Difficulties With Emotion Regulation and Loneliness May Be Predictors of Problematic Pornography Use

Difficulties With Emotion Regulation and Loneliness May Be Predictors of Problematic Pornography Use

These days, watching pornography has become more common, and many individuals do so on occasion. Recreational pornography use is usually not detrimental to a person’s health or relationships. However, when pornography consumption becomes excessive, it can interfere with a person’s day-to-day life and have a negative impact on their work, health, family, and relationships.

Experts have proposed a few different theoretical models to explain the potential causes of problematic pornography use, but the research is ongoing, so it is difficult to map out these possible causes with any given certainty. Undoubtedly, there are several factors and circumstances that contribute to problematic pornography consumption, but most researchers agree that there may be certain qualities or situations that predispose an individual to using pornography in a problematic way.

To expand on the current evidence regarding contributing factors to problematic pornography use, the authors of a recent study examined the emotion regulation capabilities, loneliness, perceived stress, age, gender, and pornography use of 340 participants to determine if/how any of these variables may affect a person’s pornography consumption.

For this study, emotion regulation was described as the degree to which an individual can cope with stressors and negative emotions in a healthy, productive manner. Emotion regulation involves understanding and accepting emotional states, as well as being able to control impulsive behaviors when experiencing negative emotions. A person with good emotion regulation skills is generally able to respond to an unpleasant situation in a flexible and appropriate way that aligns with their individual goals in life. On the other hand, a person who experiences difficulties with emotion regulation may be more likely to engage in impulsive behaviors as a coping mechanism, including compulsive sexual behaviors like excessive pornography use.

The participants, who were recruited for this study via social media platforms (Facebook and Instagram), were asked to fill out the following self-report measures: the Problematic Pornography Consumption Scale (PPCS), the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale Short Form (DERS-SF), the University of California Los Angeles Loneliness Scale – Version 3 (UCLALS-3), and the Perceived Stress Scale-10 (PSS-10). They also filled out a short questionnaire about their personal demographics and pornography use habits.

Both men and women participated in this study, but the final sample included more men than women (187 men and 153 women). The average age of the participants was 28.5 years. Of the 340 participants, 88 (25.9%) reported using pornography 1-3 times a week over the past 6 months, 81 (23.8%) reported using it 2-3 times a month, and 41 (12.1%) reported using it every day or almost every day. By the problematic pornography use measure used in this study, just 4.6% of the participants had potentially problematic pornography habits.

Interestingly, the analysis of this data revealed significant associations between problematic pornography use and difficulties with emotion regulation, loneliness, and gender (with men being more likely than women to report problematic pornography use). This means that these variables may be predictors of problematic pornography consumption, which is important information to know for treating individuals who struggle with it. Given these results, the authors stressed the importance of working on adaptive coping strategies for negative situations and loneliness, particularly with individuals who have difficulties with emotion regulation and are engaging in compulsive behaviors as a result.


Cardoso, J., Ramos, C., Brito, J., & Almeida, T.C. (2022). Predictors of Pornography Use: Difficulties in Emotion Regulation and Loneliness. The Journal of Sexual Medicine19(4), 620-628. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsxm.2022.01.005