Effects of a 7-day pornography abstinence period on withdrawal-related symptoms in regular pornography users: a randomized controlled study

Fernandez, D.P. ORCID: 0000-0001-7645-9959, Kuss, D.J. ORCID: 0000-0001-8917-782X, Justice, L.V. ORCID: 0000-0003-3394-2283, Fernandez, E.F. and Griffiths, M.D. ORCID: 0000-0001-8880-6524, 2023. Effects of a 7-day pornography abstinence period on withdrawal-related symptoms in regular pornography users: a randomized controlled study. Archives of Sexual Behavior. ISSN 0004-0002

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Little is known about whether withdrawal-like symptoms manifest when regular pornography users attempt to abstain from pornography. The present study used a randomized controlled design to examine whether (1) negative abstinence effects that may be potentially reflective of withdrawal-related symptoms manifest when a non-clinical sample of regular pornography users attempt to abstain from pornography for a 7-day period and (2) these negative abstinence effects would only manifest (or manifest more strongly) for those with higher levels of problematic pornography use (PPU). A total of 176 undergraduate students (64.2% female) who were regular pornography users (defined as having used pornography ≥ three times a week in the past 4 weeks) were randomly assigned to an abstinence group (instructed to attempt abstinence from pornography for 7 days, n = 86) or a control group (free to watch pornography as usual, n = 90). Participants completed measures of craving, positive and negative affect, and withdrawal symptoms at baseline and each night of the 7-day period. Contrary to the confirmatory hypotheses, there were no significant main effects of group (abstinence vs. control) or group × PPU interaction effects on any of the outcome measures, controlling for baseline scores. These findings indicate that no evidence of withdrawal-related symptoms was found for abstaining participants, and this was not dependent on level of PPU. However, exploratory analyses showed a significant three-way interaction (group × PPU × past 4-week frequency of pornography use [FPU]) on craving, where an abstinence effect on craving was found at high levels of PPU only once past 4-week FPU reached the threshold of daily use. While these exploratory findings should be interpreted with caution, they suggest that abstinence effects could potentially manifest when there is a combination of high PPU and high FPU—a hypothesis that warrants investigation in future prospective abstinence studies.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Archives of Sexual Behavior
Creators: Fernandez, D.P., Kuss, D.J., Justice, L.V., Fernandez, E.F. and Griffiths, M.D.
Publisher: Springer Science and Business Media LLC
Date: 18 January 2023
ISSN: 0004-0002
Rights: © The Author(s) 2023. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Laura Ward
Date Added: 23 Jan 2023 09:22
Last Modified: 23 Jan 2023 09:22
URI: https://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/48030

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