Exploring the clinical profile of problematic pornography use

Campbell Ince, Murat Yücel, Lucy Albertella, Leonardo F. Fontenelle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Objective: Although problematic pornography use (PPU) will soon be diagnosable through ICD-11, its clinical profile remains contentious. The current study assessed whether problematic pornography use (PPU) may be characterised by various symptoms sometimes observed among online recovery forums that currently lack empirical assessment, such as heightened cognitive-affective issues following pornography use and sexual dysfunction with partners as a result of escalating use. Method: Cross-sectional surveys were completed by male PPUs (N=138, mean age = 31.75 years, SD= 10.72) recruited via online recovery communities and Amazon Mechanical Turk. Multiple regression analysis was performed using the Problematic Pornography Use Scale as the dependent variable and variables of interest (Arizona Sexual Experiences Scales modified for partnered sex and pornography use, Brunel Mood Scale, Social Interaction Anxiety Scale, and the Tolerance subscale from the Problematic Pornography Consumption Scale) and potential confounders (e.g. comorbid psychopathology) as independent variables. Results: Current levels of pornography use, indicators of tolerance and escalation, greater sexual functioning with pornography, and psychological distress were uniquely associated with PPU severity, while cognitive-affective issues after pornography use, impulsivity and compulsivity were not. Although sexual dysfunction did not predict PPU severity, nearly half the sample indicated sexual dysfunction with intimate partners. Conclusion: The present findings suggest that PPU may be characterised by tolerance and escalation (as per substance addiction models), greater sexual responsivity toward pornography, and psychological distress. Meanwhile, the high rate of partnered sexual dysfunction observed suggests that PPU might be somewhat separable from other forms of compulsive sexual behaviour.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)648-657
Number of pages10
JournalCNS Spectrums
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • behavioural addiction,sexual dysfunction
  • compulsive sexual behaviour
  • ICD-11
  • Pornography
  • pornography addiction

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