. I have been on several different antidepressants and find them to be mood elevating but insufficient. If anything, they only color the way that I feel with no sense of underlying change.
I’ve been through several courses of therapy with similar results, but I don’t like to talk much and am really resigned towards the way I feel. I have never felt suicidal and have continued to be a responsible employee. I am married and a father of two children and can cite no problems in my relationships with them.
When I explained these symptoms to my doctor, after asking a few questions, he asked me if I indulged in pornography. I said yes and in response to further questioning said I used the Internet as well as magazines almost daily. To my surprise, he felt that this was the reason for my chronic depressive state. He immediately advised me to seek a competent therapist and to cease further involvement. I’m having some difficulty accepting all this. Can you comment?
A: What your doctor told you is true. There is a demonstrable link between chronic depressive symptoms and the regular consumption of pornographic materials. The accompanying and consistent distraction of the visual images generated, in combination with the obsessive desire for additional “dosing”, creates a kind of dissonance insulating you from reality. In very real ways the associated fantasy life and distracting thought process disengages the user from the immediacy of living.
The use of pornography will also seriously damage a marriage. When men indulge in pornographic literature on a regular basis they are engaging in a form of infidelity. Women know when their husbands use these materials for stimulation and are hurt as a result. This clearly strains a marital relationship and can accentuate feelings of depression and disconnectedness.
I would reject the notion that there is a safe or innocuous degree of experimentation that is normal. I also reject any attempts to differentiate between soft and hard forms of these materials. Besides being a form of institutionalized sexual abuse of women, brief episodes of exposure for some young boys can trigger addictive behavior. In the case of Ted Bundy, every episode of violent assault was facilitated by the ingestion of large amounts of pornographic material. At the very least these materials should be stored well out of the reach of children.
How sad that Hollywood would now choose to lionize a scoundrel like Larry Flynt as a scion of free speech at such a time of sexual confusion in our nation. I again would encourage you to disengage from this activity and seek therapy from a qualified counselor. Hopefully the emotional malaise you are experiencing will begin to relent to be replaced by the feeling of living in the here and now.
Article Created: 1998-07-24
Article Reviewed: 2005-01-24
Dr. Russell Robertson is Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Associate Professor of Family and Community Medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin. His biweekly column of medical advice also appears in the CNI Community Newspapers throughout metropolitan Milwaukee.