The Vicious Cycle You Need to Fear: The Lonely Use of Porn

pornography and loneliness

American youth are considered to be the loneliest in the world. That’s according to former Surgeon General Doctor Vivek Murthy. He describes loneliness as “the subjective feeling of having inadequate social connections.” Those feelings and thoughts are toxic and making our youth physically, emotionally and mentally sick.

And the problem isn’t unique to the United States.

The BBC reported earlier this month that Childline has seen a 14 percent rise in the number of children contacting the charity about loneliness.

In much of the western world, loneliness, isolation, despair and depression appear to be increasing along with rates of teen suicide.

Many blame social media and mobile devices. The kids see their friends socialize without them on social media, making them feel increasingly isolated.

Study Finds Connection Between Pornography and Loneliness

But some are also blaming pornography.

The Institute for Family Studies has released a new study that finds a significant amount of screen time is also spent accessing pornography, which may also be a notable contributor to teen loneliness, isolation and relationship void.

Researcher Mark Butler said their study suggests a close and painful partnership between pornography and loneliness for some users. The IFS survey of over 1,000 individuals around the world resulted in a statistical model that suggests an association between pornography use and loneliness, each increasing in tandem with the other.

Butler wrote of their findings: “If loneliness can lead to pornography use, and pornography use may bring about or intensify loneliness, these circular linkages may create a vicious cycle, pulling the user even further from health-promoting relationship connections. In the cultural context of emotionally-disconnected sexual hookups scripted by pornography, loneliness may deepen and become increasingly painful, yet in response, pornography use may only intensify.”

Another relationship between loneliness and pornography was uncovered by breaking down the study demographically.

The fact that pornography use decreases after marriage may hint at a link between pornography, relational success and loneliness. “Are those who use pornography less likely to achieve relational success and marry? Or does relational success in marriage remove the loneliness trigger for pornography use—or both?” Butler asked.

The IFS research also found that pornography use in the context of relationships is associated with relationship distress and attachment disruption, leaving the pair bond vulnerable.

Church Leaders Warn Pornography and Loneliness Will Damage Home

The science leads additional credence to warnings about pornography from many evangelical leaders.

Recently, evangelist Beth Moore of Living Proof Ministries urged married Christian couples to remove pornography from their lives, warning that they will “burn down” their home if they use it.

“Listen, I didn’t have the kind of childhood that afforded me the luxury of naivety. Wish I had. This comes from 6 decades of real living & 4 decades of actively serving in a position where I see incalculable wreckage & hear innumerable stories. GET PORNOGRAPHY OUT OF YOUR HOME,” Moore wrote on Twitter.

“Christian married couples, honestly, what the heck are you doing?!?” she asked.

“You think you’re lighting up your sex life and you’re burning down your home. WITH YOUR KIDS IN IT.”

The research also found that pornography sidesteps the divine purpose of sex.

“When pornography is used to trigger the sexual system,” Butler wrote of the IFS findings, “the biology of the sexual system produces a false relationship experience, offering temporary “relief” from lonely feelings, but soon enough, the user again faces a real-world relationship void. That emptiness may trigger loneliness. Additionally, porn invites the mental fantasy of a relationship experience. Thus, the mind fantasizes and biologically the sexual system tricks the brain into imagining it’s having a relationship experience and can thus mask loneliness—but only temporarily. In this way, pornography exploits the sexual system but only tricks the brain for a while. The user can’t escape the fact that when the experience is over, they’re still alone in an empty room. So, when sexual intoxication wears off, the experience may only end up excavating a deeper emptiness—a setup for a vicious cycle. We hypothesize that this experience could create the potential for getting trapped in the short-term, feel-good escape of pornography joined with long-term loneliness.”

The threat is so pervasive and its effects so damaging that Butler warned “it may be time to consider the real possibility that pornography use poses a very public health risk to our relationships.”

Not to mention the epidemic of loneliness now descending on this generation’s teenagers.

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Bob Ditmer
Bob Ditmer has worked in Christian media for more than 20 years including positions with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and Focus on the Family.

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