But it Makes Me Feel Better! Is Porn Covering Up Your Depression?

If you find yourself struggling with an addiction, it may be time to consider whether or not you may be attempting to self-treat underlying depression. While you may think it would be obvious if you were suffering from depression, it’s often hard to recognize and treat.

WebMD lists the top signs of depression as:

  • Difficulty concentrating, making decisions or memory issues.
  • Feeling tired without cause.
  • Unexplained feelings of helplessness, low self-esteem and guilt.
  • Irritability.
  • Restlessness.
  • Lost of interest in hobbies.
  • Changes in appetite.
  • Unexplained muscle or headaches.

If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to talk to your health care provider for a screening. Depression is a serious medical issue and requires treatment with a professional. With treatment, many patients can recover from depression.

Relationship Between Addiction and Depression

To understand the relationship between addiction and depression, it’s important to understand that sex/pornography addiction is recognized as a true addiction, as well as understanding how addictions trigger responses in the brain that may help temporarily alleviate depressive symptoms.

Regardless of our addiction, when we are exposed to it, our brains respond with the release of a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is naturally released as we conduct our daily lives, for example, eating when we are hungry, or when we see people we love.

How Addiction Affects the Brain

Addiction Center states that exposure to your addiction stimulates the brain release dopamine. Unlike the natural release experienced in daily activities, addiction can release up to 10 times the amount of dopamine into the brain to create euphoria.

The longer you are in your addiction, the more stimulus you may need in order to generate the same dopamine response, which can lead to an obsession or fixation on your addiction. Harvard University states that the dopamine released during this process interacts with neurotransmitters in the brain.

This interaction retrains the brain’s reward response to seek out the addictive substance. This works to reinforce pornography addiction by triggering a positive response to visual stimulus.

When you suffer from a pornography addiction, this can lead to longer pornography use, pursuing more extreme material, or other escalating situations.

If someone who is suffering from depression develops an addiction, the release of dopamine upon exposure temporarily makes them feel better. As the dopamine levels slowly return to normal, the individual may experience a return of their depressive symptoms.

The effect is that the addicted person returns to their substance of choice in order to find relief from their symptoms once again. This cycle of behavior reinforces the addictive process in the mind of an addict.

Getting Treatment

If you recognize any of the listed symptoms in the Signs of Depression checksheet above, make an appointment to speak with your physician for a screening. They may be able to provide assistance in the way of treatment referrals or medication to help you manage your symptoms while you work toward recovery.

Clinical treatments for depression may include medication, EEG biofeedback, behavioral modification therapy or support systems. Your therapist can explain available treatment methods and help you to decide which one is best for you.

Coping Methods

Since dopamine is released from the brain reward system, there are ways to encourage a healthy release of the chemical. Proper diet, exercise and spending time with friends and family may be able to help you maintain a level of dopamine in your brain that will lessen your impulse to engage in unhealthy behaviors with your pornography addiction.

The longer an addict can avoid their addiction, the greater the chance that the brain can regulate dopamine production and the person can acclimate to their new levels. This is positive for helping a pornography addict move beyond their addiction and live their lives free of compulsive engagement in negative behaviors.

In addition to abstinence from pornography, consider developing new habits to encourage your brain function to return to normal without the stimulus provided by your addiction. Such behaviors could include:

  • Volunteering at a non-profit
  • Enrolling in an exercise or nutrition class
  • Spending time helping others
  • Making plans to do special things with family

Coming to Terms With Depression

It can be very difficult to come to the realization that you are using pornography to lessen your symptoms of depression. While you may feel alone, you’re not. Foundations Recovery Network states that one in four people who suffer from depression or another illness will also suffer from an addiction.

It’s important to realize that both your pornography addiction and depression is treatable, but if you are suffering from depression, leaving it untreated can hinder your recovery process and carry potentially serious effects on your health. It’s important to treat both to improve your chances or recovery.

If you’re feeling trapped in a pornography addiction, there is help. Purify your Gaze has created a six-question informational pamphlet that can help you realize you’re not alone and take the first steps to recovery. You can find the sheet here, and pursue the website for more help and information.