‘Craving Score’ Can Predict Addictive Porn Use

Posted on March 21st, 2015

‘Craving Score’ Can Predict Addictive Porn UseA recently developed screening tool can help identify people who may be addicted to pornography, researchers from an American university report.

Dysfunctional pornography use is one of the potential symptoms of sex addiction, a non-substance-based condition that nevertheless significantly damages the lives of affected individuals. In a series of three studies published in 2014 in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, researchers from Bowling Green University designed and tested the validity of the Pornography Craving Questionnaire, a screening tool intended to identify individuals involved in potentially problematic pornography intake. These researchers concluded that the questionnaire has diagnostic usefulness for doctors and other health professionals.

Sex Addiction

A person affected by sex addiction experiences substantial personal or social harm, or inflicts such harm on someone else, as a consequence of his or her excessive involvement in sexual fantasy, sex-based lines of thinking and/or actual sexual behavior. The condition belongs to a group of ailments known by terms that include behavioral addictions, addictive disorders and process addictions. All such conditions produce damaging changes in behavior and brain function that bear a close resemblance to the changes found in cases of substance addiction, although substance use is not the core issue in affected individuals. In the U.S., only one form of behavioral addiction, called gambling disorder, has received an official diagnostic definition from the American Psychiatric Association (APA). However, current evidence also supports the real-world potential for the development of addiction in the context of a range of other commonplace, non-substance-based activities.

Broadly speaking, the fantasies, thoughts and actions associated with sex addiction fall into two categories. People in the first category experience problems while engaged in fantasies/thoughts/actions that are legal for consenting adults and generally viewed as acceptable in a non-addiction-related setting. People in the second category experience problems while engaged in fantasies/thoughts/actions that are not permissible under law and/or generally meet with social disapproval. The APA views certain extreme behaviors in this second category as symptoms of separately diagnosable mental illnesses called paraphilic disorders.

Potential Impact of Pornography Use

In a study published in July 2014 in the American Medical Association journal JAMA Psychiatry, a team of German researchers investigated the potential of excessive pornography use to alter normal brain function (one of the key indications of the presence of behavioral addiction). These researchers concluded that people who consume large amounts of pornographic material sometimes have significantly altered function in several brain areas known to have a direct or indirect bearing on addiction-related risk.

Can We Measure Addictive Use?

In the three studies published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, the Bowling Green researchers used data gathered from a group of pornography-consuming young men to design and test the validity of a screening tool for potentially addictive pornography use. In the first of these studies, the researchers presented the participants with 20 possible indicators of pornography cravings and asked the participants to identify the indicators that applied to them. A total of 12 potential indicators emerged from this process. In the second study, the researchers included the 12 indicators on a questionnaire, then used a combination of that questionnaire and pornography exposure to test the possibility of developing a broadly applicable screening tool. As part of this process, they compared the questionnaire results and the responses to pornography exposure to each participant’s sexual history, tendency to engage in sensation-seeking behavior, level of habitual involvement in pornography consumption and level of involvement in uncontrolled Internet use.

In the third study, the researchers tested the accuracy of the pornography “craving scores” they developed through the first two studies. They concluded that these scores, as measured by their newly created Pornography Craving Questionnaire, accurately predicted the participants’ craving levels for the next seven days, in addition to accurately predicting each participant’s actual level of pornography consumption for the next seven days.

Based on their findings, the studies’ authors believe that it’s possible for doctors and other health professionals to use the Pornography Craving Questionnaire as a short-term indicator of potentially addictive pornography intake. They also believe that other researchers can use the screening tool to create more detailed evaluations of the pornography-related cravings of future study participants.

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