This is what happened to students who stopped watching porn for a week

A study examined whether regular porn viewers experience withdrawal symptoms after seven days of abstaining (or trying to abstain) from pornography. Spoiler: Not everyone abstained.

Porn actresses line-up at the opening of the "Venus" erotic fair in Berlin (photo credit: REUTERS)
Porn actresses line-up at the opening of the "Venus" erotic fair in Berlin
(photo credit: REUTERS)

Porn has been around for decades, but with the advent of the Internet, more and more people are regularly consuming pornography.

According to an investigation by Canadian lawmakers, the popular pornography website PornHub receives over 38 billion visits a year, and over 3.2 billion visits each month. Other porn sites are just as popular, such as PornHub competitor XVideos, which has around 3.3 billion visits each month.

Considering how there are only eight billion people in the world, that means the average person visits both of these porn sites around five times every year.

So with porn more popular than ever, a recent study looked at whether anyone ever experienced withdrawal symptoms after abstaining (or trying to abstain) from watching porn for a week.

This comes after many have reported problematic porn usage, as well as addiction-like symptoms. 

 A man working from home works on his laptop from bed. (credit: MICRO BIZ MAG/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
A man working from home works on his laptop from bed. (credit: MICRO BIZ MAG/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Do people suffer from withdrawal after abstaining from watching porn?

"Despite these self-reports, researchers still disagree about whether habitual pornography users can develop genuine addictions to pornography and manifest addiction-related symptomatology akin to substance addictions, the researchers wrote in their study, published in the peer-reviewed academic journal Archives of Sex Behavior

"Some have argued that pornography is inherently addictive due to it being a particularly novel and rewarding stimulus and that symptoms of dysregulated pornography use fit within an addiction framework, sharing similar neurobiological mechanisms with substance addictions and other behavioral addictions, while others hold the view that pornography addiction is not a valid clinical entity and can instead be explained by non-pathological learning."

The researchers tried to examine the issue by studying any potential withdrawal symptoms, which would show up in cases of drug and alcohol addiction, among people abstaining from porn. To do this, the researchers recruited student volunteers, a majority of whom were women, who had watched porn three or more times in the previous four weeks. 

These participants were divided into two groups, a control group who continued to watch porn as they normally would, and an abstinence group who were told to avoid all porn for a week. 

"While the majority of participants in the abstinence group (n = 47/86; 54.65%) did not report any pornography use at all during the experimental period, a considerable proportion of participants (n = 39/86; 45.35%) reported using pornography at least once during this period," the researchers wrote in their study. "More specifically, seven participants (8.14%) reported using pornography once, 11 (12.79%) reported using pornography twice, nine reported using pornography three times (10.47%) and 12 (13.95%) reported using pornography four or more times."

Previous studies looked at self-reported data from participants themselves. Unlike those, however, this study didn't notice any difference in addiction symptoms among the participants. 

Interestingly, any symptoms of withdrawal only decreased as the study continued. This correlates with a phenomenon known as "downward drift," which has been seen in other addiction studies. This sees participants report fewer and fewer negative symptoms the more they get tested.

There also wasn't any major difference among participants who watched porn more often aside from the cravings. However, while these cravings could be seen as a symptom of withdrawal, it could also just be higher sexual desire levels.

Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.