This post is not trying to make a moral argument (implying that pornography is wrong because it has a negative impact on mental health). Wrongness is determined by whether an action aligns with God’s character and design. That is a more important, but separate, issue from the question of this article. An action can be immoral and have no negative mental health effects. As far as we know, taking the Lord’s name in vain (violating the third of the Ten Commandments; Exodus 20:7) does not have any negative mental health effects.
Let’s begin with what should be an obvious point: there is no exclusive, causative correlation between viewing pornography and poor mental health. Meaning there are many individuals who do not view pornography and have mental health struggles. Further, it would be entirely inappropriate to work backwards from a mental health struggle to deduce that it is caused by the viewing of pornography.
The question this post poses – how does viewing pornography impact someone’s mental health? – is a contributive question, not a causative one. We want to consider, does the habit of viewing pornography add to or detract from the quality of someone’s mental health?
A second clarification is also needed. This post is not trying to make a moral argument (implying that pornography is wrong because it has a negative impact on mental health). Wrongness is determined by whether an action aligns with God’s character and design. That is a more important, but separate, issue from the question of this article. An action can be immoral and have no negative mental health effects. As far as we know, taking the Lord’s name in vain (violating the third of the Ten Commandments; Exodus 20:7) does not have any negative mental health effects.
An intended benefit from this reflection is the realization that God’s abstain for lust-based entertainment (Matthew 5:27-30) is an act of love; a means of protection intended to promote our flourishing, not a means of punishment to deprive us from something good. Too often the view we have of God as we think about pornography is as Him being against us and our joy instead of for us and our flourishing.
Now to the title of this post: What are six ways that pornography affects our mental health? Each of the affects below is a common “side effect,” if you will, of viewing pornography that has a negative influence on mental health. The degree of impact each point has on a given individual will vary from person to person for a variety of reasons.
No one feels as if viewing pornography is noble. Yes, there are teenagers who believe viewing pornography is “grown up” and may brag about it, or older individuals who view it as “necessary” or “common” and downplay the unrest in their soul. But no one feels like they have done a “virtuous-honoring thing” when they finish viewing pornography.
The result is a sense of guilt – an innate sense that what was done was bad. Guilt is produces a decline in mental health and the physiological changes from guilt in the brain can be neurologically demonstrated.
For a highly habituated activity like viewing pornography the options are clear: (a) turn off or dull the conscience to remove the sense of guilt, or (b) abstain from the guilt-provoking activity. The first option only further contributes to other choices that would further deteriorate mental health.
2. Social Distance / Shame
The first point has to do with a sense of distance in our relationship with God. This point emphasizes the impact on our social relationships.
A common experience of viewing pornography is carrying a secret. Secrets create distance. We are left wondering “what would you think of me if you knew.” The result is that even our closest friendships begin to feel superficial or fake.
The depth and quality of our friendships are a significant factor in our mental health. Activities that lower the quality or number of our friendships have a negative influence on our mental health.
[Editor’s note: This article is incomplete. The link (URL) to the original article is unavailable and has been removed. Also, one or more original URLs (links) referenced in this article are no longer valid; those links have been removed.]